AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — As Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment trial neared the halfway point Friday, a former state lawman said he warned the Republican in 2020 that he was risking indictment by helping a donor under FBI investigation.
Four days into the historic proceedings, Paxton continued to stay away from the trial in the Texas Senate that has put his embattled career on the line after being shadowed for years by criminal charges and allegations of corruption. He has pleaded not guilty to the articles of impeachment and his defense team has not yet had its turn to call witnesses.
Both sides were each given 27 hours to present their cases and arguments and have used up about half that time, said Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is presiding over the trial. All the testimony so far has come from former aides to Paxton, each of whom has given varying accounts of Paxton pressuring them to help local real estate developer Nate Paul, including to undermine FBI agents looking into his business.
“If he didn’t get away from this individual and stop doing what he was doing, he was gonna get himself indicted," said David Maxwell, who ran the law enforcement division in Paxton's office.
The trial recessed after his testimony and will resume Monday.
Maxwell is a former Texas Ranger, the state's elite law enforcement division. As he began his testimony, an attorney for Republican impeachment managers sought to underline his credentials and reputation in front of a jury of Republican senators who will decide whether Paxton should be removed from office.
Maxwell testified that Paxton, through another deputy, had urged him to investigate Paul's allegations of wrongdoing by state and federal authorities, including a federal judge, after the FBI searched his home. Paul was indicted this summer on charges of making false statements to banks. He has pleaded not guilty.
Maxwell said he met repeatedly with Paul and his lawyer but found their claims to be “absolutely ludicrous.” He said opening an investigation into the claims might itself be a crime, but that Paxton became angry with him “because I was not buying into the big conspiracy that Nate Paul was having him believe.”
A group of Paxton's deputies reported him to the FBI in 2020, prompting a federal investigation of the two men’s dealings that remains ongoing. Both have broadly denied wrongdoing and Paxton has not been charged.
On cross-examination, Paxton defense attorney Dan Cogdell suggested Maxwell’s background as a Ranger may have predisposed him to be skeptical of allegations against law enforcement officials. He also pressed Maxwell on why he thought opening the requested investigation would have been obstruction of justice despite Paul's lawyer insisting that they weren't seeking to interfere with the FBI probe.
“They obviously did not say they wanted a crime to be committed," Maxwell said. “His actions belied his words."
If convicted by the Texas Senate, where Republicans hold a dominant majority, Paxton would be removed from office and possibly barred from holding any political office in the future.
A two-thirds majority — or at least 21 votes — is needed to convict. That means if all Democrats vote against Paxton, they still need nine Republicans to join them.
Find AP's full coverage of the impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at: https://apnews.com/hub/ken-paxton