(Bloomberg) -- Some of the most prominent legal minds in Texas have been recruited to argue in the impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, which will determine whether the Republican leader, currently suspended from office, is permanently ousted.
Houston millionaire attorney Tony Buzbee said late Tuesday that he will be Paxton’s lead counsel during the proceedings. His announcement sets the stage for a heated trial in the state Senate, where Houston attorneys Rusty Hardin and Dick DeGuerin — legal powerhouses in their own right — will be the lead prosecutors for the Texas House lawmakers arguing for conviction.
Paxton was suspended after the GOP-led Texas House voted overwhelmingly to impeach him on 20 articles, including bribery and obstruction of justice. His trial is set to unleash an intense legal showdown, in a case that has spread turmoil in the Republican Party of Texas.
The proceedings are expected to start this summer, with senators serving as jurors. For him to be removed, two-thirds of the 31-person Texas Senate — where Paxton’s wife, Angela, is a member — would have to vote in favor.
Buzbee is a boisterous attorney known for bringing a wide variety of high-profile cases against major companies in personal injury and property damages. He is a longtime ally of and campaign donor for former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and represented the Republican when he was indicted for abuse of office in 2014. Perry was ultimately cleared on all charges.
Buzbee will lead Paxton’s defense team, which includes Houston attorney Dan Cogdell, another big name in the Texas legal scene. Buzbee said Wednesday that the articles of impeachment are “baloney” and that his team is prepared for a lengthy legal battle that could include as many as 66 witnesses.
“The whole thing is a sham engineered by someone with a personal vendetta against Attorney General Paxton,” Buzbee said. “If it takes us a year to show that, we’ll take a year to do it.”
Listen: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Impeached by GOP-led House
Hardin and DeGuerin will be the lead prosecutors for the 10 House representatives selected to serve as impeachment managers. Hardin served under Bob Fiske and Ken Starr in the Whitewater Independent Counsel’s Office, an investigation into the financial and real estate dealings of the Clinton family in Arkansas. Hardin also represented Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm at the center of the Enron scandal.
DeGuerin represented a slew of high-profile clients, including Allen Stanford, the disgraced financier who is serving a 110-year prison sentence for orchestrating a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. He represented former US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, whose conviction on money laundering charges was overturned by a state appeals court in Austin in 2013. DeGuerin served as the lead defense attorney for Robert Durst, the heir to a New York real estate fortune and convicted murderer who died last year.
“We bring over 100 years of experience to this task and we bring it gladly,” DeGuerin said Thursday, when lawmakers announced that he and Hardin would prosecute the case. “Hardin and I have learned in all that time that no one wants a crook in the system.”
Paxton’s historic impeachment by Republicans in the statehouse was a shocking development in his ongoing legal saga. Paxton, who was indicted on securities fraud charges within months of taking office in 2014, has survived years of scandal in office while maintaining the support of his party and voters in the state.
Read more: Texas AG Ken Paxton Accused of Corruption by State Investigators
An ethics panel of the Texas House last month revealed that it had been conducting a secret, monthslong investigation into the allegations against Paxton and that its findings warranted impeachment. Investigators said they uncovered evidence to suggest that Paxton improperly used his office to aide a campaign donor who was being investigated by the FBI and directed his staff to withhold information from law enforcement. Buzbee said those allegations are false.
State Representative Andrew Murr, the Republican chairman of the committee, said in a memo the investigation was initiated after the attorney general asked state budget writers to allocate $3.3 million to fund a tentative settlement in a lawsuit brought by a group of former employees, who say they were terminated after reporting Paxton to law enforcement officers for alleged bribery.
State leaders ultimately declined to allocate money for the effort, but the investigation continued and culminated in Paxton’s impeachment and suspension from office.
In the interim, former Texas Secretary of State John Scott is serving as the state’s attorney general at Governor Greg Abbott’s request.
(Updates with additional comments from Paxton’s lawyers)
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