Was Paxton Impeachment Illegal?

Paxton Attorneys
Defense Attorneys Mitch Little, Tony Buzbee,and Dan Cogdell wait together ahead of former Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment trial at the Texas State Capitol on September 16, 2023 in Austin, Texas. | Image by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Mitch Little, one of the lead attorneys for Attorney General Ken Paxton, shared his experience of defending the AG during the impeachment trial and highlighted some of the allegedly unethical and potentially unlawful actions taken by the House.

He claimed that the investigative process followed by the House General Investigating Committee clearly violated the standards set out in the Texas legal code.

Specifically, the committee did not interview any witnesses under oath, and the taxpayer-funded investigators who pursued Paxton also testified before the committee without being put under oath.

“My immediate reaction as a lawyer, I go straight to the black letter law, to the government code … and it was immediately obvious to me that the law had been broken by not taking sworn testimony,” Little claimed.

“The House General Investigating Committee is required by black letter law, written into the law by the legislature,” he continued. “I just immediately go, ‘This is illegal.'”

The Texas Government Code explains, “All legislative committees shall require witnesses to give testimony under oath, subject to penalties of perjury.”

Furthermore, “The oath required by this section may be waived by any committee except a general investigating committee.”

Little also revealed other unusual actions the pro-impeachment element took in the House outside of the public view.

“Once the articles have been referred over … the House of Representatives General Investigating Committee, their work is supposed to cease, and then the articles are referred over to the Senate,” he explained. “Only their work did not cease.”

“That night, even after the impeachment was closed, the House started sending subpoenas for information related to the impeachment,” he revealed. “I’m thinking the only reason you would have done that is you never actually got a chance to complete your work.”

“What dawned on me is as soon as the fiasco with the speaker happened and Paxton attacked him publicly, they said, ‘Okay, this thing is cooked enough, we’ll take it medium rare,” Little suggested, referring to when Paxton called for Speaker Dade Phelan’s resignation following accusations that swirled in May that the speaker had been drunk on the dais.

To this day, Phelan has not answered any questions about his behavior on the House floor, which included him slurring his words, fighting to stand, and struggling to perform his official duties.

The articles of impeachment were “never intended to go over at that time, and then it became urgent,” Little hypothesized.

As the defense began successfully poking holes in the case against Paxton, as reported by The Dallas Express, the House Managers attempted to violate more regulations in a last-minute bid to recover their case.

“At the end of the state’s presentation and the impeachment proceeding, they began to try to put on their own investigators as witnesses,” Little revealed. “They tried to put on some of their own lawyers as witnesses in the impeachment proceeding.”

“I’m at the bench, blowing a head gasket, … and it was at that moment that I realized that we had won the trial because they were trying to get in evidence by putting their own lawyers on the stand,” he alleged.

To do this would have been a blatant violation of “the Rule,” which requires the sequestration of witnesses while others testify.

As reported by The Dallas Express, on September 16, the Texas Senate voted overwhelmingly to acquit Paxton on all the articles of impeachment, bringing an end to one of the most historical episodes in Texas political history.

“When the first one comes back … I look at Tony [Buzbee], and I go, ‘Tony, we just won the trial of the century.”

“The House utterly failed in every article to put on the evidence they needed,” Little said. “They never came anywhere close to proving any of the articles.”

For his part, Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), who pushed the impeachment through the House, denounced the acquittal and claimed foul play, as reported by The Dallas Express.

“Over the last two weeks, the Texas House Board of Managers provided the Texas Senate and the people of Texas extensive evidence of Ken Paxton’s corruption, deception and self-dealing,” he claimed. “It is extremely unfortunate that after hearing and evaluating this evidence, the Texas Senate chose not to remove him from office.”

“Moreover, I find it deeply concerning that after weeks of claiming he would preside over this trial in an impartial and honest manner, Lt. Governor Patrick would conclude by confessing his bias and placing his contempt for the people’s House on full display,” the speaker said.

“To be clear, Patrick attacked the House for standing up against corruption. His tirade disrespects the Constitutional impeachment process afforded to us by the founders of this great state,” he alleged. “The inescapable conclusion is that today’s outcome appears to have been orchestrated from the start.”

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