Former deputy AG testifies Paxton used Texas COVID response to benefit donor


Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton weaponized the state’s coronavirus response to benefit a campaign donor, one of his former deputies told the Texas Senate amid Paxton’s impeachment trial.


Former First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer said Wednesday that Paxton took the step even after telling his staff that he would end his relationship with indicted Austin real estate investor Nate Paul.

Mateer laid out the bombshell allegation that Paxton reversed the state government’s “open for business” COVID-19 response, which was largely a ban on bans and mask mandates.

Instead of following through on his pledge to distance himself from Paul, Mateer said, Paxton turned the office “to the benefit of one person” — and to the detriment of the public at large.

The state attorney general, who has pleaded not guilty, faces potential removal from office on 16 counts of official corruption. His legal team failed on Tuesday to get the state Senate to throw out the case in the first Texas impeachment trial in decades, which has pitted Republican against Republican in the deep-red state.

Mateer testified that after hearing his and other deputies’ concerns about the relationship with Paul, Paxton “agreed that going further he would not have any further personal involvement with Paul.”

Mateer said that he was particularly concerned about appearances. 

“You have the attorney general acting on behalf of one person, and by this time, I knew that he was a campaign donor,” he said.

That concerned him, he added, “because there have been allegations in the past made against the office — and against the attorney general, that he had taken actions on behalf of campaign donors. So I was super sensitive to that.”

“By definition, does that mean it was also to the disadvantage of other citizens?” House prosecutor Rusty Hardin asked.

“Absolutely,” Mateer said.

Instead, he testified, Paxton’s actions on behalf of Paul kicked into a higher gear.

Like other Paxton deputies who will be witnesses at the trial, Mateer — who resigned in October 2020 after reporting Paxton to federal law enforcement — is ideologically aligned with his former boss.

A member of the arch-conservative Federalist Society, Mateer was nominated for a judgeship by former President Trump, but his nomination failed after The Texas Tribune reported that he had called transgender children part of “Satan’s plan.”

Contravening the state’s COVID-19 policies — and his own promise to step away from Paul —  Paxton shut down foreclosures across the state to protect Paul from losing his properties, Mateer testified.

This was something like heresy in Texas conservative circles.

Before that policy, Mateer said, “I was proud of the office — and quite frankly proud of the attorney general. We were at the forefront of having Texas reopen and stopping COVID restrictions. We did it with regard to churches. We did it with regard to entertainment. So we were the ones pushing to open Texas back up. That that was General Paxton policy. That was the office’s policy.”

But Paxton’s August 2020 opinion was “completely contrary” to this policy, Mateer said. 

“It took the complete opposite view. It was as if Anthony Fauci had written it,” he said, nodding to the former chief of the American coronavirus response and a perennial conservative bogeyman.

All this came following Paxton’s promise to step away from Paul, Mateer testified.

“Did you feel he gave you his word?” Hardin asked.

“I did,” Mateer said.

“Did you believe he would keep his word?”

There was a brief pause. “I hoped he would,” Mateer said.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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