AUSTIN, Texas - Embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment trial gets underway on Tuesday.
All eyes will be on the Texas Senate as members decide whether the suspended attorney general should be permanently removed from office.
JOHN KRINJAK: The trial, of course, starting just in a couple of days now. It's been really a whirlwind few months leading up to this moment. So just kind of taking a step back. How did we get here and why is this so significant?
SCOTT BRADDOCK: The attorney general of Texas has been under indictment for securities fraud violations for almost a decade. And there are a whole host of other accusations against him that the Texas House deemed credible. But the specific way we got here is because earlier this year, the attorney general asked the Texas House and the Senate to approve $3 million in settlement money for some people who had been fired by Paxton because those people basically told on him to the feds. And that's why there's a federal investigation of him. And the Texas House felt that not only should taxpayers not be on the hook for that $3 million, they looked into it, but they also decided that his conduct was completely unacceptable for somebody who holds such a high office. So they impeached him and sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate, where he's going to face trial starting on Tuesday.
JOHN KRINJAK: And just kind of speaking to the gravity of this moment. Obviously, this is something that is really rare in Texas history. How big of a deal is this that this is even happening?
SCOTT BRADDOCK: It's huge. This is only the third time it's ever happened in Texas history, as you mentioned. And you have only the second time now that a statewide office holder has been impeached. The last time was all the way back in 1917 when Governor Paul Ferguson was accused of some similar things of being corrupt. And at that time, the governor tried to quit, and the Senate went on and had the trial anyway, and they voted to declare him ineligible to run for office again in Texas, which may happen to Paxton if the Texas Senate decides that's what they want to do.
JOHN KRINJAK: So what are you going to be watching for on Tuesday? Do you have any expectation for how things are going to play out?
SCOTT BRADDOCK: You know, it's fascinating because this almost never happens. There's really no such thing as an impeachment expert in Texas. We'll be watching all of it. It's going to be really wild to see the Texas Senate, which is usually only acting as a legislative body in this instance, acting sort of as a quasi, you know, judge and jury and having tables set up for attorneys on both sides to be able to pop up and make their arguments to the judge who in this case is going to be the presiding officer, that's the lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick. And seeing the senators operate as jurors, it's just something that in our lifetimes, most of us have never seen before.
JOHN KRINJAK: It's been a busy few weeks. It seems like we've seen quite a few developments sort of around all this happening. We saw, you know, the case against Nate Paul, Ken Paxton's friend, who he's accused of using his office to help, that piece moving forward, that 4000-page document dump detailing a lot of the allegations against the attorney general. How will all of this that we've kind of seen playing out publicly impact this trial?
SCOTT BRADDOCK: It's interesting that the defense attorneys here, the attorneys for Paxton, tried to get this all dismissed by basically arguing that there's no evidence of any wrongdoing by their client. Now, the answer to that from the prosecutors was to give us so much evidence in advance of the trial. That's why we saw that 4000 pages worth of documents that you're talking about, which included evidence of burner phones used by the attorney general and an Uber account with a fake name attached to it. That Uber account apparently used, according to the documents, to take the attorney general to and from his alleged mistress's house here in Austin. And then you have so many accusations against Paxton of accepting bribes and other corrupt acts that the House impeachment managers argue should disqualify him from holding office.
JOHN KRINJAK: So you need a two-thirds vote in the Senate to actually remove the attorney general. That means at least nine Republicans would have to join with Democrats in order for that to happen. How do you think Republicans are approaching this? Obviously, they don't want to alienate their base or his base, but at the same time, they're faced with all that evidence. Right. The 4000 pages kind of detailing all this stuff?
SCOTT BRADDOCK: Yeah, absolutely. And I think for some of the Republicans in the Senate, this can be as divorced from Republican primary politics as possible. What I mean by that is that there are 11 Republican senators who have four-year terms, which means the next time they have to run in a Republican primary is four years from now. That is multiple lifetimes in politics from now. Primary voters won't really care about it four years from now. Those that have two-year terms and that means they have to run again in a primary next year. So those Republican senators have more pressure on them.
JOHN KRINJAK: We will all be watching on Tuesday, Scott Braddock of the Quorum Report. Scott. Thanks so much for being here and sharing your insight. We appreciate it.
SCOTT BRADDOCK: It's my pleasure. Happy Labor Day.