Impeachment Bombshell: Key witness in Texas trial says he had no evidence of Paxton crime

Little asked Vassar questions related to an FBI complaint he and others made.

Published: September 8, 2023 8:45pm

Updated: September 8, 2023 10:09pm

(The Center Square) -

On the third day of the impeachment trial of suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a former deputy attorney general who was fired for insubordination, and who later sued claiming wrongful termination, said he and other former staffers had no evidence to support their claim that Paxton allegedly committed a crime.

The charges levied in the 20 articles of impeachment brought by the House General Investigating Committee are based on unsworn statements provided by three witnesses who have so far testified in the impeachment trial, among others. They include charges of bribery, abuse of public trust, being unfit for office, among other allegations. Four articles were held in abeyance.

On Sept. 30, 2020, prior to being fired or resigning, former OAG staffers filed a complaint with the FBI alleging Paxton may have committed a crime involving Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.

On Thursday, one of the fired staffers, former deputy attorney general for legal counsel Ryan Vassar, testified that he and other staffers had no evidence to support the complaint they filed with the FBI, which is the basis for the impeachment articles.

The admission was made during cross examination by Mitch Little, a partner with Scheef & Stone LLP, one of Paxton’s defense attorneys.

Little asked Vassar questions related to an FBI complaint he and others made.

“Did you tell the FBI that Attorney General Paxton had legally disclosed confidential material to someone, yes or no?” Little asked.

“I disagree with the phrasing of the question,” Vassar replied. “We alleged illegal activity could occur.”

“But you didn’t know that Paxton had disclosed anything to anyone?” Little asked.

“No,” Vassar replied.

“You were hoping the FBI would sort it out,” Little continued.

“We had formed a belief in good faith that the attorney general was engaged in illegal activity,” Vassar said.

“But you didn’t know,” Little continued.

“That’s the point, we had no evidence that we could point to but had reasonable conclusions that we could draw,” Vassar replied.

“Let me get this straight. You went to the FBI and reported him for potential crimes without any evidence? Do I have that correct?” Little asked.

“We went to the FBI based on our belief that criminal activity had occurred,” Vassar said.

“That was not my question,” Little said.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is presiding over the trial, interjected and told Vassar, “Please answer the question, yes or no.”

Little repeated the question, saying, “I want to get this straight. You went to the FBI on Sept. 30 with your compatriots and reported the elected attorney general of the state for a crime without any evidence. Yes?”

“That’s right,” Vassar replied. “We took no evidence.”

“Did you gain any after that?” Little asked.

“We weren’t collecting any evidence,” Vassar said, “Evidence of what?”

“Evidence of a crime committed by the attorney general elected by 4.3 million people,” Little replied.

“I don’t recall,” Vassar replied.

“Don’t you think that’s something you should recall?” Little asked.

Little also addressed several of the charges levied in the articles of impeachment.

Regarding Article 1, Little asked Vassar if he knew anything about the Mitte Foundation and the state statute cited in the article. Vassar replied, “I don’t know anything about it.”

Regarding Article 2 alleging Paxton misused his office to benefit Nate Paul related to real estate property he allegedly owned, Little asked Vassar, “you don’t know for sure” if the property “belonged to Nate Paul, do you?”

Vassar replied, “Nothing other than what’s been reported in the media.”

“You don’t know if this article is true, do you?” Little asked.

“No sir, I didn’t write this,” Vassar said.

Regarding Article 4, which alleges Paxton “illegally” obtained information from his own office, Little asked: Paxton “didn’t properly access anything in office?”

“No, not what I’m aware of,” Vassar replied.

“He can access whatever file he wants, yes?” Little asked. “True,” Vassar said.

Regarding the Article 5 accusation that Paxton hired an attorney to benefit Nate Paul, Little asked if the attorney “wasn’t a prosecuting pro tem, was he?” Vassar replied, “No.”

Regarding Article 6 allegations related to Paxton firing employees, Little asked, “Don’t you think Paxton had a right to be upset with you for reporting him to FBI with no evidence?”

“I suppose he’s entitled to whatever feelings he may have felt at the time,” Vassar said.

In response to allegations that Paxton accepted a bribe to renovate his home in Article 10, Vassar said, “I don’t know the elements of bribery. I am not a criminal lawyer.”

“Do you know who paid for the Paxton kitchen renovations?” Little asked. “No,” Vassar replied. “I have no direct knowledge.” In response to questions about the allegations, he said, “I think it was [about] redoing the kitchen counter tops.”

In June, Tony Buzbee, lead attorney for Paxton, held a news conference showing photos of receipts and insurance claims for Paxton’s kitchen renovations. The Center Square also obtained copies of receipts at the time, which show that Paxton paid for the renovations.

“Did you see any documents exchanged with FBI” to support a bribery allegation, Little asked.

“No,” Vassar said, adding that he and the other staffers “didn’t provide any documents to FBI.”

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