As impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton awaits trial in the Texas Senate, the American-Stateman looks back at a timeline of events leading up to the Sept. 5 court date.
From attempting to request public funding to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit in February to developments in Paxton's securities fraud case in early August, here's what has happened so far this year:
Feb. 21: Paxton asks House committee to fund $3.3 million whistleblower settlement
Paxton appears before a House subcommittee to request that lawmakers allocate $3.3 million in public funds to resolve a wrongful termination lawsuit from four aides in his office. The proposed settlement, which includes an apology from Paxton, stems from a complaint the aides made to the FBI in 2020 on alleged bad acts by Paxton in his relationship with Austin developer Nate Paul. Despite Paxton's efforts, the House refused to appropriate the funds, with Speaker Dade Phelan calling it an improper use of public money. The negotiated settlement falls apart, and, quietly, the Texas House builds an impeachment case against Paxton.
May 23: Texas House investigations committee says it is investigating Paxton
The secret is out. In the final days of the Legislative session, a four-minute hearing in a House investigating committee reveals that the subject of a probe known for months only as "Matter A" is Paxton. The bombshell discovery is further fleshed out the following morning, when lawyers tasked to investigate Paxton report back to the committee with what they've learned. Most of the details had long ago been made public from court documents or news reports, but they proved significant in that lawmakers, including key House Republicans, took special notice and showed disgust.
May 27: Texas House impeaches Attorney General Paxton
May 27 — In a surprisingly lopsided decision, the Texas House impeaches Paxton on a 121-23 vote. This suspends him from office, without pay, pending the Senate trial. The biggest shocker came on the Republican side, where about 70% of members voted in favor of impeachment — a signal that not even political allegiances are enough to overcome evidence that House managers laid out to advance 20 impeachment counts against Paxton.
Within days, Gov. Greg Abbott announces that Paxton will be replaced as AG on an interim basis by former secretary of state John Scott. But Scott stays on the job for less than two months before Abbott announces another interim AG in mid July, this time his staffer, Angela Colmenero.
June 1: House managers announce prosecution lawyers Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin
House managers call a press conference to announce the hire of two renowned lawyers to prosecute Paxton: Texas legal legends Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin. Both in their 80s and from Houston, DeGuerin and Hardin separately have won some of the state's biggest cases involving high-profile clients. Now teammates, they come out swinging, with Hardin saying that the extent that Paxton went to assist Paul is "10 times worse than has been public." They aren't coming cheap: DeGuerin and Hardin, and each employee in their firms, will bill $500 an hour in this case, per employment contracts obtained by the American-Statesman.
Later, a third big-name lawyer is added: Harriett O'Neill, retired Republican justice on the Texas Supreme Court.
June 7: Paxton announces legal team
Now it's time for Paxton to announce his legal team, and it's impressive. Six attorney general lawyers are taking a leave to assist Paxton, but the big names are from outside the AGs office. They are Houston lawyers Tony Buzbee, a former Houston mayoral candidate whose client list includes Gov. Rick Perry, and Dan Cogdell, who represents Paxton in another matter: an eight-year-old felony securities fraud case. Buzbee takes the opportunity to predict victory, saying the Senate will never convict Paxton. He also makes an unforced error, publishing a photo of a wire transfer from Paxton for a home remodel. The next day, the Wall Street Journal connects it to an unlicensed construction company tied to Raj Kumar, Paul's friend and employee.
June 8: Nate Paul arrested, charged with mortgage fraud
Nate Paul is arrested in Austin and charged in federal court with eight counts of mortgage fraud. Investigators say he doctored loan applications to inflate his assets, deceiving banking institutions into lending him $172 million to acquire commercial properties. Reporters analyze the indictment for any reference to Paxton. There are none.
July 18: Reports show Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick received $3 million loan from pro-Paxton group
July 18 — Campaign finance reports are released, and much attention is given to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's filing. A donation and a loan totaling $3 million went to Patrick's campaign from Defend Texas Liberty, a pro-Paxton group funded by hard-right west Texas billionaires Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks. The implication is unmistakable: Patrick is the presiding officer in Paxton's trial, and Defend Texas Liberty wants Paxton back in office.
Aug. 3: Paxton faces three felonies in securities fraud case
A Houston courtroom serves as a reminder that Paxton's troubles are not limited to the impeachment proceedings. A Harris County judge tells prosecutors and defense lawyers to be prepared for trial in February on Paxton's now eight-year-old securities fraud case. Paxton faces three felonies. But the bigger news comes after the hearing. Outside of the courtroom, Paxton's lawyer, Dan Cogdell, tells reporters that if Paxton is removed from office in the Senate trial, he then may accept a plea deal in the securities fraud case. By going to trial, Paxton would risk getting convicted and losing his license to practice law in Texas.
Aug. 10: Federal grand jury reviews Paxton's ties to Nate Paul
Things are heating up in the federal investigation into Paxton. As reported by the American-Statesman, federal prosecutors have seated a grand jury in San Antonio and heard testimony from witnesses close to Paxton. The discovery comes nearly three years after Paxton's aides made a complaint to the FBI about his relationship with Paul. To this point, no indictments have come down.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: A timeline of Texas AG Ken Paxton's impeachment trial