The clock is quite literally running down on the impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Monday morning told the Texas Senate — which is serving as the jury — that the historic trial could wrap up by the end of this week.
The prosecution and the defense were each given 24 hours to present their case and cross examine witnesses.
By the close of Monday — the fifth day of the trial — attorneys for the House impeachment managers who are prosecuting the case against Paxton had around 9.5 hours left, while Paxton’s defense lawyers had a little more than 12 hours.
The prosecution used more than 40% of its time on just four witnesses called in the first week: Jeff Mateer, Ryan Bangert, Ryan Vassar and David Maxwell, who were among the top deputies in the attorney general’s office who reported their boss to the FBI.
In total, eight witnesses have been called by the prosecution. Paxton’s lawyers have yet to call their own witness, and have used their time on cross examination. But it’s appearing unlikely either side will make a significant dent in the list of nearly 150 witnesses subpoenaed, according to a report published by the Dallas Morning News.
If both sides keep their current pace, it could pose problems for the House prosecutors who have less time left than Paxton as of Tuesday morning. They could find themselves unable to cross examine the defense’s witnesses if they run out of time.
“I want to be very clear that one side or the other could have more time left that the other side could not respond to,” Patrick warned both sides Monday. “Those are the rules that both sides proposed and agreed to its up to you to strategize and manage your time properly.”
Yet while the impeachment trial has been unprecedented in many ways, the use of time limits is not unique, particularly in civil trials. Often, judges do not want to waste jurors’ time and time limits can reduce court costs.
Sam Sparks, a federal judge based in Austin, often sets time limits for civil trials in his courtroom, using a chess clock to keep track of each side.
Nonetheless, the time limits are weighing heavily on the minds of the attorneys involved in the case and are driving strategies on both sides.
As the story notes, the chief strategy of the defense is to raise a bunch of objections while prosecutors are questioning their witnesses, thus eating into their allotted time. I feel like there should be the equivalent of “stoppage time” for them to compensate, but this is Dan Patrick’s show. We’ll see how it goes.
Meanwhile, the star witness for Tuesday was Brandon Cammack.
A junior lawyer testifying at Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial said Tuesday that he kept Paxton informed through encrypted communications of every step he took in launching a criminal investigation into law enforcement officials at the behest of one of the attorney general’s wealthy donors.
That lawyer, Brandon Cammack, told the jury of state senators who could decide Paxton’s political fate within days that he consulted with the attorney general about how to proceed. Cammack also said he kept Paxton apprised as he obtained a series of grand jury subpoenas with guidance from the developer’s lawyer.
“I did everything at his supervision,” Cammack said of Paxton.
Cammack testified Tuesday that he met several times with Paxton, Paul and Paul’s lawyer about Cammack’s investigation, and regularly forwarded Paxton information Paul’s lawyer was sending him about whom to target with grand jury subpoenas. Cammack said Paxton used the encrypted email service Proton Mail for these communications and that the attorney general told him to communicate over encrypted messaging service Signal.
Cammack said he learned that Paxton had a different official email address when he saw it copied on an email from one of Paxton’s deputies ordering Cammack to stop his investigation.
In 2020, Cammack was five years out of law school and had a modest criminal defense practice in Houston. He testified that Paxton hired him at the recommendation of Paul’s lawyer, whom he said he knew socially. Cammack recalled that as he was being hired Paxton told him he would “need to have some guts” for the investigation Paxton had in mind. He said he was exited to be working for Texas’ top lawyer and impressed after the attorney general took him to watch a news conference. “It was cool,” Cammack said.
It didn’t stay cool.
Brandon Cammack, the Houston attorney that Ken Paxton hired to investigate Nate Paul’s adversaries, testified that Paul’s lawyer provided him with a list of people to subpoena and that, after he received two cease and desist letters, he was told by the Attorney General’s Office that he’d have to “eat” a $14,000 invoice for his work.
Cammack’s testimony outlined the direct role that Paul’s lawyer, Michael Wynne, played in the attempts to investigate Paul’s adversaries in September 2020. Wynne, Cammack said, insisted that he be with Cammack as he issued subpoenas for phone and other records to some of Paul’s adversaries.
At one point, Cammack said he spoke with the spouse of a deceased clerk for the court that issued the search warrants for Paul’s businesses. He said Wynne and Paul suggested that the clerk had potentially died from “foul play” — insinuating that she was the victim of the same cabal that they claimed was targeting Paul.
Cammack said he became increasingly concerned that he was being misled about why he had been hired after he was visited by U.S. marshals, and felt like he’d “gotten the rug pulled out from me.”
He was asked to drive at the last minute from Houston to Austin for a meeting at Paul’s home. Paxton was there wearing running shorts, but spent most of the time talking on the phone outside. Cammack said he received little new information about what was expected of him, why U.S. marshals had contacted him or why he hadn’t been paid yet.
Later, Cammack said he was again called from Houston to Austin for a meeting with Paxton and Brent Webster, who played a direct role in firing whistleblowers who reported Paxton to the FBI. The two took him to a Starbucks for a 15-minute meeting during which Cammack said Paxton barely spoke. He said Webster told him that his contract was “not any good,” that he would need to “eat” the $14,000 in work he’d done and that the two almost left him without giving him a ride back to his car.
“It was offensive,” he said.
Cammack also lamented Paxton’s decision to involve him in the Paul matter, saying his name was dragged through the mud, that it hurt him professionally and that the only thing he received in return were two cease and desist letters.
“I had a whole entire life before all of this,” he said.
Kind of poignant, actually, and a reminder that one should endeavor to treat one’s co-conspirators well, lest they turn state’s evidence against you. The full impeachment archives are here and the Brandon Cammack archives are here, and the Chron has its own Cammack coverage.
One more thing, from Monday:
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s former chief of staff testified Monday afternoon that she repeatedly warned him that his participation in a secret extramarital affair was harming staff morale and could be “ethically, legally and morally challenging.”
The alleged affair is central to the impeachment trial of the now-suspended attorney general, whose political fate will be decided by the state Senate as soon as this week. Paxton is accused of accepting bribes from real estate developer Nate Paul, his friend and campaign donor. Prosecutors in the case say those favors from Paul included employing the woman with whom Paxton was involved.
“I told General Paxton quite bluntly that it wasn’t my business who he was sleeping with,” said Katherine “Missy” Cary, describing a 2019 meeting with the politician, “but that when things boiled over into the office and into the state work, that it became my business.”
Cary said she had concerns about the use of state resources to support and conceal Paxton’s affair. In response, she said, Paxton became angry, “red in the face” and at one point raised his voice loud enough for staff to hear through the closed office door. Then he stormed out of the room, she said.
Cary, the first woman to serve as chief of staff in the Office of the Attorney General, is the first witness during the impeachment trial who was not among the whistleblowers that reported Paxton to the FBI for bribery and abuse of office in 2020. They claimed Paxton abused the power of his office to help Paul thwart an ongoing federal investigation of his businesses.
Cary said Paxton’s travel aides and security detail complained to her throughout the spring and summer of 2018 that they were working strange or excessive hours because of Paxton’s affair.
At times, Paxton’s wife, Angela, would call the office to ask about her husband’s location or schedule. Staffers were uncomfortable answering, Cary said.
Cary decided to confront Paxton for the first time that summer. She said she told Paxton that the affair could “open one up to bribery, misuse of office, misuse of state time.”
In the fall of 2018, Paxton hosted a meeting at his campaign headquarters with his wife and staffers from both his office and his campaign, Cary said. There, he admitted to the affair and apologized.
Angela Paxton, who was elected to the state Senate in 2018, was crying, and Cary said her “heart broke for her.” Afterward, she said, “I thought this type of behavior was out of his life for good.”
Cary said she later learned that wasn’t the case, which led her to confront him again in the summer of 2019.
I must have a heart of stone, because it remains intact. Angela Paxton has chosen her course, so I will keep my sympathies in reserve. If the so-called “Christians” who fervently back Ken Paxton had any reason to feel uncomfortable about that, Ms. Cary’s testimony should have been the time for it. Ain’t gonna happen, but there is is anyway.