Tuesday marked the first day of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial in the state senate, with pretrial motions being voted on, opening statements being delivered, and the first witness being heard from.
After swearing in, the 30 senators voted on 16 of 24 pretrial motions that could have resulted in the dismissal of some or all articles of impeachment, to which the senators struck down every single one. Many Republican senators joined forces with Democrats for these votes.
A motion entitled "no evidence motion for summary judgment on all articles of impeachment," filed by Paxton, was ruled against in a 24-6 vote. Only six of the Senate's 18 Republicans had taken Paxton's side. Another motion titled, "motion to exclude evidence of any alleged conduct that occurred prior to January 2023" was struck down in a 22-8.
Motions to dismiss specific articles of impeachment were struck down as well by the Republican-majority chamber.
Paxton, through his attorney Tony Buzbee, pleaded not guilty to the impeachment charges against him.
Paxton’s lawyers argued that their client never received nor provided anything of value to or from Nate Paul, an Austin real estate developer at the center of many of the impeachment articles, with Paxton being accused of using his office to provide favorable legal services to Paul in exchange for a home remodel, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
"Nate Paul got nothing from Ken Paxton, and Ken Paxton got nothing from Nate Paul," said Buzbee, who added that the remodel was paid for by the Paxtons.
Buzbee said he will be showing "mind numbing" photos of Paxton and his wife, who is a senator, at home improvement stores being mindful of the cost and "pinching pennies."
Paxton is also accused of having an affair with a woman named Laura Olson, whom Paul hired for his company. Buzbee said that Olson got the job by submitting an application.
While Paxton’s lawyers used all but one minute of their allotted hour for their statements, the prosecution used just 20 minutes.
State Rep. Andrew Murr, who chairs the House investigating panel into Paxton, said that "Mr. Paxton turned over the keys to the Office of the Attorney General to Nate Paul so Mr. Paul could use the awesome power of the state's law firm to punish and harass his enemies."
Noting the eight former Paxton aides who reported the allegations to the FBI in 2020, Murr said that if they didn’t come forward, Paxton may have continued to assist Paul.
"What would have happened had they not reported him?" Murr said.
Dan Cogdell, a Paxton lawyer, took aim at these former aides, saying that they had assumed things about Paxton that were false, including that he illegally hired an outside lawyer to investigate, on Paul’s behalf, law enforcement officials.
Paul had been subject to an FBI financial crimes investigation, with Cogdell saying that Paxton was sympathetic to Paul’s complaints as he had previously been indicted for securities fraud in 2015 himself.
The statement brought opposition from House prosecutor Rusty Hardin, who said that four of the 20 impeachment articles pertaining to the securities fraud case are being held in abeyance, and would not be tried at this time. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is presiding over the trial, sustained the objection.
The first witness of the trial was called by House impeachment managers was former top Paxton aide Jeffrey Mateer, who had served as his first assistant from 2016 until September 2020, when he resigned.
Mateer was one of eight employees who signed a letter on October 1, 2020, telling Paxton they reported suspected illegal activity to law enforcement.
Mateer told Hardin that they shared conservative views, and that Paxton had asked Mateer to come work for him.
"I wouldn't have come to Austin if I did not believe he was a true believer," Mateer testified.
Mateer said it was "troubling" when he learned about how Paxton had requested to appear in the courtroom personally to argue a motion in a case involving Paul and the Mitte foundation.
"It made absolutely no sense," Mateer said.
Mateer said he called a meeting with Paxton and other top deputies because "it was inconceivable to me he would want to go to district court to argue something."
It was at this meeting, Mateer testified, that Paxton vowed to stop communication with Paul, but the communication continued.
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