Springer Says GOP Colleagues Wavered
and Sees FBI Diving In after Senate Vote
September 18, 2023
A state senator who voted to acquit Attorney General Ken Paxton impeachment charges sought to give a bird's eye view into GOP colleagues private deliberations and thoughts when he said they would have convicted the top Texas lawyer if Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick hadn't set the standard for proof so high.
GOP State Senator Drew Springer of Muenster appeared to question Patrick's handling of the case as the trial judge in an interview with the Gainesville Daily Register - suggesting that some Republicans were confused on the standard for evidence that they should use when judging Paxton's fate.
The newspaper that's located in Springer's district quoted him as saying that the failure of Laura Olson, Nate Paul and Paxton to take the stand at the trial prompted assumptions among Senate Republicans that they must apply the standard that's used in criminal courts and requires prosecutors to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.
“Trust me, there was at least, I would say, half of them were really close," Springer said of 16 Republicans who acquitted Paxton. "If it was a civil court standard, I'm sure he would've been convicted on this versus, you know, beyond a reasonable doubt (like) the death penalty standard."
Springer said he expected the FBI to pick up the case now that the Senate is done. Springer didn't mention that the FBI claimed to open an investigation three years ago but appeared to lose interest eventually. The Travis County District Attorney's office looked into the allegations and wasn't interested.
Springer's comments could have been an invitation for Patrick's wrath and the scorn of fellow Republicans who voted to clear Paxton of all the charges and pave the way for him to return to work. Some senators might view the remarks as an invasion of their rights to privacy as jurors. Patrick established at the outset of the trial that the prosecution would have to meet the same high burden of proof that's required in death penalty cases.
The House voted 121-23 in May to give Paxton the boot in the first impeachment of a statewide official in the lower chamber since James "Pa" Ferguson in 1917. Patrick would have diminished the historical importance of the case with a lower standard like that in a civil lawsuit. The higher threshold appeared to a foregone conclusion when he announced on the first day of the trial.
But Springer said that he'd found it tough to separate preconceived notions based on months of news coverage and the actual evidence that 30 Senate jurors weighed after eight days of testimony. But he ran the risk of making Republican colleagues look like they were wishy washy and looking for excuses to let Paxton off instead of voting to impeach him in spite of possible doubt as a product of evidence.
“It probably is the hardest vote we've ever had to cast. The most challenging thing to do is what you're asked to do as a juror, which is only take into consideration the evidence that is presented,” Springer said. “Having known Ken for at least a decade, having read stories — especially over the last three years — and a whole lot of things that came up this calendar year even, even prior to the impeachment, it’s tough to say, ‘OK, what was presented and what was not?’ I think that there was some issues with how the articles were written that easily let a several of them be dismissed.”
After voting to acquit Paxton on all of the charges, Springer portrayed himself as someone who's really in the middle of the internal Republican Party warring that's intensified dramatically since the vote on Saturday.
“Well, the state party chair Matt Rinaldi has given interviews saying that he’s going to publicly spend party money against Dade Phelan, and he's gonna campaign against him,” Springer added. “I think that we've got this little bit of a civil war that's gonna go on and we'll see how it plays out. Having served eight years in the house and now four in the Senate, I've got friends on both sides and it's a bit of a mess right now.”
more to come ...