Texas Senate sets impeachment trial for AG Ken Paxton

The Texas Senate's trial for Attorney General Ken Paxton is set for the end of summer

Paxton is currently suspended from office after the Texas House overwhelmingly voted to impeach him on Saturday

Katie Naranjo, chair of the Travis County Democratic Party, and Matt Mackowiak, chair of the Travis County GOP, sit down with FOX 7 Austin's Rebecca Thomas to discuss.

REBECCA THOMAS: Matt, So the House impeached Paxton on charges including bribery, abuse of official capacity, conspiracy, retaliation against former employees and misuse of information. Would you say that this impeachment is warranted? And what are the chances of the Senate voting to remove him from office?

MATT MACKOWIAK: Yeah, very hard to say with precision, with the chances are, you know, you need a two-thirds vote in the Senate. That means if all 12 Democrats voted to remove him from office, you'd need nine Republicans, one of whom could be, in fact, his wife, who is a sitting senator, now sitting in the Senate seat that he once held. Look, I think there are a few legitimate problems with the way the House conducted this. First of all, Attorney General Paxton had absolutely no due process whatsoever. I think that's it. That's a problem. I think that's something that will matter in the Senate. Second of all, there's a statute in state law that says that anything that happened in the previous election cycle is not something that can be considered for impeachment in the current cycle. And the activities that that were cited all pre-date the November 2022 election. And the reason for that is that the election is a way of letting the voters say whether something matters, whether someone should be in office or not. These issues were litigated in the election, in the primary, the primary runoff and the general election. And General Paxton won by ten percentage points. But he's going to be able to present a defense in the Senate trial, and we'll see where it goes.

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REBECCA THOMAS: Katie, Paxton says that this is political and he denies all allegations. Others say he brought this on himself when he asked the House Appropriations Committee to pay a $3.3 million whistleblower lawsuit settlement here. What are your thoughts?

KATIE NARANJO: He absolutely brought it on himself. In fact, Chair Murr, who's over the investigative committee for the House, who is a Republican, actually said they were not investigating him until he brought that request in. And I think the Texans Texas taxpayers have the right and deserve to know if there are times that they're paying in for their taxes are going towards a corrupt elected official who has now 20 counts against him that the Texas House voted on. And it's not just the House and some Democrats. It was 60 Republicans and 61 Democrats voting together to say, yes, there is probable cause. There is a reason these investigations should be looked into. And I think it's an interesting note that the county that AG Paxton is from Collin County. Every single elected official in the House voted to have him investigated. And the reason is, is he has been blocking the courts to do anything further in these in the court proceedings that are trying to hold him accountable. And Texas taxpayers deserve for their funds to be held accountable. When the attorney general's asking for us to foot his legal bills.

READ MORE: Texas legislative session ends with new steps toward Ken Paxton impeachment trial

REBECCA THOMAS: Matt, you brought this up. Paxton's wife is a state senator, Angela Paxton. Should she recuse herself from participating in her husband's trial?

MATT MACKOWIAK: Yeah. I don't know what the rules are and the laws are in that we're obviously in fairly unprecedented territory. The fact that she is his spouse is certainly a unique factor, but I think she can also presumably be a juror just like any other senator or most of the Republican senators have relationships, at least professional relationship, not personal relationships with the sitting AG And understand one thing about the whistleblower lawsuit in the settlement, the attorney general doesn't have an option. The Texas Whistleblower Act says that any whistleblower lawsuits that are settled must be paid for by taxpayer funds. It's the legislature that has to approve that. So the attorney general's office was trying to save the taxpayer money. It's going to cost, well, more than $3.3 million if this goes to trial. And that looks like where it's headed now.

READ MORE: God, money and Dairy Queen: How Texas House investigators secured the impeachment of AG Ken Paxton

REBECCA THOMAS: All right, Katie, the same question for you. Should Senator Angela Paxton recuse herself from her husband's trial in the Senate?

KATIE NARANJO: Similarly, in Texas, spouses can not testify against their spouse, their spouses privileges and laws around that. So presumably, just as if you wouldn't want her to testify, especially because some of the criminal counts do include the fact that the attorney general was having an extramarital affair and are of a personal nature. You wouldn't want her weighing in on those as well. And so it would be privileged information that would not be appropriate, given her relationship with the attorney general for her to be a juror. No trial in Texas would allow a spouse to be a juror on their spouses hearing. I do think, though, Matt, there's one important piece you missed here. And when it comes to whistleblowers, there were numerous senior Republican appointed officials in the attorney general's office who saw fraudulent acts, who saw criminal activity from their boss, and they blew the whistle. And that's why we have that $3.3 million, as the attorney general did have a choice to not commit criminal acts. And we wouldn't have been in this position to begin with.