AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A woman with whom Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is said to have had an extramarital affair was expected to give public testimony Wednesday, setting up a dramatic moment in the Republican’s impeachment trial on charges of corruption and bribery.
The affair is central to the historic proceedings and accusations that Paxton misused his power to help Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, who was under FBI investigation and employed the woman, Laura Olson. One of the 16 articles of impeachment against Paxton alleges that Paul’s hiring of Olson amounted to a bribe.
She was set to take the witness stand later Wednesday in the Texas Senate across from Paxton’s wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, who is required to attend the trial but is not allowed to vote on whether her husband should be removed from office. On Monday, she listened from her desk in the Senate as one of her husband’s former employees testified that the secret relationship took a toll on the attorney general’s office.
Olson also previously worked for Republican state Sen. Donna Campbell, who will have a vote in the trial. That underscores the many entanglements Ken Paxton has in the building as he fights for his political life after years of alleged scandal and criminal charges.
Paxton, who was suspended from office pending the outcome of the trial, is not required to attend the proceedings. He has not appeared in the Senate since testimony began last week.
In calling Olson to testify, a bipartisan group of lawmakers leading the impeachment is making her one of the final witnesses. A verdict could be reached later this week. Olson was first called to the witness stand Wednesday morning, but Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is acting as the trial’s judge, said she could not testify until the afternoon because of procedural rules.
Former staff have testified that Paxton admitted to them that he had an affair. The three-term incumbent, who was reelected last November, has not discussed it publicly.
Olson’s testimony would be the first time the public hears her account of her relationship with Texas’ top law enforcement officer and his dealings with Paul, who was indicted in June on charges of making false statements to banks. Paul has pleaded not guilty.
After Olson’s testimony was delayed, House impeachment managers called Paxton’s former executive aide, Drew Wicker, to the witness stand.
Wicker, who described Paxton as a friend, said he met Paul three times, including once to deliver him a manila envelope and another to pick up Paxton’s phone that he had left at Paul’s house.
When Paxton began staying in an Austin hotel in 2020 while his home was being renovated, Wicker said, Paxton would call off his protective detail and have Wicker pick him up and drop him off instead. He said Paxton frequently did things and went places that were not on his schedule, including meetings with Paul, and that he saw Paxton and Olson together at the hotel.
Wicker said the cost for new countertops and cabinetry in Paxton’s kitchen came to about $20,000. He said he grew concerned after the contractor said three times that he would have to “check with Nate.”
Wicker said he told Paxton that he was left with the impression that Paul was involved in the renovations of Paxton’s home.
“It felt like there might be an inappropriate relationship there,” Wicker recalled telling Paxton. He said Paxton said that was not the case.
On cross-examination, Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee showed Wicker bank statements that Wicker affirmed appeared to show Paxton paying for the renovations to his home. At a June news conference, Buzbee displayed bank records that showed Paxton making that payment to a company run by an associate of Paul one day after the attorney general’s deputies reported him to the FBI.
The FBI investigation of Paxton and Paul’s dealings also scrutinized the renovations, with at least one Austin contractor receiving a grand jury subpoena in 2021 for records related to the work.
Time in the trial is ticking down, forcing lawyers on both sides to paying increasing attention to a clock being kept by Patrick.
Bleiberg reported from Dallas.