Ken Paxton’s former executive aide, Drew Wicker, testified Wednesday during day seven of the suspended attorney general’s impeachment trial that throughout 2020 he grew increasingly uneasy with Paxton’s behavior and close relationship with Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor and political donor.
Wicker’s position meant he had a close relationship with both Paxton and his wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney. He described Ken Paxton as a friend and said Angela Paxton was “nothing but loving and caring.” But the loyal aide said he became increasingly concerned with Ken Paxton’s relationship with Paul, which included frequent lunches and meetings, including some that were not on the attorney general’s official schedule or include his security detail.
He testified that he made several deliveries to Paul’s office, including in one instance a manila envelope. Wicker said he didn't know what the contents of the envelope were.
During the summer of 2020, Wicker was staying with his family at the Omni Barton Creek Hotel when he and his father ran into Ken Paxton and a woman coming out of the elevator. Wicker testified that he heard them having a “lively” conversation through the elevator doors. When they opened, the woman quickly exited while Paxton, wearing gym shorts, shook hands with Wicker and his father and said he was headed to the gym.
Wicker identified the woman as Laura Olson. Olson had been previously named during the trial as the woman with whom the attorney general was having an extramarital affair.
The elevator encounter “did spur some questions,” Wicker said.
Throughout 2020, Wicker said, Ken Paxton asked him to meet with an insurance adjuster regarding water damage to the bedroom of Paxton’s Austin home. He recalled one conversation between Paxton and contractor Kevin Wood about the cost of additional work on cabinets and countertops in the kitchen. Wood told Paxton the changes would cost $20,000 and said he needed to “check with Nate,” Wicker testified.
“I walked away with the impression that Nate Paul was involved in the renovations of General Paxton’s home,” Wicker said. When he confronted Paxton about his concerns, Paxton told him that was not the case. But Wicker said that did not allay his concerns.
Wicker also testified that Paxton had four cell phones, including two “extra phones.” On a few occasions, Paxton asked to use Wicker’s phone. Wicker said he did not know who Paxton called because every time Paxton returned the phone the call log was “wiped.”
In fall 2020, Wicker said Paxton offered him a promotion to expand his duties to include more policy-related work. It was around that time that the FBI contacted Wicker amid a report from senior staff alleging that Paxton had misused his office to benefit Paul.
Wicker said he turned down the promotion to protect Paxton — and himself.
“I didn’t want General Paxton to have the appearance to offer me anything in light of the FBI reaching out,” he testified, adding that he also wanted to avoid the appearance of receiving a benefit.
Wicker said he also rejected Paxton’s first assistant Brent Webster’s offer to use the office of attorney general’s lawyers to represent him with the FBI. Wicker said he preferred to hire his own counsel.
— Kate McGee