It’s been awhile since I last said Wow, but here I am again saying it.
Drew Wicker did not like what he was hearing.
The personal assistant to Attorney General Ken Paxton stood in his boss’s kitchen in summer 2020 as Paxton expressed his desire for granite countertops with a contractor who estimated a $20,000 price tag for the upgrade.
“I will check with Nate,” the contractor said after Paxton agreed to the cost, according to Wicker. When Paxton brought up other fixes he wanted for his Austin property, the contractor said he’d have to check with Nate about those, too.
Nate, Wicker understood, was Nate Paul, the Austin real estate investor Paxton had been meeting frequently with that spring and summer to discuss Paul’s various legal problems, including his claim of mistreatment by police after a raid at his home. To Wicker, the conversation sounded as if Paul would be paying for the renovation.
Wicker was so uncomfortable that he raised the issue with Paxton about a week later as they ate burgers at a Plano restaurant. Paxton assured Wicker he was paying for the renovations personally.
Three years later, those granite countertops have emerged as a key piece of evidence in the impeachment case against Paxton, who is accused of misusing the attorney general’s office to help his friend Paul fend off a federal investigation into his flailing real estate empire. And Wicker — Paxton’s aide who grew into a family friend — has become one of the key witnesses in the case against his former boss. Among the 20 articles of impeachment laid out by the Texas House is an allegation that Paul paid for not just countertops but an extensive renovation of Paxton’s Tarrytown property in exchange for the attorney general’s help with his legal issues.
As one of the aides who spent the most time at the attorney general’s side, Wicker proved an invaluable source as a House committee investigated Paxton in secret this spring before recommending he be impeached.
“I’m going to give you the best recollection, and then I’m going to trust that the evidence points where it shall,” Wicker told his interviewers. “And if that ends up being that (Paxton) conducted illegal business, then I love the man all the same and I hope that that gets adjusted, but he also needs to be held to account.”
First, be sure to click the link and see the picture of Drew Wicker. He looks exactly like the person saying these things in this story. Second, we’ve all read stories about arrogant rich people who forget that their household staff are actually people and thus say and do the worst things around them because they think there’s no one to witness any of it. I’m just bringing that up for no reason at all. Third, and this has as much to do with the fact that the impeachment managers have literally dropped thousands of pages of evidence on us all, partly in response to defense claims that all the charges are made up baloney, I wonder if any of this has come as a surprise to the defense team. This isn’t a criminal case so I presume the rules of discovery are different. It may be that Tony Buzbee and Dan Cogdell are getting some nasty surprises these days, perhaps because their client wasn’t fully truthful with them, perhaps because there’s just so damn much stuff to plow through. Maybe all their bluster and motions for dismissal have just been the best they can do in these obviously difficult circumstances. But if in the end Tony Buzbee gets thoroughly clowned by the impeachment managers, I will not be upset.
One more thing from this story:
Wicker, by chance, also discovered evidence that Paxton had resumed an extramarital affair with a Senate staffer that his top deputies thought was over.
The relationship between Paxton and the woman is central to the impeachment case. House investigators allege that Paul hired her in June 2020 as a favor to Paxton, allowing her to move from San Antonio to Austin.
At a meeting with senior staff in September 2018, with his wife by his side, Paxton disclosed that he had a relationship with the woman, but that it was over and he had recommitted to his marriage, the Associated Press previously reported.
But Wicker, visiting the Omni Barton Creek hotel with his family in summer 2020, ran into Paxton getting off the elevator with a woman who was not his wife.
“No words were said,” Wicker recalled. “Paxton walked out, shook my hand, shook my father’s hand and the lady walked out, didn’t acknowledge us or say anything.”
Wicker said he reported what he saw to Marc Rylander, the Paxton senior adviser who had told him about the affair when he started the job. Wicker described what the woman looked like.
“Great,” Rylander replied. “She’s back.”
I just find that so poignant. Drew Wicker is not my kind of person – the story talks about how he was disappointed to not get to do more policy stuff with Paxton, and we all know what that means – but I can totally empathize with him for that moment. Nobody deserves to have that crappy a boss.
Anyway. Go read the rest of that story – I can’t say I was shocked because I have lost my capacity to be shocked by Ken Paxton, but I did let loose a “holy crap!” when I started reading it. Read also this Trib story about what the prosecution has been up to, that story I linked above about the thousands of pages of evidence so far, for which there’s another Trib story as well – TPR has three key takeaways for you if you’d like a brief summary – and finally, if you’d like to get mad at Ken Paxton all over again but for a different reason, read this Andrea Grimes piece about just how consistent Paxton is in his beliefs, and the absolutely disgusting places that leads him to. Be warned, it will make you very, very mad.