AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Since the beginning of discussions around impeachment, suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton and his lawyers have decried the effort as a “political witch hunt,” and said there is no evidence to support the allegations against the Republican. But late Thursday night, the House impeachment managers released nearly 4,000 pages of exhibits after teasing for months that “damning” evidence to back their case for removal from office.
Managers on Wednesday began to release new evidence, after publicizing allegations they said show Paxton went to great lengths to conceal his relationship with Nate Paul — an Austin real estate investor at the center of Paxton’s corruption allegations — even though top officials in the Office of Attorney General had warned Paxton numerous times that Paul was a “crook.”
In one interview from the exhibits, a former deputy attorney general said Paxton was “literally obsessed” with helping Paul, while “tying up resources of the most senior people in the agency during a pandemic where there was substantive, real issues going on.” That staffer was also among the whistleblowers, which consisted of top executive staff who first accused Paxton of corruption and abuse of office.
The Senate posted the House managers’ new exhibit records to the court of impeachment website, which manages motions and documents related to the trial. The House’s records were dated for Tuesday, the deadline for pretrial motion responses, but not made public until Thursday evening.
The documents also claim Paxton used his office’s public information powers to help Paul access a sealed FBI search warrant for Paul’s properties.
Former trial lawyer Mike Golden — who also serves as Directory of Advocacy at the University of Texas School of Law — said based on the new exhibits, House managers and prosecutors might have a compelling case.
“Given that the attorney general’s office is the state agency that is responsible for enforcing our state’s open records laws, for the head of that agency to take deliberate steps — assuming that that it’s true, right, assuming the allegations are true — to take deliberate steps to avoid the scrutiny of the public records law that his office is designed to enforce, seems to be a particularly egregious use of his resources,” Golden said.
At the end of May, the House overwhelmingly voted to impeach Paxton 121-23, causing his immediate suspension from office. No aspect of the trial will include criminal charges; senators’ vote will determine whether or not Paxton must be permanently removed from office. The allegations against Paxton include bribery, abuse of office, and obstruction. The Republican has faced controversies and criminal charges hanging over his tenure.
A few weeks ago, Paxton’s attorneys filed motions seeking to dismiss all 20 articles of impeachment largely on the premise that the House lacked sufficient evidence. Paxton’s team has also argued that the public was aware of those allegations and that the accusations pre-date his most recent election to office. It’s a legal interpretation of the Texas Constitution that says state officials cannot be impeached based on accusations pre-dating their election to office or if the public was aware. However, the law does not specify if it means most recent election or first election to that particular office.
The new exhibits offer previously unknown information about Paxton’s relationship with Paul — giving senators much more information about the case to consider just weeks before the trial will start on Sept 5.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will decide on whether to grant these all of the pre-motions, except for team Paxton’s request to dismiss the articles of impeachment — which require a majority vote from senators. All parties involved in impeachment are prohibited from discussing these matters publicly, per a gag order Patrick issued earlier in July.