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Republicans stick up for their own crook again

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It’s Donald Trump’s party, and that means Republicans have to be held to literally no standards of conduct whatsoever:

Ken Paxton’s many haters have spent the last decade channeling Jesse from Breaking Bad at his lowest: He can’t keep getting away with it, they think. Well, sure he can. This is Texas. On Saturday, the Texas Senate acquitted Ken Paxton on all sixteen charges. On a handful of charges, the prosecution won fourteen of thirty votes to convict, the high water mark, while on one charge they won only two votes. Two Republicans, Kelly Hancock of Fort Worth and Robert Nichols of Jacksonville, voted to convict on thirteen counts each. But every other GOP member voted to acquit on all the charges.

The jurors deliberated all of Friday following a pair of remarkably unalike closing arguments offered by the defense and the prosecution this morning. For the House, state representative Andrew Murr, chair of the General Investigating Committee that kicked all this off, offered clips of testimony presented before the Senate over the last two weeks. State representative Jeff Leach, of Plano, rose to end the presentation. In a brief speech flecked with evangelical language, he told senators that he had been a longtime friend of Paxton, a mentee, and a “brother in Christ.” Casting a vote to impeach Paxton had been one of the most difficult moments of his life—but, the inference being, if he could stick the dagger in because it was the right thing to do, so could they.

Paxton’s defense was much more blunt and forceful. This was a Seinfeld trial, said Tony Buzbee, a case “about nothing,” a “bunch of supposition, mights, maybes, could have beens.” He offered a slideshow to senators with crude visual aids, among them a picture of an empty bucket, a picture of four empty buckets, a donkey’s behind, and a pale blue screen with the words “so good it hurts.” Some of these made more sense in context, some of them not so much. His job was to give senators cover to acquit.

And so he did. That Paxton should be acquitted is much less surprising than his impeachment in May—this is a confirmation that Texas still works the way you thought it did six months ago, and that the rules haven’t changed. But it’s still a formidable victory for the AG and his deep-pocketed benefactors. This was the most formidable challenge Paxton has faced in twenty years in public office, two decades in which he has continually racked up reasons to be held to account. And he’s scot-free once again. The S.S. Paxton has successfully navigated troubled waters, and sails on to . . . a fourth term? Congress?

Perhaps Paxton will celebrate by shooting someone on Congress Avenue.

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