Day 4 of Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial resumed Friday with Paxton’s attorney again trying to paint whistleblowers as “rogue employees” who went behind Paxton’s back and deserved to be fired.
During cross examination, Paxton lawyer Mitch Little grilled Ryan Vassar, the former deputy attorney general for legal counsel, about text messages he sent that disparaged the intelligence of new lawyers in the office by suggesting legal briefs needed to use smaller words or buying a coloring book to keep them entertained.
Vassar downplayed the texts as jokes among friends who worked at the agency and said he did not have any “professional experience” with the new lawyers. He also sought to contrast his private texts with the public statement in which Paxton called him and other whistleblowers “rogue employees.”
“It was lighthearted,” he said. “It was among friends. It was not a public [statement] to millions of people. … It was a conversation among friends. But I wouldn't say that any of us are concerned that it's being discussed here today.”
In another text message, one of the whistleblowers also feared that the attorney general’s office “is going to fall apart and that’s one person’s fault, and one person only: [Ken Paxton].”
A half-hour into Vassar’s testimony, Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, approached Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who is presiding over the trial — and whispered in his ear before exiting the Senate floor. Patrick announced the proceedings would pause for 30 minutes.
A spokesperson for Miles’ office said the senator had to leave to take care of a personal matter but that “everything is fine and he is back at the Capitol.” All senators are required to be present for the trial.
— Robert Downen and Kate McGee