A flurry of contrasting reactions has followed news that a jury of state senators on Sept. 16 voted to acquit Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on all 16 articles of impeachment.
Mr. Paxton, who was reelected to a third term in November 2022, was impeached by Texas's GOP-led House on allegations of bribery and abuse of power.
Mr. Paxton's impeachment led to his suspension from the Office of the Attorney General of Texas (OAG).
After eight days of testimony, Texas state senators voted on Sept. 16 to acquit Mr. Paxton on all 16 articles of impeachment, opening the door to his reinstatement at the OAG.
Mr. Paxton's acquittal was met with an outpouring of reactions on social media—both positive and negative.
'Disgraceful Sham' and Other ReactionsSoon after news broke of Mr. Paxton's acquittal, former President Donald Trump weighed in, congratulating him and criticizing the impeachment trial.
"Congratulations to Attorney General Ken Paxton on a great and historic Texas sized VICTORY. I also want to congratulate his wonderful wife and family for having had to go through this ordeal, and WINNING," President Trump wrote on social media.
He also thanked Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who served as a judge in the trial, and Republican state senators, who the former president said showed "great professionalism and fairness."
President Trump called on Mr. Phelan to "resign after pushing this Disgraceful Sham."
In his statement, Mr. Phelan said that, during the Senate impeachment trial, extensive evidence was produced attesting to Mr. Paxton's "corruption, deception, and self-dealing."
"It is extremely unfortunate that after hearing and evaluating this evidence, the Texas Senate chose not to remove him from office," he said.
Mr. Phelan noted that the Senate's refusal to remove Mr. Paxton from office isn't the end of the matter.
"Ken Paxton is the subject of multiple other lawsuits, indictments, and investigations," he said. "If new facts continue to come out, those who allowed him to keep his office will have much to answer for."
More ReactionsSen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) congratulated Mr. Paxton on the acquittal.
“This was the right outcome, consistent with the will of the voters. I look forward to seeing Paxton back in office, continuing to serve as the most effective conservative AG in America.”
Mr. Paxton is widely viewed as one of the most prominent U.S. legal conservatives, taking up issues in defense of religious liberty, the Second Amendment, and the right to life.
"This is about silencing conservatives, eliminating an effective political opponent, and overturning an election," Mr. Buzbee said.
By contrast, Rick Wilson, who co-founded the Lincoln Project, a political action committee established by former Republicans opposed to President Trump, criticized Mr. Paxton's acquittal.
Mr. Patrick said he would call for an audit of taxpayer money spent during the impeachment process.
“Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this impeachment,” he said after votes were cast in the impeachment trial.
“I’m going to call next week 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.”
BackgroundMr. Paxton had been under FBI investigation for years over accusations that he used his office to help Mr. Paul, an Austin real estate developer and donor.
All of the whistleblowers resigned or were fired, with their allegations leading to a federal investigation into Mr. Paxton.
The Department of Justice later took over the investigation, charging Mr. Paul on June 6 with making false statements for the purpose of influencing the actions of financial institutions on applications for loans.
No federal charges have been filed against Mr. Paxton.
About a half dozen former employees of the OAG filed complaints against or sued Mr. Paxton for wrongful dismissal, claiming that he ousted them in retaliation after they reported him to federal authorities.
The allegations relating to Mr. Paul were a major part of the 16 articles of impeachment filed against Mr. Paxton, including bribery and abuse of public trust.