Key Takeaways From First Day


Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton pleaded not guilty to misconduct allegations during the first day of the historic impeachment trial in the state Senate.

The Republican is facing 16 of the 20 articles of impeachment referred by the Texas state House in May, which voted to impeach Paxton on accusations that he abused his status to intervene in an investigation against real estate investor Nate Paul. He’s also accused of attempting to help a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair land a job.

Paxton has previously denounced the allegations against him as being politically motivated. Both chambers of the Texas state House are controlled by the GOP, and articles of impeachment were first recommended by the bipartisan House General Investigating Committee. Paxton, only the third Texas official to face impeachment proceedings in the state’s history, has been suspended without pay since the impeachment vote by the state House in the spring.

In order to be convicted, the Texas Constitution requires that two-thirds majority of the state Senate must agree to impeach the embattled attorney general. Texas Republicans hold a 19-12 majority in the Senate, which means that all Democrats and at least nine GOP lawmakerswould have to vote to impeach Paxton to remove him from office.

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who is presiding over the state Senate trial, issued a gag order on July 17 that prohibits parties on either side from speaking to the press.

The exterior of the Texas State Capitol is seen on Tuesday in Austin, Texas, as state Attorney General Ken Paxton faces Day One of his Senate impeachment trial.
Brandon Bell/Getty

First Witness Called: Paxton’s Ex-Top Assistant Attorney

The Senate heard the first round of testimony from Jeff Mateer, Paxton’s former second-in-command who resigned in October 2020 after publicly accusing the attorney general of misconduct and abuse of office.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Mateer shared details about the concerns he had in 2020 regarding Paxton’s relationship with Paul, saying the attorney general had at one point planned to argue a motion in court over the lawsuit in Travis County District Court between the real estate developer and the Mitte Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

“General Paxton has some wonderful qualities, but he is not a litigator,” Mateer said during his testimony, according to reporting from KWES. “It made absolutely no sense [for him to argue in the case].”

Mateer added that he and other top assistants at the attorney general’s office held meetings with Paxton to encourage him to “not have any further dealings with Nate Paul and let the lawyers handle it.” Paxton reportedly told Mateer he would cease interactions with Paul, but proceeded to seek help in the litigation from other lawyers in the office, Mateer testified.

“It was very troubling to me that the attorney general would be willing to appear in Travis County District Court,” Mateer said. “I was very concerned why he would want to do that.”

Prosecutors Aim to Rebuff Claims of Political Motivation

Prosecutors also used Mateer’s testimony as an attempt to discredit accusations that the charges against Paxton—a conservative—were in any way political motivated.

According to a report from the Houston Chronicle, Rusty Hardin, attorney for the Texas House impeachment managers, repeatedly questioned Mateer about his political viewpoints while on the stand Tuesday. Hardin even asked the ex-deputy attorney to rate how conservative he was on a scale of one to 10. Mateer reportedly replied that he sat at a “10 or 11.”

Mateer was also asked if he was a RINO, a derisive term meaning “Republican in name only” that is often used by conservative GOP members to negatively describe others in their own party. The Chronicle reported that Mateer told prosecutors, “That doesn’t describe the men and women that I worked with on the eighth floor of the Office of Attorney General.”

Paxton Cannot Be Forced to Testify

Paxton did receive some good news during Tuesday’s hearing after Patrick ruled that the attorney general could not be forced to testify.

Patrick justified his ruling by saying that although the impeachment trial is a political process, “many factors and circumstances of this proceeding lean more criminal in nature,” meaning that Paxton cannot be forced to testify against himself.

“The rules require a standard of beyond reasonable doubt, which is reserved for criminal cases,” Patrick said while making his ruling, reported the Chronicle. “The exculpatory evidence it will require is consistent with criminal cases. The rules require a plea to the court, to plead guilty or not guilty, which are pleas exclusively used in criminal cases.”

Paxton’s Wife, a State Senator, Will Abstain From Voting

Texas State Senator Angela Paxton is observing the impeachment trial of her husband firsthand, but has been barred from voting on the outcome of the trial.

Angela Paxton, also a Republican, has also been banned from participating in any closed sessions or deliberations. The Wall Street Journal reported that she walked into Tuesday’s hearing alongside other state senators as lawmakers filled the gallery.

The attorney general’s wife was present when Ken Paxton told his staff in September 2018—two months before he was reelected to his second term—that he had an extramarital affair. The Texas Tribune reports that the attorney general “swore to recommit to his marriage” during that meeting.

The impeachment articles alleged that the affair continued, however, and that Ken Paxton went to great lengths to hide the relationship from his wife in the years that followed.


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