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U.S. Texas Starts Impeachment Trial of Attorney General Over Corruption

The Senate of the south-central U.S. state of Texas on Tuesday began an impeachment trial of suspended state Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, over yearslong charges including corruption, lawbreaking and power abusing.

Lawyers representing the state House impeachment team have released 4,000 pages of evidence that they plan to present at the trial. The Senate has agreed to consider 16 of the original 20 articles of impeachment.

Paxton, 60, who has served as Texas attorney general since 2015, pleaded not guilty to all the articles on Tuesday morning. His attorneys filed about a dozen of motions aimed to dismiss the articles or exclude evidence from being considered but have all failed.

Republican Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who was presiding over the trial and alone decides procedural matters, decided that Paxton could not be forced to appear as a witness at his own trial.

More than 100 people have received subpoenas to testify, local media reported.

The trial has become a political spectacle drawing attention nationwide and is widely expected to shake Texas politics, especially among the hard-right leadership of the state’s Republican Party.

“It’s not a criminal trial. It’s not a civil trial. It’s a political trial,” Patrick said in an interview this summer.

Republicans hold a 19-12 majority in the state Senate, and Paxton’s wife, Republican state Senator Angela Paxton, is sitting for the trial but will not be allowed to vote. A two-thirds majority of all sitting senators is required for a conviction.

If convicted, Paxton could be removed from office and barred from holding future state office. But he could still run for federal positions.

The Republican-led state House of Representatives voted 121-23 in May to impeach Paxton, with up to 60 Republicans joining their Democratic counterparts to vote against the state’s top lawyer. Texas Democrats have for years cast Paxton as corrupt.

The vote immediately suspended Paxton and made him only the third sitting official in Texas’ nearly 200-year history to be impeached.

According to an investigation by the General Investigating Committee, a Texas House panel, Paxton repeatedly abused his office and may have committed at least three felonies in an effort to help a friend and political donor with various legal troubles.

Committee investigators also reviewed criminal charges that have been pending against Paxton since 2015, when a Collin County grand jury indicted him on two counts of securities fraud related to private business deals in 2011.

Paxton is also facing an FBI investigation for the same corruption allegations in his impeachment case.

An acquittal by the state Senate, especially if followed by a conviction in federal court, would seem to set Texas Republican leadership for major pain and embarrassment, Texas Monthly forecast, noting that whether that outcome would hurt GOP senators at the polls remains to be seen. 

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