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High-powered Texas attorneys will present case against Ken Paxton in Senate trial

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, center, leaves after addressing anti-abortion activists at a rally outside the Supreme Court, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, in Washington.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, center, leaves after addressing anti-abortion activists at a rally outside the Supreme Court, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, in Washington.

Two well-known Texas lawyers have been hired to present the case against embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to the state Senate following his impeachment by the Texas House last week.

Attorneys Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin have been tapped to lead the case against Paxton, announced state Rep. Andrew Murr, chairman of the Texas House committee on General Investigating, on Thursday.

Paxton was impeached last week by the Texas House after the lower chamber’s General Investigating Committee presented a 20-count indictment against Paxton, most of which pertain to his involvement with friend and campaign donor Nate Paul. The case now moves to the upper chamber, where Senate members will act as a jury and determine Paxton’s fate.

During a brief introduction at the state Capitol Thursday, DeGuerin said the case was not about punishing Paxton but instead protecting Texas and its citizens.

“The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to bring these 20 articles of impeachment. They're very serious,” DeGuerin said. “They involve dereliction of duty, bribery, abuse of public trust, retaliation, conspiracy, misappropriation of public resources, and false statements by the top law enforcement agent of the state of Texas. The people of the state of Texas are entitled to know whether their top cop is a crook. We intend to present these 20 articles of impeachment in a fair way.”

Hardin sought to reassure the public that the duo would act in a nonpartisan fashion and reiterated that his experience over the last several decades includes prosecuting and defending lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, including perhaps one of the most significant investigations in recent history.

“Tomorrow, I get on a plane to fly to New York for the 29th reunion of the Whitewater investigation in which I was retained to be the trial lawyer the first year,” Hardin said Thursday. “That was an investigation of President Clinton to see whether he should be referred to a grand jury, the very thing that's happened with these articles of impeachment. And so, the irony [is] that I'm standing here today, one day before we're celebrating 29 years in the past of looking at a Democratic president.”

Hardin added that House Republicans should be commended for deciding to put party politics aside and voting to advance the case against Paxton, adding the suspended attorney general would be guaranteed a fair and proper proceeding.

“General Paxton should be able to present any and all defense he wants with witnesses,” he said. “His lawyers should be allowed to cross-examine the witnesses we present. And we similarly should be able to bring live witnesses before the public.”

Despite that, Hardin also noted he was “shocked” at the evidence he’s seen so far.

“This is not about a onetime misuse of an office. It's not about a two-time misuse of the office. It's about a pattern of misconduct and use in the office,” he said.

In addition to the Whitewater investigation, Hardin’s resume includes representing the trust of J. Howard Marshall II against model Ana Nicole Smith, representing all-star MLB pitcher and Texan Roger Clemens on charges he lied to the U.S. Congress, and former Houston Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson.

DeGuerin’s legal highlights include defending former Republican U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians whose battle against the federal government led to the deaths of dozens of people in Waco in 1993.

Also on Thursday, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar informed interim Texas Attorney General John Scott that Paxton will not receive a salary while he is suspended from office. The Dallas Morning News, who first reported the development, reported that Paxton’s annual salary is about $154,000.

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.

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Julián Aguilar