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Former Texas assistant attorney general Paxton, who turned him in to the FBI, is the first key witness in the impeachment trial.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton again stayed away from his impeachment trial Wednesday as one of his former aides who reported him to the FBI in 2020 testified that he confronted the Republican about why he seemed to keep walking out of office. a way to help one of its donors.

“The problem is that the office is being used for one person’s benefit,” said Jeff Mateer, who was Paxton’s second-in-command in the Texas attorney general’s office.

Mateer is the first key witness in a trial that could last weeks in the Texas Senate and focuses on allegations that Paxton, who has been followed for years by a criminal indictment and a separate ongoing FBI investigation. , allegedly abused his position to help an Austin real estate agent. developer named Nate Paul. Their relationship is central to the case led by Republican impeachment officials that Paxton should be removed from office.

Mateer is among about 100 people identified as potential witnesses in the trial, according to a list obtained by The Associated Press. They include other former close associates of Paxton and a woman who Paxton admitted to having had an extramarital affair with and who worked for Paul.

But the question of how much Paxton himself will participate in this historic trial remains open. Facing the gravest threat to his political future, Paxton walked out of the trial early and cannot be compelled to testify on the corruption charges that have hung against one of Texas’ most powerful figures in decades. years.

Paxton, who is not required to attend the entire trial, pleaded not guilty before his attorneys began their defense on Tuesday, strongly criticizing the impeachment and urging Republican senators for acquittal.

LEARN MORE: Impeachment case alleges Texas AG Paxton used multiple cell phones and a pseudonym to cover up an affair

“I have one simple request: do the right things,” attorney Dan Cogdell said Tuesday. “And the right thing is to vote not guilty.”

The testimony of Jeff Mateer, an evangelical Christian lawyer who describes himself as being on the political right, underscores how Paxton’s impeachment is a rare example of a party seeking to hold one of its own to account in a bitter time. partisan.

If convicted, Paxton could be barred from any elected office in Texas. Senators on Tuesday rejected numerous motions to dismiss charges against Paxton, who is not required to attend all proceedings.

Mateer spoke with few spectators in the Senate gallery for what is Texas’ first impeachment trial in nearly half a century. On Tuesday, a few dozen Paxton supporters came to witness the start of the proceedings, some of whom traveled hundreds of miles. But on Wednesday, less than 40 members of the public attended the resumption of the trial.

For years, many Republicans in Texas have resisted criticizing or confronting head-on the litany of legal issues surrounding Paxton, who has remained popular among the far-right by closely aligning himself with Trump and rushing his office into lawsuits. court cases that have halted the priorities of the Biden administration. .

Paul was indicted this summer for making false statements to a bank in order to secure more than $170 million in loans. Paxton’s lawyer, Tony Buzbee, said Paxton “didn’t give anything of substance” to Paul and framed the proceedings as an attempt to subvert the will of voters.

The Republican-led House voted 121 to 23 to impeach Paxton in May, with the 20 articles of impeachment including breach of public trust, unfit for office and corruption. The vote immediately suspended Paxton and made him the third serving official in Texas’ nearly 200-year history to be removed from office.

His future is now in the hands of a Senate made up of ideological allies and a presiding judge, Republican Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who loaned Paxton’s last re-election campaign $125,000. One of the Republican majority members in the chamber is his wife, Senator Angela Paxton, but while she can attend the trial, she is barred from voting on conviction or acquittal.

A two-thirds majority — or 21 senators — is required to secure a conviction, meaning that if all 12 Democrats vote against Paxton, at least nine Republicans would have to join them.

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