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November 30, 2023

State Sen. Angela Paxton barred from voting on impeachment of her husband, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

State Sen. Angela Paxton barred from voting on impeachment of her husband, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

State Sen. Angela Paxton will not be able to vote in the impeachment trial of her husband, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, under rules set by Republicans in the state Senate Wednesday night.

The GOP-controlled Texas House impeached Ken Paxton in May, formally accusing the popular, albeit controversial, Republican official of breaking the law, abusing his office, accepting bribes and obstructing justice. But it remained an open question whether Angela Paxton would be allowed to vote in her husband’s historic trial — the first impeachment of a statewide official in a century — particularly after she said Monday that she planned to attend the trial.

The rules require Angela Paxton, a Republican, to attend the trial, but they prohibit her from voting on “any matter” or participating in closed sessions or deliberations.

The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 5 at 9 a.m., and the resolution offered some specifics as to what the trial might look like.

Each side will get 24 hours to present evidence, and opening statements and closing arguments will be allocated 60 minutes each. The resolution also detailed rules for live witnesses and cross-examination, something Ken Paxton’s legal team hoped to avoid.

Tony Buzbee, Ken Paxton’s lead attorney, told a Dallas radio station last week that he’d proposed simply moving on to a vote without a trial. If they were to go to trial, however, he argued it could take as many as eight months to consider the case properly.

Neither plan was endorsed by the lawmakers, though, when they announced rules after two days of closed-door deliberations, during which lawmakers gaveled into session and immediately recessed repeatedly as they hammered out the details of this trial behind the scenes.

The trial will be covered by media in the Senate gallery and pool cameras, the resolution noted, and the final vote is likely to be dramatic. Each article of impeachment will be voted on separately, on paper, with the clerk of the court reading members’ votes aloud, before they are asked to stand and enter yea or nay votes in person.

While the House’s impeachment temporarily removed Ken Paxton from office pending results of the trial, a vote of two-thirds is required to convict Paxton of any article of impeachment and end his term as attorney general. And while Angela Paxton cannot vote, her seat is considered in calculating the two-thirds figure.

With 12 Democrats and 19 Republicans in the Texas Senate, nine Republicans would need to join all of the Senate’s Democrats in order to convict and permanently remove the attorney general from office.

Angela Paxton is not the only person in the chamber with personal ties to the attorney general, however: State Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Republican, is referred to in the impeachment articles, after Paxton asked him to solicit a legal opinion that later helped an ally and the campaign of Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Patrick serves as the judge in the trial, and his campaign lent Ken Paxton’s campaign $125,000. Paxton has yet to repay the debt, according to the Houston Chronicle.

If the attorney general is impeached, the rules added, both sides will be granted 15 minutes to discuss whether he should be permanently barred from holding office in Texas.

Jane C. Timm

Jane C. Timm is a senior reporter for NBC News.

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