Buzbee, Hardin spar over questioning, objections at Paxton impeachment trial
(The Center Square) – The second day of the impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was marked by ongoing sparring between lead prosecuting attorney Dusty Hardin and Paxton’s lead attorney, Tony Buzbee.
The sparring occurred as the trial's first witness, former First Deputy Attorney General Jeff Mateer, testified.
Throughout Hardin's questioning of Mateer, Buzbee objected, arguing Hardin was asking leading questions. Nearly all objections were sustained by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is presiding over the trial as judge.
Mateer served as second in command under Paxton from 2016 until October 2020, when he resigned. The resignation came after he filed a complaint with the FBI alleging Paxton may have potentially committed a crime or been the target of a crime by a 2018 donor, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.
The 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton accuse him of bribery, abuse of public trust, being unfit for office, and other allegations. Four articles of the 20 were held in abeyance.
Buzbee regularly objected to Hardin’s line of questioning, saying he was asking leading questions. “Every question is leading this witness,” Buzbee said.
In one of his objections, Buzbee said Hardin is “basically telling the witness what he wants him to say.” Patrick sustained the objection.
During another objection, Buzbee said Hardin “is suggesting the answer to the question ... which is classic leading, and I object.” Patrick sustained the objection and asked Hardin to rephrase his question, which he did.
The line of questioning and objections continued for over an hour Wednesday. After another objection, Buzbee objected again, this time saying Mateer was “nonresponsive” in the answer he gave. The question is “whether it was legal for the attorney general to sign a contract. We’d like to have an answer to that question,” Buzbee said.
“He’s giving his answer,” Hardin said. Buzbee replied, “nonresponsive, your honor.” Patrick sustained the objection.
Hardin proceeded to ask another question and Buzbee interjected again, saying, “We’d like an answer to the question. Is it legal for the attorney general to sign a contract? That was the question.”
“You know, … I’ve made it this far in life without advice from Mr. Buzbee I’m going to try and make it the rest of my life … I’ll ask my questions,” Hardin said.
Then, Patrick interjected, saying the witness “can answer the question, ‘is it illegal for him to sign a contract,” referring to Paxton.
Then Hardin went on to ask another question and Buzbee said, “actually, he needs to answer the question.”
Patrick also interrupted Hardin and said, “the witness will answer the question.”
Then Mateer asked for the question to be restated. Patrick told Hardin to restate the question. Hardin then said he had to look back through the transcript “to see what he asked.”
Hardin had trouble reading the transcript and then tried to ask another question, saying, “let me break it down, did you have an opinion …” and was interrupted by Buzbee again.
Hardin then said he withdrew the question and was proceeding to the next question.
Patrick said, “You asked the question, the witness hasn’t answered.”
“We don’t know what the question was,” Hardin said.
“Your honor, he suggested that it’s illegal for the attorney general of the state of Texas to sign a contract,” referring to Hardin, Buzbee said. “This witness knows it’s not and he should say so.”
“I’ll be glad to ask that question my way,” Hardin replied, saying, “I’ll withdraw the question and with the court’s permission, proceed.”
At this point, Patrick listened to guidance from his counselor, Justice Lana Myers, and said Hardin “may withdraw the question.”
In another line of questioning, Hardin asked Mateer more than once what he thought his staff believed about a signed contract. Buzbee objected more than once, saying any response was hearsay. He also asked Patrick if the court could hear from the former employees “rather than hear him say what they told him? This is hearsay.”
Hardin then asked if Mateer was aware of other staffs’ opinion about “what the attorney general and Mr. [Nate] Paul were asking them to do was lawful.”
Buzbee objected, saying Hardin “suggested Mr. Paul was somehow talking about this contract. There’s no evidence of that. … The question is vague and assumes facts that are certainly not in evidence.”
Objections, allegations of leading the witness and that Mateer was committing hearsay continued throughout the day.