How an extramarital affair impacts Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial

By | September 12, 2023

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — How important is an extramarital affair to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton keeping his job? An answer could come soon.

The issue looms over the Republican’s impeachment trial as it nears the final stage of testimony before a panel of state senators decides whether Paxton should be removed from office on corruption and bribery charges. Most of the senators are Republicans and one of them is her wife, state Senator Angela Paxton, although she will not have a vote in the verdict.

But she has watched the entire process so far, including Monday, when, sitting in the Senate chamber, as one of her husband’s former employees gave an account of the affair in the most public detail to date: how the affair impacted the employees, how he urged Paxton to consider the risks and how he asked him to tell his wife about the woman.

“Just because someone is having an affair doesn’t mean they’re a – quote – ‘criminal’, right?” Tony Buzbee, Paxton’s attorney, asked when it would be the defense’s turn to respond.

“I wouldn’t directly associate him,” said Katherine Cary, a former chief of staff in Paxton’s office, who is now one of six former employees to testify against their former boss since the trial began last week.

The exchange capped one of the most distinctive moments of testimony so far, after five days in which former Paxton aides recounted how one of Texas’ most powerful figures allegedly abused his power to help a local real estate developer who was under federal investigation. FBI. Nate Paul, who once gave Paxton a $25,000 campaign contribution, was indicted in June on charges of making false statements to banks. He has pleaded not guilty. Paul also hired the woman Paxton was having an affair with.

On Tuesday, jurors heard testimony from the young Houston defense attorney Paxton hired to look into Paul’s allegations, including that Paxton urged the lawyer to communicate with him via an encrypted messaging app.

The affair is one of 20 articles of impeachment, which allege that Paul received favorable access because Paxton benefited from Paul hiring the woman. Jeff Mateer, Paxton’s former second-in-command, testified last week that the report connected the dots on why Texas’ top lawyer seemed so determined to help Paul look into allegations that he had been wronged by the officers of the FBI and a judge.

Lawmakers who spearheaded the impeachment also alleged that Paxton, elected to a third term in November despite years of criminal charges and alleged scandals, had a political motivation to cover up the affair.

“The affair is important because it benefits Ken Paxton’s political strength. He knows that with his parents he respects family values,” Democratic state Rep. Ann Johnson said in May, moments before the House voted overwhelmingly to impeach Paxton.

Cary, the former chief of staff, said on the witness stand Monday that he told Paxton the matter posed political and ethical risks. She said Paxton initially lied about who the woman was and that the affair had a negative impact on staff who were forced to work long, strange hours as the affair unfolded.

She said Angela Paxton sometimes called the office to ask questions about her husband’s schedule and that the conversations made the staff uncomfortable.

“I told General Paxton in no uncertain terms that it was none of my business who he slept with, but when things spill over into government office and work, it becomes my business,” he said.

When it came to Angela Paxton, Cary said, “My heart broke for her.”

Ken Paxton, who has pleaded not guilty, is not required to be present for the testimony and was not in the Senate for most of the trial, including Cary’s testimony.

Angela Paxton took notes at her desk as Cary testified about the affair that began in 2018, the year Angela Paxton won her Senate seat. Last year she won re-election and on the eve of the impeachment trial she said she would seek a third term, making the announcement with her husband during a Labor Day picnic near their home in suburbs of Dallas.

Before she became a senator, Angela Paxton entertained crowds at her husband’s political events with a guitar and a song, singing, “I’m a mom with guns and my husband is suing Obama.” She and all senators have been ordered not to speak about the impeachment trial while the proceedings are underway.

A two-thirds majority – or 21 senators – is required for conviction. If all 12 Democrats voted against Paxton, at least nine Republicans would have to join them.

“Imagine if we impeached everyone in Austin who had an affair,” Buzbee said. “We would have impeached people for the next 100 years.”


Associated Press writer Jake Bleiberg contributed to this report from Dallas.


Find AP’s complete coverage of the impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at:

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