The impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took an unexpected turn on Wednesday as Laura Olson, the alleged mistress of Paxton, was unable to testify at the trial. The delay in Olson's testimony raised questions about her availability and the potential impact it could have on the proceedings.
The trial judge, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, declared Olson "unavailable to testify" but did not provide an explanation for her absence or indicate if she would be able to testify on another day. This development was significant because the rumored affair between Paxton and Olson is directly relevant to the impeachment proceedings. Paxton is facing accusations of misusing his political power to benefit the real estate developer, Nate Paul, who employed Olson.
Angela Paxton, Ken Paxton's wife and a state senator, was present during the trial. Although she is not permitted to vote on her husband's removal from office, her presence underscored the personal and political implications of the allegations. One of Paxton's former staffers, Katherine Cary, testified that she had confronted Paxton about the affair and expressed concerns about its impact on the office. Cary emphasized that while she did not consider the affair itself to be her business, it became a problem when it affected state work.
Paxton's lawyer, Tony Buzbee, cross-examined Cary and argued that the affair should not be a significant enough reason for impeachment. Buzbee made the case that if every politician who had an affair were impeached, it would set a precedent that would apply for generations to come.
However, Paxton's legal troubles extend beyond the allegations of an affair. He was previously indicted in June for allegedly making false statements to banks, adding another layer of complexity to the impeachment trial. The looming specter of these indictments further complicates the decision facing state senators, who must determine whether Paxton should be removed from office on charges of corruption and bribery.
Lawmakers have alleged that Paxton had political motivations for hiding the affair. The connection between the affair and the allegations of corruption and bribery centers around Paxton's relationship with Nate Paul, the real estate developer who employed Olson. Paul had contributed $25,000 to Paxton's campaign, and the affair raises concerns about Paxton abusing his power to benefit Paul.
As the trial nears its conclusion, state senators, most of whom are Republicans like Paxton, will soon have to decide whether to remove him from office. Angela Paxton's presence throughout the trial has added a personal dimension to the proceedings, particularly as witnesses testified about the impact the affair had on the attorney general's office. Staff morale was reportedly low, and employees felt uncomfortable when Angela Paxton would inquire about her husband's schedule.
A verdict in the impeachment case is expected later this week, with a two-thirds majority or 21 senators needed for a conviction. If all 12 Democrats vote against Paxton, at least nine Republicans would have to vote against him as well. The outcome of the trial will have far-reaching implications for Paxton's political career and the future of Texas politics.