The Texas Tribune is your source for in-depth reporting on the Ken Paxton impeachment trial. Readers make that possible. Support authoritative Texas journalism with a donation now.
A Ken Paxton whistleblower testified Tuesday that the attorney general took an unusually intense interest in a charity’s lawsuit against Nate Paul in 2020, leading to the belief that Paxton had “turned over” his office to Paul.
The whistleblower, Darren McCarty, said he ultimately found the agency’s involvement in the Mitte Foundation’s lawsuit to be “unethical, against our statutes and, I highly suspected, corrupt.”
McCarty, deputy attorney general for civil litigation at the time, was among the former top deputies who reported Paxton to the FBI in 2020, claiming he was abusing his office to help Paul, an Austin real estate investor and Paxton campaign donor.
McCarty’s testimony, which came on the sixth day of the trial before the Texas Senate, shed light on the first article of impeachment. The article, one of 16 the Senate is currently trying, alleged that Paxton disregarded his official duties by causing “employees of his office to intervene” in the Mitte Foundation lawsuit in an effort to aid Paul.
On cross-examination, Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee challenged a number of McCarty’s assertions, including the suggestion that Paxton had wanted McCarty to “pick Nate Paul’s side” in the litigation. McCarty said Paxton never used those words, but the witness maintained that the intervention was still in service to Paul.
By the summer of 2020, Paul was locked in a contentious dispute with the Mitte Foundation, an Austin-based nonprofit that had sued Paul for fraud. McCarty testified that Paxton asked him to intervene in the lawsuit, saying the litigation had gone on for too long.
McCarty said he was struck by how interested Paxton became in the case, describing an “urgency and anxiety” from the attorney general. Paxton wanted updates on any new developments, McCarty said, and even pulled McCarty out of an important teleconference to talk about it one day.
Paul was “vigorously complaining” throughout, demanding to know why the attorney general’s office was not making more progress in the lawsuit intervention, according to McCarty. The whistleblower said he found Paul’s tone to be “wholly inappropriate” because the office is supposed to be working in the public interest of the charity, not in the interest of a litigant against the charity.
Buzbee later brought up Paul’s complaints to make the opposite case, questioning how Paxton could have “turned over” the office to someone so angry with it.
McCarty said Paxton had asked him to appear in a Travis County District Court hearing on the lawsuit. When he resisted, Paxton said he himself would go, but McCarty said he talked Paxton out of it, calling it a “terrible thing for him to do” and that it would have sent a “very odd message.”
“He was the attorney general of Texas,” McCarty said. “He never appeared in court. Not once. Not a single time.”
McCarty testified that he later connected the dots when he saw that Brandon Cammack, an outside lawyer Paxton had hired, issued a grand jury subpoena “clearly seeking information” that would help Paul against the foundation. McCarty called his reaction “stunned.”
“I believed that the attorney general’s office had been … turned over by [Paxton] to a private citizen to do his bidding, and it was acting against the interests of the state of Texas,” McCarty said.
Buzbee interrogated McCarty in what has become a well-known confrontational style. Toward the end of the cross-examination, he pressed the whistleblower to say whether Paxton had asked him to “pick a side” in the lawsuit.
“I was told by Ken Paxton to expedite the termination of the litigation if possible,” McCarty said.
“Listen to my question so we can all go home,” Buzbee said, repeating his question.
“He never used those words,” McCarty said.
The full program is now LIVE for the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, happening Sept. 21-23 in Austin. Explore the program featuring more than 100 unforgettable conversations coming to TribFest. Panel topics include the biggest 2024 races and what’s ahead, how big cities in Texas and around the country are changing, the integrity of upcoming elections and so much more. See the full program.