The House impeachment managers called their first witness Tuesday afternoon: Jeff Mateer, the former first assistant attorney general and one of the Paxton whistleblowers.
House lawyer Rusty Hardin spent a considerable amount of time working to establish Mateer’s legal and political credentials.
“Are you a RINO?” Hardin abruptly asked Mateer at one point, using the acronym for “Republican In Name Only.”
Mateer replied that he is “certainly far from right of center” and noted former President Donald Trump nominated him to the federal bench. His nomination failed to advance in the Senate after a report that he had said transgender children are part of “Satan's plan.”
Hardin also got Mateer to attest to the character of the other whistleblowers who Paxton has since vilified. They were all “committed to the rule of law and conservative governance,” Mateer said.
Mateer’s testimony was cut short, though, as the two sides broke into a dispute over exhibits and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick ended the trial for the day. Prior to that, Mateer was starting to elaborate on his discomfort as he watched Paxton make unusual moves on behalf of real estate investor and political donor Nate Paul.
Mateer said he was confused when he learned that Paxton planned to argue a motion in a Travis County District Court case involving Paul and a charity. He said while Paxton has many talents, he is “not a litigator,” and said it was inconceivable that a sitting attorney general would attend to such a small matter.
Mateer said he scheduled a meeting with Paxton, where he discouraged Paxton from proceeding further with the case.
“I urged him not to have any further dealings with Nate Paul,” Mateer said, adding that Paxton “committed to that” and “seemed sincere to me.”
But the next day, Mateer said he was surprised to learn Paxton was still trying to intervene himself.
An article of impeachment alleges that Paxton directed the attorney general’s office to intervene in the case solely to help Paul gain a better settlement with the charity, the Mitte Foundation. Paul had previously defaulted on a $10.5 million settlement to resolve a lawsuit with the charity.
— Patrick Svitek and Zach Despart