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Defense rests in Ken Paxton impeachment trial, closing arguments set for the morning

KHOU 11 will air closing arguments when they begin. They are scheduled to start at 9 a.m.

AUSTIN, Texas — On the eighth day of the Ken Paxton impeachment trial, the defense rested its case. It was on the same day the defense called all of its witnesses and one day after the prosecution rested.

According to the rules adopted for the trial, both sides were to get one hour of rebuttal and one hour of closing before the senators, acting as jurors, got the case. Just before the proceedings adjourned Thursday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that closing arguments would be at 9 a.m. Friday morning.

You can watch closing arguments live on KHOU 11 and KHOU 11+ on Roku, FireTV and AppleTV.

With no more witnesses in the case, KHOU 11's political analyst Brandon Rottinghaus said it all comes down to a question of reasonable doubt.

"The defense really has to do only one thing, and that's to prove the prosecution didn't make its case," he said. "The prosecution has to furtively decide that they're going to make this case. That's a challenge for them, because obviously, there's a lot of details here with 16 articles of impeachment and a lot of detail swirling around those. It's hard to say how the jury is going to go, but for sure, it's the case that the defense can just lay on their laurels and say that the prosecution simply hasn't proven their case."

Before resting, Paxton's defense called four witnesses, all of them current employees in the attorney general's office. The defense was trying to rebut allegations that Paxton abused his power and broke the law to help Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.

VIDEO: Ken Paxton's attorney, Tony Buzbee, rests for the defense

“I assured myself and I assured my wife that if there were ever anything that I saw that were illegal or unethical that I would step away,” said Austin Kinghorn, a senior lawyer in the attorney general's office. “And I’m still here. I’m proud of the work we do. I’m proud to serve General Paxton.”

FULL COVERAGE: Ken Paxton impeachment trial

RELATED: Paxton's lawyers rest their case, and closing arguments are now set: Everything from Day 8 of the impeachment trial

Attorneys for the bipartisan group of lawmakers prosecuting Paxton’s impeachment rested their case Wednesday after a woman who was expected to testify about an extramarital affair with the attorney general made a sudden appearance at the trial, but never took the stand.

The affair is central to the historic proceedings in the Texas Senate and accusations that Paxton misused his power to help Paul, who was under FBI investigation and employed the woman, Laura Olson. One of the 16 articles of impeachment against Paxton alleges that Paul's hiring of Olson amounted to a bribe.

Paxton, who was suspended from office pending the trial's outcome, is not required to attend the proceedings and has not appeared since testimony began last week. His wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, is required to attend but is not allowed to vote.

Paxton has said he will travel to Maine next week to talk with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. On Thursday, he touted Trump's support in an online appeal for donations that included photos of him with the former president.

Like Trump, Paxton is facing an array of legal troubles and the accompanying lawyers' fees. He remains under federal investigation for the same allegations that gave rise to his impeachment and faces a bar disciplinary proceeding over his effort to overturn the 2020 election. Also, he has yet to stand trial on state securities fraud charges dating to 2015. Paxton pleaded not guilty in that case, but his lawyers have said removal from office might open the door to him making a plea agreement.

Paxton's impeachment trial has focused on the testimony of his former staff, including a group of senior deputies who reported the attorney general to the FBI in 2020, accusing him of breaking the law to help Paul. The prosecutors spent considerable time establishing the group's conservative credentials.

The people Paxton needs to ultimately convince are Republican senators serving as the jury. A two-thirds majority — or 21 senators — is required for conviction, meaning that if all 12 Democrats vote against Paxton, at least nine Republicans would have to join them.

Patrick had said earlier in the week that once senators begin deliberating, they won't get a day off, so it could be a long weekend for them. 

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