In his closing argument during the Ken Paxton impeachment trial, Tony Buzbee, a lawyer for the defense, warned that enemies of the attorney general, namely the Bush family, should leave Texas and “go back to Maine.” He provided no credible evidence of any role any Bush might have played in getting Paxton impeached, and in that way, he set the tone for what was to follow. Days after the Texas Senate voted to acquit the attorney general on sixteen impeachment charges ranging from bribery to abuse of office, Paxton joined fired Fox News host Tucker Carlson in the broadcaster’s studio in, of all places, Maine. The pair sat down for a prerecorded interview that aired—after significant a delay—on Wednesday night exclusively on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Given that this was Paxton’s first public appearance since he was reinstated as attorney general, there was a lot to discuss. But the actual trial in the Senate didn’t come up much. Austin developer Nate Paul, facing federal charges of making false statements to financial institutions, was never mentioned by name, nor were the top deputies Paxton had recruited to the AG’s office who accused him of developing an illicit relationship with Paul. The closest Carlson and Paxton came to discussing the allegations was when the host said he believed the attorney general was accused of “getting, like, a new countertop in your house from a developer or something.”
Over the span of 46 minutes, the two chatted about how Texas is, in their telling, run by Democrats; about the AG’s future political plans (watch out, Senator John Cornyn); and about how common it is to see Texas representatives drunk on the House floor. Paxton also mouthed off against a litany of usual targets: those committing rampant voter fraud (which he has failed for years to prove), Texas’s soft-on-crime Democrats, and the alleged impact on the state’s court system of liberal billionaire George Soros (whose name some right-wingers invoke as a dog whistle to antisemites.)
We’ve recapped some of the most bizarre and brazenly false claims from the interview.
Paxton states that the Biden administration helped orchestrate his impeachment
The MAGA right has trumpeted the claim that President Joe Biden was the puppet master behind Paxton’s trial. Within the first seven minutes of the interview, Carlson asked the AG whether he believed the trial was orchestrated by the Biden administration. “I really do,” said Paxton. “That’s where it was instigated.”
The attorney general did not provide evidence for the claim—indeed, the initial inquiries into Paxton were launched by the AG’s handpicked staffers—but he did suggest a motive for national Democrats to target him. “We were causing a lot of trouble for the Biden administration,” Paxton said, later adding that the impeachment was a way for Biden and his cronies to get him “out of the way” as he filed lawsuit after lawsuit against the administration. Once he was impeached by the House, Paxton was temporarily removed from office—without pay, he noted. “I was immediately suspended,” he said. “So I lost my office; I couldn’t do any more lawsuits against Biden.”
Paxton is indeed a thorn in Biden’s side, but he’s not that prickly of one. He has a mixed record suing the administration. While the AG last year touted a “ninety percent success rate” in lawsuits he brought against the Biden administration, the rate was actually closer to 70 percent, including cases in which a final ruling was pending, according to a 2022 Hearst Newspapers analysis.
Paxton alleges that the Texas House is run by Democrats
Paxton repeated the right-wing conspiracy theory that he was a victim of liberals who control the state House. In the attorney general’s telling, Republican Speaker of the House Dade Phelan hasn’t just been drunk on the job (see below) but has done something far worse: he’s shared power with Democrats. The Speaker is elected by House members of both parties in Texas, and Paxton charged that the chamber’s Democrats all vote as a bloc, meaning that a GOP candidate only needs about ten to a dozen fellow Republicans to make it over the finish line. “Whoever gives those Democrats the most—whatever Republican agrees to the most—gets elected,” Paxton said, before a gobsmacked Carlson interrupted. “So you’re saying that the Republican Speaker of Texas is chosen by the Democrats?”
“Pretty much,” Paxton responded.
This isn’t the first time far-right Republicans have made this claim, but Paxton went a step further. He said that the reason he didn’t win the speakership when he ran against then–House Speaker Joe Straus in 2011 and was immolated, 132–15, was because he “didn’t have the Democrats.” He didn’t mention it, but he didn’t have the Republicans either: 70 out of 100 House Republicans gave Straus the nod. Similarly, he didn’t mention that in 2022, Phelan won the straw poll of his caucus 78–6.
Paxton on Cornyn: “I can’t think of a single thing he’s accomplished for our state, or even for the country”
U.S. senator John Cornyn was the first high-profile Texas Republican to offer his thoughts on the impeachment trial; after it began, most other Texas elected officials were either subject to the gag order or refusing to take a stand. On the trial’s third day, which coincided with a regularly scheduled call with Texas media, Cornyn said that the charges were “very deeply disturbing” and called the allegations “painful to watch.”
It would make sense, then, that Paxton wasn’t exactly keen on the state’s senior senator during the interview. Carlson and Paxton both attacked Cornyn for not adequately speaking up against the “invasion” at Texas’s southern border. “I have no idea why he doesn’t seem to address this on a regular basis,” Paxton said. “Thank God Ted Cruz has.”
Cornyn might have a target on his back when he’s up for reelection in 2026. And who better to challenge him than the AG, Carlson asked, whose term will be up at the same time? “Look, everything’s on the table for me,” Paxton said. “Now that I’ve been through this, and I’ve seen how guys like John Cornyn have represented the state of Texas and not represented us, I think it’s time somebody needs to step up and run against this guy that will do the job and do it the right way.”
Trash-talking “drunk” Dade Phelan and “activist liberal” Karl Rove
The AG took a page from the playbook of former president Donald Trump—seizing on every opportunity to name-call and dunk on his enemies. His main targets were Phelan and former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove.
Yes, Carlson played that clip of Phelan slurring his words on the House dais. (When Paxton called on Phelan to resign in May over the alleged drunkenness, the Speaker’s office called it “a last ditch effort to save face,” while Phelan’s supporters denied the accusations.) Paxton said he was “horrified” that House members didn’t investigate Phelan’s behavior. He added, “I’ve seen lots of people drunk. . . . It’s really unusual for the Speaker to do that.”
Taking another page from the Trump playbook, Paxton and his supporters have engaged in serial whataboutism. They argue that everyone in politics is guilty of some sort of misbehavior, but only Paxton has been put on trial. “I asked [members] to look into [Phelan], like, ‘Why don’t you see if he’s drinking on the floor?’ ” Paxton questioned. “We shouldn’t allow a Speaker, especially [from] our party, to present himself like that in public. And they did nothing about it. Instead, they came after me.”
Rove came under scrutiny earlier in the interview because of the op-ed he wrote in the Wall Street Journal predicting that Paxton would be convicted. The attorney general agreed with Carlson’s characterization that Rove was an “activist liberal working effectively for the Biden administration.” He also said that Rove has a diminishing influence in Texas politics. On Friday, Rove, speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival, responded to Paxton and Carlson’s attention. “I wish I could claim credit for instigating the investigation of Ken Paxton, but that honor goes to Ken Paxton,” he said. “The guy can’t keep his zipper up.”
Paxton relishes the chance to speak . . . finally!
Paxton could’ve testified at the trial, but instead he scarcely even showed up. He explained that the Senate’s gag order effectively rendered him mute for the duration of the trial. “I could no longer even defend [myself from] what was being leaked by the House,” Paxton lamented. He accused the House managers of whispering “everything” about their evidence against him to media outlets. “I just had to take it,” Paxton said. “I mean, there was nothing I could do.” He made no mention of his supporters who were openly threatening senators who might vote for impeachment with lavishly funded primary challengers.
Paxton says he was broke when the impeachment charges first surfaced
Financial struggles were a common theme during the impeachment trial. A handful of witnesses called by House impeachment lawyers testified that they had to dip into their savings (see Ryan Vassar) or leave money on the table (see Brandon Cammack) after they were essentially screwed over by the AG. Paxton too said he wasn’t exactly swimming in cash like Scrooge McDuck, either. “If you’re not getting paid, and you’re not allowed to talk . . . how do you pay for your legal defense?” Carlson asked. Paxton said that he was able to fund-raise after a moratorium on doing so during a legislative session lifted in June, but he admitted that it took a while for him to beef up his coffers after 2022, since “I spent almost all of my money on my campaign, because I had a primary, a runoff, and a general [election],” he said.
Somehow, though, Paxton was able to retain the expensive, high-profile lawyers Tony Buzbee and Dan Cogdell. Buzbee has remained tight-lipped on who was footing the bill for his services. Although Paxton had nearly $3 million in his campaign coffers as of early July, his defense team has not said who paid it for its services. (We’ll be keeping an eye out for the next filings with the Texas Ethics Commission, however.)
Paxton told Carlson that he had to “hire [his] own team,” in part because he was “not afforded legal representation by the state.”
“Even rapists get legal representation!” Carlson noted.
Paxton thinks he still has a target on his back
Carlson asked Paxton what the attorney general’s enemies have in store for him now. Paxton replied that they’re coming back for him. He is expected to face a far less partisan jury in Houston soon (a trial date will be set next month) for securities fraud charges on which he has managed to avoid being tried since 2015, and a federal grand jury has called as witnesses folks close to Paxton, who could potentially face federal charges based on evidence that emerged during his impeachment. “I think if they could, they’d put me in jail. I don’t think they’re gonna stop,” Paxton said, stating that certain judges are “political” and not following the law. “It’s a scary prospect for people like us. But if we don’t keep going, we concede. We lose. We all lose.”