AUSTIN, Texas - It was a historic week in Texas politics with the impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton.
FOX 4’s Steven Dial spoke with constitutional lawyer David Coale about the first week of testimony.
Coale: "Halley's Comet comes around the sun about every 75 years, and an impeachment comes around the Texas statehouse about every 50 years. It's rare. It's just it's hard to do."
Dial: "I know the Paxton lawyers have to do their job. That's what they're being paid for. But the claim that 31 or 30 people are deciding the fate of a duly elected official. Is there some substance to that or, I mean, you're a constitutional lawyer. This is legal, correct? This is the process."
Coale: "There are a lot of people out there that I think credit the argument that Mr. Paxton's team is making, that, look, everybody knew maybe not every detail, but they knew the gist of this and they put the man in office anyway. And so that's not a legal knockout blow to the impeachment proceeding. We know it's not because the Senate said it wasn't. But is it still a relevant fact to consider? Yes, it is. If this were a court, we're looking at the elements of a criminal offense or a civil cause of action. It wouldn't really match up with any of those things. But we're not in the court. We're making kind of an open-ended decision about should this man hold office and the circumstances under which he got into office are in fact, relevant to that."
Dial: "While this is called a court of impeachment, the lieutenant governor is being seen as the judge. This is not real court. This is not criminal. This is politics. Do you think senators’ minds are already made up on how they're going to vote?"
Coale: "A regular trial, you would have brought in 12 good citizens, maybe a couple of alternates, who would know as little as possible about the facts and the people to bring is sort of a blank slate as possible with the proceedings. We have the exact opposite of that here. We have probably the best-informed people in the state about these situations, these people, this evidence. And they're getting inundated constantly, every day with media, with calls from voters, with articles about how they ought to vote or how they all do not vote. And so in that sense, it's the opposite of a trial. And I would fully expect the senators to have thought a lot about how they're going to vote, if not already reached a final conclusion. It's their obligation they have to represent their constituents."
Dial: "Do you think, other agencies, federal agencies or whatever, what have you, because Ken Paxton has not really gone to court on any of these claims, do you think some federal investigators are taking notes on what?"
Coale: "They probably are reading in the daily transcripts. I mean, it's this is obviously very relevant to other groups that may be investigating Mr. Paxton. That's one of the reasons why the issue about his testimony was so very important both for this case, but for the overall picture of all of this litigation. And I think the only is irrelevant in terms of what exhibits come out, what may not be widely known or something that may be learned. But if you're a prosecutor and you're looking at how a case might go, you're watching what's working and what's not working with these witnesses and with lines of argument that seem to succeed and what don't succeed. So both of the evidence level and then the doesn't fly level. I think there are a number of eyes on this that include law enforcement as well as members of the Texas voting public."