Texas House Rests, Averting Early Verdict in Paxton Impeachment to End Day 7

Mr. Paxton’s executive assistant testifies he’s “accusing anyone of anything” amid bribery allegations from former staffers against the Texas attorney general.

On the seventh day of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial, prosecutors rested their case.

After what turned into a chaotic afternoon at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, prosecutors failed to successfully call Laura Olson as a witness.

They had sought her testimony in the morning. However, Ms. Olson, Mr. Paxton’s alleged mistress, was not yet eligible to provide testimony, according to the trial rules, which require witnesses to be notified at least 24 hours in advance.

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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is serving as the presiding officer over the historic trial in the Senate chamber, announced that the prosecution had only 5 hours and 17 minutes left to present their case. He said the defense had almost twice as much time with nearly 10 hours remaining.

Each side was given 24 hours to present their side and cross-examine witnesses.

He then said that Ms. Olson would be eligible to take the stand at 3:53 p.m. However, by late afternoon, the two sides reached a private agreement and Ms. Olson left the Capitol after being “deemed unavailable to testify,” Mr. Patrick said.

Shortly after the announcement, Rusty Hardin, a lawyer for the prosecution, said he was resting their side of the case. Defense attorney Tony Buzbee then moved to end the trial with an early verdict on the grounds of insufficient evidence, but later withdrew the request without a vote shortly before the trial adjourned for the day.

As the scene played out Wednesday evening, Paxton posted on social media that he was headed to Maine next week to talk with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson about “the last two weeks in Texas politics.”

“It should be interesting!” he said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Paxton’s ‘Body Man’ Testifies

Earlier in the day, while awaiting Ms. Olson’s testimony, House impeachment managers shifted to calling lawyer Ray Chester of the Mitte Foundation, followed by Mr. Paxton’s former executive assistant Drew Wicker.

Mr. Paxton is facing 16 0f 20 articles of impeachment on allegations of abuse of power and bribery. Four of the articles were held in abeyance.

Thirty of 31 state senators—18 Republicans and 12 Democrats—will decide whether the suspended attorney general returns to his duties or is removed from office. A two-thirds threshold, or 21 votes, is needed to remove the attorney general from office. Mr. Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, is required to attend the trial but is not allowed to vote.

Mr. Paxton has not been present since the first day of the trial on Sept. 5.

In May, the GOP-led House impeached the Republican attorney general on allegations of wrongdoing in a vote of 123-21.

For more than a week, testimony has centered on allegations from eight so-called “whistleblowers” who accuse Mr. Paxton of abusing his office to help Austin real estate investor and donor Nate Paul in exchange for new kitchen countertops and cabinets, as well as Mr. Paul providing a job to Ms. Olson.

In exchange, it is alleged that Mr. Paul “received favorable legal assistance from, or specialized access to, the attorney general’s office,” the impeachment documents charge.

During cross-examination, Mr. Wicker testified that he did not believe his former boss received anything more than lunch from Mr. Paul, who is at the center of the accusations against the attorney general.

Mr. Buzbee asked Mr. Wicker about a conversation he had heard while at the Paxtons’ Austin home when they were having renovations to repair damage caused by a storm.

Mr. Wicker heard Mr. Paxton tell Kevin Wood, the lead contractor for Mr. Paxton’s home renovation, that Mrs. Paxton would like to add granite countertops in the kitchen. Mr. Paxton allegedly told Mr. Wood to “talk to Nate” about the $20,000 cost of the new granite countertops.

“You don’t have any knowledge that Nate Paul ever did anything for General Paxton other than buy lunch?” Mr. Buzbee asked Mr. Wicker. “Isn’t that right?”

“That’s correct,” Mr. Wicker responded.

Mr. Wicker went on to testify that that conversation had made him uncomfortable, so he took his concerns to his direct report, Blake Brickman, who suggested he speak directly with Mr. Paxton about the situation.

He said he did speak with Mr. Paxton about the situation, who told him his understanding was “wrong” and he thanked him for bringing the matter to his attention.

Mr. Wicker, also known as Mr. Paxton’s “body man,” confirmed that he spent more time with the attorney general than anyone, including Mrs. Paxton. His job required him to be with the attorney general the majority of the time, and he was responsible for his schedule.

“They have accused him of bribery. Are you?” Mr. Buzbee asked Mr. Wicker.

“I’m not,” Mr. Wicker responded.

“Let’s be clear: the guy that spent more time, and that’s you, Drew, with General Paxton than anyone else during the time frame we’re talking about is absolutely not accusing General Paxton of doing anything wrong at all. Are you?” Mr. Buzbee asked again.

“I’m not accusing anyone of anything,” Mr. Wicker stated. “No.”

Mr. Buzbee admitted an image of the Paxtons’ kitchen prior to the alleged kitchen remodel and another from August 2023, which showed that no changes were made to the countertops or cabinets.

He also suggested that Mr. Patrick load all of the jurors in a bus and take them to the Paxtons’ home following multiple objections from House lawyer Erin Epley over the evidence.

After several hours of testimony from Mr. Wicker, the House lawyers called Mr. Brickman to testify.

Mr. Brickman was among the former OAG staffers who reported Mr. Paxton to the FBI for alleged wrongdoings. All of them either resigned or were fired for insubordination.

Mr. Brickman was one among the four who were fired.

In November 2022, staffers Mr. Brickman, Ryan Vassar, David Maxwell, and Mark Penley filed a lawsuit against the attorney general’s office for wrongful firing.

Mr. Brickman described having a good relationship with Mr. Paxton during the first months after his hiring in early 2020.

He said it was his idea for Mr. Paxton to “use his bully pulpit” during the height of COVID closures and tell people that “it is wrong” to keep people from being able to work and provide for their families, pointing to Shelly Luther, a Dallas hairdresser who had made headlines when she opened her salon during the stay-at-home order.

But over the course of the summer, Mr. Brickman testified that he became concerned that Mr. Paxton was “breaking the law.”

“He abused the entire Office of the Attorney General to benefit Nate Paul,” Mr. Brickman said.

Prosecutor Mr. Hardin asked Mr. Brickman what evidence the former OAG aides took to the FBI, a follow-up to testimony on Friday from former staffer Mr. Vassar that the whistleblowers provided no physical evidence or documents supporting their allegations.

“Again, this was the seven most senior people in the agency,” Mr. Brickman told the jurors. “We took first-hand personal knowledge of Ken Paxton’s illegal and immoral conduct to the law enforcement officers.”

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. on Thursday with the defense presenting witnesses.

The prosecution only has two hours of questioning time remaining while the defense has four, which could allow Mr. Buzbee question witnesses without cross-examination.

After this, both sides will have one hour to present rebuttal evidence followed by another hour for closing arguments.

Melanie Sun and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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