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Paxton impeachment trial: From no-shows to flubs, everything that happened -- and didn't -- in a hectic day of court

The Ken Paxton impeachment trial saw a flurry of activity Wednesday, but in the end, not much came of it.

AUSTIN, Texas — An alleged mistress' testimony that didn't happen, an accidental resting of a case and a motion to throw out all of the articles of impeachment against Ken Paxton.

Wednesday's trial proceedings against the suspended attorney general was jam-packed with action. 

But in the end, not much of it led anywhere.

Paxton's alleged mistress, Laura Olson, was called to the stand -- but ultimately did not testify. 

Veteran lawyer Rusty Hardin, who is prosecuting Paxton for the Texas House, rested the prosecution's case -- only to say he did so by mistake. 

Paxton's top lawyer, Tony Buzbee, filed a motion to have all of the articles of impeachment thrown out -- only to withdraw his motion about an hour later.

After a flurry of activity, the trial will resume at 9 a.m. with Paxton's legal team calling their first witness to the stand.

Here are the highlights of how Day 7 of the trial unfolded:

Motion for direct verdict withdrawn

After announcing a motion for a direct verdict, Paxton's legal team decided to withdraw the motion shortly before 6:30 p.m.

No explanation was given when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced the withdrawal.

Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee earlier Wednesday evening announced they were filing the motion for a direct verdict, which would have allowed the senators to vote on whether to throw out all articles of impeachment.

Instead, Paxton's team withdrew the motion and decided to call their first witness to the stand.

But another sidebar discussion with Patrick -- the nature of which remained unclear -- led to Patrick adjourning court for the night shortly before 6:40 p.m.

Court will resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.

An update from Paxton

After the first morning of the trial, Ken Paxton hasn't been present for the proceedings. And on Wednesday evening, we got an update from the suspended attorney general.

Paxton posted on X that he's heading to Maine next week to sit down with Tucker Carlson to "discuss the last two weeks in Texas politics."

"It should be interesting!" Paxton posted.

Carlson, the former Fox News talks how host, has been hosting a new interview show on X. 

Buzbee files motion for directed verdict

Top Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee filed a motion for a directed verdict on each of the impeachment articles, meaning senators will have a chance to vote on whether or not to throw out all of the impeachment articles.

According to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the rules of the trial allow for a motion for a direct verdict as a challenge to the sufficiency of evidence in the case. In order for the motion to pass, a majority of the senators must support it. In this case, that number is 16.

After Buzbee announced the motion, Patrick allowed the court to take a break. It remained unclear if the senators were going to vote on the motion Wednesday night.

Hardin rests prosecution's case too early, he says 

In what unfolded as an odd moment in court, Rusty Hardin, an attorney prosecuting Paxton for the Texas House, rested the prosecution's case shortly before 5:30 p.m.

Except he did so one step too early, before Paxton's attorneys could have another chance at cross-examination.

Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee spoke up about it, but said he would just recall the witness, Blake Brickman, instead of do cross-examination.

Hardin then explained that he rested the prosecution's case too early by mistake. But Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick decided to move on and allow Buzbee to recall the witness as part of the defense's case.

Alleged Paxton mistress 'deemed unavailable' to testify

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick shortly before 5 p.m. said Laura Olson, the alleged mistress of Ken Paxton, has been "deemed unavailable" to testify, despite being called to testify in the trial. It was unclear if that meant for Wednesday, or for the rest of the trial, though prosecutors were running out of their allowed time to question witnesses.

She was initially called Wednesday morning, but Patrick said a 24-hour notice rule prevented her from testifying until at least 3:53 p.m. Wednesday. After breaking court at 3:45 p.m., the two sides reconvened around 4:50 p.m., and Patrick announced that Olson was called upon to testify but was "deemed unavailable," a decision that was made by both legal teams, Patrick said.

WFAA reporter Jason Wheeler saw Olson heading for a first-floor exit at the Capitol, shortly before Patrick made his announcement. When asked if she was expected to testify, a woman who was ushering Olson away said they had something they needed to go and that Olson was not going to testify.

Buzbee: Photos show Paxtons didn't renovate kitchen

Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee after lunch brought forward two photos into evidence, while questioning Paxton's former assistant, Drew Wicker.

Wicker earlier in the day had testified that he had concerns when overhearing a contractor at Paxton's home saying he would have to "check with Nate" regarding pricing and renovations in Paxton's kitchen. The "Nate" in question was an apparent reference to Nate Paul, the Austin real estate developer at the center of bribery accusations against Paxton.

The photos Buzbee displayed in the trial were before-and-after photos of Paxton's kitchen. The "before" photo was in 2020 and the "after" was from this August, three years later. The pictures show what appeared to be the same kitchen countertop and cabinetry, not a renovated version, Wicker testified while looking at the photos.

The photos led to another fiery exchange between Buzbee and prosecutors. Erin Epley, who is prosecuting Paxton for the Texas House, argued that the photos should not have been entered into evidence because the metadata on the photos -- the data regarding the time and date the photos were taken -- were not entered into evidence.

Buzbee fired back.

"This lawyer (Epley) is somehow saying we doctored this picture?" Buzbee told Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Patrick ultimately sided with Buzbee and allowed the photos into evidence.

He asked Wicker if the cabinets and countertops in the two photos were different in any way. They weren't, Wicker said.

Frequent objections before lunch

We've seen plenty of legal sparring between the two teams of lawyers in the impeachment trial, and Wednesday was no different.

Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee frequently objected to attorney Erin Epley's line of questioning of Drew Wicker, the former personal assistant of Paxton. And Epley countered with the same frequent objections when Buzbee began questioning Wicker.

At one point, shortly before noon, the two sides hit another impasse over evidence that was to be included in the trial. So Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is presiding over the trial, called the lawyers to his podium and they began hashing it out. 

Instead of returning to testimony, Patrick decided to start lunch early. Court will resume at 1 p.m.

It was unclear what the exact dispute over evidence or questioning was in question when they went to lunch. But for the prosecution, which entered the day with around five hours of questioning remaining, the arguments and conferences with Patrick likely bought them more time for when Paxton's alleged mistress, Laura Olson, would be eligible to begin testifying at 3:53 p.m.

Olson was called to the stand Wednesday morning, but Patrick pointed out that Olson had to be given a 24-hour notice before having to testify. She was notified at 3:53 p.m. Tuesday, meaning she doesn't have to testify until 3:53 p.m. Wednesday.

Watch our analysis of the morning testimony:

Motion filed to prevent Paxton from serving again, if he's convicted

Prosecutors on Wednesday filed a motion that would automatically prevent Paxton from serving in state office again, if he's convicted by the Senate at the end of the trial.

Without the motion, a second vote after a conviction would have to be held to prevent Paxton from serving again.

The Senators, who are serving as jurors in the trial, will vote on the motion Thursday morning.

Paxton's former personal assistant testifies about concerns over Paul being involved in kitchen renovation

Paxton's former personal assistant, Drew Wicker, testified that he had concerns over Nate Paul's potential involvement with Paxton's home renovations in 2020.

But Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee, on cross-examination, immediately moved to clarify Wicker's testimony.

"You're not accusing him of bribery, are you?" Buzbee asked Wicker.

"I am not," Wicker said. "I'm not accusing anybody of anything."

Wicker on direct examination from the prosecution said he was with Paxton and a contractor at Paxton's under-renovation home when the contractor said the total for the kitchen renovation would be $20,000.

Paxton said he wanted to move forward with the project, Wicker testified, and then the contractor said he needed to "check with Nate," meaning Nate Paul, the Austin real estate developer at the center of the bribery allegations against Paxton.

Wicker had concerns over the contractor saying he'd check with Paul, he said. So he went to two of Paxton's top staffers, Mark Rylander and Blake Brickman.

Wicker said he then talked with Paxton about his concerns about an "inappropriate relationship" between Paxton and Paul.

Wicker told Paxton that he walked away from the meeting with Paxton and the contractor with a "certain impression" about what might have been happening. Wicker said Paxton thanked him for raising the concerns but assured him there was nothing to be worried about.

Wicker said he still felt "uneasy" but did not speak to Paxton about the matter again.

Erin Epley, the prosecuting attorney who was questioning Wicker, said the contractor involved with Paxton's renovations was subpoenaed to testify but did not respond.

Prosecution calls Paxton's alleged mistress, but rule prevents her from testifying yet

The attorneys prosecuting Ken Paxton sent a shockwave through the Texas Capitol on Wednesday morning by calling Laura Olson, Paxton's alleged mistress, to the witness stand. But before Olson could take her seat and be sworn in, both sides had to confer with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who then announced that Olson could not yet testify due to a 24-hour notice rule for witnesses.

The rules of the trial call for witnesses to be given at least a 24-hour notice before they have to testify. Patrick said Olson was given notice Tuesday afternoon at 3:53 p.m., meaning she wouldn't be allowed to testify until that time Wednesday afternoon.

So instead of Olson, the prosecution called Ray Chester, the lawyer for the Mitte Foundation that had a dispute with Nate Paul.

We'll keep you updated on if and when Olson does indeed take the stand.

Read more about why Olson didn't testify here.

A 'Breaking Bad' tie to the trial

This is mostly just a side note, but one of the witnesses Wednesday morning highlighted a random connection to the trial: RJ Mitte, one of the stars of the television show "Breaking Bad," is the head of the Mitte Foundation, which is the charity Nate Paul had a dispute with resulting in a lawsuit.

The foundation in 2020 sued Paul for fraud, according to the Texas Tribune, and Paul had tried to get the attorney general's office to intervene in the lawsuit.

On Wednesday morning, Ray Chester, an attorney for the foundation, testified about their involvement in the case.

How much time is left?

At the start of Wednesday's proceedings, the House managers had 5 hours and 17 minutes left on the clock to question witnesses while Paxton's side still had 9 hours and 57 minutes.

Day 6 recap

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.

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