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Texas’ Ken Paxton hires prominent attorney for impeachment trial

Attorney Tony Buzbee on Wednesday decried the GOP-led state House of Representatives’ overwhelming vote last month to impeach Paxton as a sham equivalent to a “drive-by shooting on a holiday weekend”

Tony Buzbee
Tony Buzbee, attorney for impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, answers questions during a news conference at the Republican Party of Texas headquarters in Austin, Texas, Wednesday, June 7, 2023.Eric Gay (AP)

A new lawyer for Ken Paxton on Wednesday raised skepticism that the embattled Texas attorney general’s impeachment trial could be done quickly and attacked the case that could lead to the Republican’s permanent removal from office as a sham.

Tony Buzbee is a prominent Houston attorney whose high-profile client list includes former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and women who accused NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual harassment and assault. His hiring sets up a clash between some of the state’s most well-known lawyers over Paxton’s political future.

“The impeachment articles that have been laid out by the House are baloney,” Buzbee said during a news conference at the Republican Party of Texas’ Austin headquarters. “The allegations are untrue.”

The impeachment trial in the Texas Senate is set to begin no later than Aug. 28. “If we’re really going to have a trial, it’s going to take a lot longer than that,” Buzbee said.

Buzbee joins several member of the attorney general’s staff who are set to square off against two high-profile lawyers the House brought in to present the case against Paxton, who was suspended from office following his impeachment on 20 articles including abuse of public trust and bribery.

Buzbee and one of Paxton’s longtime criminal defense attorneys, Dan Cogdell, criticized the House’s rapid impeachment process as rushed and secretive. Lawmakers allied with Paxton mounted similar complaints in May before 60 of the House’s 85 Republicans, including Speaker Dade Phelan, voted to impeach.

“There was no due process before the House,” said Cogdell, who represents Paxton in a long-stalled securities fraud case and a separate FBI investigation into many of the same allegations that led to his impeachment.

The case for Paxton’s impeachment is set to be presented by Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin, who over decades in Texas have become practically as recognizable in courtrooms as the politicians and famous figures they have represented.

Buzbee said the current timeframe would not give Paxton’s legal team enough time to take testimony from more than 60 witnesses and review thousands of documents. He suggested the trial might need to be put off until next summer.

The trial date start, as well as a June 20 Senate meeting to consider trial rules, were set by a Senate vote. It was not immediately clear if those dates could be changed without a similar vote by the 31 senators.

Paxton has been under FBI investigation for years over accusations by members of his own staff that he used his office to help a donor. He was separately indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, though he has yet to stand trial.

Buzbee didn’t directly address the substance of most of the allegations against Paxton during the 40-minute news conference. But he did contest that the donor, real estate developer Nate Paul, bribed the attorney general by paying for renovations to his Austin home. The lawyer showed images of receipts that he suggested disproved the claim.

Buzbee declined to say who was paying for his services, save that “I’m not being paid by the public.”

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