Texas legislature analysts say it could have resulted from a mix of how the case was handled and political conflicts of interest.
The trial was often noted for its political nature, particularly in the context of its being neither a criminal nor civil trial. Still, the Senate often erred in the manner of a criminal trial, including the conviction threshold of 'beyond a reasonable doubt'.
In the end, it really looked like the triumph of politics as usual in a very familiar way in the legislature," James Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project, said. “It was naïve to think in this process as it was designed, that senators would consider the process and say ‘politics be damned.’
Many Senators cited that 'beyond a reasonable doubt' mark as justification for acquitting Paxton, saying the House Board of Managers did not prove such a case. Republican Senators Charles Schwertner, Bryan Hughes, Lois Kolkhorst, Donna Campbell, Brandon Creighton, Pete Flores, and Tan Parker all either mentioned or cited that threshold in media releases following their vote.
"The standard of evidence for 'beyond a reasonable doubt' was a very high legalistic standard that one could justify did not necessarily have to be that standard," Henson said.
In retrospect, I think that that standard of 'beyond a reasonable doubt' in reviewing the charges provided senators who were on the fence and very straightforwardly, very attentive to the political winds that were blowing, a lot of latitude. Those senators could then use the standard of 'beyond a reasonable doubt' to reasonably, plausibly, argue did not meet what was a very high threshold. But let’s not forget, the Senate set that threshold.
Axios reported Monday of a GOP pressure campaign to sway Senators into voting to acquit, citing the likes of Steve Bannon, Charlie Kirk, and former President Donald Trump, who posted on Truth Social his public backing of Paxton.
"Yes, it is true that my intervention through TRUTH SOCIAL saved Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from going down at the hands of Democrats and some Republicans," Trump wrote in a post on Monday. "Ken has been a great A.G., and now he can go back to work for the wonderful people of Texas. It was my honor to have helped correct this injustice!"
In a previous statement on Truth Social, Trump called for House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican who has often been seen as a face to the impeachment effort by critics, to step down. Though Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick did not go so far as to make that call, he did share the former president's statement on social media.
"I think that everyone who watched, at least everything I’ve read, said I conducted a fair trial, and that was my main goal, and let the evidence speak for itself, and let the members vote how they saw the evidence," Patrick said, in an appearance on the Mark Davis Show Monday morning.
People say ‘how was he acquitted, all this evidence?’ There was no evidence because there was nothing under oath, there was no record. And when the House brought their supposed big case, they didn’t prove it.
On Monday, Patrick also formally called on the State Auditor to audit the legislature to determine how much money was spent, beginning to end, on the impeachment process, as he said he would in his remarks on Saturday.