The sixth day of proceedings in Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial began with testimony from Houston lawyer Brandon Cammack, who says he was hired by the Office of the Attorney General to investigate a complaint relating to the FBI's search on the home and business of Austin real estate investor Nate Paul.
In May, Mr. Paxton was impeached by the Republican-led House in a vote of 123-21. He is facing 16 of 20 articles of impeachment on allegations of abuse of power and bribery. Four of the articles were held in abeyance.
Thirty of the 31 state senators will decide whether the suspended attorney general will return to his office. Sen. Angela Paxton is required to attend the trial but has been barred from voting in her husband's impeachment trial.
The House impeachment managers need 21 votes to remove him from office.
AG Hired Outside LawyerMr. Cammack, a 37-year-old Houston lawyer, said that Mr. Paxton first reached out to him on Aug. 22, 2020. He said he did not answer the "unknown" call from the attorney general, but the next day, Michael Wynne, the lawyer for Nate Paul, contacted him and told him that Mr. Paxton was trying to reach him.
Mr. Cammack told jurors he knew of Mr. Wynne through the Houston Rotary Club. Mr. Wynne had recommended him to Mr. Paxton, he said during questioning by prosecutor Rusty Hardin. He said he met with Mr. Wynne and Mr. Paul before meeting with Mr. Paxton.
"Mr. Paul showed you a pretty convincing presentation utilizing a computer, diving into the metadata, which at least convinced you that this probably happened or this might have happened, right?" asked defense lawyer Dan Cogdell.
"I was convinced there could be something there," Mr. Cammack responded. "I didn't make a judgment either way, but it was a persuasive presentation."
Four days later, Mr. Cammack said he met with Mr. Paxton to discuss the possibility of conducting the investigation, which Mr. Paxton's team was refusing to work on, according to his testimony.
Mr. Cammack said that during his meeting, Mr. Paxton told him, "I just want to know the truth, and if something happened, that would be an injustice."
Days later, former staffer Ryan Vassar, who testified earlier in the trial, reached out to Mr. Cammack about a contract with the attorney general's office to conduct the investigation.
He said they had agreed on an hourly rate of $300, and he received the contract from Mr. Vassar, which he signed and returned.
Mr. Cammack said he believed he had been hired and began working on the investigation into whether the federal warrant relating to the search of Mr. Paul's home and business had been altered.
"I never got any pushback until I got a cease and desist letter," Mr. Cammack testified. "Again, [I] never got any pushback from anyone at the attorney general's office or the Travis County District Attorney's Office or anything until I got a cease and desist letter."
Days later, Mr. Cammack met at a coffee shop with Mr. Paxton and his new first assistant, Brent Webster, who told him his contract was "not any good" and that he would have to "eat" his $14,000 fee.
"It was offensive," Mr. Cammack said.
Legality of the InvestigationOver the course of the trial, prosecutors have tried to convince the jurors that it would be unlawful to investigate a federal agent.
However, the defense has argued that challenging the legality of a search warrant is the normal course of being a prosecutor.
"Well, there was an investigation into potential violations of the Texas Penal Code, which is what I'm familiar with, so it would be in my wheelhouse," Mr. Cammack said.
Mr. Cogdell asked Mr. Cammack if there was anything "improper" about "investigating the validity of a search warrant simply because it is signed off by a federal magistrate."
More From Monday Afternoon’s TestimonyHouse impeachment managers called their eighth witness, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore (D), who said her office looked into Mr. Paul’s complaints.
Ms. Moore described Mr. Paul’s allegations as “baseless” and “not worthy of investigation,” but she forwarded the information to Mr. Paxton’s former top law enforcement officer, David Maxwell, due to “Mr. Paxton’s personal interest” in the allegations.
She told the jury she believed Mr. Maxwell would “view this in the same way.” Mr. Maxwell gave his testimony on Sept. 8.
House lawyer Rusty Hardin asked Ms. Moore about the claims that she was responsible for hiring Mr. Cammack. She said that information was not true and that she “couldn’t pick him out of a lineup.”
During cross-examination, Ms. Moore admitted to defense attorney Tony Buzbee that “multiple people” in her office helped Mr. Cammack in getting the information he needed to issue grand jury subpoenas.
Gregg Cox, former director of the Travis County DA’s special prosecutions division, testified ahead of Ms. Moore.
Mr. Cox said he had conducted a preliminary investigation in October 2020 and that he found Mr. Paxton may have “possible” criminal violations, including abuse of power, bribery, and accepting gifts as a public servant.
He said he told Ms. Moore about the “possible” crimes. No charges have been brought against Mr. Paxton by the Travis County DA.
Earlier in the afternoon, House impeachment managers called on Katherine “Missy” Cary, Mr. Paxton’s former chief of staff, who told jurors that the attorney general’s extramarital affair had impacted staff morale.
In September 2018, she said Mr. Paxton, along with his wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, met with his top staff. He admitted his affair, apologized, and said that the affair had ended.
“My heart broke for her,” she said, referring to Mr. Paxton’s wife, who looked on during testimony. Mrs. Paxton is required to attend the trial but is barred from voting.
During the summer of 2019, Mr. Paxton said he was still seeing the woman, who has been identified as Laura Olson, Ms. Cary testified.
Ms. Cary said the affair left the staff feeling “uncomfortable” when Mrs. Paxton would call the office looking for her husband.
“I told him it wasn’t my business who he was sleeping with, but when it boiled over into the office, it became my business,” said Ms. Cary, who had worked at the attorney general’s office for more than two decades.
She said Mr. Paxton was “red in the face” before he stormed off.
The trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. on Sept. 13.