Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made good on his promise to request an audit of the impeachment process of Attorney General Ken Paxton to determine how much it cost Texas taxpayers.
“To be clear, the goal is to determine the absolute total cost to the state of preparing for and conducting this trial from the beginning through its conclusion,” Mr. Patrick wrote in a letter to Texas State Auditor Lisa Collier on Sept. 18.
“This must detail all expenses, including but not limited to investigators expenses, document production and assembly, attorney expenses, witness fees, travel, food, and lodging,” the letter continued. “This list is illustrative, not exhaustive.”
Mr. Patrick asked Ms. Collier to include all associated expenses beginning March 1 through Oct. 15, 2023, and that the audit be prioritized in the Texas State Auditor's Office.
"Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this impeachment," Mr. Patrick said during his closing remarks after Mr. Paxton's acquittal on all articles of impeachment and reinstatement to office. "I will call for a full audit of all taxpayer money spent by the House from the beginning of their investigation in March to today."
Set the Record StraightDuring his speech, the Senate leader unleashed his displeasure with the House for bringing forth the impeachment charges without regard for precedent.
“I feel it is important to set the full record straight for the future, so the full picture of what happened is known and how it was we got here," he said.
Mr. Patrick, who vowed that the Senate would deliver a fair and transparent Senate trial, had remained quiet about the House procedures until the completion of the proceedings.
The last sitting Texas official to be convicted in an impeachment trial was Gov. James Ferguson in 1917.
"In the House, the vote to send articles of impeachment against the attorney general to the Senate happened very quickly, with virtually no time for members to study the 20 articles," Mr. Patrick said. “The Speaker and his team rammed through the first impeachment of a statewide-elected official in Texas in over 100 years while paying no attention to the precedent.”
On May 23, the House Committee on General Investigating revealed its secret investigation into Mr. Paxton that began in March.
"In the past, the target of the investigation was notified and invited to attend with counsel and given the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses that were placed under oath before testimony was taken," he said in reference to the Ferguson case.
On May 25, the House committee unanimously recommended impeachment on 20 articles. They accused Mr. Paxton of bribery and abusing his office to help Austin real estate investor Nate Paul.
"At the conclusion of past House investigations, the evidence was laid out for weeks for House members to evaluate before they took their vote on articles of impeachment," Mr. Patrick continued.
But none of those things happened before the Republican-led House voted 121–23 to impeach Mr. Paxton on May 27.
Republican state Rep. John Smithee, one of the 23 Republicans who voted "no" to impeachment, was the first to speak against the proceedings.
"There is not one word, not one sentence in the testimony before you that would be admissible in any Texas court of law," Mr. Smithee told his fellow members during the May 27 debate before they voted. "It is hearsay within hearsay within hearsay."
But state Rep. Andrew Murr, chair of the House Investigating Committee, argued that it was not the House's job to find the facts.
Amendments to Future ProceedingsMr. Patrick applauded Mr. Smithee's speech during his closing remarks as "one of the most honest and courageous speeches I have ever heard in the House."
Mr. Patrick said the House was able to get away with a "flawed process" because of the language in the Texas Constitution, adding that "we must amend" the issue of impeachment in the next regular session that begins in January 2025.
"Any testimony given in a House impeachment investigation must be given under oath, and the target must be allowed to be present with a lawyer to cross-examine the witnesses," he said. "Otherwise, people can say anything without any accountability or need to be truthful because there is no threat of injury."
Mr. Patrick said he believes that the impeachment trial would have never moved forward if the House members had been given "a minimum of two weeks to review all evidence under oath before voting on such a serious matter."
He also said that Mr. Paxton should not have been suspended without pay when the House sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
"The federal system does not allow that," Mr. Patrick continued. "President Clinton and President Trump did not have to step down from their duties during their impeachment process. This is not a partisan issue."