Anatomy of Texas Impeachment Failure:
GOP Leaders Crown Biggest Losers List
September 17, 2023
The Republican leader of the Texas House push to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton defended the prosecution's failed effort on Saturday - saying that he wouldn't change a thing if he could do it all over again.
“Regardless of the results, I am proud to have defended the interests of our fellow Texans and have stood up for integrity and propriety in public service,” State Rep. Andrew Murr of Junction said after losing all 16 Texas Senate votes on articles of impeachment that the investigations committee that he chairs created.
The General Investigating Committee's vice-chair, Democratic State Rep. Ann Johnson of Houston, branded the Senate vote to acquit as a "hyper partisan" verdict. Republican Speaker Dade Phelan contended that the House managers who he'd appointed produced "more than enough damning evidence" to warrant Paxton's impeachment and removal from the state lawyer post. Phelan took his grievances to even higher level - suggesting that the process had been rigged in the Senate based on Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick's insulting appraisal immediately after Paxton's acquittal.
These are the kind of things that politicians say when they don't have the nerve to admit that they'd been wrong. The House members who voted to take Paxton out appeared to truly believe that he was corrupt and deserved to go. But House GOP leaders made Paxton a hero instead with a case that that was Swiss cheese personified and destined to fail in the Senate as a consequence.
House GOP leaders and their Democratic allies had no chance to convict Paxton in the Senate with a monumentally shoddy case that they moved through the lower chamber with breakneck speed and thought they could win in the press. The House didn't have a prayer in the Senate with the process they pursued. No chance whatsoever. Zero. None.
Capitol Inside predicted on the trial's third day that the impeachment effort would fail in the Senate. This writer gave 10 key reasons it would be doomed in a column that that effectively summed up defense lawyer Tony Buzbee's final summation to senators who were jurors two days before he actually delivered it.
What if the New York Giants said they should have won the game last week with the Dallas Cowboys even though they'd been on the wrong side of a 44-0 score that suggests otherwise? Would they do everything the same if they had a mulligan? For House managers to say they would do it all just the same if they had another shot shows how badly out of touch they were with their own case.
Texas House leaders emerged from the impeachment trial as the biggest losers - if the people who they claimed to be protecting didn't come out even worse as a product of their failure. This doesn't necessarily mean they were wrong in their views of Paxton as a bum who'd abused the power of his office. But their case crumbled in the Senate like a house of cards in a hurricane. Here are several key reasons why.
* The Evidence. The House prosecutors built a case on circumstantial evidence without concern for the lack of hard proof that they had to have to establish a quid pro quo relationship between the attorney general and real estate investor Nate Paul. They had three months to try to find the smoking gun and made no apparent effort to patch up countless holes.
* Laziness. See reason number one above.
* Overconfidence. This is an understatement of epic proportions. The House members who managed the case for the speaker were still telling colleagues who'd trusted them that they had the AG's impeachment locked up. The House managers overestimated their own abilities - and failed to review their case for the sake of patching up the holes.
* Failure to Anticipate. The investigations panel's second highest-ranking member has shown considerable potential as a former Harris County prosecution as a second-term representative. The attempt to blame partisanship for the outcome could be a sign of inexperience in light of the fact that the Senate Democrats voted the same on most impeachment votes in the final analysis just like their GOP colleagues were doing. The Democrat's characterization of the final results as hyper partisan apparently assumes that the Democrats made their decisions based on a preponderance of the evidence while the Republicans did not. Did the House managers really believe that the vote wouldn't be partisan? That would be naivete at a mind-boggling level if it's true.
* Lawyer Mismatch. The House prosecutors thought they would put any possible doubts about their case to rest when they enlisted Rusty Hardin and Dick DeGuerin to present it for them at the trial. You can't help but admire the fact that both are still working at the ages of 81 and 82 respectively. But their performances on their most important stage were ineffective with the weakest case they'd ever tried. DeGuerin said the evidence was 10 times worse than anyone could imagine. There's no clue now what he was talking about after all but disappearing throughout the trial. These elder lawyers legacies will remain intact. But there's no way that either one of them would do everything the same if they got a second shot. No one would have ever heard of them if they thought like that.
* Red Herrings. The House managers had to know they were losing when they sent Republican State Rep. Jeff Leach to the front mike for a personal confession how hard the vote to impeach a former good friend, mentor and "brother in Christ" that Paxton used to be before the AG lost interest in the relationship. Leach reminded senators several times in a closing argument how momentous their votes would be and the heaviness they would and should feel when they were casting them. Nothing could have been more irrelevant to the choice that senators would make.
The number one for a House speaker is to protect the members - and that's especially true for the party in power. Phelan had one of the finest regular sessions in modern times. But he has the most to lose from the disastrous impeachment effort that put him and colleagues in harm's way.
Impeachment Trial Losers
1. Dade Phelan. The speaker put a safe job in considerable jeopardy. He and his top lieutenants tried and failed to kill someone they perceived as a monster. Paxton is stronger now in a multitude of ways as a result. Getting the troops to follow him again could be a real challenge now.
2. Andrew Murr. The chief investigator reminded senators several times that Sam Houston said "do right and risk the consequences." Murr may or may not be aware that Democrat Mark White used the same quote when he was the governor in 1986 in a pitch for a tax increase in a special session that he'd called to keep the state from going broke in an economic crisis. White told lawmakers to blame him - but the voters did instead when ousted him at the polls two months later. Murr is second on the far right target list for the 2024 primary election behind Phelan. The consequences of his actions could be deadly. This selection includes all of the 60 House Republicans who voted to impeach - especially those who did so simply to demonstrate their loyalty to the leader team.
(The items below on the impeachment losers below will be explored later this week.)
3. Texans for Lawsuit Reform
4. Mainstream Media
6. Governor Greg Abbott
7. Legendary Lawyers
8. The Bush Family