The Texas Senate acquitted the state’s Republican attorney general on bribery and corruption charges in a historic impeachment trial.
Saturday’s result allows the reinstatement of Ken Paxton more than three months after he was suspended from office when fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to remove him over allegations of abuse of power.
Paxton, an ally of former US President Donald Trump, hailed the Senate ruling as a victory for the truth.
“Today, the truth prevailed. The truth cannot be buried by mudslinging politicians or their powerful benefactors,” he said in a statement.
Trump also welcomed the outcome, congratulating Paxton “on a great and historic victory in Texas”.
Paxton, who has gained a national profile as a thorn in the side of Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration, including filing several lawsuits to block the implementation of national policies, faces 16 articles of impeachment.
The trial, which opened on September 5, saw an array of former top aides testify at length about what they called Paxton’s corrupt practices, including using the power of his office to will protect Nate Paul, a wealthy political donor and real estate developer, as he faces a federal investigation.
In return, Paul allegedly helped arrange an extramarital affair for Paxton and paid for improvements to the house.
Two-thirds of Texas’ 31 senators – or, 21 senators – must vote to convict him of any article. But not a single article of impeachment saw more than 14 senators vote to find Paxton guilty.
The firebrand politician’s wife, Angela Paxton, is also a state senator, but is not allowed to vote on the proceedings.
The trial exposed the rift in the Texas Republican Party, between social conservatives, who have held back for the past decade and Paxton’s back, and traditional conservatives, who say his actions bring shame on the party and the state.
In May, the Texas House voted 121-23 to impeach Paxton in 20 articles, making him the third sitting politician in the state’s 178-year history to be impeached.
The trial was triggered by Paxton’s request earlier this year that House lawmakers approve a $3.3m settlement he reached with former staffers who accused him of abuse of office in 2020 and later fired.
State lawmakers did not fund the settlement.
After the close of the impeachment proceedings on Saturday, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a Republican who as president of the Senate presided over the trial, criticized the entire process as a quick job that lacked transparency.
“Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this impeachment,” Patrick said. “It shouldn’t have happened this year, and hopefully it won’t happen again.”
Paxton’s critics criticized the result.
Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who voted to convict Paxton, said that “a broken and corrupt system allowed Ken Paxton to abuse the powers of his office” and that “Texas Republicans have decided that corruption and lies to people like Ken Paxton … through them.”
Shortly after the ruling, Republican Governor Greg Abbott welcomed Paxton to work without hesitation.
“Attorney General Paxton has done a great job representing Texas, especially pushing back against the Biden Administration,” Abbott said. “I look forward to continuing to work with him to secure the border and protect Texas from federal overreach.”
The verdict was far from the end of Paxton’s troubles, however.
He still faces trial on felony securities fraud charges, remains under separate investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and is at risk of losing his ability to practice law in Texas because of his baseless attempts to reverse Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.