DAY 8: AG Paxton’s defense rests their case; closing arguments expected Friday

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, center, and legal counsel Lana Myers, right, listen to defense and prosecution attorneys during the impeachment trial for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in the Senate Chamber at the Texas Capitol, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

AUSTIN, Texas – The prosecutors and the defense have both rested their cases in the historic impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton in the Texas Senate.

Paxton faces 16 articles of impeachment that accuse him of misusing the powers of the attorney general’s office to help his friend and donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor who was under federal investigation.

Paxton pleaded not guilty to all impeachment articles on the trial’s first day, which started Tuesday, Sept. 5.

If convicted by the Texas Senate, Paxton would be removed from office and possibly barred from holding any political office in the future.

A two-thirds majority — or at least 21 votes — is needed to convict. That means if all Democrats vote against Paxton, they still need nine Republicans to join them.

Sept. 14, 2033, at 6:15 p.m.

Court is in recess until Friday morning at 9 a.m.

Sept. 14, 2033, at 5:34 p.m.

Grant Dorman is excused from the stand.

Defense rests its case.

Sept. 14, 2023, at 4:23 p.m.

Court resumes.

Sept. 14, 2023, at 3:55 p.m.

Court in recess for 20 minutes.

Sept. 14, 2023, at 3:09 p.m.

The defense calls Grant Dorfman, the deputy first assistant at the office of the Attorney General, to the stand.

When the defense asked him if he was concerned about working for the OAG when learning about the allegations against Paxton, Dorfman answered, yes. Dorman said when he interviewed for the position, he pressed the OAG hard about the allegations.

After accepting the job on Dec. 3, 2020, Dorfman said his main concerns, outside of the allegations, were about his commute to the office and the cost of living in Austin.

Sept. 14, 2023, at 1:54 p.m.

Court resumes. Paxton’s defense team called Henry De La Garza, HR director, chief employment counsel and ethics advisor for the Office of the Attorney General, takes the stand

De La Garza asked about the policies at the OAG, specifically a policy he wrote regarding the use of an insubordinate or unprofessional tone toward management. He said he included it in the policy in 2013 because it seemed typical for employee manuals to outline appropriate and inappropriate conduct.

When asked about the whistleblowers who went to the FBI to report Ken Paxton, he said they were all rightfully terminated (according to the policies) or resigned.

He was asked about Jeff Mateer, first assistant attorney general. who resigned on Oct. 2, 2020. De La Garza said Paxton appointed Brent Webster as his replacement.

He went on to say Ryan Bangert resigned as of Nov. 4, 2020, Darren McCarty resigned as of Nov. 4, 2020 and Blake Brickman was “involuntarily separated” in 2020, as well.

De La Garza said Paxton did not recommend any of the whistleblowers be fired in retaliation to the FBI filing.

The defense passed the witness after an hour of questioning.

Prosecutors began questioning De La Garza about the whistleblower act. A timeline was presented showing when the whistleblowers went to the FBI and when they were fired. The prosecution team said 20 days after filing a report to the FBI and 19 days after notifying the AG’s office that they went to the FBI, the whistleblowers started to lose their jobs.

De La Garza was excused at 3:06 p.m.

Sept. 14, 2023, at 12:30 p.m.

Court in recess.

Sept. 14, 2023, at 11:48 a.m.

Ken Paxton’s defense team questions Austin Kinghorn regarding Article 8 of impeachment.

When asked about Cammack, Kinghorn said he was not involved in the hiring of Cammack and said he only became involved with Cammack after his employment with the AG’s office ended. Kinghorn testified that Cammack reached out regarding payment, but said he was unable to process the payment because Cammack had not held up his portion of the contract.

Kinghorn went on to testify that he had no knowledge of bribery between Nate Paul and Paxton or Paxton’s affair.

Sept. 14, 2023, at 11:43 a.m.

Defense: “Are you aware of the attorney general’s office internal report regarding the events underlying this impeachment proceeding?”

Kinghorn: “Yes.”

Defense: “And broadly speaking, what is that report as you understand it?

Kinghorn: “That report is the finding of a ten-month investigation that was conducted internally at the office of the attorney general concerning the allegations that the whistleblowers raised.”

Defense: “Did you ever review that report?”

Kinghorn: “I did.”

Defense: “How many times, what was the nature of your review?”

Kinghorn: “Two, no more than three times. I was provided a copy and asked for general feedback on the document, proposed edits, revisions, things along those lines.”

Defense: “Were you ever directed by anyone to make sure that the report was a sham?”

Kinghorn: “No.”

Defense: “Were you ever directed to make sure it included false of misleading statements?”

Kinghorn: “Absolutely not.”

Defense: “Are you aware of anyone else receiving such a direction?”

Kinghorn: “Absolutely not. If I had identified a false or misleading statement I would have immediately raised that issue to the folks who were working on the report for their consideration.”

Defense: “When was that report published?”

Kinghorn: “Aug. 24, 2021, I believe.”

Defense: “And just to be clear, I’m looking at the text of Article 7 here. The allegation is Paxton directed employees of his office to conduct a sham investigation. Are you aware of that occurring?

Kinghorn: “I’m not aware that that occurred.

Sept. 14, 2023, at 11:15 a.m.

Ken Paxton’s defense team calls its second witness: Austin Kinghorn, the associate deputy attorney for legal counsel at the Office of the Attorney General.

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “Does the attorney general have the authority to access any case file or file in the agency?”

Kinghorn: “Yes, I believe he does. He’s the attorney general.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “Why does that give him the right to access any file he wants?”

Kinghorn: “Well, I guess there’s kind of an old saying in the legal profession that ‘his name’s on the wall.’ It’s his agency and he’s the duly elected attorney general. It’s his law firm. He gets to see a file if he wants to see it.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “So if someone were to say that the attorney general improperly accessed a file would that make sense to you?”

Kinghorn: “That would not compute to me.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “Me neither.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “(Referencing Article 4 of impeachment against Paxton) Do you see the allegation here, where it says ‘Paxton improperly obtained access to information held by his office’? Did I read that correctly?”

Kinghorn: “Yes.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: Let’s go to Article 5 now. Are you familiar with the contract with Brandon Cammack?”

Kinghorn: “I am.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “Did you have any involvement with hiring him?”

Kinghorn: “I did not.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “Did you have any involvement with drafting the contract or executing or anything like that on the front end?”

Kinghorn: “I did not.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “When did your involvement with this particular contact with this contract begin? When did your familiarity with it begin?”

Kinghorn: “Sometime later after the contract had been terminated. I believe Mr. Cammack reached out to our office to inquire about payment on the contract for the outstanding invoices.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “When you say ‘reached out to our office’ does that mean he reached out to you as general counsel, someone in your division, do you recall?”

Kinghorn: “My best recollection is that it was a phone call to the general counsel division. I think he was looking for someone to talk to about it.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “Do you remember a date for that phone call?”

Kinghorn: “I don’t.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “Was that before or after you’d been promoted to general counsel?”

Kinghorn: “I believe it was after.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “And when were you promoted to general counsel?”

Kinghorn: “During the month of November of 2020.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “You were made aware of this phone call. What did you do with that information?”

Kinghorn: “I conferred with Leslie French, our chief of staff, on that primarily because she had more awareness on those issues and what had been happening at the time. As I said before, I had no involvement with the contract, so she and I, I recalled discussing it.”

“My best recollection on this is that at some point a call was made to Mr. Cammack.”

Defense: “Did you reach out to Mr. Cammack?”

Kinghorn: “Yes.”

Defense: “What was the purpose of reaching out to Mr. Cammack?”

Kinghorn: “To follow up on his inquiry.”

Defense: “What did you want Mr. Cammack to know when you followed up with him?”

Kinghorn: “The purpose of the call was to inform Mr. Cammack of how he might proceed about processing his invoices under the contract.”

Defense: “And what were his options to get paid at that point?”

Kinghorn: “It remained work within the scope of services that had not been satisfied before we could issue payment, specifically the preparation of a report if his findings had been completed. So, what I relayed to him, and I believe this was over a voicemail, was that we couldn’t make payment on the contract until that commitment had been made.”

Defense: “If Mr. Cammack had sent you that memo that he had contracted to provide what would you have done?”

Kinghorn: “Subject to any other clerical reason that we might have to shore up, from my view it was a payable invoice because it was a valid contract at the time that the services were performed.”

Defense: “Did you ever hear back from Mr. Cammack after you advised him that he send you the memo so he could get paid?”

Kinghorn: “I did not.”

Defense: “Mt. Cammack never called you?”

Kinghorn: “Not to my knowledge.”

Defense: ”Let’s go ahead and skip to Article 7.”

Sept. 14, 2023, at 10:04 a.m.

Ken Paxton’s defense team asks Gordon to review the redacted brief the FBI provided to Joseph Larson, establishing that the majority of the brief is redacted.

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “Is this unusual?”

Gordon: “Yes.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “Can you explain why?”

Gordon: “Under the Government code if a third party submits comments to our office objecting to the release of information they’re required to notify the requester and provide the requester with a copy of those comments. They are permitted to redact the comments but only to the extent that it reveals the information that is requested. In this case they’ve redacted the entirety of the brief including all of the substantive arguments.

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “Why does that matter?”

Gordon: “That matters because the requester was not put on notice about what arguments the government body was making and would’ve been unable to respond to them to our office in order to refute any statements that were made or directly address the statements that were provided by the briefing third party.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “Is this another procedural violation of the Public Information Act?”

Gordon: “Yes.”

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “Can you estimate for us how many procedural irregularities we have discussed related to this file so far?”

Gordon: “There was the failure to submit the representative sample, or they submitted the documents late. The representative sample they submitted the second time indicated that the first representative sample was not actually representative. They did not notify the third party in a timely fashion and then when the third party briefed us they substantially redacted the copy of the briefing that was provided to the requester.

Sept. 14, 2023, at 9:46 a.m.

Ken Paxton’s defense team: “Mr. Gordon, as a preliminary matter, if a document is released after a request for a ruling decision, would that be released to a subsequent requester for that same information?”

Gordon: “Yes, there’s a specific section that directly addresses that. Section 552.007 of the Government Code prohibits the governmental bodies from selectively releasing information and provides that if information has been released to one requester that it would be released to a subsequent requester unless there is a special right of access that applied to the initial requester.”

“It prohibits the selective release of information to one requester and not to another so if information has been released by a governmental body then it would be released to subsequent requesters unless there is a special right of access that only applied to the initial requester. For example, If I asked for my drivers license number and receive it, you wouldn’t release my drivers license number to the next person because I have a right of access to that.”

Sept. 14, 2023, at 9:13 a.m.

Ken Paxton’s defense team calls its first witness Thursday: Justin Gordon, Open Records Division Chief in the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

Two of the articles of impeachment involve Gordon’s division. They allege Paxton misused his power to administer public information laws to help Nate Paul.

Sept. 14, 2023

After an “elongated discussion” Wednesday, trial to resume at 9 a.m.

Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday afternoon — but they did so accidentally, the Texas Tribune reported, setting off a chain of events that included a defense motion to dismiss the articles of impeachment as unproven by the prosecution. However, Paxton’s lawyers withdrew their motion for a directed verdict while senators stepped away to debate the motion privately.

More from Wednesday’s KPRC 2 coverage.

SEE ALSO: Ken Paxton impeachment trial begins with sniping: “Slow creep of corruption” vs. “nothing of significance”

(Below is an interactive graphic showing who’s who and how the courtroom is organized.)


Day 6: Credit union CEO says Nate Paul allegedly benefited from AG opinion; Houston attorney says Paxton ‘misled’ him

Day 5: Whistleblower said he feared Attorney General Ken Paxton was being blackmailed by Nate Paul

DAY 4: Private texts, whistleblower memes revealed during AG Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial

DAY 3: Suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton impeachment trial

Inside Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial courtroom

Texas AG Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial begins with a former ally who reported him to the FBI

Top Houston attorneys head to Austin for Ken Paxton impeachment trial

Catch up on ‘The Bench’ coverage of the impeachment trial

Ken Paxton cannot be forced to testify at his impeachment trial, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick rules

About the Authors:

A graduate of the University of Houston-Downtown, Ana moved to H-Town from sunny southern California in 2015. In 2020, she joined the KPRC 2 digital team as an intern. Ana is a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur, a catmom of 3, and an aquarium enthusiast. In her spare time, she's an avid video gamer and loves to travel.