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?

First, Paxton will be reinstated as attorney general, where he’ll presumably get back to work doing—well, something, I’m sure. Today’s verdict will still have some significant consequences for Texas politics, and we’ll have some time to talk about that in the days to come. But before we move on, it’s worth thinking a little about what this trial was and wasn’t, what we learned and didn’t.

One thing the trial wasn’t: entertaining. That had sort of been my hope, as a committed Paxton skeptic, earlier in the summer. With two teams of talented and famous lawyers, a lot of local news cameras, and an arena setting intelligible to folks who don’t follow politics all that closely—who doesn’t love a courtroom drama?—I thought this might be an avenue for some of the more substantially bad and embarrassing stories about Paxton to break through to a wider audience in a way we’d never seen happen before. It’s possible that did happen, a bit. Too early to tell.

But the trial itself was a slog, even though it lasted for only nine days instead of the three or four weeks once thought possible. Testimony consisted largely of lawyers talking about legal and bureaucratic procedures—bad TV. We didn’t see much Hall of Fame lawyering here, either. Paxton’s defense attorney Tony Buzbee had some strong moments, but the highlight reels for Dan Cogdell, Dick DeGuerin, and Rusty Hardin didn’t get significantly longer this month. (On both sides, it was the younger members who really seemed to be getting the hits in.)

Which is too bad, because if you happen to be (like me) the kind of freak who watched the duration of this trial without being forced to, you saw some remarkable testimony about the attorney general’s office under Ken Paxton. That this testimony did not differ significantly from what we had already come to know did not make it less weird.

Here’s the general story—a set of facts that is not contested by Paxton’s defense team. (It contests lots of other things.) In Paxton’s second term, Ken became deeply, personally invested in the legal travails of an Austin real estate magnate, Nate Paul—a campaign donor and also a buddy, the four thousand pages of documents offered by House impeachment managers show, and something of a wingman. They were deeply close: Paul employed Paxton’s mistress, Laura Olson. And Paul was in trouble: his empire was shaky, and his office had been raided by the feds. Paxton’s senior staff wanted nothing to do with Paul. But Paxton directed them over and over to help Paul with his efforts to fight the FBI and protect his real estate holdings. When they resisted, Paxton threatened to fire them; after they blew the whistle, Paxton did fire them.

Paxton’s defense did not challenge this core series of events or claim they had not happened, because there’s overwhelming evidence they did happen. Rather, the defense team argued that House prosecutors didn’t have evidence that Paxton’s motives were corrupt. Paxton sought to use state resources to help Paul not because Paul was a friend or a donor, but because Paxton had a sincere and strong personal belief in the injustice of Paul’s legal difficulties. On a few of the sixteen impeachment counts, the House did not seem to have the goods. In other cases, the defense argued around the margins. The whistleblowers weren’t fired because they were whistleblowers—which would have violated the law—they were fired for other reasons, coincident to the fact that they were whistleblowers. So on and so on.

Because the defense merely needed to create doubt in the charges to give Republican senators a reason to shy away from removing Paxton from office, this was very effective. But it is important to note that the defense did not even really try to make the case that Paxton had not acted unethically, immorally, or unwisely. In its best case, Paxton, the state’s top lawyer, used his time and staff to help a friend—and campaign donor—because he believed that his friend’s legal troubles took precedence over the state’s business.

Was the impeachment a criminal trial, a civil trial, or a gussied up Senate hearing? Both, neither, in between: the two sides played with this distinction when they needed to. In his closing, Buzbee admonished senators to treat this as a criminal trial and to hold the case against Paxton to as high a standard as if he were on trial for a major crime. But, at the same time, he said, “This is not a criminal trial. This is a political trial.”

He’s right—this was a case about the suitability for office of a high elected official, and for that reason, we are entitled to draw certain conclusions about Paxton that we might refrain from drawing in a criminal case. Paxton, for his part, had an obligation to offer more than just a successful criminal defense. Ideally, a public servant would have sought to use the trial to clear his name, not just point to what the prosecution couldn’t do.

In a murder trial, of course, it wouldn’t be notable that Paxton did not testify on his own behalf. Because this wasn’t a normal criminal trial, we should ask—Why didn’t he? Paxton’s mistress, Laura Olson, reportedly avoided testifying by promising she would plead the Fifth on the stand. Why does she feel legally at risk, do you think? Paxton’s team argued at various times that even if the AG had done wrong, voters knew and elected him anyway. But why does that matter? As Murr said in his closing, “Their defense isn’t that he didn’t do it,” but that “it doesn’t matter because he won the election.”

On the penultimate day of the trial, the defense finally had the chance to call its own witnesses. It had effectively attacked the prosecution’s witnesses the whole trial, but on Thursday, it could begin to offer an exculpatory narrative, a political story, to better explain Paxton’s actions in a way that might reassure the Legislature, and the state, that the AG’s office was in good hands. And it simply didn’t. It called a few witnesses, none of whom had much to say. Then it rested with hours left to go on the clock. That was enough to win its case. The Senate has rendered its verdict, but we are entitled to offer our own.

“The Lord is our judge,” said state Senator Lois Kolkhorst, in her opening prayer. Kolkhorst voted no on every count, so perhaps she meant: “I will not judge Ken Paxton.” But unfortunately for Ken, there are other judges besides the Lord—state ones, federal ones—who may eventually feel less compunction about the administration of corporeal judgment.

Most notably, Paxton may soon be facing a felony trial for securities fraud in Houston. That case concerns charges that did not even surface in the impeachment trial—the House sent them over, but the Senate put them off until after this trial and dismissed them on Saturday. If Paxton is convicted of a felony in that case, which dates to 2015, he’d be ineligible to serve as AG. But because that trial has been successfully postponed for eight years, only a fool would make predictions about it now. If Paxton is convicted in that case, senators may briefly look bad for ducking the charge—but they’ll also probably be secretly relieved someone else took care of the problem while they had to spend no political capital.

But there’s also a growing cloud around Paxton relating to the events that were the subject of this trial. A grand jury has indicted Nate Paul on eight felony counts. It’s unclear what the feds  have in their case that relates to Paxton, or what they intend to do with it. But whistleblowers from Paxton’s office have testified in front of a grand jury recently. Of course, an investigation from the feds will be easier for Paxton to dismiss as politically motivated. But the government may also have investigative abilities not available to the House impeachment managers.

Today was a blowout win for Paxton and Paxton’s allies. But the irony of the day is that this may not be a good thing, in the long run, for the Republican Party. Had Paxton been canned today, there would have been an unholy bloodletting in the party. But in winning, they’re left with a deeply compromised man at the top of the Texas GOP, one of the most vulnerable statewide leaders to a challenge by the Democratic Party. There will be a lot of celebrating among Texas right-wingers this weekend, but some of them may be feeling a little hungover in the years to come.