That’s All For Today, Folks
Ben Rowen, 7:28 p.m.
That’s a wrap on day two. We’ll be back blogging tomorrow morning before the proceedings start up again at 9 a.m.
What We Learned on Day Two of the Ken Paxton Impeachment Trial
Christopher Hooks, 7:08 p.m.
Well, there it is: day two in the can. The impeachment trial is a marathon, not a sprint, and moment to moment a lot of today was admittedly quite dull. There’s a reason Law & Order episodes aren’t three weeks long. But there were was some drama Wednesday.
To recap: We got through the testimony of Jeff Mateer, the first deputy under Paxton in the attorney general’s office who blew the whistle on what he came to believe was a lengthy pattern of corruption, raising his concerns to the FBI. Most of what he talked about today concerned an affair that Paxton confessed to and then allegedly continued in secret. Mateer testified that the affair clarified for him why Paxton was allegedly doing favors for Austin developer Nate Paul, who had hired Paxton’s mistress. He told the court that this was the first time since he blew the whistle that he was able to recount his experiences in a public forum, his lawyers having advised him to shut up. Perhaps understandably, then, he gave off a lot of nervous energy. At times he talked too much, or too quickly, and the prosecution had to ask him to slow down.
His cross-examination, conducted by Paxton’s lawyer Tony Buzbee, was pretty rocky. Buzbee’s great at making his targets seem compromised, and all he has to do in this trial is give a few Republican senators reason to feel good about acquittal. At first, he laid into Mateer, portraying him as a reckless and disloyal subordinate who was possibly led astray by his own ambition. But the cross-examination went on too long, perhaps. Mateer started pushing back more vigorously, and Buzbee went down some pretty strange cul-de-sacs. We spent an inordinate amount of time talking about email signatures and questions about the chain of command at the AG’s office that seemed marginally related to the case. Buzbee professed to be shocked that Mateer thought Ken Paxton and “the office of the attorney general” were separate entities; at one point he accused Mateer of wanting to be attorney general (an elected position) and launching a “coup.”
Next to take the stand was Ryan Bangert, a little lower in the attorney general’s office org chart than Mateer. He covered much of the same material but in a clearer, more self-posessed way, which read better in court. His testimony, so far, has centered on an opinion Paxton offered on whether foreclosure sales could proceed during the pandemic. That opinion was written allegedly for the benefit of Paul and stood in direct contrast to other opinions Paxton’s office was issuing at the time against COVID-19 restrictions. We’ll see how Bangert handles Buzbee’s glare tomorrow.
The trial is going to go on for quite a while. There’s a temptation when things swing one way to draw conclusions. Yesterday, when Paxton’s team failed repeated votes to dismiss the impeachment charges before they were heard and skip parts of the trial, some observers practically proclaimed Paxton dead and buried. Today, when Buzbee was making Mateer squirm, Paxton practically seemed re-elected in 2026.
But the boring truth is that we won’t know for a while whether anything that happened here even mattered—we don’t even know if there are undecided senators in the room. We’ll have to wait and see.
A Quick Survey of the Chamber
Christopher Hooks, 6:18 p.m.
Pity the senators: if you’ve ever done jury duty, you know that, no matter how much you’re happy to perform your duty, it’s inconvenient and pays poorly. Unlike jury members, however, most of the senators in this room probably made up their minds, or close to it, before the first word was entered into the record yesterday. They’ve nonetheless had to reserve three weeks to spend away from their families to work, sit, and listen to an often soporific back-and-forth about details with which many of them are already familiar. We are all at least grateful, electeds and non, that Dan Patrick keeps the chamber slightly below room temperature, unlike his predecessor David Dewhurst, who set the thermostat at a level capable of preserving meat.
How are the senators handling it? The side of the gallery that faces them has been kept closed, unfortunately: most reporters here would rather be watching them than the witnesses. But from the gallery—Patrick chased the press off the floor a few sessions ago—we can keep tabs on how they’re fiddling around, at least. State senator Bryan Hughes—a Republican who is involved in this case, since Paxton’s office allegedly asked him to request an AG opinion that benefited Nate Paul—is at the front and an active listener, sitting forward in his chair and taking notes. In the back row, state senator John Whitmire, a Democrat and perhaps the future mayor of Houston, keeps leaning against the back rail during breaks and chewing what looks like a toothpick, with body language that says, “Please, God, let me go home.”
Republican state senator Charles Perry is a rocker, leaning back in his chair. State senator Bob Hall, a vigorous opponent of these proceedings who voted against giving the charges a hearing, keeps showing his opposition—rubbing his eyes, sitting sideways, pursing his lips and blowing. Earlier Mimi Swartz observed state senator Donna Campbell, another vigorous opponent of the proceedings, “curled over her desk in a position of seeming abject despair.”
The House impeachment managers, sitting on the right side of the floor, have even less to do than the senators—among them, only representative Andrew Murr has participated in the trial so far—but at least they’re able to chat with one another and sneak looks at phones (or, in Democrat Ann Johnson’s case, her Apple Watch, its neon orange band smartly color coordinated with her glasses.) State representative Charlie Geren, a tough old conservative, appeared to be wearing comfortable sneakers with his suit yesterday—perhaps a subtle show of defiance of Dan Patrick, who is said to loathe casual clothing on the floor.
Most senators appear to have a legal pad, loose pages, or some kind of notebook with which to take notes. Surprisingly, perhaps, many of them are using these vigorously. A few are not, and at least one seems to be using it to doodle. (Hey, researchers say it can aid memory.) State senator Angela Paxton, Ken’s wife and a nonvoting participant in this trial, appears to be maintaining a hardbound notebook with dense scrawl. One would think that she’s familiar enough with the events being discussed here that she doesn’t need to write notes: maybe she’s working on a novel. Either way, I’m sure it makes for stimulating conversation at the dinner table.
A Better Witness for the Prosecution
Mimi Swartz, 5:35 p.m.
So far, Ryan Bangert’s testimony seems an improvement over Jeff Mateer’s. His voice is crisper and carries better in the chamber, which is a help. Rusty Hardin has also gotten to the point quicker this time around, quickly establishing Bangert’s far-right bona fides and his dedication to Mateer before moving on to Paxton’s alleged attempt to get info about Nate Paul’s investigative file. We’re moving at a much faster clip, aided, in part, by Buzbee moving himself off the defense table and being replaced by another lawyer for the defense, less skilled at interruption and objection.
Has Paxton Fatigue Set In?
Mimi Swartz, 4:31 p.m.
Well, Jeff Mateer just left the stand, much to his relief and the relief of most of those in the room. It was a long cross that started out with a bang but ended with . . . confusion. Most of those around me had lost the thread of the argument, but Buzbee had a pretty good win at the end with his last question: Did Mateer have any evidence that Nate Paul paid for the renovation of the Paxton home? Mateer, probably wrung out by the hours on the stand, paused too long to answer. “Pass the witness,” Buzbee said.
Once the break began, the torpor lifted, with senators stretching and wandering around like children awakened from their kindergarten sleep mats. They were promptly called back to order. Up now on the stand is Ryan Bangert, another whistleblower.
What has been perhaps most startling about today is how few people have come to witness what was billed as the trial of the century. The observation areas have been, at best, half full for most, if not all, of the day. Most of the gallery is empty, except for the section closest to the west exit, which is partially reserved for the press. Even the pro–Angela Paxton ladies I wrote about yesterday are not here in the force they were on day one, and those who are here aren’t wearing their scarlet tees in support. There’s one teen in the gallery who appears to be working on a report for school—he’s writing in longhand, so he can’t be a reporter. Would love to read his finished product.
This case has everything—sex, money, grift—and yet the People just don’t seem to care. Maybe Donald Trump and all his trials have worn them out, or maybe Paxton is a piker in comparison.
A Musical Interlude
Christopher Hooks, 4:20 p.m.
While the Paxton impeachment trial is ongoing, the hard work of Texas politics continues. Luke Macias, a political consultant cum influencer aligned with Ken Paxton’s friends in the party, released a music video yesterday summing up his thoughts on the Texas Legislature and the impeachment. It’s really something:
The faction of the party that loves Paxton really hates the Texas House. They perceive it as insufficiently right-wing, and one big donor for years was bothered, reportedly, that the man who ran it for many years was Jewish.
Anyway, the song is sick. Macias speaks from the perspective of a typical Republican in Name Only in the House, portraying a type of guy he doesn’t like, a songwriting technique seen in similar bangers such as Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing.”
In the Texas House we’re a family
We got each other’s backs, both day and night
In this backwards place, wrong means right. . . .
. . . Those hospitals right there, with the transgender care
We’re giving ’em your money, and I’ll tell you now
They’ll transition all your kids, with your own dollar bills. . . .
. . . That Ramadan party’s gonna have a crowd
Yeah, I’m pretty damn proud
Two things: One, Macias’s donors have too much money. Two, while Macias commits to the bit, this is only the second-best song parody about the House the far-right faction has dropped. True heads remember the time it did a shot-for-shot remake of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”
A Novel Theory of the Case
Christopher Hooks, 3:42 p.m.
Mark Davis, a Republican talk radio host in Dallas who’s a good follow for keeping tabs on conversations on the right, proferred a theory on why the whistleblowers came forward against an (in his mind innocent) Paxton. As Tony Buzbee’s cross-examination of Jeff Mateer dragged on—and I mean really dragged on—Davis tweeted: “‘Whistleblowers’ were so morally mortified by the infidelity (understandably)—that they found a way to stigmatize and even criminalize everything attached to it.” That is, Paxton’s accusers were so outraged that their self-identified Christian-warrior boss sinned in the eyes of his boss that they made mountains out of molehills, seeing corruption lurking in every shadow of the AG’s office.
This is a fun piece of messaging, because it uses what the prosecution surely thinks of as one of their chief assets against its case. Paxton’s whistleblowers are right-wing warriors—Mateer was nominated for a judgeship by Donald Trump—and generally supposed to be lawyers of impeccable character. The prosecution hopes to highlight this for senators, to make them more believable than Paxton.
Davis’s line supposes that the whistleblowers’ Christian bonafides are a sort of flaw, in that they weren’t worldly enough to understand Paxton’s troubles. They’re sort of like children who walk in on mommy and daddy in bed and think they’re fighting. And it seemingly has an element of truth to it: Mateer describes the revelation of Paxton’s infidelity as a mask-off moment in which Paxton’s true nature became clear.
The problem is that, chronologically, the theory is a little backward. Mateer testified that he had had growing concerns about Paxton’s inexplicably close relationship with Paul for a long time. He said he watched Paxton use his official powers to help Paul and struggled to find an explanation—he even wondered whether the real estate mogul was blackmailing the attorney general. Only later, Mateer said, did he realize that Paul was employing Paxton’s mistress and that their relationship was much more intimate than he had previously understood.
Why Tony Buzbee Keeps Bringing Up George P. Bush
Alexandra Samuels, 3:22 p.m.
Buzbee’s questions and occasional editorial comments on testimony are trying to suggest that the impeachment proceeding has been orchestrated by a group of Republicans in Name Only, including Jeff Mateer, currently on the stand, and . . . former land commissioner George P. Bush. In various instances, Buzbee has pushed Mateer, one of the staffers who blew the whistle on Paxton, to elaborate on the timeline of the whistleblower lawsuit and his communication with the attorney general about it. Specifically, Buzbee is angling for an answer as to why the eight former aides didn’t tell Paxton that they went to the FBI until October 1, 2020—the same day, Buzbee noted, that Bush applied to reactivate his law license.
Bush is one of several Republicans who levied a primary challenge against Paxton in 2022. Paxton routed him in a runoff. Buzbee hasn’t said it directly, but it seems like he’s trying to get Mateer to admit, under oath, that the whistleblowers, Bush, and leadership-aligned groups such as Texans for Lawsuit Reform were trying to get Paxton out of office. It’s unclear whether this argument will pass muster—especially because one doesn’t need a law license to serve as attorney general of Texas.
The Jury Is Starting to Get Restless
Mimi Swartz, 2:55 pm.
Tony Buzbee scored his points early in his cross-examination of Jeff Mateer, as I wrote before. Now the examination has devolved, for a seeming eternity, into a back-and-forth concerning the hiring of Brandon Cammack, a lawyer Paxton brought on to investigate complaints Nate Paul had raised about the FBI raid of his home. Hardin, who stayed quiet during the cross-examination before the lunch break, finally objected to the line of questioning.
The senators, for the most part, are trying to stay alert, though degrees of slumping can be observed. Donna Campbell of New Braunfels was momentarily curled over her desk in a position of seeming abject despair. Angela Paxton, crisp in a blue-and-white-checked jacket and a matching blue shirt, meanwhile, is watching intently. Her husband is still MIA.
Why One Allegation Against Paxton Keeps Getting Considerable Play
Christopher Hooks, 1:50 p.m.
The flashiest allegations levied against Ken Paxton involve personal misconduct or venal corruption, and they have gotten a lot of attention: Nate Paul hired Paxton’s mistress, Nate Paul paid for Paxton’s kitchen renovation, that sort of thing. But a much lesser-known incident has already surfaced a couple times, and it has to do with an unexpected topic: Ken Paxton’s conditional appreciation for COVID restrictions.
Knowledge of the incident in question is not new. According to House investigators, Paul’s real estate empire was floundering, and he needed breathing room. In a remarkable coincidence, Paxton’s AG’s office fired off an opinion that public foreclosure sales could not be held because of restrictions limiting crowd size during the early days of the pandemic. (Side note: his office asked Senator Bryan Hughes, of Mineola, to request the opinion—creating the circumstances for what would become one of the impeachment proceeding’s many conflicts of interest.) When the employee tasked with writing the opinion initially opined that foreclosure sales were fine, he was allegedly told that Paxton wanted it to say otherwise.
This was in August 2020, five months after the Bad Days of the pandemic kicked off. The official line from state government, particularly folks such as Dan Patrick, was that Texas was, at that point in time, “open for business” again. Back to normal. Paxton had shown no other particular zeal for pandemic-era restrictions or love in his heart for underwater landowners. In fact, he fought mask and vaccine mandates, and he was quick to curb local officials offering their own restrictions. Just days before the foreclosure opinion, he had argued that local health officials did not have the authority to shut down all schools as a preventative measure.
The allegation is that Paxton’s opinion was another small favor for Paul. This is a revealing incident in its own way. Other cases in which Paxton helped Paul might be semi-plausibly explained by arguing that Paxton believed in the policy he was advocating. This one is different. The pro-impeachment side is bringing it up repeatedly—state representative Andrew Murr mentioned it in his opening statement; Jeff Mateer referenced it in his testimony this morning—because it’s a political wedge.
Republican senators were all good soldiers about the “back to business” line back then. Murr presented it as a case in which Paxton deviated from party orthodoxy for no conceivable reason. Mateer testified that he was astonished when he saw the order, and that it contradicted what everyone else, including Paxton, was saying they wanted. Mateer even said that the order was “like something Dr. [Anthony] Fauci wrote.”
How Effective Are Tony Buzbee’s Attempts to Sow Doubt?
Christopher Hooks, 1:25 p.m.
I thought Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee might have struck the wrong tone yesterday with his opening statement—and I wondered if he was the right choice for this kind of trial. But today, in his cross-examination of Jeff Mateer—a top Paxton deputy who became uncomfortable with Paxton’s repeated interventions to benefit real estate magnate Nate Paul and who eventually contacted the feds—his formidable trial skills are on full view.
Here’s why this guy makes the big bucks: as my colleague Mimi Swartz says, a lot of the points Buzbee is making are extraneous or irrelevant to the question at hand, and not all of them are landing. Buzbee has even accused Mateer, who gives the impression of being a Boy Scout, of undermining Paxton because he wanted to be attorney general; it’s a curious thing to say given that the post is elected, but Buzbee is forceful and steady. All he needs to do is sow doubt and give Republican senators who might feel squeezed permission to vote no. He’s doing a great job.
Buzbee argues explicitly that Paxton hasn’t broken the law, of course, but there’s been an extra undercurrent in his remarks, both today and yesterday, that even if Paxton has done dirt, that’s okay, because the system is dirty and it’s the system we’ve chosen. (And the system the senators themselves benefit from.) “If campaign donations were bribes,” he said yesterday, “everyone in this town would be impeached.” Buzbee’s cocounsel Dan Cogdell warned senators that removing Paxton from office could lead to somebody removing them from office. Today he argued that Nate Paul’s political contributions represented less than half a percent of Paxton’s overall cash haul from his 2018 reelection campaign.
Buzbee has tried many significant cases, but his last step into politics—other than his abortive campaign for mayor of Houston—was his defense of Rick Perry, who was indicted in 2014. What Perry did back then—skipping over the complicated details—was dirty as hell, but only arguably illegal. As Perry’s lawyer, Buzbee very effectively argued that the case represented, as Perry put it, the “criminalization of politics.” Perry got the case dismissed, but he also won in the court of public opinion.
The case against Paxton has a lot more substance, but Buzbee’s may be an effective argument to this room. Call me a cynic, but I would posit that there may be a senator or two in the room—maybe as many as 31 of them—who has also helped get material benefits to a campaign donor. Some of them might be feeling nervous about overlap between their experiences and Paxton’s.
Tony Buzbee’s Grilling of Jeff Mateer
Mimi Swartz, 12:55 p.m.
The cross examination of Jeff Mateer by Paxton’s lawyer Tony Buzbee is starting to look, for the pro-impeachment side, like what my son would call a shitshow. My lawyer friend has a different word: “catastrophe.” The main problems for the prosecution are that 1) Mateer doesn’t seem well prepped to answer specific lines of leading questioning and 2) the attorneys for the prosecution aren’t objecting when Buzbee brings up matters not directly relevant to the trial.
For example, Buzbee asked if Mateer had ever received a text from Dick Trabulsi, who is a big deal with Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the influential political action committee that heavily backed a primary opponent of Paxton’s. This is part of Buzbee’s plan to link the campaign against Paxton to Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Yes, Mateer said he had, but after he had left his job at the AG’s office. And he testified that he barely knew Trabulsi. He’d gotten one text, exactly, a pro forma congratulations for the job he landed afterward with First Liberty, a religious liberty legal firm where he works today.
Buzbee is sowing doubt like a farmer sowing seed. Where are Mateer’s notes from his time at the AG’s office? Why aren’t they handwritten like his prior notes? Mateer replied he’d switched to an electronic system. Well, where are those notes, Buzbee pressed, suggesting that maybe something nefarious had happened. Mateer said they’re the property of the AG’s office, and he doesn’t know what happened to them. Then Buzbee circled back to note that Mateer always erased his texts daily, leaving the suggestion that maybe he did the same thing here. Objection, anyone?
What We Learned From Rusty Hardin’s Examination of Jeff Mateer
Mimi Swartz, 11:50 a.m.
And so ends the direct examination of Jeff Mateer, former first assistant attorney general. I would say Rusty Hardin, after a rough start yesterday—he often got too in the weeds—scored some points by finally getting Mateer to slow down and inject some juice into his testimony. In particular, we got to the affair, which Mateer said started in 2018 and led to a joint appearance from Mr. and Mrs. Paxton before the campaign staff and the AG higher-ups. Paxton, he said, “repented,” which, Mateer added, was the Christian way.
But Paxton allegedly didn’t repent, and when Mateer heard from others that the affair was still ongoing, he was crushed. He couldn’t understand why his boss would jeopardize “all the great work we were doing.”
Once Mateer heard the affair was reportedly ongoing, and once his colleagues started comparing notes on the AG’s behavior, and once Paxton seemed, to him, well, unrepentant, Mateer realized his days were numbered. He headed for the door and the FBI. “I felt like we had been trying to protect Mr. Paxton on several occasions,” he said. “I had gone to him. He was my boss, we had become friends, I cared for him, I cared for Senator [Angela] Paxton, and I wanted him to come clean. My job as first assistant is to protect the attorney general and I obviously failed at that. . . . I couldn’t protect him because he didn’t want to be protected.”
On another note: watch Buzbee’s objections. In addition to trying to prevent the admission of certain evidence, he’s often interrupting to throw Hardin off.
More on That Attorney-Client Privilege Debate
Christopher Hooks, 10:57 a.m.
This morning started with more of everyone’s favorite part of courtroom dramas: arguments about the admission of evidence. One broke out yesterday, and caused the Senate to adjourn prematurely, regarding a document that the prosecution believed had been cleared into evidence but was objected to by Ken Paxton’s team. Overnight, or this morning, an agreement was reached on that and other pieces of evidence to be cleared for use in the trial. So far, so good.
The next development was more consequential. Paxton attorney Tony Buzbee had levied two main complaints about the body of evidence produced by the House relating to claims by whistleblowers that Paxton used his great powers as AG to help a crony who was in legal trouble. The first is that much of it constitutes hearsay—that is, folks talking about what Paxton is reported to have said even they have no direct knowledge. That’s understandable.
The second, a bolder claim, is that much of the communications are covered by attorney-client privilege. That privilege, with which viewers of TV crime dramas will be familiar, makes communications between a defendant and his or her lawyer when the lawyer is providing legal advice inadmissible as evidence. Buzbee’s contention has been that the privilege extends to communication between Paxton and employees of the attorney general’s office—who are not Paxton’s personal lawyers but employees of the state of Texas who happen to report to him. This one always seemed like more of a stretch.
Today, Buzbee rose to say that, out of a spirit of magnanimity and openness and a desire to save the valuable time of senators, and because Paxton “has nothing to hide,” his team would be no longer making objections about attorney-client privilege.
Importantly, this newfound generosity came before Dan Patrick, as judge, offered a definitive ruling about whether these documents actually were protected. (We can presume it wasn’t looking likely to go Paxton’s way.) This way, Buzbee could leave the lingering implication that the documents were in the wrong and the whistleblowers were violating Paxton’s legal rights without actually establishing it. House lawyer Rusty Hardin sought to have Buzbee put on the record that the documents were not protected; Buzbee would not. They were only doing this to be nice.
With a Procedural Issue Decided, We’re Back Off to the Races
Alexandra Samuels, 10:12 a.m.
After insisting that each day would begin on time, Dan Patrick’s Senate didn’t begin day two of Paxton’s impeachment trial until about 9:45 this morning—well after 9 a.m., when proceedings were supposed to begin. Part of the reason the Senate adjourned early on Tuesday was so that the two sides could privately debate—and Patrick could decide as judge—what evidence was allowed to be presented in court. Now it appears that the two sides have come to an agreement. One of Paxton’s lawyers, Tony Buzbee, just told Patrick that he’s withdrawing the objection he raised yesterday, when, citing attorney-client privilege, he contested the admissibility of the AG office’s internal emails as evidence. Buzbee said he was withdrawing the objection “to save time” and because his client “has nothing to hide.” For those keeping track, Paxton is nowhere to be found on the Senate floor.
With that cleared we’re off to the races!
Highlights From Day One
Michael Hardy, 8:53 a.m.
If you missed the first day of the trial, here’s a refresher on what transpired:
- Ken Paxton in the Flesh. The “elected attorney general,” as Paxton’s lawyers repeatedly referred to him, obeyed Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s order to appear in person on the first day of the trial. Wearing a blue suit and an orange tie, surrounded by his defense team, Paxton didn’t say much—he allowed his attorney Tony Buzbee to enter pleas of not guilty on his behalf—but he was the cynosure of all eyes. At least until the lunch break, from which Paxton did not return. When prosecutors inquired about his whereabouts, Patrick told them that Paxton was excused for the remainder of the day. It remains unclear how much of the rest of the trial, if any, Paxton will attend.
- Paxton Gets His Trial. The Senate decisively rejected each of the defense’s pretrial motions, ensuring that Paxton will indeed have to stand trial on the sixteen articles of impeachment. So much for rumors that the Republican-controlled chamber would toss out the charges and immediately return Paxton to office.
- Paxton Will Not Have to Take the Stand: When outlining the rules for the proceeding, Patrick clarified that while this is not a criminal trial, the attorney general cannot be compelled to take the stand.
- Home Improvement With Ken Paxton. For his defense team, Paxton has hired two flamboyant Houston trial attorneys, Tony Buzbee and Dan Cogdell. In his opening statement, Buzbee vociferously denied the allegation that Paxton accepted a kitchen remodel from Austin developer Nate Paul in exchange for political favors. In fact, the well-tanned trial lawyer maintained, Paxton and his wife paid in full for the remodel, even shopping for materials at Home Depot. “Despite what you hear about granite, their countertops are old, ratty tile,” said Buzbee.
- Cherchez la Femme. The name of Paxton’s alleged mistress, Laura Olson, who is central to many of the articles of impeachment and is a potential witness in the trial, was first mentioned by Buzbee, who maintained in his opening statement that Paxton pulled no strings to get Olson a job with Nate Paul. “Laura Olson applied for a job,” Buzbee said. “Laura Olson got a job.”
- The Call of Duty. After Buzbee’s florid stemwinder of an opening statement, Cogdell began his in a personal key, by declaring that his wife, who was in poor health, had insisted that Cogdell leave her sickbed to defend democracy. “This is bigger than Ken Paxton,” he told the Senate, apologizing to his client. Sadly, Paxton was not in the room to hear this touching hymn to principle.
- The First Witness. Prosecuting attorney Rusty Hardin called as his first witness Jeff Mateer, a former first assistant attorney general of Texas and one of the eight whistleblowers who accused Paxton of accepting a bribe from Nate Paul (although not one of the four who later sued him). Hardin wasted no time establishing Mateer’s right-wing bona fides. When he asked Mateer how conservative he was on a scale of one to ten, Mateer answered “ten or eleven.” Was he a Republican in Name Only or a member of the deep state? “Absolutely not.”
- Buzbee v. Hardin. The defense team objected to nearly every piece of evidence proffered by the prosecution, claiming that many of them—including internal emails from the attorney general’s office—were subject to attorney-client privilege. At one point, Buzbee even objected to one of his own exhibits. When Hardin pointed this out, Buzbee, apparently caught off guard, tried to argue that he had never intended to use the exhibit at trial. After nearly ten minutes of arguments, Patrick, acting as the presiding judge, said he needed time to make a decision and adjourned the trial for the day.
A few other things that caught our attention:
- The “Sam Houston Bible.” Patrick individually swore in each Texas senator (with the exception of Angela Paxton, Ken’s wife, who is barred from voting) with what he called the Sam Houston Bible. The bible is certainly old—its title page says it was printed in 1816, and it’s been used to inaugurate Texas governors and other elected officials for more than 150 years—but there is no evidence that it ever belonged to the first president of the Republic of Texas. That wasn’t the last historical stretcher of the day—House impeachment manager Andrew Murr began his opening statement with a spurious quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln.
- The Scarlet Senator. Although she can’t vote in the trial, Angela Paxton certainly made her appearance felt in a bright red pantsuit, unwittingly evoking the plight of another woman wronged by a hypocritical husband. At one point, she blew a kiss to someone in the gallery–presumably not the journalists who sat there.
- The Revenge of Coke Stevenson? In his opening statement, Murr invoked his grandfather, Texas governor Coke Stevenson, who famously lost the 1948 U.S. Senate race to Lyndon Baines Johnson by 87 votes—thanks to a tranche of Johnson votes conveniently discovered six days after polls closed. “I grew up in rural Texas, in a family deeply affected by political corruption,” Murr told the Senate.
Welcome Back, Y’all
Ben Rowen, 8:45 a.m.
Good morning and welcome to day two of the Ken Paxton impeachment trial! Yesterday many of us were up at the crack of dawn to try to beat the lines into the Capitol; it turned out there were many general admission seats available in the gallery and that the proceeding, despite its uncertain outcome, was not as hot a ticket as UT–Rice. There was plenty of excitement in the Senate chamber, however, and there figures to be more today. We’re back to bring you coverage from day two, which starts back up in fifteen minutes.