Six Texas attorney general aides take leave of absence to defend Ken Paxton at impeachment trial
Paxton was suspended from office until the outcome of a Senate trial determines if he is removed from office
Six staffers from the Office of the Texas Attorney General have taken a leave of absence to defend their former boss, Ken Paxton, who was impeached by the Texas House on Saturday.
Their temporary departure was first reported by The Daily Wire and independently confirmed by Hearst Newspapers.
Paxton was suspended from office until the outcome of a Senate trial determines if he returns to or is removed from office. In the interim, First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster is the acting head of the agency.
Six employees taking leaves of absence include Solicitor General Judd Stone, Assistant Solicitor General Joseph N. Mazzara, Assistant Solicitor General Kateland Jackson, Senior Attorney Allison Collins, Executive Assistant Jordan Eskew, and Division Chief of the General Litigation Division Chris Hilton, who’s been outspoken in Paxton’s defense.
Hilton attempted to present evidence to the House General Investigating Committee, which refused to interview Paxton or anyone from his staff as part of its investigation. Hilton told reporters last Thursday that the committee was engaged in an “illegal investigation” and a report it issued was “filled with falsehoods and misrepresentations.”
One week ago, the committee held a three-hour hearing at which four attorneys hired by the committee presented the findings of their investigation. The attorneys, some of whom are registered Democrats, had all worked in the offices of the Harris County District Attorney and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas in Houston. They presented no sworn testimony and no documentation; no witnesses were interviewed by the committee.
On Thursday, the committee issued 20 articles of impeachment and within 24 hours the full House voted to impeach Paxton by a vote of 121-23.
The Texas GOP, Paxton and others argue the impeachment didn’t follow basic due process, was political, illegal, unethical and unjust.
An outside law firm also found that Paxton didn’t break any laws or violate procedure.
The House has announced its prosecutorial team and the Senate its committee to establish trial rules. The rules are expected to be announced June 20. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said the trial will start no later than August 28.
It remains unclear if the six employees will continue to receive a salary during their leave of absence and requests for comment on this issue have gone unanswered.
When Webster took the helm, he told OAG staff that Paxton "has built the best litigation team in America" since October 2020, after former employees were fired, something the OAG maintains was for cause and not wrongful termination.
"When we go head-to-head against the federal government and the Department of Justice, we win," he said. "In our affirmative litigation, we've accomplished a positive win rate out of the 50+ cases against the Biden DOJ within a 22 month period."
"The State of Texas has had no better elected official than Ken Paxton defending citizen's rights, fighting for justice, and preserving freedom," Webster told employees, adding that they would together "continue to be the best legal team in America."