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Paxton Impeachment: Witnesses testify but questions remain

Two more witnesses testified in day three of the Ken Paxton Impeachment trial. Other evidence remains elusive.

SAN ANTONIO — The Ken Paxton impeachment trial continued Thursday with former deputy first assistant attorney general Ryan Bangert providing testimony in the morning and former deputy attorney general Ryan Vassar taking the stand in the afternoon. 

Both shared testimony on a variety of articles of impeachment, but the cross examination of J. Mitchell Little in the afternoon showed there is still evidence missing in the case. 

Little questioned Vassar in the final two hours of the proceedings and wasted no time diving into the allegations. 

"You learned about Brandon Cammack's signed contract with the attorney general after you reported the attorney general to the FBI correct?" Little asked. 

"I think that's correct, yes," Vassar said.

The question was important because Impeachment Article V alleges Paxton hired outside attorney Brandon Cammack "to conduct and investigation into a baseless complaint." 

Previous witnesses had been unsure exactly who signed Cammack's contract and stated that Paxton did not follow the proper procedure. More importantly, other witnesses testified that Cammack was collecting information on donor Nate Paul, allegedly to benefit Paul, without the other witnesses knowing about. Vasser had indicated that he did know Cammack had a contract at some point. Previously witnesses had expressed concern that Cammack was doing this without the authority of the Attorney General's Office. 

"General Paxton confirmed to us that he had signed a contract," Vassar said. 

Whistleblowers had expressed concerns that Cammack was doing this work to benefit Nate Paul but additional evidence had not been presented at this time. 

Little also raised issues with Impeachment Article II which alleges Paxton had attorneys put together an opinion on foreclosure sales of properties during COVID 19 to benefit Paul. Witnesses had already stated that the opinion seemed to contradict the standing position of the Office of the Attorney General to open up the state for business and said it was requested in a strangely tight time frame. They also said the initial opinion prepared by attorneys said that the state should allow foreclosure sales to continue and Paxton then told them to produce an opinion stating the opposite. Still, Vassar had already told the prosecution he didn't know of evidence directly linking the opinion to a benefit to Nate Paul.  

It was an opening that Little jumped on.

"This article is not true is it?" Little asked.

 "It is true that he caused employees of his office to prepare an opinion, in an attempt to avoid the foreclosure of properties," Vassar said. 

"But you don't know if those properties belong to Nate Paul or business entities controlled by Nate Paul do you?" Little asked. 

"Nothing other than what's been reported in the media," Vassar said. 

Little also attacked Impeachment Article IV which alleges the Paxton "improperly obtained access to information in his office" in order to provide it to Nate Paul. He asked Vassar if one of the whistleblowers told the FBI that Paxton gave investigation records regarding Nate Paul to Nate Paul. 

"We alleged, based on a reasonable belief, that that activity could have occurred. But we are not investigators. That's what law enforcement was for," Vassar said. 

"You didn't know that Ken Paxton had disclosed anything to anyone when you made this report did you?" Little asked.

"No," Vassar said.  "We had no evidence that we could point to be we had reasonable conclusions that we could draw," Vassar said.

Little will likely continue his questioning Friday morning. 

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