Texas AG Ken Paxton's attorneys prepare for legal battle in impeachment trial

The Senate trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is shaping up as a battle of high-powered Houston super attorneys.

Two weeks after Paxton was impeached, his legal team led by Tony Buzbee held a theatrical and politically charged press conference to refute the claims that Paxton took bribes and abused his power. 

"The speaker’s followers and himself thought that they could pull off what could only be described as a drive-by shooting on a holiday weekend to politically assassinate one of the leading conservative voices not only in Texas but also in the United States," Buzbee said.

The House vote was more lopsided than Buzbee's colorful description suggests: 121 House members voted to impeach Paxton and 23 voted against. 

Now suspended from office, Paxton is waiting for a trial date in the Senate. 

Buzbee and his legal partner, Dan Cogdell, called the impeachment process rushed. 

"To say this case is not about politics has the credibility, the sincerity of the fellow who tells his wife he is going to the strip joint for the food, it’s not about the naked women. It’s about the food. It’s definitely political," Cogdell said. "Not once, but twice the people have said that’s our guy. And this is the allegation, based on nothing? It’s less than nothing. It’s a lie."

They also attacked the high-profile attorneys hired to prosecute Paxton.

"Now they’ve been hired to try to buttress this weakness and play some tomfoolery with you to prop up a sham," Buzbee said.

In a news conference last week, prominent attorneys Dick Deguerin and Rusty Hardin made some poignant remarks of their own.       

"I was shocked at the details and facts of the allegations. This is not about a one-time misuse of an office. It's not about a two-time misuse of the office. It's about a pattern of misconduct and use in the office," Hardin said.

This is not the first time Hardin and Buzbee have found themselves on opposite sides of a high profile case.

Hardin represented former Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson while Buzbee represented women accusing Watson of sexual misconduct. Both are comfortable in front of cameras and full of colorful quotes.

SMU political science professor Matthew Wilson points swaying public opinion is important in this case.

"On one hand, there will be legal arguments and the State Senate will be sitting as a jury," he said. "So it will be a quasi-court-like proceeding. But at the same time, ultimately the people voting are elected officials and so in that sense public opinion matters in terms of whether the public in Texas ends up supporting or opposing the impeachment of Ken Paxton."

Which is why we might see more of these legal teams as we near a trial.

"A battle in the court of public opinion, particularly for that conservative base audience, is I think what both sides are going to be aiming at," Wilson said.

A Senate team will present the rules for the trial on June 20th. 

Paxton's wife, Angela, is a Collin County senator and therefore one of the jurors.

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott made his first public remarks on whether she should be recused. 

"That’s up to her to decide," he said.

Last week, House impeachment manager chair Andrew Murr introduced the other Houston legal team that’s prosecuting Paxton. 

They are well-known attorneys Dick Digueren and Rusty Hardin, who called for a fair and open trial. 

"I was shocked at the details and facts of the allegations," Hardin said. "This is not about a one-time misuse of an office. It's not about a two-time misuse of the office. It's about a pattern of misconduct and use in the office."

The allegations of misconduct are centered around Paxton donor Nate Paul. Paxton is accused of giving Paul documents the FBI and DPS did not want to be released because Paul was under their investigation.

Investigators say Paul gave bribes to Paxton in exchange, citing payments for upgrades to Paxton's kitchen. 

In the press conference, Buzbee says they have evidence to prove that is not true. 

"Put up the receipts. We have the receipts," he said. "This is the type of evidence we tried to offer them once we found out this foolishness was going on."

Buzbee called the process rushed and claimed they have 66 witnesses to testify. He says they are waiting for the trial rules before proceeding with a way to delay when it starts.