Ken Paxton impeachment: AG pleads not guilty in trial; his former top aide testifies

Day three of the impeachment trial for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is underway in the Texas Senate.

He’s facing nearly 20 articles of impeachment.

On day one Tuesday morning, Texas Senators, serving as jurors in this trial, considered multiple motions by Ken Paxton’s team to dismiss the articles of impeachment against him. They picked up a handful of votes in his favor, but couldn’t get the 16 needed, so the trial continued.

Paxton’s attorney, Tony Buzbee, spoke for Paxton and pleaded not guilty to all 16 counts of impeachment.

RELATED: Ken Paxton impeachment: Texas Senate denies all motions to dismiss

"Attorney General Ken Paxton is innocent and therefore pleads not guilty," Buzbee said.

After the lunch break, Paxton didn’t return to the courtroom.

"I want the record to reflect that the Attorney General is not here, maybe he’s coming at some point, but if we’re going to talk about this in analogy to a criminal case, that the defendant ought to be ordered to appear throughout this just as everyone else," Attorney for the House Board of Managers Rusty Hardin said.

Lieutenant Dan Patrick ruled he didn’t have to. Opening statements began with House prosecutors.

"The allegations in the articles reveal the state’s top lawyer engaged in conduct designed to advance the economic interests and legal positions of a friend and donor to the detriment of innocent Texans," State Representative Andrew Murr said.

Paxton is accused of misuse of office. The articles of impeachment include claims that he helped a political donor get information on an FBI investigation as well as receiving political favors which included help concealing an extra-marital affair.

"This whole case is a whole lot of nothing," Buzbee said. "This impeachment was the perfect marriage of a group of representatives fueled by a powerful lobbyist and led by a drunken speaker seeking political vengeance. It was also a result of uninformed, civil litigants and their attorneys who are motivated by money."

Paxton’s attorney questioned if he’ll have a fair trial and claimed some may have already made up their minds based on what is politically useful.

"So the question is, will you decide based only on the evidence, because that’s your oath, that’s what you swore to do no matter the consequences," Buzbee said.

The first witness to take the stand was Paxton’s Former First Assistant Jeff Mateer. He signed a letter to Paxton in 2020 informing him he had reported suspected illegal activity to law enforcement. Mateer said unusual operations began when Paxton started investigating the charitable trust, Mitee Foundation.

"It had to involve Nate Paul, just that the attorney general being involved in matters like the Mitee Foundation, things again that were not significant litigation for the Office of the Attorney General," Mateer said.

He testified he was becoming concerned about Paxton’s relationship with Austin Developer Nate Paul.

"I urged him not to have any more dealings with Nate Paul and to let the lawyers, the professionals in the Office of Attorney General handle these matters as they saw fit," Mateer said.

Mateer said communication continued.

During testimony, the defense had many objections over evidence being admitted into court and claimed the documents introduced violated attorney client privilege communications. The debate wasn’t resolved, and the trial ended for the day.

Patrick said both sides are going to work on sorting out the exhibits, and they will deal with the attorney client privilege issue in the morning before trial starts back up at 9 a.m.

If the members of the Texas Senate find Paxton guilty, he could be permanently removed from office. It would take a two-thirds majority, which is 21 votes.