SAN ANTONIO — Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick swore in seven witnesses Tuesday in the ongoing impeachment trial of Ken Paxton, but only one witness would be on the stand for most of the day.
That was First Assistant Attorney Jeff Mateer, one of the whistleblowers who brought concerns about Paxton, the state's suspended and embattled attorney general, to the FBI and Department of Justice.
Mateer said Paxton made several decisions related to donor Nate Paul that alarmed him.
In one case, he testified, Paxton was going to appear in a District Court in Travis County for a lawsuit that was related to Paul. Mateer said he had never heard of an attorney general making a personal appearance to argue a motion in a district court. The case was related to Paul's lawsuit with the Mitte Foundation, a nonprofit, that was unfolding in July of 2020.
"I couldn't ever remember an attorney general going into a district court to argue anything. Paxton has some wonderful qualities, but he is not a litigator, and to think that he would go into court arguing a motion just made absolutely no sense, especially on (that) matter. This wasn't the Google case. This was Travis County District Court."
Mateer said he organized a meeting in which he and other attorneys advised Paxton to not go. Mateer said the only reason Paxton would have gone was at the urging of Paul, because of a lawsuit related to a charity.
He said he was starting to become concerned with Paxton's relationship to Paul.
"I urged him to not have any more dealings with Nate Paul and to let the lawyers in the office of the attorney general handle these matters as they saw fit," Mateer said. "We have 800 attorneys."
Mateer told the court the attorney general agreed, but did not keep to that agreement.
Mateer said in August, he learned that the attorney generla's office had issued an opinion on foreclosure sales. Mateer said Paxton's policy was to open Texas back up during the COVID pandemic, but the opinion shut down foreclosure sales which contradicted the normal position of the Office of the Attorney General.
Mateer later formed the opinion that the decision was made in an effort to assist Paul.
Mateer further testified that in August of 2020, Paxton wanted his team to hire an attorney named Brandon Cammack. Mateer said he and other attorneys believed Cammack was too inexperienced, as he was a "five-year" attorney with no prosecuting experience.
Then, in September, Mateer said, attorneys in the office were following up on a request from Paul to investigate if federal or state law enforcement had acted improperly after those agencies investigated him.
Mateer said Paxton still wanted to hire Cammack to conduct an investigation into allegations that Paul was making on federal and state law enforcement. Mateer said the current attorneys believed they could do the job and didn't need Cammack.
Mateer said he told Paxton several times that he did not support hiring Cammack. After Paul reemerged on their radar repeatedly, Mateer said he eventually brought up his concerns about Paul with Paxton directly.
"I again asked him, and this wasn't the first time: 'Ken, why are we involved in this?' It just didn't make sense to me, " Mateer said. "This was the end of September. By this time, we knew a lot more about Nate Paul. We learned more about who he was and what was being alleged against him. He was not a good guy and we had a lot of concerns about that. We know about the attorney general wanting to appear in court on behalf of Nate Paul. By that time we know (Paxton) he had been pressuring other deputies and other line lawyers to do more on behalf of Nate Paul."
Later in October, Mateer and other attorneys in the office of the attorney general found out Cammack did end up investigating an issue for Paul and claimed to be working for Paxton's team, despite the fact that Mateer believes he was never hired by their office according to procedure.
Mateer and other attorneys in the office decided to reach out to the FBI and Department of Justice regarding those concerns.
Defense attorney Tony Buzbee later asked Mateer if he could have ironed out the issues by talking to Paxton instead of contacting the FBI.
"Is it possible, Mr. Mateer, that you jumped to a lot of conclusions really fast?" Buzbee asked. "That you could have could have put all this to bed of you talked to your boss?"
Mateer insisted that he did talk to Paxton multiple times about his concerns.
"Once you had heard all these foolish concerns, some of which you might have believed, your job was to go to the boss isn't that right?" Buzbee said.
"I tried to go to the boss," Mateer responded.
"Is it because you wanted to be the attorney general. Is that what was going on? Buzbee asked.
"Anyone who knows me, Mr. Buzbee, knows that is not one of my ambitions," Mateer responded. "I had my dream job. I came here (to the OAG) to help Ken Paxton."