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Paxton’s dismissal brings tears as distraught former employees testify

AUSTIN, Texas — A former assistant to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton cried tears Thursday in the state Senate as he testified about his ex-boss in an impeachment trial that took a emotional twist on the third day.

Ryan Vassar is the third former colleague to give evidence in Paxton’s impeachment proceedings, which began Tuesday morning and have so far focused on testimony from former whistleblowers. In 2020, Vassar joined his colleagues in reporting Paxton to the FBI for alleged corruption after they were convinced that Paxton was abusing his position for the benefit of a political donor, Nate Paul.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives impeached Paxton in May, voting overwhelmingly to approve 20 articles of impeachment alleging corruption, breach of public trust and more. He now faces a trial in the Senate over whether he should be removed from office and barred from office.

The tearful testimony came when Vassar, 39, was questioned about how Paxton treated staff members who reported him as “rogue employees”.

“It was hurtful,” Vassar said, just before tears started streaming down his face. “I worked for the state for eight years as a civil servant, because I value commitment to public service. To set an example for my children. It’s contrary – the declaration of being a thug – it’s contrary to the years in which I devoted my life to the state.

Vassar testified at length that Paxton “wanted us to find a way to help Nate Paul” by breaking a routine policy of withholding law enforcement records from being released as part of an open records request. Vassar said he told Paxton that such a reversal was problematic and could harm law enforcement efforts.

He also testified that he was asked to rescind a legal opinion regarding the Paxton foreclosures, which surprised him so much that he laughed when initially asked to change his legal conclusion.

Ryan Bangert, another former senior staffer in Paxton’s office, testified at length Wednesday about Paxton’s determination to reverse that opinion, which would have helped stop foreclosures on one of Paul’s properties.

Bangert testified that he chose to sign his name on the notice — instead of letting Vassar sign it — for fear of a fallout.

“I went to the FBI because I believed, based on my experience of the previous nine months, that the Attorney General had abandoned his obligation to work on behalf of the interests of the people of Texas to serve the interests of one person, NatePaul. “, said Bangert.

He said the month since the report has been “disturbing”, as he waits to be fired.

“I believed in Ken Paxton and what he was doing for years. I had moved my family here to Austin specifically to go work for him, and I saw all of those things that we had done as a management team slowly start to unravel,” Bangert said. “And it was absolutely heartbreaking to see this happen to an office that had, in my opinion, been a beacon for the conservative legal movement for years. »