Updated 3:20 p.m. Sept. 8

The House impeachment team called its fourth witness, David Maxwell, after a lunch break Sept. 8. Maxwell is a former Texas Ranger and served as director of law enforcement for the attorney general’s office.

During his time working under Paxton, Maxwell interviewed Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor and campaign donor, three times about a federal investigation into him.

Maxwell testified Paul laid out “conspiracy theories” that during a search of Paul’s home, federal authorities did not find what they were looking for and subsequently altered the search warrants. Paul demanded the attorney general’s office investigate the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI and other agencies.

“It was ludicrous,” Maxwell said. “The allegations [were] without merit, no probable cause—not even reasonable that a crime had been committed.”

Maxwell said he expressed his concerns to Paxton, who repeatedly sided with Paul.

“[I was] concerned that we would be interfering with a federal investigation; we could be charged with obstruction of justice,” Maxwell told the jury.

Maxwell was one of the seven whistleblowers who reported Paxton to the FBI on Sept. 30, 2020. He testified he was placed on investigative leave two days later and fired on Nov. 2.

Maxwell and three other former staffers later sued Paxton for retaliation.

“At the time, I was 71 years old and had risen to the top level of law enforcement,” Maxwell said. “When he fired me and then berated me in the news, he ended my career.”

A livestream of the trial is available here.
Updated 1:45 p.m. Sept. 8

In a clarification of his previous testimony, Ryan Vassar told the jury the whistleblowers’ experiences served as evidence when they reported Paxton to the FBI.

Vassar said Sept. 7 that they did not bring any evidence to authorities.

“My opinion was that our experiences were evidence,” Vassar clarified. “We did not conduct our own investigation to provide documentary evidence of what we had come to learn.”

Vassar said he expected the FBI would investigate Paxton’s alleged misconduct.
The overview

The fourth day of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial began with a close examination of text messages sent by former agency employees after they reported Paxton to federal authorities.

Defense attorney Michael Little grilled Ryan Vassar, the former deputy attorney general for legal counsel, about messages he sent in October 2020. Vassar is one of four whistleblowers who sued Paxton on the grounds that they were fired for reporting him.

Paxton faces 16 impeachment charges, including bribery, conspiracy, misuse of public funds, retaliation against former employees and more. The third-term Republican allegedly abused his office and used agency resources to help Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor and campaign donor.

Paxton pleaded not guilty to all the charges Sept. 5. He has not been present at the trial since then.

The context

Vassar choked up on the stand during questioning Sept. 7 when asked about his loyalty to his former boss, who previously framed the seven whistleblowers as “rogue employees.”

“It was hurtful,” Vassar said. “The statement of being rogue is contrary to the years that I dedicated my life to the state.”

During cross-examination, Little asked Vassar whether he and the other whistleblowers had concrete evidence that Paxton broke the law when they went to the FBI.

“We had no evidence that we could point to, but we had reasonable conclusions that we could draw,” Vassar said, citing the former staffers’ “good-faith belief” of criminal activity.

Vassar said the whistleblowers feared they would be “labeled as co-conspirators” if they did not report their boss.

“I went to the FBI because I believed, based on my experience over the previous nine months, that the attorney general had abandoned his obligation to work on behalf of the interests of the people of Texas to serve the interests of one person: Nate Paul,” former Deputy First Assistant Ryan Bangert said Sept. 7.

What’s happening?

Little questioned Vassar about a series of texts sent between him and the other whistleblowers Oct. 25-26, 2020. The former deputies reported Paxton to the FBI on Sept. 30, 2020.

In the messages, Vassar discussed the intelligence of new agency lawyers.

“They might need some activities to keep the kids entertained,” Vassar wrote with a link to a coloring book.

“You are insulting your colleagues in this group chat, true?” Little asked the witness.

Vassar said the texts were “lighthearted” jokes among friends and told the jury he did not have professional experience with the new employees.

“It was not a public [statement] to millions of people. It was a conversation among friends,” Vassar said, contrasting his texts to Paxton’s comments about the whistleblowers. “But I wouldn't say that any of us are concerned that it's being discussed here today.”

Around 9:30 a.m., Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, approached the front of the Senate chamber, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was presiding over the trial. He whispered something to Patrick before rushing out of the chamber. Patrick called a 30-minute break from the proceedings.

Miles returned to the chamber after the break, pursuant to the rules that all senators must be present.