Breaking News
More () »

An 'offensive' Starbucks firing and $14K allegedly still owed: Paxton impeachment trial recap of Day 6

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is the presiding officer over the trial as the head of the Texas Senate, has said he expects testimony to wrap up sometime this week.

AUSTIN, Texas — The lawyer who said he was hired as a special prosecutor by Ken Paxton to investigate federal authorities on behalf of Nate Paul testified that he was ultimately fired by Paxton and not paid $14,000 he was owed.

The lawyer, Brandon Cammack, said Paxton's top staffer, who had replaced the previous top staffer who resigned over concerns of Paxton's conduct, told him that he would have to "eat" the $14,000.

Cammack's firing happened during an October 2020 meeting, after Cammack spent several weeks investigating claims made by Paul, who was under investigation by federal authorities.

Cammack's testimony made up the bulk of testimony Tuesday; he took the stand shortly after 10:15 a.m. and testified until around 3 p.m.

Below are the key moments from Tuesday's testimony:

Paxton's team didn't pay special prosecutor $14K, fired him at a Starbucks, he says 

Brandon Cammack, the special prosecutor allegedly hired by Ken Paxton to investigate claims made by Nate Paul, said Paxton and his team fired him at an Austin Starbucks and refused to pay him a $14,000 invoice.

And when the meeting was over, Cammack said, Paxton and the staffers got in their car and apparently tried to leave without giving Cammack a ride back to his car.

Cammack's testimony capped the prosecution's direct questioning of him Tuesday afternoon, as lawyer Rusty Hardin worked through how Cammack came to be involved with Paxton and how he was ultimately cut loose from his contract.

Cammack had testified that in September 2020 he began investigating claims that Nate Paul made against federal authorities investigating him.

Cammack testified that during his several weeks on the investigation, Paul's attorney, Michael Wynne, regularly provided him with information about the investigation, including a memo that outlined Paul's complaint. Cammack said he planned to use the memo as the basis for an investigative report that he would then give to the attorney general's office.

But as Cammack testified, he had limited contact with anyone in the attorney general's office, except for Paxton, who directly supervised him, Cammack said. The problem, Cammack said, is that he was not given a government email by the attorney general's office or any other credentials that would have helped him issue subpoenas.

At the same time, Cammack said, he hadn't been paid and did not have a contract from the attorney general's office.

On Sept. 28, the day before he was set to serve subpoenas in his investigation, Paul's attorney asked him to come to a meeting at Paul's office in Austin. When Cammack arrived, his contract was there -- and signed by Paxton, Cammack said.

Cammack served the subpoenas that week, and then went back to Houston.

Shortly afterward, Cammack then received a cease-and-desist letter from Mark Penley, the deputy attorney general for criminal justice under Paxton. Around the same time, U.S. Marshals arrived at Cammack's office.

Cammack said he immediately called Paxton several times, "blowing his phone up until he answered it." Paxton answered after 5-6 attempts and told Cammack that he shouldn't talk to the Marshals without an attorney, Cammack said.

Cammack met with the Marshals and told him he couldn't speak to them.

Cammack then received another cease-and-desist from Paxton's office, this time from Jeff Mateer, the first assistant attorney general under Paxton.

A short time after that, Cammack said he was summoned to Austin by Paul's attorney, Michael Wynne, for a meeting at Paul's house. Cammack drove to Austin. When he arrived at Paul's house, Paul was there, along with Wynne and Paxton.

Paxton was on the phone for most of the hour-long meeting, Cammack said, but on his way out, he told Cammack that Penley didn't have the authority to tell him to stop working on his investigation.

Cammack then drove back home to Houston, frustrated over having to drive three hours each way for a one-hour meeting.

Cammack got another request shortly after that to meet with Paxton and his staff in Austin. Cammack recalled this was in early October. 

Cammack said he arrived at the attorney general's office and Paxton was there with Brent Webster, who had just replaced Mateer as the first assistant attorney general.

Paxton and his team decided to take the meeting to a nearby Starbucks, a move that Cammack said he viewed as "uncomfortable" and "unprofessional."

At the Starbucks, "Webster did all the talking," Cammack said.

Webster told him his contract for the Paul investigation wasn't good anymore and to stop working, Cammack said.

Cammack said he then asked about the $14,000 invoice the attorney general's office owed him. Cammack testified that Webster told him he'd have to eat the invoice, meaning he wouldn't get paid. 

Cammack said Webster told him that he's had to eat a $40,000 invoice before. Cammack found the comment "offensive to me."

The meeting then ended, and Paxton and his team "tried to get in the car and drive off" without giving Cammack a ride back to where he parked.

At that point in his testimony, Rusty Hardin, the lawyer for the prosecution, passed the witness.

Key figure Brandon Cammack takes the stand

Rusty Hardin, the attorney prosecuting Ken Paxton for the Texas House, highlighted a special prosecutor's lack of experience in questioning the prosecutor, Brandon Cammack, who was hired by Ken Paxton to investigate Nate Paul's complaint about authorities investigating.

Cammack is a key figure in the alleged link between Paxton and Paul; when Paxton's top staffers refused to investigate Paul's claims, saying they had no merit, Paxton turned to Cammack, an attorney from Houston, according to testimony throughout the trial.

As Cammack testified Tuesday, he had never investigated allegations of public corruption, nor had he issued grand jury subpoenas, which he ultimately did in the investigation for Paxton. 

Cammack said he was contacted by Paxton's office in August 2020 to investigate Paul's complaint about federal authorities who were investigating him. Paul had alleged that authorities searched his home but then altered the search warrant when they didn't find what they were looking for.

Watch our analysis of Tuesday morning's testimony:

Cammack, who was unfamiliar with Paul's complaint until Paxton hired him, described his feeling of excitement of getting the chance to work with the attorney general's office.

But as he began investigating the case, he had limited contact with anyone in the office, aside from Paxton.

He stayed in contact with Paxton, contacting him through encrypted messaging and email apps, and he also described staying in close contact with Nate Paul's attorney. At one point, Cammack said, he sent Paul's attorney an email with his grand jury subpoena draft to make sure it was filled out correctly, as Cammack had never prepared one before.

Cammack said he hit a road block in his investigation by not getting a government email address or any other further credential that could have helped him in serving grand jury subpoenas.

For example, he issued a grand jury subpoena to Microsoft in an attempt to get emails of the authorities Paul was complaining about. But Microsoft responded by telling Cammack they could not respond to his subpoena without him having a governmental email address.

When Cammack asked Paxton about getting a governmental email address, he was told, "We're working on it."

Cammack ultimately received a cease-and-desist letter from Paxton's first assistant attorney general, Jeff Mateer, to stop investigating the case.

Trial delayed Tuesday morning

While the trial was set to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday, court was still not in session at 9:30 a.m. It was unclear the reason for the delay. 

Day 5 recap

Ex-chief of staff details how Paxton affair impacted AG's office 

Missy Cary, the former chief of staff under Paxton, detailed how she learned of Paxton's alleged affair and how it impacted the morale in the attorney general's office.

Cary said she first became concerned in May 2018, when she was eating lunch at an Austin restaurant and overheard a man and a woman having a conversation that Cary "perceived to be very personal."

While Cary did not say the specifics of the conversation -- Paxton's legal team objected to those details as hearsay -- Cary testified that she took a picture of the woman involved in the conversation and reported what she heard to Paxton.

When asked why she wanted to share her concerns with Paxton, Cary said it was because of the "level of personal details being shared in a public space."

Cary showed Paxton the photo, and he said the woman was his realtor, Cary testified.

Cary said she was later attending an attorneys general association conference in San Antonio and saw the woman again, the same woman she saw in the Austin restaurant earlier that year.

Cary said the woman was wearing a nametag: Laura Olson.

Cary said she then learned from Paxton's security detail and travel aides about the woman's relationship with Paxton.

More so, Cary said, she learned that Paxton's relationship with Olson was causing morale problems in the office.

Paxton's travel and security detail members were complaining about the hours they were working, the places they had to go, and they were "concerned about the general's behavior," Cary said.

Also, Paxton's staff members were fielding calls from Paxton's wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, asking where Paxton was and asking about his schedule, Cary said.

Cary ultimately had a conversation about the issue with Paxton, who confirmed he was having an affair, Cary testified.

Cary said she and Paxton discussed the political, ethical and legal risks of the affair. She also requested that she asked him to tell his wife about the affair.

The meeting ended with Paxton leaving "contemplatively," Cary said, and neither raised their voices at each other.

Later that year, in October 2018, Paxton called a meeting of his top staffers to his campaign headquarters, where he and his wife, Angela, told the group about Paxton's affair.

Cary said Paxton's wife, Angela, cried during the meeting.

"My heart broke for her," Cary said.

Cary testified that she hugged Angela Paxton at the meeting. Then the staffers left and "went back to work," Cary said, thinking Paxton's affair was over.

In 2019, Cary said Paxton met with her and said that he was "frustrated" and that he "still loved Mrs. Olson." Cary testified that Paxton then asked her to be "more accommodating" when it came to his security detail and travel aides.

Paxton's conduct was 'outrageous,' former top staffer says 

Mark Penley, the former deputy attorney general for criminal justice under Paxton, described his former boss' conduct as "outrageous" when it came to his alleged dealings with Nate Paul and push to investigate federal authorities on Paul's behalf.

Penley said this when asked by attorney Rusty Hardin, who is prosecuting Paxton for the Texas House, if he would do anything differently in how he handled the situation. Penley had told Paxton that the attorney general's office should not investigate on the behalf of Paul, who was being investigated by federal authorities.

"No sir, I'd do the same thing all over again, because it was the right thing to do, and the only thing we could do," Penley said. "Other than stand by silently and let crimes be committed. The agency was being abused, the laws were being abused, the behavior and the conduct of the attorney general of Texas was outrageous."

Paxton's lawyer then objected to Penley's testimony, and Hardin passed the witness.

More coverage of the Ken Paxton impeachment trial:

Before You Leave, Check This Out