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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Testimony of Laura Olson, who allegedly had affair with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, called off at last minute at impeachment trial

Austin, Texas — The woman who allegedly had an extramarital affair with Attorney General Ken Paxtonwas called Wednesday to testify at his impeachment trial, but did not end up taking the stand after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said both sides had agreed that she had been deemed “unavailable to testify.”

Lawyers for the state called Laura Olson to the stand Wednesday morning, but Patrick said she had been called as a witness shortly before 4 p.m. CT Tuesday, and the rules governing impeachment trials require that a witness be given 24 hours’ notice. Patrick then said she could be called after 3:53 p.m. CT.

After the senators returned from a break around 4:45 p.m. CT, Patrick gave a short statement that he said had been agreed upon by both sides, saying that although Olson was present, she had been deemed “unavailable to testify.”

Shortly after the statement, the House impeachment managers rested their case. The defense still has a chance to call its own witnesses. After the defense rests, both sides will have one hour to give closing arguments before the case goes to the jurors — the state Senators — for deliberations.

After the House impeachment managers rested their case,Paxton posted on X (formerly Twitter) that he is headed to Maine next week to “sit down” with Tucker Carlson and “discuss the last two weeks in Texas politics.”

On Wednesday night, former President Donald Trump posted on his social media platform Truth Social in support of Paxton, who has been a consistent ally of the former president. Trump accused “establishment RINOS” of “trying to undo that Election with a shameful impeachment.”

“Who would replace Paxton, one of the TOUGHEST & BEST Attorney Generals in the Country?” Trump wrote. “Could it be a Democrat, or even worse, a RINO? The voters have decided who they want! Democrats are feeling very good right now as they watch, as usual, the Republicans fight & eat away at each other. It’s a SAD day in the Great State of Texas!”

Both the state and the defense have a 24-hour limit to present their case, and by Wednesday morning, the state had about five hours left while the defense had slightly under nine hours left. As defense attorney Tony Buzbee made a number of objections Wednesday morning, House impeachment manager Erin Epley accused Buzbee of “slowing us down,” although Patrick overruled that objection.

Paxton is being tried in the state Senate on 16 articles of impeachment, which include counts of bribery and misuse of office. Paxton has pleaded not guilty and has not attended the trial since he entered his plea on the first day.

What does the alleged affair have to do with Paxton’s impeachment?

While having an affair is not one of the charges of impeachment, one of the counts includes an allegation that Paxton engaged in bribery, violating Article 16 of the Texas Constitution, when he benefited from Austin real estate developer Nate Paul’s decision to employ a woman “with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair.”

“Paul received favorable legal assistance from, or specialized access to, the office of the attorney general,” the impeachment article said.

Paxton’s wife, Angela Paxton, is a state senator and has been present every day for the trial. She has been barred from acting as a juror, but she still counts as a member of the state Senate, meaning that 21 senators must vote to convict him to reach the threshold for removal. If Paxton is convicted by two-thirds of the state senate on any of the 16 articles of impeachment, he will be removed from office and could face a lifetime ban from holding public office.

Olson is a former aide to state Sen. Donna Campbell, a Republican from a district north of San Antonio, who will be voting in the trial.

What has been said so far about the alleged affair?

According to testimony from earlier witnesses, the attorney general’s office became aware of Paxton’s alleged affair in 2018. Paxton’s former top aide, Jeff Mateer, testified last week that he believed it is “relevant” to the accusations in the articles of impeachment.

Mateer testified that in 2018, Ken Paxton revealed the affair in a meeting with senior campaign staff and the staff of the attorney general’s office. Angela Paxton helped organize and attended the meeting, according to Mateer. He said Ken Paxton “asked for forgiveness” and described him as “emotional and sympathetic.”

Mateer said he believed that Ken Paxton had “repented,” and he assumed that the affair was over. When he learned the alleged affair had resumed, he said it “answered one of the questions I kept struggling with.”

“Why would General Paxton jeopardize all this great work that we’ve been doing in the Office of the Attorney General,” Mateer continued. “Why would he be engaged in these activities on behalf of one person, all these different things?”

Paxton’s former chief of staff, Katherine “Missy” Cary, testified Monday that she warned Paxton in 2018 that an affair “can open one up to bribery and misuse of office, misuse of state time,” which are among the impeachment counts. Cary said the alleged affair affected morale in the office — especially since Angela Paxton had at one point been calling and asking about his schedule, which made staffers “uncomfortable.”

Cary had run into Paxton one day at lunch with the woman with whom he allegedly had an affair — who Paxton had said was his realtor — and testified that she confronted Paxton in the summer of 2018. He confirmed he was having an extramarital affair, she testified, and she said he was “contrite” and “listened to what I had to say very carefully” about the “ethical implications” of having an affair.

Paxton’s former personal assistant Andrew Wicker, who joined Paxton’s team in 2019, testified Thursday that he ran into Paxton at the Omni Barton Creek hotel in Austin in 2020 amid home renovations at Paxton’s house. Wicker said he saw Paxton on the elevator with a woman, who he confirmed was Olson after House impeachment managers showed him a picture of her.

According to his testimony to House impeachment managers ahead of the trial, Wicker said he told a fellow staffer about the encounter, and the staffer responded, “great, she’s back.”

House impeachment managers also allege that Paul paid for the extensive home renovations.

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