Questioning of whistleblowers continues in day 4 of Paxton impeachment trial

Ryan Vassar
Photo credit Mikala Compton/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

AUSTIN ( -- The fourth day of suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment trial continued with defense lawyers trying to discredit whistleblowers as "rogue" employees.

Testimony resumed with former deputy attorney general for legal counsel Ryan Vassar, with defense attorney Mitch Little spending much of the morning going over text messages sent between Vassar and others.

The proceedings were abruptly interrupted around 9:30 a.m., as state Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston) came up to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and whispered in his ear. Patrick called a halt to the proceedings for about 30 minutes; in a message posted on X (formerly Twitter), Miles' office said he had to "leave briefly to take care of a personal matter."

On Thursday, Vassar testified that it was "hurtful" to hear Paxton call him and the other whistleblowers "rogue employees." Little proceeded to counter that testimony with the text threads, which showed Vassar and colleagues disparaging newer employees at the AG's office.

The text threads were “lighthearted,” Vassar testified, highlighting the difference between a private group message among friends and a public statement made to millions of people. “It was a conversation among friends. But I wouldn't say that any of us are concerned that it's being discussed here today.”

House prosecutors also worked to have Vassar clarify some of his testimony from Thursday, when he indicated the whistleblowers did not have any evidence when they went to the FBI with their allegations. "We had no evidence that we could point to, but we had reasonable conclusions that we could draw," Vassar testified Thursday.

On questioning from Rusty Hardin during Friday's testimony, Vassar said they went to the FBI in the hopes the agency would conduct an investigation. "We were witnesses," Vassar said. "I believe that I was a witness to criminal activity that had occurred."

After the lunch break, prosecutors called their fourth witness, David Maxwell - a 25-year Texas Ranger and former head of law enforcement at the AG's office.

Maxwell told House lawyer Dick DeGuerin during his testimony that he felt "Nate Paul was a criminal who was running a Ponzi scheme."

Maxwell testified that Paxton threatened to fire him after he said he would not investigate Paul's claims.

“I knew then what his commitment was to Nate Paul and that he was not going to be deterred,” Maxwell said. “He was angry with me because I was not buying into the big conspiracy theory."

Maxwell said once the whistleblowers reported Paxton to the FBI, the AG responded by “[ending] my career in a very unjust manner.”

“I did nothing wrong by standing up for right,” Maxwell added.

During cross-examination, attorney Dan Cogdell became abruptly enraged with Maxwell, after Maxwell said he was acting like he could not hear questions from Cogdell in an effort "to throw you off."

“That's your intent, ranger? Rather than testifying to the truth and giving direct answers, your game is to throw people off?” asked Cogdell. “Is that where we're going, ranger?”

Proceedings are set to resume Monday morning at 9 a.m.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Mikala Compton/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK