AUSTIN, Texas — There were more twists and turns today in the impeachment trial of suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Laura Olson, his alleged mistress, will not testify after all -- at least not today. That's what Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced just before 5 p.m.
The prosecution tried to call Olson Wednesday morning but Patrick, who's serving as a judge, explained that there must be a 24-hour notice before a witness is able to testify. Olson was added to the witness list at 3:53 p.m. on Tuesday, meaning she wouldn't have been able to testify until at least 3:53 p.m. Wednesday.
Then after a lengthy break, Patrick delivered the surprising news that she wouldn't testify. He said Olson "is present but deemed unavailable to testify." He didn't give the reason for the change but said both sides agreed to it.
Olson relevant to the case against Paxton because the alleged affair is referenced in an article of impeachment that accuses Paxton of bribery. The article claims Paxton's friend and donor Nate Paul hired Olson so she could move from San Antonio to Austin to be near the attorney general. House managers say Paxton and Paul used burner phones, secret emails and an Uber account with a fake name to hide the affair.
Who is Laura Olson?
Earlier today, Paxton's former executive aide and personal assistant Drew Wicker was asked about his boss's alleged affair.
Wicker testified that he and the Paxtons were staying at the Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa in August 2020 while their home was remodeled. Wicker said that he and his father were in the lobby when they heard a "lively discussion" between two people on the elevator.
"Whenever the doors opened, two individuals exited, one was General Paxton, he was in workout attire and he told us he was going to the gym," Wicker said. "And the other individual was in a dress and high heels and she exited rather quickly."
Wicker said they were the only two on the elevator and the woman walked away without saying anything while Paxton shook his and his father's hands and said he was going to work out.
Wicker said he raised concerns with Communications Director Mark Rylander who showed him a photo of Olson, the woman Paxton admitted to having an affair with in 2018. Wicker identified Olson as the woman in the elevator and identified her again when prosecutor Erin Epley showed him a different photo.
Wicker resigned shortly after Paxton’s top deputies accused the AG of corruption in September 2020 and went to the FBI.
'My heart broke for her'
Earlier this week, Olson was also the main topic of testimony by former Paxton Chief of Staff Katherine "Missy" Carr.
Paxton wasn't in the Senate Chamber but his wife State Sen. Angela Paxton listened as Carr described when she first became concerned about Olson and her relationship with her boss.
Cary said she was at an Austin restaurant in 2018 when she overheard a woman next to her talking about Paxton in a “very personal” way. She took a picture and told Paxton, who claimed the woman was his real estate agent, Cary testified.
Cary testified that members of Paxton's security detail and travel aides told her that he was having an affair with Olson.
She learned his behavior was causing morale problems in the office and staff members told her that they were "concerned about the general's behavior," Cary said. She said they also complained about the hours they were working and the places they had to go.
Cary added that Angela Paxton was calling the office to try to track down her husband and staffers were feeling “uncomfortable answering those questions.”
Cary said she eventually confronted Paxton who confirmed he was having an affair. Cary said they discussed the political, ethical and legal risks of the affair and she suggested he should tell his wife.
Later that year, Paxton called a meeting of his top staffers where he reportedly confessed the affair with his tearful wife by his side. "My heart broke for her," Cary said.
She testified that she learned the affair was continuing in 2019 and Paxton became "frantically upset" when she brought it up. Cary said he raised his voice and was "red in the face."
"He came in and said that he was frustrated and that I didn't understand that he still loved Mrs. Olson," she said.
On cross-examination, Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee downplayed the alleged affair's relevance to the case.
"Imagine if we impeached everybody here in Austin that had had an affair," Buzbee said. "We’d be impeaching for the next 100 years, wouldn’t we?"
Connecting the dots
Last week, Paxton's former top assistant Jeff Mateer testified that Olson moved to Austin in 2020 to work for a real estate developer and friend of Paxton named Nate Paul.
Mateer said the alleged affair was the missing piece that explained why Paxton repeatedly pressured staff members to help Paul who was being investigated by the FBI and was named in multiple lawsuits.
“Because it answered one of the questions that I kept struggling with: Why would Gen. Paxton jeopardize all this great work that we have been doing in the office of attorney general? Why would he be engaged in these activities on behalf of one person?” Mateer replied. “It seemed to me that he was under undue influence -- at the time I wondered if he was being blackmailed because it was so unlike what I’d experienced with him for four years.”
After Mateer and other top deputies went to the FBI with their concerns, some resigned and others were fired.
“By that time, I concluded that Mr. Paxton was engaged in conduct that was immoral, unethical and I believed it was illegal," he explained.
Not long after the Texas House voted to impeach Paxton, Paul was indicted on eight federal charges related to loans he received.
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