Paxton defense rests its case in impeachment trial

Lawyers for Attorney General of Texas Ken Paxton rested their case Thursday in the trial that will determine whether the Republican is removed from office winds down.

It was not until eight days into the trial that Paxton's defense attorneys began calling their own witnesses. The first was Justin Gordon the head of the Texas attorney general office's open records division, a branch of the agency that Paxton is accused of manipulating to help Austin real estate developer Nate Paul. The second witness Thursday was Austin Kinghorn, an associate deputy attorney general for legal counsel.

Attorneys for the bipartisan group of lawmakers prosecuting Paxton’s impeachment rested their case Wednesday after a woman who was expected to testify about an extramarital affair with Paxton made a sudden appearance at the trial, but never took the stand.

The affair is central to the historic proceedings and accusations that Paxton misused his power to help Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, who was under FBI investigation and employed the woman, Laura Olson. One of the 16 articles of impeachment against Paxton alleges that Paul's hiring of Olson amounted to a bribe.

Olson was called to the stand Wednesday morning in the Texas Senate and waited outside the chamber. But her testimony was delayed for hours before Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is acting as the trial’s judge, said toward the end of the day that Olson would not testify after all. He provided no further explanation but said both sides had agreed to it.

“She is present but has been deemed unavailable to testify,” Patrick said.

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

Paxton, who was suspended from office pending the trail's outcome, is not required to attend the proceedings and has not appeared in the Senate since testimony began last week. 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.

So far, seven of the eight whistleblowers have testified in the trial with Blake Brickman being called to the stand Wednesday afternoon. Of the eight whistleblowers, only Lacey Mase was not called as a House witness.

The whistleblowers are a group of former high-level staffers in Paxton's office who notified the FBI that they believed their boss was breaking the law in helping Austin developer Nate Paul. Paul claimed that he was a victim of illegal behavior by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with improper warrants served in a search of his home and business and allegedly asked for help from the AG's office.

Four of the whistleblowers filed a lawsuit over retaliation in November 2020 arguing Paxton violated the Texas Whistleblower Act. In early 2023, it was announced there had been a settlement reached in the lawsuit worth $3.3 million.

Paxton has been absent from the trial since pleading not guilty last Tuesday, but his wife Angela Paxton, a state senator, has been present though she is forbidden from voting on a decision. The rest of the Texas Senate will decide the case when all of the witnesses are heard.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick serves as a judge for the trial and said Monday that he thought deliberations could begin as soon as Thursday. Patrick said they would not take a day off until they have a final resolution on the verdict.

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