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Paxton’s lawyers want three Democratic senators banned from his impeachment trial

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Julia Reihs
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The countdown clock is ticking on suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial in the Texas Senate.

Lawmakers have said that the proceedings will kick off no later than Sept. 5. Details about how the trial will actually work are still very much up in the air. One of the few rules publicly established is that Sen. Angela Paxton will be present but banned from voting on her husband’s case.

» RELATED: Ahead of Paxton trial, Texas Senate reconvenes to set the ground rules

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán, who covers state politics for the Texas Newsroom, said Paxton is pushing to have three Democratic senators banned from the trial — Senators José Menéndez, Roland Gutierrez and Nathan Johnson.

“Paxton’s lawyers allege that the three of them have a bias against their client. And they’re providing some statements the senators have made throughout the years about Paxton,” Martínez-Beltrán said. “For example, during the midterms last year, Sen. Menéndez tweeted that Paxton’s challenger, Democrat Rochelle Garza, had been endorsed by the major newspapers in the state. And he said, ‘Let’s elect an AG that’s not under indictment, FBI investigation or accused of bribery by his own staff.’

Paxton’s attorneys say the Republican has a right to a fair and impartial jury, and that those senators who have demonstrated bias like Menéndez need to step aside.”

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Information about the upcoming trial is coming out in fits and starts, in part because Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued a gag order for those participating in the trial.

“The Board of Impeachment managers and the attorneys for Ken Paxton and even Ken Paxton himself cannot talk about the case publicly,” Martínez-Beltrán said. “This is significant because the attorneys for the impeachment managers and those representing Paxton have big personalities. They are the type of attorneys who are not afraid of going after each other in a colorful public way. But now they’re not able to do any of this before the trial.”

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

Martínez-Beltrán said the gag order has upset people — including a GOP activist from Houston who filed a lawsuit to have the order lifted.

“He claims the gag order violates the Texas Constitution because they claim it prohibits freedom of speech and the right of people to petition their government,” he said. “The lawsuit, by the way, also seeks to strike the Senate’s decision to prohibit Sen. Angela Paxton from voting or participating in the deliberations.”

In terms of what information will be made public, Martínez-Beltrán said a lot of details about the case were revealed during the House impeachment hearings a few months ago. The Senate trial will also be public, so more information about the case against Paxton is expected to emerge then.

Paxton himself has said he will not testify during the trial.

“We do know that under the Senate rules, the lieutenant governor has the power to compel the attendance of witnesses and punish them for contempt,” Martínez-Beltrán said. “So we could see even more tense moments later on.

But one thing that’s important here is the fact that Paxton’s attorneys have claimed their client has not been given a chance to respond to the allegations. Arguably, this trial is that chance. But they’re saying Paxton will not testify.”

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