Texas AG Ken Paxton's Orders Rattled Office, Former Aides Say at Impeachment Trial
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's extramarital affair with a donor's employee is at the center of his impeachment trial.
In a historic impeachment trial, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton faces allegations of corruption and abuse of power. Former top aide Jeff Mateer testified that Paxton's extramarital affair with a donor's employee helped shed light on his questionable use of authority. The trial, which may last for weeks, resumed with the testimony of another former aide who accused Paxton of wrongdoing.
At the heart of the case are allegations that Paxton wrongly used his power to assist Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, a political supporter who was under FBI investigation. Paxton's attorney dismissed Paul's campaign contribution as a typical donation in Texas politics and suggested that Mateer and other deputies were attempting a coup. However, Mateer vehemently denied these claims.
Paxton, who is not required to attend the trial, was absent when Mateer testified. His wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, watched from her desk but cannot vote in the trial. Over 100 potential witnesses have been identified, including the woman involved in the affair, although it remains uncertain if they will testify.
Mateer, a Christian conservative lawyer, was a close member of Paxton's inner circle and was nominated for a federal judgeship by former President Donald Trump. Paxton has argued that the impeachment is politically motivated and driven by "Republicans in name only."
The Republican-led House voted overwhelmingly to impeach Paxton, making him the third sitting official in Texas history to be impeached. A two-thirds majority is required for conviction, meaning that at least nine Republicans would need to join all Democrats in voting against Paxton.
Mateer and other senior staff members grew concerned when Paxton began showing personal interest in Paul's claims against the FBI. They became even more troubled when Paxton hired an inexperienced lawyer to investigate baseless accusations. Mateer believes that the affair shed light on Paxton's motivations, but their attempts to protect him were futile.
Another former deputy, Ryan Bangert, testified that Paxton repeatedly pressured him and other staff members to intervene in Paul's affairs, including issuing a legal opinion to limit foreclosure sales. Bangert described Paxton's behavior as that of a desperate man.
Paxton's level of participation in the trial remains uncertain. While he left the proceedings early on Tuesday and cannot be compelled to testify, he sent out a fundraising email on Wednesday seeking support to restore him to office.
Despite Paxton's legal troubles, he has maintained popularity among the hard right by aligning himself with Trump and pursuing lawsuits against the Biden administration. While many Texas Republicans have avoided criticizing him, the impeachment trial has drawn mixed reactions from supporters, with fewer attendees on the second day.
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