Testimony offered in the Senate’s impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton raises questions about who has been behind the movement to oust him from office, with a former top deputy accused of staging a coup.
Wednesday marked the second day of the trial and picked up where yesterday’s proceedings stopped, with the prosecutions’ first witness, Jeff Mateer.
Mateer, who is currently the Chief Legal Officer at First Liberty Institute, formerly served as the First Assistant Attorney General under Paxton.
He resigned from the position in October of 2020 after he, along with seven members of the AG’s office, accused Paxton of engaging in unethical acts and abuse of office in order to help real estate developer Nate Paul.
Little new information was brought up during Mateer’s initial testimony, as he repeated much of what had been alleged three years ago.
Mateer claimed that Attorney General Paxton directed his staff to write an advisory opinion saying foreclosure proceedings could not happen due to COVID back in 2020. They allege that this was done to help Nate Paul.
He also alleged that Attorney General Paxton inappropriately hired attorney Brandon Cammack as special counsel to investigate claims by Nate Paul of misconduct by state and federal officials, including the Texas Department of Public Safety and the FBI. He alleged that the Paxton had gone around the normal approval process to do so.
Rusty Hardin, one of the lawyers working against Paxton, asked Mateer if it was illegal for the attorney general to sign the contract outside of the normal process. That question proved difficult to answer, with Mateer saying he believed it violated “policy procedures” and that at the time he thought it might be “unlawful” because he believed the investigation was unlawful.
Bigger revelations came when Paxton’s attorney Tony Buzbee had the opportunity to cross examine Mateer.
Mateer claimed he regularly deleted his text messages, and thus did not have any of his messages from the time. He said that he didn’t ask Paxton when he had questions about some of the actions of the special counsel had taken and instead went to the FBI.
After speaking with the FBI, Mateer then admitted that he went to a meeting with staff from the Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. In attendance was Luis Saenz, Abbott’s former chief of staff.
He also admitted that he had been in contact with Dick Trabulsi when he resigned. Trabulsi is one of the leaders of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a group that has been opposed to Paxton and has been suspected to have worked behind the scenes pushing the impeachment forward. Recently, they urged senators not to vote to dismiss the charges.
Buzbee also pointed out that the same day Mateer signed a letter alongside the other whistleblowers alleging illegal behavior from Paxton, George P. Bush reactivated his law license ahead of his announcement that he would challenge Paxton in the upcoming primary election.
Additionally, Buzbee revealed that Mateer and other employees had sent correspondence from the Office of the Attorney General on which they had removed Paxton’s name from the letterhead.
“You were involved in staging a coup, weren’t you?” Buzbee asked, pointing to Mateer’s meeting with the governor’s office, communication with Texans for Lawsuit Reform, and the removal of Paxton’s name from the letterhead.
Mateer denied the accusation, saying, “absolutely not.”
Both sides are allowed up to 24 hours for testimony throughout the trial. The trial is expected to last around three weeks. If convicted, Paxton would be removed from office.