Just after it was announced that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had been acquitted on all 16 of the impeachment charges filed against him, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick delivered a scathing rebuke of the entire process, accusing the House of blasting through its articles of impeachment without taking the proper steps to start with.
"In the House to vote to send the articles of impeachment against the Attorney General to the Senate happened in only a few days, with virtually no time for 150 members to even study the articles," Patrick said on the House floor.
"The speaker and his team ran through the first impeachment of a statewide official in Texas over 100 years, while paying no attention to the precedent that the House set in every other impeachment before. In the past, the House had transparent and open investigations for all to see, including other House members.
"The target of the investigation was notified and invited to attend with counsel and given an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses, placed under oath before testimony was taken. At the conclusion of past house investigations, the evidence was laid out for weeks for House members to evaluate. Not hours before they took their vote on articles of impeachment."
He then spoke on remarks made by Texas State Rep. John Smithee, who was one of only 23 in the House to vote against impeachment.
"Representative Smithee said the House could not legitimately impeach General Paxton on the record because there was no record to send to the Senate," Patrick explained. "He said the house was not following the rule of law. He said the house approach and I quote representative Smithee, 'Hang em now and judge them later.'"
Patrick went on to say that the state's last impeachment, held in 1917 for then-Governor James E. Ferguson, was according to Smithee "conducted like a full trial before the house, subject to the Senate. Witnesses were put under oath and cross-examined by the defendant.
He said this time no House witnesses were put under oath and the defendant was denied the right to cross-examine. Representative Smithee told fellow members the House process was indefensible. Representative Smithee said the House did not follow the rules of evidence and their case was based on triple hearsay, that would never be allowed in court."
The lieutenant governor stressed that come the next session, "we should amend the Constitution on the issue of impeachment as currently written that allowed this fault process to happen."
He then said that any testimony for a House impeachment "must be given under oath" and that the subject of the impeachment "must be allowed to present with a lawyer to cross-examine the witnesses" as it would otherwise lead to people saying "anything they want without any accountability or need to be truthful because there was no threat of perjury."
He argued the House should grant members "a minimum of two weeks to review all evidence given under oath before voting on such a serious matter."
"Had they done those two things," Patrick said, "This trial may never have happened."
Patrick notably promised that he will call for a "full audit of all taxpayer money spent by the House from the beginning of their investigation in March to their final bills they get from their lawyers," as soon as next week.
He also said his team "will provide our cost as well that were forced on us by the House impeachment."
"One big difference," noted Patrick, "We didn't pay a huge team of outside lawyers and investigators. We did it mostly with our own staff working endless hours with no extra pay."
Patrick concluded the session with an announcement of a "final judgment" that Paxton will now be reinstated to office.
"This concludes the proceedings the court of impeachment is hereby dissolved and we are adjourned sine die pending submission of the final judgment to the Secretary of State. Thank you, members."
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