Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is confronting state lawmakers who impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton after his 16-count acquittal on Saturday.
“Partners, I only have a few minutes to comment. About five minutes,” he said. “I’ve been unusually quiet for the last three months since the House of Representatives sent us the articles of impeachment against the attorney general with very little notice in the last hours of the regular legislative session. The Senate is required by law to receive the articles and have a trial, and once I realized that I was going to be the president and the judge, I thought it my duty to keep quiet on the matter. Otherwise, how could he oversee a fair trial? I’ve tried my best to do this for the last three months, especially the last two weeks. The trial is now over. I want to take a few minutes before we close to put a few remarks on the court record for future legislatures to read in the event of another impeachment one day about what both the House and Senate did.”
“I have spent most of the last 90 days, like many of you, preparing for this trial,” he added. “I have issued over 240 subpoenas. I have studied numerous motions, written multiple orders, read hundreds of pages of history, rules, documents, and worked through every detail of this trial with you and our amazing Clerk of the Senate , the clerk of court who turned this room into a courtroom and his great staff. I’ve had a full view of this process since day one, the House sent us the articles of impeachment in May.”
“With all due respect to the House, we did not need to be told in closing arguments the importance of this vote,” he continued. “I think the quote was, ‘This will be the most difficult, most difficult, most weighty vote you’ll ever cast in your time in the legislature.’ This vote will be the one you remember the most.”
“Our members already knew this and have known this for the past three months,” he continued. “If only the members of the House who voted for impeachment had followed that instruction in the House. We might not be here. In the House, the vote to send the articles of impeachment against the Attorney General to the Senate it was produced in just a few days with virtually no time for 150 members to even study the articles.”
“The president and his team passed the first impeachment of a state official in Texas in more than 100 years without paying attention to the precedent the House set in all other previous impeachments in the past,” Patrick said. “The House had transparent and open investigations for everyone, including other members of the House. The target of the investigation was notified and invited to attend with counsel and given the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses who were given under oath before testimony. At the conclusion of previous House investigations, the evidence was presented for weeks for House members to evaluate, not hours before the articles of impeachment were voted on.”
“Representative John Smithee, a longtime member of the House who has argued cases before the Texas Supreme Court, spoke in the House during the impeachment vote in May,” he added. “He was one of 23 who voted against impeachment. Representative Smithee said that the House could not legitimately impeach General Paxton because there was no document sent to the Senate. He said that “the House did not follow the ‘rule of law.'” He said, the House’s approach, and I quote Rep. Smithee, “hang them now and judge them later.”
“Representative Smithee told his colleagues that the House process was indefensible,” Patrick would go on to say. “Representative Smithee said that the House did not follow the rules of evidence and that his case was based on ‘triple hearsay’ that would never be allowed in court. I think Rep. Smithee’s speech was one of the most honest and brave I have ever heard of in the House, and if you want to watch it online, go to YouTube.
Look for John Smithee. This is his speech on the impeachment of Paxton. It’s an incredible and brave speech to deliver when I knew I was only one of 23 who didn’t vote for impeachment.”
“In the next regular session, we should amend the Constitution,” Patrick said. “The issue of impeachment is currently written that allowed this flawed process to occur. Any testimony given in a House impeachment inquiry must be given under oath and the objective of “this complaint should be filed with a lawyer to cross-examine the witnesses. Otherwise, people can say whatever they want without any responsibility or need to be truthful. Because there is no threat of perjury.”
“The House must also give members a minimum of two weeks to review all sworn evidence before voting on such a serious matter,” he added. “If they had done those two things, maybe this trial would never have happened. And when the House sends articles of impeachment to the Senate, if they do in the future, officials shouldn’t be on unpaid leave during the process. The federal system doesn’t allow it. Why do we allow it in Texas?”
“President Clinton and President Trump did not have to relinquish their Oval Office duties during their impeachment proceedings,” he noted. “And partners, this is not a partisan issue. We must make these changes in future legislatures so that no future official impeached by the House, whether Republican, Democrat, or independent, is subject to the way this House impeachment process occurred.”
Lt. Governor Patrick then called for a full audit of Paxton’s impeachment.
“Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted this year on this impeachment,” Patrick said. “31 senators and a great Senate staff who made this trial possible have put their family life, their work, their business on hold for the last three months after being here from January to June.”
“I will be calling next week for a full audit of all the taxpayers’ money spent by the House from the start of their investigation in March to their final bills they receive from their lawyers,” he said. “We will also provide our cost that was forced upon us by the impeachment of the House. A big difference. We did not pay a large team of outside lawyers and investigators. We did it mostly with our own staff, working endless hours without additional pay “.
“As Rep. Smithee said, ‘this is not the way it’s happened in the past in the House.’ That’s why I think we’ve only had two previous impeachments. Our founders expected better. It should never have happened this year, and we hope it won’t happen again unless we address it in the Constitution.”
After eight days of testimony from both sides, a total of 30 state senators voted Saturday to “acquit” or “remove from office” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton based on “16 articles of impeachment.”
Texas state senators voted to acquit Paxton of all charges.
In addition, the state Senate decided to “dismiss” the four articles of impeachment that were “held in abeyance” by a vote of 19 to 11.
“Today, the truth has prevailed. The truth could not be buried by corrupt politicians or their powerful benefactors. I have said many times: Seek the truth! And that’s what was accomplished,” Paxton said in a statement after the acquittal.
Attorney General Ken Paxton will now be able to resume office and continue running the business of the Texans.
“*” Indicates mandatory fields
OPINION: This article contains comments that reflect the opinion of the author.