Former Chief of Staff Testifies About What Paxton's Alleged Affair Did to His Office

Katherine "Missy" Cary, former attorney with the attorney general's office was the first witness called to discuss Paxton's alleged affair.
Katherine "Missy" Cary, former attorney with the attorney general's office was the first witness called to discuss Paxton's alleged affair. Screenshot
Former Chief of Staff of the attorney general's office Katherine "Missy" Cary testified on Monday that Ken Paxton admitted to having an affair with Laura Olson at a staff meeting – after Paxton initially told Cary that Olson was his real estate agent.

Despite being brought up in the articles of impeachment against Paxton, Cary's testimony during Monday's impeachment proceedings against the attorney general, was the first time throughout the trial that Paxton's then alleged-affair with Olson was discussed in detail.

Like the whistleblowers’ claims from earlier testimony last week that the positive environment of the office was diminishing, Cary said she initially went to Paxton about Olson because she was concerned about how it could reflect on and affect the office.

Initially, Paxton denied any personal involvement with Olson, to Cary. It wasn't until the attorney general later came clean in front of staff, including his spouse, Senator Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), that Cary's suspicions were confirmed.

Paxton claimed to have ended the extramarital affair during the staff meeting. Yet, Cary found out later when Paxton came to her upset, “red in the face,” and “waving his hands,’ that the attorney general was still “in love” with Olson and requested that Cary accept this.

Monday’s proceedings intensified when lead defense attorney Tony Buzbee started his cross-examination of Cary by asking if  she had ever met a “perfect person." He later also challenged Cary’s claim that she had seen Olson at an Austin restaurant and recognized her possible relation to Paxton as Olson was discussing private matters related to the attorney general.

Cary was among three other witnesses who testified during the first day of the second week of impeachment proceedings. The other witnesses called to the stand on Monday included Mark Penley, the latest whistleblower and former Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Prosecution; and Gregg Cox, former Travis County Assistant District Attorney.

Also testifying was Margaret Moore, who was the Travis County District Attorney at the time that her office referred Paul’s claim  — that the search warrant used to investigate him had been tampered with — to the attorney general's office.
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Gregg Cox, former Travis County assistant district attorney, is sworn in by presiding office Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
Much like the whistleblowers' earlier testimonies, Penley illustrated his concerns about the depth of Paxton's involvement with Nate Paul, a real estate investor and political donor to the attorney general, who was under federal investigation and alleged that authorities had wrongfully targeted him under this probe.

Penley testified that Paul carried on as if he was the “real boss” of the attorney general’s office calling all the shots – not Paxton.

When asked by lead prosecutor Rusty Hardin, Penley said that Paul’s main claim was that a search warrant related to a raid carried out by federal and state law enforcement officers was altered to allow the authorities the ability to seize documents as opposed to the “guns and drugs” it initially sought to find.

Penley described these accusations as “outrageous.” Despite not agreeing with Paxton’s request to initiate an investigation, Penley decided to look into the matter after the attorney general personally asked him to do so.

“I thought, why is the attorney general involved in this,” Penley said. “This is not a state matter from what I could tell, and I thought it was very suspicious that someone who was a target of a federal investigation was reaching out to the attorney general for legal help.”

Penley said it was rare for Paxton to request work to be done on a case directly – and testified that this had only happened twice with a case out of the Panhandle and another out of Bexar County. Paxton’s urgency on these respective investigations was also much less heightened, he added.

Yet when it came to Paul's request, Paxton continued pushing for Penley and several other top deputies to pursue despite the Travis County District Attorney's office decision to turn down Paul's request.

Moore testified that Paul’s accusations were “dead upon arrival” to the Travis County district attorney’s office. During her cross-examination, she read a letter aloud, sent directly to Paxton to confirm that sending Paul’s request was not equivalent to a suggestion that Paxton should’ve actively looked into the real estate investor’s accusations.

Cox also testified that he was initially building a case against Paxton for allegedly accepting bribes and participating in other abuses of office related to Paul  – but eventually dropped it.

According to Penley, he only agreed to meet with Paul and Paul’s attorney, Michael Wynne, to seem more “accommodating” to Paxton and to disprove the attorney general’s belief that the investigation had merit.

Penley said that after meeting with Paul and Wynne, who detailed their “theory” that metadata could show that the search warrant in question had been edited after the start of the raid on Paul’s business and properties, he reached out to the attorney general office’s computer forensic investigators to look into this claim.

Initially, Penley testified that the investigators concluded their search and found no evidence of any adjustments to the warrant that showed it had been altered. However, defense attorney Mitchell Little challenged this testimony after referencing Penley’s notes ahead of one of his meetings with Paxton, which declared that the results were inconclusive.

Penley used the findings of the office’s forensic investigation team to call a meeting with Paul, Wynne and Paxton to announce the office would no longer be looking into Paul’s accusations against state and federal authorities.

Both Paul and Paxton were noticeably upset, according to Penley. The attorney general told Penley that he understood Paul’s distrust of authorities as Paxton, too, had been a subject of what he described as “a corrupt law enforcement investigation.”

Penley testified that Paxton was alluding to the probe into his securities fraud charges from 2014 conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Texas Rangers unit, which he was later indicted on and will likely stand trial for in Harris County early next year.

Despite holding that initial meeting to alert Paul, Wynne and Paxton that Penley would not be looking into Paul’s accusations as there was no evidence to go off of, Penley continued to ask Paul and Wynne for documents to try and find anything to pursue.

Paxton instead requested that Penley write down anything he might need to look into so that the attorney general could look into getting the materials for Penley, as Paxton told Penley that Paul and Wynne did not trust him.

Penley said at this point, “red flags” were raised given Paxton’s requests; Penley was concerned that Paul had bribed Paxton. Penley and Paxton’s relationship was further strained when Paxton called him to request that Penley sign a contract to approve hiring special prosecutor Brandon Cammack for outside counsel to investigate Paul's claims.

Penley testified that Paxton grew “passive-aggressive” over the phone when Penley refused to sign it. During Penley’s cross-examination by Little, Penley said he did not want to sign it not only for his legal concerns but because he saw it as a waste of money to bring Cammack on when the office couldn’t afford to provide their staff with raises.

Paxton later met with Penley, who said the attorney general was “frustrated,” that his staff was not doing what he wanted.

At that meeting, Paxton told Penley they needed to get the matter of the contract settled as Paxton had hired Cammack despite the document's status, and Cammack needed to get paid.

Penley was not the only witness to testify about Cammack’s contract, as Paxton consulted Cary before hiring Cammack. Cary testified that the attorney general called her several times to figure out how Paxton could bring him on despite the contract being unsigned by several top deputies.

Cary said that Paxton did have the authority to waive the requirement of signatures from top deputies such as Penley or Jeff Mateer, former first assistant attorney general, and clarified that this did not break the law – just didn't follow the procedure established by the attorney general’s office.

This would allow Cammack to be hired as outside counsel and provide payment for his services; however, Cary said that she clearly stated to Paxton numerous times that this move to approve the contract unilaterally and go against senior staff in the office was “ill-advised.”

Cary echoed Penley’s concerns about Paxton’s “persistence” in his actions and said that she found it unusual that Paxton willingly chose to go against his top deputies and that the attorney general was asking her help as she had expressed her opposition to his decision.

Although Cammack’s compensation was central to Cary’s testimony, lead defense attorney Tony Buzbee confirmed in his cross-examination that Cammack had remained unpaid for his legal services.

At the end of Monday's proceedings, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said that he expected the jury of senators to wrap-up hearing witness testimony on Wednesday and enter into deliberation on Thursday.
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.