OPINION: The Texas Senate should vote to convict Ken Paxton

by Suzanne Bellsnyder, Editor

Very soon, Texas Senators will cast a historic vote in the Impeachment Trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Impeachment has only happened three times in Texas history, as impeachment proceedings were an option given to our elected officials to handle extraordinary situations, and this event should not be taken lightly.

And it also shouldn’t be a partisan vote. Elected officials, especially the Attorney General, as the highest law enforcement official in the state, should be held to the highest standard. Paxton is a Republican, and eighteen of the Senators are Republican, but having an R by your name does not obligate you to condone corruption or abuse of office. The Constitution, in fact, allows for the House and the Senate to sit in judgment of their peers and hold them to a higher standard of accountability as an officer of the State of Texas.

There is no question that the testimony over the nine days of the trial has shown that Ken Paxton used his office to benefit a friend, donor, and real estate developer, Nate Paul. There is no question that the testimony over the nine days of the trial has shown that Ken Paxton used his office to benefit a friend, donor, and real estate developer, Nate Paul. And for this reason, the Texas Senate should vote to convict Ken Paxton on impeachment charges which will remove him from office.

I believe that Nate Paul initially convinced Paxton that they were experiencing the same troubles and being targeted by some of the same people, Rani Sabban, the securities agent, as an example. Paul played off of Paxton’s mistrust of law enforcement, ironically, earned Paxton’s trust, and then Paxton’s decision-making became clouded. There was also a clear quid pro quo arrangement with Paul, as it was documented that Paul was involved in some capacity in Uber rides and the Paxton’s home renovations.

Paxton was having an extramarital affair during this time -- confirmed by testimony of his former chief of staff-- and he was doing all he could to conceal that from his family and the public. Add to all this that Paxton was on the national news, making headlines on Google and other prominent cases, and hanging out with Donald Trump.

Paxton likely felt he was invincible and believed that as the Attorney General, he was powerful, he was on a crusade, and he could do whatever he wanted. Things just got out of control.

Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”

The defense presented arguments that Paxton was unsuccessful in providing benefits to Nate Paul, but they didn’t dispute that he tried. But Paxton’s intervention alone benefited Paul, as it delayed and impacted how Paul’s legal troubles have played out.

Paul didn’t get the full benefits of Paxton’s intervention because Paxton’s senior staff members were insightful enough to put up roadblocks, and then when they reported Paxton to the FBI, they stopped him completely. There was powerful testimony by former staff members, the “Whistleblower,” explaining their actions and why. This group of staff members, then either resigned or were subsequently fired by Paxton, disparaged and called rogue staffers in an officially published AG’s report and in the media.

The defense presented their testimony on Thursday to discredit the Whistleblowers, but it was purely bogus. The HR director who wrote up the recommendations to fire the employees did so on third-hand information he received from Brent Webster, who was Paxton’s new lieutenant brought in after Jeff Mateer, who was First Assistant AG and one of the 8 whistleblowers, had resigned.

The Whistleblowers are not Liberals, RINOs, nor are they political opponents of Paxton; on the contrary, they are conservatives who choose to work for Paxton because they believed in his causes. When they saw the whole picture of what Paxton was doing for Nate Paul and thought that their boss had gone severely off course, they warned him to no avail.

The testimony provided detail that on three different occasions, Ken Paxton directed his staff to intervene where Nate Paul’s interests were involved. These interventions were odd because they took a policy position opposite to the agency's previous positions under similar circumstances.

Those three occasions were the Mitte Foundation intervention, which delayed a lawsuit pending against Paul, the “no opinion” decision issued by OAG on the DPS open records request, which was an attempt to allow Paul and his attorney access to confidential law enforcement and the “midnight opinion” which was used to stop foreclosures on Paul’s properties. This is all extraordinary because you or I, as a regular citizen, would not have the AG’s office intervening on our behalf, and it would especially not happen three times.

Then, there was the hiring of the outside counsel, Brandon Cammack. This was the most egregious act and seems to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Despite the AG’s office having over 3,000 attorneys, Paxton personally hired the young, inexperienced lawyer, Cammack, for a unique position to conduct an investigation on Nate Paul’s behalf. Cammack was connected to Paxton by Nate Paul's attorney, Michael Wynne. When Paxton interviewed Cammack for the job, Paxton told Cammack, and a second witness confirmed that he needed outside counsel because the staff would not do what he wanted them to do.

Cammack’s contract did not go through the normal hiring process, and he was never given state credentials nor an official state email. Plus, Paxton asked Cammack to communicate using a signal app and a proton email, secret encrypted services, and communication tools designed for secrecy.

For me, the most concerning aspect of the trial came to light on Thursday during the testimony of Austin Kinghorn, a current attorney general’s office employee. Kinghorn testified that the AG’s office was “Paxton’s Law Firm” and that his boss was Paxton.

But the AG’s office is not Paxton’s Law firm. The AG’s office belongs to the people of Texas, and the people of Texas are his clients.

Impeachment Article XVII states, “While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth Paxton misused his official powers by causing employees of this office to perform services for his benefit and the benefit of others.”

There are 16 Articles, all of which the House has proven some aspect of their credibility. But Art XVII above is the one that seals the deal. There is no reasonable doubt that Ken Paxton used his office and his employees to benefit himself and others.

And this is the reason they MUST vote to convict.

(Suzanne Sanders Bellsnyder served as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Senate for over a decade. She now lives in the Texas Panhandle and is the editor of the Hansford Reporter Statesman, her hometown newspaper, and the Texas Rural Reporter, a statewide news service covering Rural Texas and its interests. Twitter/X: @sbellsnyder | Substack: Texas Rural Reporter)

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