AUSTIN (KXAN/Nexstar) — The main lawyers chosen to defend Attorney General Ken Paxton during his upcoming impeachment trial predicted the Texas Senate will not vote to remove him from office and called the process a “sham.”
“Ken Paxton will never, never be convicted by the Senate — not on this evidence, not with this record and not when the fact is the allegations are completely untrue,” Tony Buzbee said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Buzbee said he joined Paxton’s impeachment defense team about three days ago and would not disclose whether the suspended attorney general is the one paying him. “I’m not being paid by the public: that’s all you need to know,” he said. The news conference Wednesday happened at the Austin headquarters of the Republican Party of Texas, and Buzbee said “it would not be a fair statement” to say whether the party is paying him when a reporter asked about that.
He was accompanied by Houston attorney Dan Cogdell, who echoed Buzbee’s concerns about the impeachment process.
The Texas House of Representatives voted to impeach the third-term Republican on May 27 after an ethics committee brought forward 20 articles of impeachment against him. These stem from a two-month investigation that began after Paxton asked to use state funds to settle a $3.3 million whistleblower lawsuit filed by four former employees who accused him of wrongdoing.
Paxton is temporarily suspended from his elected office until the outcome of the Senate impeachment trial is known. He will not receive pay from the state for the time being either, according to the Texas comptroller’s office.
“The impeachment articles that have been laid out by the House are baloney,” Buzbee said. “Just so we’re clear: the allegations are untrue. They are false.”
The Texas Senate agreed to hold the impeachment trial no later than Aug. 28. A special bipartisan committee comprised of seven members are now working to develop the rules of the trial, and they’re expected to present those to the full chamber during a June 20 meeting.
During a talk about the end of the regular legislative session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he will preside over the trial and insisted it would be “fair,” as the senators will effectively act as the jury.
“Look at me like a judge before a case and look at our senators like that. Be respectful of their space and time,” Patrick said on May 30. “This is very serious. These are very serious people, and the Senate is going to do our job in a professional way.”
Buzbee said the defense, which now includes another Houston attorney named Dan Cogdell, already identified 66 witnesses to depose as well as thousands of documents to request. He seemed to question whether there will be enough time to prepare for a “real trial” in August.
“The whole thing’s a sham engineered by someone with a personal vendetta against Attorney General Paxton, and if it takes us a year to show that, then we’ll take a year to do it,” Buzbee said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Patrick declined to comment on whether Sen. Angela Paxton should recuse herself from her husband’s impeachment trial — instead choosing to focus his remarks on the impasse over how to lower property taxes. At a separate bill-signing event a couple of hours later, Gov. Greg Abbott responded to a similar question by saying, “That’s for her to decide.”
Regarding the possibility of Sen. Paxton recusing herself from the trial, Buzbee said during Wednesday’s news conference, “Each senator makes that decision for themselves, and I can’t speak for her.”
The House already named seven Republicans and five Democrats to serve as impeachment managers during the upcoming trial. This group announced during a news conference on June 1 that they’re bringing on two well-known criminal defense attorneys, Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin, to effectively serve as prosecutors in these proceedings. The lawyers said the Senate now needs to adopt rules that will make the trial public, adding it should be a fair and transparent process focused on facts and not politics.
Buzbee criticized DeGuerin and Hardin for agreeing to side with the House impeachment managers, arguing their process was rushed and the investigation relied on testimony of 15 witnesses not placed under oath.
“What they did was convene a hurried, secretive kangaroo court — more like something you would see in a third-world country,” Buzbee said.
Buzbee also brought up the article of impeachment that alleged Nate Paul, the Austin real estate developer, paid for renovations at Paxton’s home. He showed photos of two receipts for payment that he said refute that claim. He also displayed photos of what he claimed were Paxton’s tiled kitchen countertops, saying they’re not granite like investigators claimed.
In a statement in response to Buzbee’s remarks, Hardin points to investigators’ “fully public presentation” of evidence to the House General Investigating Committee at the end of May, which was all made available to House members in advance of the impeachment vote.
“Personal blustery attacks on the Committee, the Investigators, House Members, and the House lawyers will not change the truth,” Hardin said in a statement. “That will be determined by the trial before the Senate that both sides have now fully endorsed.”
Hardin did add that he is “delighted” both Buzbee and Cogdell also called for a full and transparent trial in the Senate.
“We are pleased to hear that they have endorsed allowing both sides to present live testimony, offer the introduction of all relevant documents, and permit each side to cross-examine the opposing side’s witnesses,” he said. “We are particularly delighted to hear that they want Mr. Paxton to be able to appear before the jury in the Senate so that he will be able to publicly defend his conduct.”
Who is Tony Buzbee?
In addition to taking on Paxton as a client, Buzbee is no stranger to getting involved in high-profile cases. He works as a personal injury attorney and owns the Buzbee Law Firm in Houston.
Last year he represented two dozen women who accused Deshaun Watson, the NFL quarterback, of sexual assault or harassment. At the time, the athlete was represented by Hardin, who will now be Buzbee’s adversary in the Paxton impeachment trial.
Buzbee also secured a settlement last year on behalf of a family whose loved one died during the 2021 crowd crush at an Astroworld concert in Houston. The initial lawsuit named rapper Travis Scott, Live Nation and Apple among others. At that time, the family sought $750 million in damages, though Buzbee later said the sum of the final settlement would remain “confidential.”
According to a profile published by The Texas Tribune, Buzbee previously defended former Texas Gov. Rick Perry against abuse-of-office charges in Travis County that eventually got thrown out by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Buzbee also ran for Houston mayor in 2019, where he made it to a runoff election and ultimately lost by about 12 percentage points.