War of words escalates between Patrick, Phelan
(The Center Square) – A war of words escalated between the two leaders of the Texas legislature over the weekend.
After the Texas Senate voted to acquit Attorney General Ken Paxton of all impeachment charges, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued a scathing rebuke of House Speaker Dade Phelan and the Texas House for rushing through an impeachment vote based on no evidence to support their charges. In response, Phelan issued a statement attacking Patrick and Senate Republicans.
Patrick has since called for a full audit of all impeachment-related expenses, arguing the House wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on an impeachment trial that he said never should have happened.
On Friday, Phelan published an op-ed in the Beaumont Enterprise, which is located in his legislative district, saying the Senate Republicans’ vote to acquit Paxton “put politics over principles.”
“The evidence against Paxton, presented to our chamber after a months-long investigation into allegations involving bribery, deceit and other types of disturbing misconduct, was more than damning, and our chamber overwhelmingly agreed that a further examination of the facts was merited,” he said.
During this investigation, House members heard from no witnesses directly. Its General Investigating Committee (GIC) held a four-hour hearing at which the findings of investigators were presented. Their interviews with former staff members included no sworn testimony. At the trial, key House GIC witnesses testified they had no evidence or only circumstantial evidence when they went to the FBI making allegations of bribery and corruption against Paxton.
Phelan said the members of the House who voted to impeach did so because they believe “Texans had every right to hear the evidence for themselves in a public, open trial. We didn’t vote to impeach because we wanted to punish our state’s top attorney, but rather to open the door to a fair and thorough discussion of the evidence before determining whether Paxton abused his office to a degree so extreme that makes him unfit for office. I stand by that vote, and I stand by the belief that Paxton’s conduct is beneath the office he holds. The evidence speaks for itself.”
He also said he “believed the Senate and its presiding officer,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, “would be so overwhelmed by Paxton’s repeated and apparent abuses of office that they would agree he should no longer serve as our state’s top cop. Imagine my disappointment when it became clear the Senate would allow politics to prevail over principles” when the Senate voted to acquit.
Phelan also suggested that Patrick was financially influenced to push Republican senators to acquit, saying, “Patrick, who led us to believe he would preside over this trial in a fair and just manner, took a whopping $3 million donation from a Political Action Committee pushing for Paxton’s exoneration before the trial even began.”
Responding to “armchair legal strategists opining on what should have been done differently,” he said, “nothing else that could have been done – the fix was in from the start.”
The next day, the leaders of the Republican Party of Texas and Paxton called on Phelan to resign.
Patrick issued a blistering statement, saying that “Phelan orchestrated the House process from the outset. Phelan believed if the Senate convicts, the House was right – if the Senate acquits, then the Senate is corrupt.
“The full House heard the House General Investigating Committee telling a story they had been told by the investigators who collected nothing but hearsay. No sworn testimony was taken, no one was cross examined, and the accused was not allowed to attend or have a lawyer present to question witnesses,” noting that the House GIC’s “case was based on triple hearsay with absolutely no record to send to the Senate.”
“The Senate spent 90 days preparing for the trial, spent nine days in trial listening to some of the best attorneys in Texas question and cross examine witnesses under oath. The jury took an oath to listen to the testimony, the evidence, the facts, and follow the law and the Constitution. They deliberated for nine hours and examined hundreds of exhibits. Every Senator put their hand on the Sam Houston Bible and took an oath to follow the law and evidence,” he continued.
“No one in the House put their hand on the Bible when they cast their vote nor did the Speaker. I respect each Senator's vote no matter how they voted. The Speaker should do the same.
“The Senate trial was real. The House process was a sham and everyone now knows it.”
Patrick said House managers didn't prove their case "witnesses crumbled under cross examination.”
“For Dade Phelan to cry foul and question the integrity of the Senate jurors and of my office when his rushed, no-facts, no-record process failed to achieve the results he wanted is disgusting and proves he is unworthy of his leadership position,” Patrick said.