Ken Paxton’s Trial Became a Contest Over Republican Politics

The case towards Ken Paxton, a nationally outstanding conservative politician, was overseen by a board of managers from the state’s House, led by Republicans, and it performed out at instances as a contest over how a lot Republican politics ought to matter within the proceedings.

The House lawmakers approached the case like a felony trial, appointing a outstanding Houston lawyer, Rusty Hardin, who methodically elicited testimony over seven days from 15 witnesses who had been principally senior aides to Mr. Paxton.

In a nod to the politics looming within the background, the prosecutors additionally incessantly sought to focus on the staunchly conservative backgrounds of the witnesses towards Mr. Paxton.

Part of the explanation for doing so is the character of the jury pool: The voting senators included 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats. But it additionally mirrored efforts by the conservative wing of the celebration to assault the impeachment as a political plot put ahead by lobbyists, RINOs — Republicans in title solely — and Democrats in Austin.

“Are you a RINO?” Mr. Hardin requested the primary witness within the case, a recurring query.

“No” was the common reply.

“Have you ever voted for a Democrat in your life?” Mr. Hardin requested one other witness, Mark Penley, a former deputy legal professional common for felony justice.

“No,” Mr. Penley replied.

Mr. Paxton’s attorneys tried to create the impression that politicians like him, a supporter of former President Donald J. Trump, had been beneath assault by average Republicans. They named well-known lobbyists, donors and consultants in addition to Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a conservative coverage group that has been highly effective in Austin, as instigators.

They individually instructed that the previous high aides who turned whistle-blowers towards Mr. Paxton had been making an attempt to take over the legal professional common’s workplace. As proof, the attorneys pointed to an company letterhead with out Mr. Paxton’s title utilized by the aides to report their considerations.

“You were staging a coup, weren’t you?” mentioned one of many protection attorneys, Tony Buzbee, in cross-examining Mr. Paxton’s former high aide, Jeff Mateer.

“Absolutely not,” Mr. Mateer mentioned.

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