Since the House impeached Ken Paxton, he and his team – and some conservative groups in the state, including the Republican Party of Texas — have maintained that the whole thing is a witch hunt”and a “sham” lodged against the suspended attorney general by Democrats and RINOs (Republican In Name Only). Allegations include bribery and misappropriation of public resources.
The first witness in Paxton’s trial, Jeff Mateer, is anything but. As the former first assistant attorney general and one of the whistleblowers who took concerns about Paxton’s behavior to the FBI, Mateer’s testimony is key to the prosecution’s case.
He is currently employed at First Liberty, a law firm dedicated to preserving religious liberties. Mateer is a devout Christian who described praying with his wife before accepting the position as first assistant. Based on his testimony, the things he observed in the AG’s office were so egregious to common workplace ethics and his own personal, devout, moral code that he was compelled to resign and become a whistleblower.
Throughout his testimony Tuesday and Wednesday, Mateer demonstrated that he is obviously a “law and order” kind of guy, a person who adheres to bureaucratic procedures because they ensure things are done correctly, ethically and legally. Even in his manner of speech and recollections, he’s hesitant to disagree or clarify unless he knows the exact answer.
Mateer is just the kind of guy the Texas Republican Party would support if he ran for school board or other office. In fact, President Donald Trump nominated him for a judgeship, though it was later withdrawn. Mateer is the kind of evangelical Christian who has been drawn to the Republican Party for years due to its emphasis on conservative values.
On Tuesday, Mateer testified that he grew increasingly concerned about Paxton’s behavior, which seemed off to him — like intervening in trivial legal matters that had to do with real estate investor Nate Paul — and which made more sense when he learned that Paxton had resumed an extramarital affair.
“General Paxton has some wonderful qualities, but he is not a litigator,” Mateer said. “It made absolutely no sense [for him to argue in the case]. This wasn’t the Google case. it wasn’t the Supreme Court. It was Travis County District Court.”
“It answered the question, ‘Why is he engaging in all these activities on behalf of Mr. Paul?’ “ Mateer said on the stand.
He added: “I concluded that Mr. Paxton was engaged in conduct that was immoral, unethical, and I had the good faith belief that it was illegal.”
On Wednesday, Paxton attorney Tony Buzbee took issue with Mateer’s decision to report Paxton to the FBI. Buzbee compared Mateer’s method of gathering information to the distorted ending of a game of “telephone.”
“Is it possible, Mr. Mateer, that you jumped to a lot of conclusions really fast?” Buzbee asked. “You could have just put this all to bed if you just talked to your boss.”
Mateer repeatedly said that he did speak to Paxton.
Mateer’s testimony is pretty damning, not just because of what he says but the kind of person he is: A Boy Scout in terms of law, order, and Christian practices,; an inside man who turned his own boss into the FBI, not a Democrat opponent. It’s one of Paxton’s own kind against him, not a RINO, not a Democrat, and certainly not a power-hungry, young lawyer wanting to make a name for himself. This is a guy who’s more comfortable in church or working for a largely Christian legal firm than he is being grilled on the stand.
Of course, the trial is far from over and the defense could produce myriad evidence to refute the allegations. But so far, the claim that this is a “sham” or a “witch hunt” would have held up a lot more if the star witness who offered Paxton to the FBI wasn’t a Christian whistleblower who meticulously follows the rules and who’s spent his life defending religious liberties.
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