A Texas lawmaker urged senators to oust Ken Paxton in his impeachment trial

Ken Paxton’s defense attorney called the accusation “much ado about nothing.” But House prosecutors said the evidence was overwhelming.

State Rep. Jeff Leach didn’t hold back Friday when he spoke of his love for the embattled Texas prosecutor, whose political career and personal reputation hung by a thin, frayed thread on the floor of the Texas Senate, where Ken Paxton’s defense team and the prosecutors seeking his impeachment made their closing arguments.

“I’ve liked Ken Paxton for a long time,” said Leach, a Republican from a North Texas suburb whose political career mirrored Paxton’s before the latter ran for statewide office nine years ago. “We traveled together, attended church together.”

Leach said Paxton mentored him when he was a new member of the House. It was Paxton who carried the Senate version of the only bill Leach would pass in his first legislative session in 2013. Leach said it was Paxton who should be removed from his position as the state’s top elected lawyer on charges of abuse of office. Texas voters have elected him three times.

Live updates of Paxton’s impeachment trial: The attorney general’s political fate is in the hands of the Texas Senate

“This will be, if you’re like me, the toughest, toughest, heaviest vote you’ll ever cast during your time in the Legislature,” Leach said, likely speaking from his own experience as a House member. Members who brought the case in the House of Representatives accuse Paxton of crimes ranging from constitutional bribery and ignoring his official duties to firing once-trusted aides who warned him he was stepping outside legal bounds.

Leach spoke after Paxton’s defense attorney Tony Buzbee of Houston gave a fiery account of what he called baseless allegations that led to the first-ever indictment of a Texas prosecutor and the first indictment of a statewide official in 106 years.

Buzbee called the House case “much ado about nothing.”

The only reason managers brought up Laura Olson, the woman with whom Paxton is said to have had an affair, is “because they want to shame people. They want to be morally superior,” Buzbee says. If infidelity warrants impeachment, he said, “Line up, we’re going to do a lot of impeachment in this city. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

“When the board brought this case, they assumed this guy was going to resign,” Buzbee said. “They thought this guy was going to run and hide.”

Rep. Andrew Moore, R-Junction, one of the House impeachment managers, told senators that Paxton’s defense lawyers “blindly ignored the fact that he ultimately served one person: himself.”

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In response to warnings from his then-top aides-turned-whistleblowers, Murr, who led the House team that investigated Paxton, said: “Mr. Paxton’s response was swift, vicious and wrong.”

In his final remarks, Leach implored senators to carefully consider their vote.

“The people of Texas deserve answers,” Leach said.

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