Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Paxton Is Home Free--So Far

Texas AG Ken Paxton (R) faced 16 articles of impeachment, including multiple kinds of corruption, particularly doing favors for a millionaire friend who renovated his home and helped him cover up an extramarital affair. After weeks of witnesses and testimony making clear that Paxton was guilty on most or all of them, he was acquitted by the Texas Senate. What is somewhat unusual here is that he was impeached with 70% of the House Republicans voting for it. This was not some kind of power grab by Democrats. But when push came to shove, Paxton got away with it, even though the evidence was overwhelming.

When the vote was taken, Paxton's wife was there—because she is a Texas state senator. But the rules adopted for the trial prevented her from voting (not that her vote was needed; there was not a single article on which more than two Republicans voted to convict). During the trial, she sat there stone-faced as witness after witness testified about Paxton's infidelities and how he covered his tracks with the help of his friend.

Well, it's Texas. What did you expect? You can be sure that if the accused had been a Democrat, there would have been a conviction by a huge margin.

Does this whole sordid story have application elsewhere? It might. The message might well be: All the evidence in the world doesn't make any difference if the jurors made up their minds long before the trial started. Could that happen again in a different context? We don't know but we certainly can't rule it out.

Paxton is not out of the woods yet. He is under investigation by the FBI on crimes that mirror the impeachment charges. That case has higher stakes: Fighting to keep out of jail is a different order of magnitude than fighting to keep your job. Also, the jury in the federal case won't be made up primarily of Republican state senators. (V)

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