AUSTIN, Texas – Two prominent Texas attorneys with a long list of famous clients will present the case for impeachment against Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton and called for transparency Thursday once the trial gets underway this summer in the state Capitol.
The hiring of Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin, announced by a state House committee that has accused Paxton of bribery and misuse of office, underlines how aggressively a Republican-led investigation is moving to oust the state's top lawyer in the face of backlash from the GOP's hard right.
Over decades in Texas, DeGuerin and Hardin have become practically as recognizable in courtrooms as the politicians and famous figures they have represented. For DeGuerin, that includes former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay on charges of money laundering and Branch Davidian leader David Koresh.
Both told reporters they were alarmed by the findings against Paxton and said they will present the case to the jury — in this case, Texas' 31 state senators — as they would in any trial, which is set to begin no later than Aug. 28.
“I promise you, it's ten times worse than has been public,” Hardin said.
The Senate will set its own rules for a trial that has little precedent. Paxton is just the third sitting official in Texas history to be impeached.
Paxton has been under FBI investigation for years over accusations that he used his office to help a donor and was separately indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, though he has yet to stand trial. His party had long taken a muted stance on the allegations — but that changed when 60 of the House’s 85 Republicans, including Speaker Dade Phelan, voted to impeach.
Six employees at the Texas attorney general’s office, including the solicitor general, have taken leaves of absence to help defend Paxton, who is temporarily suspended from office pending the outcome of the trial.
Solicitor General Judd Stone and one of Paxton’s defense attorneys, Philip Hilder, declined to comment.
Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, said Wednesday he cannot comment on the proceedings.
Among the questions is whether Paxton's wife, Republican state Sen. Angela Paxton, will take part or recuse herself. She has made no public statements about the impeachment and declined comment earlier this week.
“We know the importance of transparency in these proceedings because the people have a right to know,” DeGuerin said.
Hardin, a former prosecutor in Houston, was part of the special counsel investigation surrounding former President Bill Clinton in the Whitewater probe. His most recent clients have included NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson, who faced accusations of sexual misconduct while playing for the Houston Texans.
On Wednesday, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott appointed the state's former elections chief, John Scott, as the state's interim attorney general.
Associated Press reporter Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed to this report.