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LIVE UPDATES: No word on decision yet in Ken Paxton impeachment trial

Both sides delivered closing arguments in the trial on Friday morning, and then 30 Texas senators began deliberating the fate of Paxton.

AUSTIN, Texas — Suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment trial has reached its final stages.

Both sides delivered closing arguments in the trial on Friday morning, and then 30 Texas senators began deliberating the fate of Paxton, who's on trial for 16 articles of impeachment.

On Friday evening, the senators after deliberating since noon went home for the night without taking a vote. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is presiding over the trial, told senators that they were to report back to the Capitol at 9 a.m. Saturday.

So that's when we'll expect the deliberations to resume, with the prospect of a vote sometime Saturday, if the senators are ready.

Paxton is accused of a range of allegations, including disregard of duty and bribery involving Nate Paul, an Austin real estate developer who is a Paxton donor and friend.

Here were the highlights from closing arguments Friday:

Deliberations go past 5 p.m.

If anyone thought the Texas Senators would have a decision before the end of the work day, that wasn't the case. Their deliberations have gone past 5 p.m., as their discussions and decision-making headed into the evening hours.

Senators deliberate past 3 hours 

As of 3:30 p.m., Texas senators were still deliberating Paxton's fate. They began deliberating around noon. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was allowing the senators to deliberate up to 8 p.m. Patrick said the public and press will be notified about 30 minutes before the senators are ready to vote on the articles of impeachment.

Watch the Paxton impeachment trial full closing arguments

Here's the full closing argument (in two parts) from the prosecution:

And the full closing argument from Paxton's attorneys:

Former Paxton ally Leach delivers closing argument against him

Jeff Leach, the Republican state representative from Plano, delivered the final 10 minutes of the prosecution's closing argument against Paxton.

The move was significant in that Leach was formerly a longtime ally and friend of Paxton and from Paxton's home county of Collin County. But Leach voted to impeach Paxton in May, and he's been on the House Board of Managers prosecuting him.

"This has been one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do in my life," Leach said. 

But Leach pushed the senators, who will decide Paxton's fate, to ask themselves: "What is right?"

"I believe that is right, as painful as it might be, for you to vote to sustain the articles of impeachment commended to you by the Texas House of Representatives," Leach said.

Credit: KVUE

Buzbee on Paxton affair critics: "You should be ashamed"

Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee only briefly touched on Paxton's extramarital affair and its involvement in the impeachment trial during his closing argument Friday. And he used it to attack any critics of Paxton.

"We all have sinned and fallen short," Buzbee said. "The only person who can't be forgiven is somebody who is so cynical they can't ask. If this impeachment is based on a marriage impropriety, then line up. We're going to be doing a lot of impeaching in this city. You should be ashamed of yourselves."

Cogdell: Witness "dumber than a bucket of hair" for saying Paul investigation wasn't legit

Paxton lawyer Dan Cogdell finished the defense's closing arguments with a five-minute appeal to the senators, focusing on the lack of evidence and what the witnesses testified.

And Cogdell, a seasoned defense attorney from Houston, dropped a line that got plenty of attention. Cogdell was talking about David Maxwell, Paxton's former top law enforcement investigator who testified that investigating a complaint from Nate Paul would be interfering with a federal investigation - a crime.

Cogdell called Maxwell's reasoning "dumber than a bucket of hair."

"When he gets up there and looks at you with a straight face and says it's a crime to investigate whether something is a crime, come on," Cogdell said. "We were born at night, but not last night. That is dumber than a bucket of hair. For a Texas Ranger to say it's a crime to investigate the legality of a search?"

Buzbee attacks prosecution's case as political, takes a jab at Bush family

Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee harped on the political nature of the case, saying the House impeachment managers didn't bring any evidence against him.

"I would suggest to you this is a political witch hunt," Buzbee said. "This trial has ben displayed for the country to see a partisan fight within the Republican party. There is a battle for power. Because there's no doubt these folks did not prove a case. They didn't prove anything other than they don't like Ken Paxton."

Buzbee then attacked the Bush family, noting that Paxton beat George P. Bush in the Republican primary last year.

"The Bush era in Texas ends today," Buzbee said. "We thought it had ended in the primary when Paxton beat George P. Bush. Well, now we had an impeachment trial. It ends today. They can go back to Maine. This is Texas."

Buzbee's aside about the Bush family drew attention, especially in conservative circles. Paxton after the closing arguments retweeted a post from "ULTRA MAGA PARTY," which shared a clip of Buzbee's closing argument and quote about the Bush family.

Credit: KVUE
Tony Buzbee at Ken Paxton's impeachment trial in 2023.

As Buzbee delivered his closing argument, he stood next to a giant photo of Rusty Hardin, the lawyer for the prosecution. On the picture was a quote: "10-times worse," an apparent reference to Buzbee saying the prosecution claimed the evidence in trial would be "10 times worse" than what the public knew.

Buzbee said, in fact, the evidence wasn't worse and wasn't evidence at all.

Buzbee's closing interrupted by technical problems

It wouldn't be the impeachment trial without one last reference to the phrase "there are no coincidences in Austin."

Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee delivered the line one more time, mostly in jest, as the Powerpoint connection went down as Buzbee took the lectern to deliver his closing arguments.

Buzbee got a few minutes into his argument but then had to pause because the Powerpoint he was referencing was not working.

"There are no coincidences in Austin," Buzbee said to the crowd with a laugh.

Prosecution: Paxton 'gave the keys to the office'

Rep. Andrew Murr, the Texas House Impeachment Manager who delivered the beginning of the closing argument for the prosecution Friday, described Paxton as giving "the keys to the office" to Nate Paul, and ultimately only doing so to serve himself.

Murr said Paxton's attorneys have "blindly ignored the fact that he has ultimately ended up serving one person: Himself."

Murr said Paxton had built an "exceptional" leadership team in Jeff Mateer and other top staffers. But Paxton's "desire to deliver results for Nate Paul eventually tore the office apart."

"He repeatedly demanded that his top deputies act as Nate Paul's personal lawyers," Murr said. "He gave the keys to the office."

Patrick outlines jury instructions, reads all articles of impeachment

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick opened the proceedings Friday morning by thanking his staff for their work and help over the last two weeks, and over the summer, as his office prepared to hold the trial.

Patrick then began reading jury instructions for the 30 senators who will decide Paxton's fate. Patrick said the senators will deliberate in private, and then the public and media will be notified, at least 30 minutes in advance, before the senators will return to vote.

Patrick then read all 16 articles of impeachment that the senators are considering against Paxton -- any one of them will result in Paxton being removed from office.

The articles that senators are considering include dereliction of duty, constitutional bribery and misuse of power.

Paxton present for closing arguments

Paxton was present for closing arguments when the proceedings began Friday morning. He has not attended the trial since the first morning, when opening statements were delivered. But he was there Friday, according to our reporters inside the Senate chambers.

Paxton was wearing a gray suit with a white shirt and pink tie as he sat next to his lead attorney, Tony Buzbee.

Day 8 recap

Paxton's defense rests, closing arguments scheduled 

At 5:35 p.m., Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee announced that the defense has rested their case. The two sides then began conferencing with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who after about 45 minutes announced that closing arguments would begin at 9 a.m. Friday.

Each side will get one hour for closing arguments.

The trial rules also allowed for time for rebuttals, but Patrick did not announce any plans for a rebuttal.

Paxton deputy says state should still pay whistleblower settlement 

Grant Dorfman, the current deputy first assistant attorney general under Paxton, testified Thursday about why the office settled for $3.3. million with four whistleblowers and said the state should be the one to pay it.

The fired whistleblowers -- former staffers who raised concerns about Paxton's involvement with Nate Paul: Blake Brickman, David Maxwell, Ryan Vassar, Mark Penley -- were among Paxton's top staffers who went to the FBI with allegations about Paxton and Paul, an Austin real estate developer at the center of bribery accusations against Paxton.

Dorfman, who joined Paxton's top staff after the whistleblowers were fired, took the stand Thursday and was questioned about how the settlement with the whistleblowers was reached.

Dorfman said the attorney general's office hashed out the settlement with the whistleblowers' attorneys over the course of two mediation sessions in February 2021.

Dorfman said the attorney general's office, at Paxton's authority, decided it would "certainly" be best settle the case, given the costs involved with such litigation. The two sides settled on $3.3 million, which was "more than we would have like to settle for," Dorfman said, but he acknowledged that's often how settlements go.

When asked if Paxton was ever liable in the whistleblower lawsuit, Dorfman explained that the agency, not Paxton, was the defendant. And when asked if the he still believes the state should pay out the settlement, Dorfman said it should.

The settlement has yet to be paid. A state payment would have to be approved by the state legislature. Paxton has asked legislators to pay the lawsuit, a move they've yet to approve.

AG's HR director says whistleblowers were fired for good reason 

Henry De La Garza, the assistant attorney general over the office's human resources division, testified that the whistleblowers who were fired in 2020 were fired for good reason.

The fired whistleblowers were David Maxwell, Mark Penley, Ryan Vassar and Blake Brickman, all of whom have testified against Paxton in his impeachment trial.

De La Garza said the four were exempt from being designated as whistleblowers because they were "high-level policymakers" as part of Paxton's top staff. All four were fired after raising concerns over Paxton's alleged dealings with and alleged favors for Nate Paul, the Austin real estate developer at the center of the case against Paxton.

De La Garza described the four whistleblowers' conduct after raising the concerns about Paul as insubordinate. Ultimately, De La Garza said, he concluded that the four whistleblowers would not be able to effectively work with Brent Webster, the new first assistant attorney general who took over for Jeff Mateer. Mateer also had raised concerns about Paxton and Paul and then resigned.

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