Skip to content

Paxton trial updates: Defense lawyer reads whistleblowers’ disparaging texts

By Texas Tribune Staff, The Texas Tribune

Paxton trial updates: Defense lawyer reads whistleblowers’ disparaging texts” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

The Texas Tribune is your source for in-depth reporting on the Ken Paxton impeachment trial. Readers make that possible. Support authoritative Texas journalism with a donation now.

The historic impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton is underway in the Texas Senate. He faces 16 articles of impeachment that accuse him of misusing the powers of the attorney general’s office to help his friend and donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor who was under federal investigation. Paxton pleaded not guilty to all impeachment articles on the trial’s first day. His defense attorneys have vowed to disprove the accusations and said they will present evidence showing they are based on assumptions, not facts.

Paxton’s lawyer focuses on whistleblower texts

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

Whistleblower Ryan Vassar to resume testimony Friday morning

On day 4 of Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial, Ryan Vassar, former Deputy Attorney General for Legal Counsel, is expected to resume testimony.

Vassar, one of the whistleblowers who reported Paxton to the FBI, choked up on the stand on Wednesday when he was questioned about his loyalty to his boss.

“It was hurtful,” Vassar said, when asked about his response to Paxton’s public criticism that the whistleblowers were “rogue” employees. “The statement of being rogue is contrary to the years that I dedicated my life to the state.”

During cross examination, Paxton’s attorney Mitch Little grilled Vassar on whether he had physical evidence he presented to the FBI when he and others reported Paxton.

“We had no evidence that we could point to but we had reasonable conclusions that we could draw,” Vassar said. Vassar added that it was law enforcement’s responsibility to investigate and collect evidence.

The Senate is expected to begin at 9 a.m. as the cross examination continues.

— Rebekah Allen

Get the data and visuals that accompany this story →

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at

Leave a Comment