Texas House impeachment managers have submitted nearly 4,000 pages of exhibits providing new and exhaustive details of their allegations of abuse of office by suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton ahead of his impeachment trial.
The Senate, which is conducting the trial slated to begin Sept. 5, published the exhibits Thursday night on a website the chamber maintains for impeachment-related documents. The document dump provides granular detail of how Paxton allegedly misused his office to help his friend Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor and campaign donor, who was being investigated by federal authorities as his businesses were floundering.
Paxton’s lawyers are calling for all 20 articles of impeachment to be dismissed, relying in part on an argument that the House had not produced evidence to support the allegations against the attorney general. Through the document dump, a remarkable public disclosure before the trial has started, the House managers have essentially called their bluff.
The managers’ responses to Paxton’s pretrial motions offer new allegations against Paxton, including that he used a burner phone, secret email account and fake Uber name to hide his relationship with Paul.
There are 150 exhibits across three documents totaling 3,760 pages. They include:
- An interview with Paxton’s former personal aide who said he ferried documents to Paul on Paxton’s behalf and witnessed conversations about the renovations to Paxton’s home that suggested Paul had paid for it.
- Emails showing how Paul and his lawyer directed a special prosecutor authorized by Paxton to investigate Paul’s business rivals and law enforcement officials that had raided his home.
- Memoranda documenting numerous instances in which Paxton’s senior advisers unsuccessfully urged him to cut ties with Paul, who they suspected was a liar and criminal.
- Trip records obtained from Uber showing an account Paul created under the alias “Dave P,” which Paxton used to travel to the home of Paul and the apartment of the woman with whom the attorney general was allegedly having an extramarital affair. Paxton is married to state Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney.
- An employment contract proving Paul had hired Paxton’s alleged girlfriend to work at his business.
- Interviews with former Travis County prosecutors who said Paxton asked them to investigate Paul’s claims or refer them to his office, despite their advice that he let Paul’s criminal case conclude before getting involved.
In a motion filed Friday, Paxton’s attorneys contended that the evidence disclosed by the House fails to show that the attorney general solicited or accepted a bribe. They said the document dump further demonstrates how the House and the managers have “engaged in a vindictive campaign” to destroy Paxton’s reputation under the guise of secretive proceedings and abusing the impeachment process.
Producing emails in which timestamps indicate that the House disclosed some evidence in the days after the Tuesday deadline, Paxton’s attorneys called for “death penalty” sanctions against the impeachment managers that would involve dismissing the articles of impeachment.
“No other remedy will do,” the attorneys wrote. “The Managers have abused this process at every turn, and they have made clear that they will never take their responsibility to the public or to this Court seriously.”
The motion states that the Senate should “at a minimum exclude the evidence that the House has held back for weeks.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the presiding judge in the trial, issued a sweeping gag order July 17, banning all involved parties from making comments that could prejudice the trial or impair the impeachment court’s ability to be “fair and impartial.”
The latest exhibits also add evidence to the allegation that Paxton recruited a state senator, Bryan Hughes, to request a legal opinion that helped avoid foreclosure on properties owned by Paul and his businesses. Hughes’ involvement was initially mentioned in the House’s articles of impeachment.
The new evidence shows that on Sept. 30, 2020, Paxton’s former deputy first assistant attorney general, Ryan Bangert, emailed another aide, Ryan Vassar, a timeline of events leading up to the opinion.
“[Paxton] agreed that we could reach out to Senator Bryan Hughes, which we did, and ask that he make a request, which he did,” Bangert wrote. “We then prepared the response and sent it to Senator Hughes.” Bangert and Vassar are among the seven former attorney general staffers who reported Paxton to law enforcement in 2020 for alleged abuses of office.
Hughes did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Paxton’s personal assistant flips
According to a new interview transcript, Paxton’s former body man and close family friend, Drew Wicker, told investigators he grew uncomfortable after witnessing a conversation at Paxton’s house between the attorney general and a contractor that suggested that Paul would pay for a $20,000 upgrade to granite countertops.
Wicker said about a week later he raised the issue with Paxton, who assured Wicker he was paying for the home renovation. Allegations that Paul paid for Paxton’s Tarrytown home renovation are now a central part of the impeachment allegations, and Wicker, who drove Paxton and ran errands for him, has emerged as a star witness for House impeachment managers. He told House investigators he had developed a close personal relationship with Paxton but nonetheless would assist with their investigation.
“I’m going to give you the best recollection, and then I’m going to trust that the evidence points where it shall,” Wicker told his interviewers. “And if that ends up being that [Paxton] conducted illegal business, then I love the man all the same and I hope that that gets adjusted, but he also needs to be held to account.”
Paul pulling the strings
Emails included in the trove of documents show how Paul and his lawyer, Michael Wynne, at times gave direction and forwarded information to a special prosecutor, Brandon Cammack, who was working for the office of the attorney general.
Paxton hired Cammack — a lawyer with five years of experience whose docket at the time had mostly consisted of driving while intoxicated, low-level theft or assault cases — to probe Paul’s allegations of misconduct by a variety of state and federal officials, law enforcement agencies and business rivals after his home was raided by the FBI.
In one correspondence, Wynne sent Paul and Cammack a document labeled “lnterviews.docx” and wrote, “This is what I suggest we start right now. Sequence should be self-evident. Cuts straight to it.” Wynne continued that he wanted to “get these calls dated 9/24/20 done” by the afternoon of Sept. 25, 2020. “Open to more calls happening today — they don’t talk, we are at their residences tomorrow,” he wrote.
In another email, Paul listed information of former lenders, names of contacts and specific information to request from subpoena targets — at the request of Cammack. Fifteen hours after receiving Paul’s email, Cammack responded. “Applications for GJ subpoenas to former lenders went out,” he wrote. The new exhibits show at least three people included in that email from Paul to Cammack were later subpoenaed.
Paxton’s decision to hire Cammack was condemned by top officials at the attorney general’s office who said Paxton overrode consensus from veteran investigators that there was no merit to Paul’s claims.
James Brickman, who served as deputy attorney general for policy and strategy and later reported Paxton to law enforcement, said it was “shocking” that Paxton sought the help of Cammack despite repeated warnings about Paul and investigations by top agency officials that found “zero” wrongdoing to substantiate Paul’s claims. Paxton ignored deputies to “hire some 30-ish-year-old criminal defense lawyer in Houston to do this,” Brickman said. “I mean, it is like shocking how egregious and blatant this is.”
The House impeachment team also released memos illustrating that Paxton’s advisers repeatedly raised concerns about his increasing involvement in Paul’s legal matters and posited that Paul was using the attorney general’s office for his own personal gain. During the summer and fall of 2020, Paul alleged that there were doctored search warrants and misconduct when the FBI raided this home.
“I believe that Paul is seeking to use the name and authority of this agency to manipulate our office into conducting a criminal investigation of federal prosecutors and possibly law enforcement agents without any supporting evidence, solely for his personal benefit,” former Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Mark Penley stated. “Perhaps he is trying to create a cover st[ory] for his business partners or investors.”
Penley, who is among the four whistleblowers who sued Paxton for firing them after they reported him to law enforcement, said he refused to sign a contract to hire Cammack as outside counsel to investigate Paul’s claims because he did not think Paul had presented legitimate evidence proving his claim of law enforcement misconduct, stating that Paul “has not been open or honest with this Agency.”
In another memo that former Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer wrote on July 22, 2020, he, attorney Blake Brickman and communications director Marc Rylander met with Paxton to discuss the attorney general’s involvement with matters related to Paul. Mateer said he learned earlier that morning that Paxton was planning to personally argue a motion in a proceeding involving the Mitte Foundation, which was involved in a lawsuit with one of Paul’s entities. Mateer said he relayed his concerns about Paxton’s involvement in any matters related to Paul. He also said Darren McCarty, another of Paxton’s deputies, had convinced Paxton that he should not be involved in the litigation. He said Paxton agreed not to have personal involvement in any matters related to Paul and would let division attorneys handle such matters as they deemed appropriate.
The exhibits provide support for one of the new allegations that managers made in their response to Paxton’s pretrial motions — that Paul created a secret Uber account for Paxton under the alias “Dave P” to help shield his extramarital affair.
The managers said Uber records show the account was “jointly accessed” by Paul and Paxton and that Paxton used it to go to the Pearl Lantana Apartments in Austin, “where his mistress resided.”
One exhibit details over three dozen “relevant” trips for which the account was used. The trips spanned four cities — Austin, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Chicago — and happened from October 2019 to October 2020.
The Austin trips included 16 that involved the Pearl Lantana Apartments. Those drives often originated or ended at a location identified as a “single-family residence close to Paxton residence.” That lines up with another claim that managers made in their recent responses — that Paxton would use the account to get picked up a “block from his home,” apparently to evade attention.
Paxton’s affair has also emerged as a key plot point of the impeachment case, as House impeachment managers have said Paul gave Paxton’s alleged girlfriend a job at his business as a favor. Among the vast trove of documents was an employment contract confirming that Paul hired the woman at his firm, World Class Property Company.
Paul hired the woman to be the company’s director of special projects — at an annual salary of $65,000 — who reported directly to him and was based at the company’s downtown Austin office, according to the June 23, 2020, contract. Paul had admitted in a 2020 deposition he hired her on Paxton’s recommendation.
Travis County District Attorney
As part of his defense for involving his office in Paul’s criminal woes, Paxton and his supporters have argued that the Travis County district attorney’s office was the first to open an investigation into Paul’s claims of law enforcement abuse and that the local prosecutors had asked for the attorney general’s office to get involved.
New interview transcripts with the former Travis County prosecutors allege Paxton had asked the district attorney’s office to refer Paul’s case to him after they found the claims to be dubious.
Mindy Montford, a former assistant district attorney in Travis County who now works in the attorney general’s office, said in a June interview with attorneys for House investigators that in May 2020, Paxton asked her to meet him, Paul and Paul’s attorney for lunch to discuss Paul’s complaint alleging law enforcement misconduct during a search of Paul’s home. Montford said she and her colleague didn’t believe Paul’s story, and seeing that Paul already had an attorney and was under criminal investigation, her office decided not to push any further.
But she said she and her colleagues didn’t want to dismiss the case outright and risk harming a good working relationship with Paxton, who had supported their office in attempts to regain funding for a public integrity unit. Still, Montford said she advised Paxton to wait before jumping in.
“I don’t know if I told him that I didn’t believe Nate Paul, but I think what I said was, ‘Look, there is a pending federal investigation. Why not just let that run its course?’” she said. Paxton responded, “I don’t know that I can do that,” she said, and asked her office to send him a referral.
The records are dated Tuesday, meaning the managers filed them on the day that responses to pretrial motions were due to the Senate. Now a special committee of senators is reviewing the motions and responses. That committee has until Aug. 28 to prepare a confidential report with recommendations on the motions for Patrick, who can rule on all motions except for those that seek dismissal of any articles, which requires a majority vote of the Senate. Patrick also can ask senators to decide other pretrial motions, with approval granted by a majority vote.
The breadth of the evidence could put more pressure on senators to at least proceed to trial. Assuming all 12 Democrats oppose Paxton’s motions to dismiss, managers would have to convince at least four of the 19 Republican senators to side with the Democrats and clear the way for a trial. One of those GOP senators is Paxton’s wife, and she does not get to vote under the trial rules.
Joshua Fechter, Rob Downen and Laura Garcia contributed to this report.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/08/18/ken-paxton-impeachment-evidence/.
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