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Paxton trial updates: Whistleblower says AG pushed agency to help political donor, raising alarm

Attorney Tony Buzbee, suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton and attorney Dan Cogdell on the Senate floor on Tuesday. The attorneys are part of the team defending Paxton in his Senate impeachment trial.
Juan Figueroa/Pool via The Dallas Morning News
Attorney Tony Buzbee, suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton and attorney Dan Cogdell on the Senate floor on Tuesday. The attorneys are part of the team defending Paxton in his Senate impeachment trial.

Watch a livestream of the attorney general’s impeachment trial and get the latest updates as senators weigh his political future.

For exclusive commentary on the impeachment trial for suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton, subscribe to our paid newsletter The Blast, your source of insider intel on Texas politics.

The historic impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton is underway in the Texas Senate. He faces 16 articles of impeachment that accuse him of misusing the powers of the attorney general’s office to help his friend and donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor who was under federal investigation.

Paxton pleaded not guilty to all impeachment articles on the trial’s first day. His defense attorneys have vowed to disprove the accusations and said they will present evidence showing they are based on assumptions, not facts.

The trial could last several weeks and is expected to hinge on Paxton’s relationship with Paul. It could also prominently feature details of Paxton’salleged extramarital affair. The proceedings involve a massive cast of elected officials, high-profile lawyers, whistleblowers from within Paxton’s office and the attorney general’s former personal assistant.


Having trouble viewing the video? Watch on the Texas Senate website

Buzbee accuses former first assistant attorney general of jumping to conclusions

Sept. 6, 2023 at 1:08 p.m.

During cross examination, Paxton’s lead attorney Tony Buzbee attacked the credibility of former assistant attorney general Jeff Mateer, accusing him of having “jumped to conclusions” and improperly alerting the FBI about Paxton without first talking to his one-time friend and boss.

Rather than going to the attorney general with his concerns about Paxton’s work on real estate investor Nate Paul’s behalf, Buzbee argued, Mateer was “uninformed” when he reported Paxton to the FBI. At one point, Buzbee compared the information to hearsay and rumors, similar to the ending of a game of “telephone.”

“Is it possible, Mr. Mateer, that you jumped to a lot of conclusions really fast?” Buzbee asked. “You could have just put this all to bed if you just talked to your boss.”

Mateer pushed back against those claims multiple times, and reiterated that he and other top agency staff went to Paxton on repeated occasions to express their concerns.

“I did talk to him, sir!” Mateer responded during one exchange.

He also disputed Buzbee’s insinuation that he had reported Paxton to law enforcement because Mateer aspired to be attorney general.

Buzbee also accused Mateer of erasing electronic notes from a work computer. The notes would have been taken in the summer of 2020 as Paxton’s top lieutenants grew increasingly concerned about his relationship with Paul.

Mateer said he did not know how to wipe his work computer clean and suggested that the information was likely still on the computer.

— Robert Downen

Former Paxton deputy says AG’s relationship with donor raised alarms

Sept. 6, 2023 at 11:49 a.m.

Jeff Mateer, the former second-in-command under suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton, testified Wednesday that Paxton’s relationship with real estate investor Nate Paul was so alarming that Mateer was concerned the attorney general was being blackmailed.

Mateer said a turning point came when he learned that Paxton had resumed an extramarital affair with a woman who was hired at Paul’s company in mid-2020. Paxton and his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, had alerted senior staff in 2018 about his infidelity, Mateer said, adding that the attorney general was repentant and had recommitted to his marriage.

When he learned that Ken Paxton had resumed the affair, Mateer said, he finally understood why the attorney general had fought so hard, and risked so much, to help Paul — including hiring an outside attorney to investigate Paul’s business rivals.

“It answered the question, ‘Why is he engaging in all these activities on behalf of Mr. Paul?’“ Mateer testified.

As Mateer testified, Angela Paxton appeared attentive, taking notes as Mateer shared his knowledge of her husband’s extramarital affair.

Mateer was one of several top deputies who reported Paxton to the FBI for alleged bribery in late September 2020. In his testimony, he recounted a monthslong, deeply concerning pattern of behavior by Paxton when it came to Paul. Among the actions that alarmed him: Paxton’s insistence that the agency write a midnight opinion that declared foreclosure auctions unsafe because of COVID-19, which Paul used days later to stave off the sales of numerous properties he owned.

“I concluded that Mr. Paxton was engaged in conduct that was immoral, unethical, and I had the good faith belief that it was illegal,” Mateer testified.

He also said that he and other top deputies repeatedly tried to protect and help Paxton, and implored him to “come clean” about any wrongdoing.

“We couldn't protect him, because he didn't want to be protected," Mateer said.

— Robert Downen

Ken Paxton doesn’t appear for start of day two

Sept. 6, 2023 at 9:58 a.m.

As the Senate gaveled in for a second day of impeachment proceedings, the man at the center of the trial, Ken Paxton, was again absent.

The suspended attorney general was present Tuesday while his lawyer, Tony Buzbee, pleaded not guilty on his behalf. But Paxton did not return after the lunch break as lawyers for the House impeachment managers called their first witness.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is the presiding officer over the impeachment trial, agreed with Paxton’s attorney’s Tuesday after they argued the rules did not stipulate Paxton must be present beyond entering a plea.

— Kate McGee

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