Ken Paxton

Key players in the Ken Paxton impeachment trial

Suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton faces trial in the Texas Senate on Tuesday. A vote of 21 out of the 30 voting senators can remove him from office.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Texas impeached Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton faces a jury of Texas Senators beginning Tuesday, Sept. 5 in Austin. The trial may last one day or several weeks.

Here are some of the key players in the drama about to unfold.


Paxton was reelected in November for his third term, beating three well-funded and well-known challengers in the Republican primary and easily defeating his Democratic opponent in the general election.

In May he was impeached by the Texas House on 20 articles of impeachment ranging from bribery to conspiracy. The allegations center around an indicted Austin developer. Paxton is accused of helping get the FBI off the developers' back in exchange for a $120,000 home remodel and a job for his girlfriend outside of marriage.

Paxton has repeatedly and strongly denied the accusations against him. He and his legal team said the charges against him are political.

This impeachment trial in many ways stems from high-level staff in Paxton's office who filed a lawsuit and notified the FBI over actions they believed were illegal. The attorney general's office tried to settle with the former staffers but the money was rejected by the Texas House.

NBC 5 News

Paxton is one of the most well-known attorney generals in the country, made prominent in legal action in November 2020 trying to keep former President Donald Trump in power after he lost the election. In his time as attorney general, Paxton has been a major player against powerful companies and far-reaching cases.

Paxton faces disciplinary action by the State Bar of Texas for his actions in the November 2020 election. He also faces criminal allegations of securities fraud in a case from 2015 which just recently had an update. The FBI is also investigating Paxton according to his former staff and defense attorney.

Paxton is on the trial's witness list according to The Dallas Morning News. So is the woman he's accused of having an affair with.

On Saturday, Paxton lambasted the Republican-led Texas House of Representatives that voted to impeach him.

Appearing at a Labor Day picnic hosted by the Collin County Republican Party, Paxton acknowledged a gag order prevents him from talking about the proceedings but responded to his critics in general.

“If you kind of kept up, you can read that I’m responsible for the JFK assassination and for 9/11 and everything in between,” Paxton said. “Just keep reading.”


Paxton will be defended this week by two powerhouse Houston lawyers.

Dan Cogdell is a Houston trial lawyer. He defended clients in several big cases including some managers of Enron during its financial scandal and several Branch Davidians after an infamous siege in Waco. Once as a young lawyer, Cogdell shocked himself with a cattle prod to show a jury it wouldn't cause a heart attack, according to a Houston Chronicle report on the trial at the time. Cogdell is also Paxton's defense attorney in a 2015 securities fraud case that is ongoing.

"To say this case is not about politics has the credibility, the believability and the sincerity of the fella' that's trying to convince his wife that he goes to the strip joint for the food," said Cogdell at a press conference before a far-reaching gag order was imposed by the Senate.

With Cogdell defending Paxton is Tony Buzbee. He's represented clients suing after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and clients suing NFL quarterback DeShaun Watson over sexual misconduct.

NBC 5 News

Buzbee has also successfully defended former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) when he was cleared of Travis County charges in 2014.

He recently filed paperwork to run for Houston City Council so he'll have a big spotlight on him this week. He ran for Houston mayor in the past but lost.

"The impeachment articles that have been laid out by the House, are baloney," said Buzbee before the gag order.

They have asked the Texas Senate to throw out 19 out of the 20 articles against Paxton because the alleged actions occurred before he was reelected.


The impeachment began with an investigation from the Texas House General Investigating Committee led by Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction). They recommended Paxton be removed and the Texas House voted 121-23 to impeach him. A team selected by House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) then selected two legendary lawyers to make their case to the Texas Senate: Rusty Hardin and Dick DeGuerin.

Hardin began as an assistant district attorney in Houston, never losing in more than 100 felony jury trials according to his website. That included 14 death penalty cases. He was one of the attorneys on the Whitewater investigation into former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

Hardin then went into private practice and defended the plant managers of the Crosby plant disaster, Roger Clemens, and Warren Moon.

He's returning to his roots here as a prosecutor.

NBC 5 News

"This is not about a one-time misuse of an office. It's not about a two-time misuse of the office. It's about a pattern of misconduct," Hardin said at a press conference before the gag order. Hardin's partner Dick DeGuerin has an equally impressive resume.

DeGuerin represented former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay when he faced money laundering charges. DeGuerin is another Waco connection with Cogdell. He defended Branch Davidian leader David Koresh, even helping with negotiations during that 51-day siege.

He also helped keep convicted murderer Robert Durst out of jail for years. Durst was made recently the subject of an HBO show, The Jinx.

"This is not about punishing Mr. Paxton. It's about protecting the public and protecting the citizens," DeGuerin said at a press conference earlier this summer.


The presiding judge over the trial may be the most powerful person in state government. Dan Patrick was first elected to the Texas Senate in 2006. In 2014, voters chose him as the state's Lt. Governor, and president of the Texas Senate, the office he still holds.

Patrick implemented a far-reaching gag order earlier this summer which limited what people involved or close to the trial could say.

NBC 5 News

Some grew concerned when he accepted a $1 million donation and $2 million loan from a pro-Paxton group in June. He told another Dallas outlet he has accepted money from "many sides" of this issue including pro-impeachment people.

Last week, Patrick's campaign confirmed to NBC 5 that he will not be fundraising or doing any political events while the trial is ongoing. That's the same case for the Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses and the impeachment managers for the Texas House.

Patrick has consistently said his goal is to run a fair and impartial trial.

'This is very serious. These are very serious people and the Senate is going to do our job in a professional way," Patrick said at a summer event.


The jury is made up of Texas senators. Ken Paxton's wife Angela is one and represents Collin County. While she will be present for the proceedings, she will not be eligible to vote or participate in any closed sessions or deliberators according to the rules laid out earlier by her peers.

Her presence in court, however, does raise the number needed to convict her husband by one: from 20 to 21.

Sen. Angela Paxton announced Saturday that she would seek a third term.

“To be very personal,” Sen. Angela Paxton said Saturday, “I’ve watched him fight against what to me feels like hell itself. But I want you to know the emphasis there is fight, and I have watched this man fight for me, fight for us as a couple and you can be very sure that he’s going to fight for you.”


A group of high-level staffers in Paxton's office notified the FBI that they believed their boss was breaking the law in helping Austin developer Nate Paul. Four filed a lawsuit over retaliation in November 2020 arguing Paxton violated the Texas Whistleblower Act.

Blake Brickman joined the AG's office in February 2020 after working as a private attorney and chief of staff to former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin. Before Bevin, Brickman was chief of staff for Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning.

In the Texas AG's office, Brickman was the deputy attorney general for policy and strategy initiatives.

NBC 5 News

Ryan Vassar worked under Paxton for several years before he was fired in 2020 when he was the deputy attorney general for legal counsel. Previously Vassar worked for former Gov. Rick Perry and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett.

Mark Penley was a longtime federal prosecutor for the Northern District of Texas. Paxton fired Penley while he was the deputy attorney general for criminal justice. His law career spans decades.

David Maxwell was the director of law enforcement for the AG's office under Paxton. Maxwell worked under Paxton's predecessor, former AG and now Gov. Greg Abbott. Before the AG's office, he worked for more than two decades as a Texas Ranger.


Austin developer Nate Paul is a central figure in the impeachment trial. House managers accuse him of paying the bribe: $120,000 for a home remodel for Paxton's Tarrytown property and giving Paxton's alleged girlfriend a job in Austin, moving her from San Antonio.

NBC 5 News

Paul also donated $25,000 for his reelection campaign.

Earlier this summer, Paul was indicted on eight counts of lying to investors in order to get tens of millions of dollars in loans for his real estate company. He pleaded not guilty and denied all wrongdoing. The FBI raided his home in 2019.


The upper chamber of the Texas legislature is made up of 31 senators: 12 Democrats and 19 Republicans. With Sen. Paxton unable to vote, there will be 30 voting senators. 21 or two-thirds of the members present are needed to convict Paxton and remove him from office.

If convicted, the Senate will vote on whether to ban him from public office in Texas. The Senate also decided on the rules of the trial earlier this summer when Lt. Gov. Patrick issued that far-reaching gag order.

Several of the senators are directly involved in the Paxton allegations. Several others have donated money to keep Paxton in office or to candidates trying to defeat him in the 2020 election.

NBC 5 News


What to know about the historic impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Key players in the Ken Paxton impeachment trial

What are the 20 articles of impeachment against Ken Paxton

Timeline of events leading to the impeachment of Ken Paxton

Contact Us