Turmoil in Texas Attorney General's Office (Updated)

A top aide resigns after he and others accuse Texas AG Ken Paxton of "a potential violation of law."

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

On Thursday, seven deputies to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to the head of the agency's human resources department disclosing that they had "reported to an appropriate law enforcement authority a potential violation of law" by Paxton.

As the Austin-American Statesman reported:

Top aides of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked federal law enforcement authorities to investigate allegations of improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential crimes against the state's top lawyer. . . .

The Thursday letter said that each "has knowledge of facts relevant to these potential offenses and has provided statements concerning those facts to the appropriate law enforcement."

Paxton, a 57-year-old Republican, was first elected in 2014. His office said in a statement Saturday evening: "The complaint filed against Attorney General Paxton was done to impede an ongoing investigation into criminal wrongdoing by public officials including employees of this office. Making false claims is a very serious matter and we plan to investigate this to the fullest extent of the law."

The statement did not elaborate.

Among those signing the letter was First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer, who has since resigned his position. Mateer was previously nominated to a federal district court by President Trump, but his nomination was subsequently withdrawn. According to the Statesman, the letter's other signatories "notified human resources to protect their jobs" as whistleblowers.

Today the Dallas Morning News reports:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he was concerned by allegations that Attorney General Ken Paxton broke state and federal laws related to bribery and abuse of office.

"These allegations raise serious concerns. I will withhold further comment until the results of any investigation are complete," Abbott said in a statement Sunday. . . .

It is unclear whether the potential illegal conduct mentioned in the letter is related to a previous federal indictment of AG Paxton. Those charges are still pending and Paxton has consistently maintained his innocence.

More from the Dallas Morning News:

Deputy First Assistant Attorney General Ryan L. Bangert, one of the top employees who signed the whistleblower letter, sent out an agency-wide email Sunday telling employees that the agency's top staff remain focused on their work.

"In light of recent events reported in the media, I write to assure you that the executive team remains committed to serving you, this office, and the people of Texas. The work we do together makes a difference every day in the lives of our fellow citizens," the email read, according to a copy obtained by The News. "Together, we owe a duty to this office and the people of the State, who we serve, to ensure the agency continues its important work without interruption.

"Your work, your sacrifice, and your dedication to this office inspire us all."

UPDATE: On Monday, GOP Congressman Chip Roy called for Paxton's resignation. This seems particularly noteworthy because Roy used to served as Paxton's top deputy in the AG's office.

Later on Monday, AG Paxton released the following statement in response to calls for his resignation:

The Texas attorney general's office was referred a case from Travis county regarding allegations of crimes relating to the FBI, other government agencies and individuals. My obligation as attorney general is to conduct an investigation upon such referral. Because employees from my office impeded the investigation and because I knew Nate Paul I ultimately decided to hire an outside independent prosecutor to make his own independent determination. Despite the effort by rogue employees and their false allegations I will continue to seek justice in Texas and will not be resigning."

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  1. Is this kind of giant deputy-level staffer group-whistleblowing unprecedented? It seems like a helluva thing.

    1. The Bush family is most likely involved because they want to clear the field for George Herpes Bush.

    2. Whatever the merits of a potential criminal investigation into Paxton, it really calls into question his ability to lead the office under these circumstances.

      1. Ok Jeb.

      2. Six months into the job he was indicted for two counts of securities fraud (first degree felonies) and one count of failure to register with state securities regulators.

        1. Sure. But that probably didn’t affect his ability to interact with the people who run the day-to-day operations of the department he leads as much. This probably will.

  2. Texas can’t turn blue fast enough. Rooting the Republicans out of Texas government is going to be just as fun as watching those electoral votes go to Democrats.

    1. Never gonna happen chica.

      1. You figure you’re smarter than demographics.

        Trump figures he was smarter than a virus.

        What is it about clingers that makes them impervious to the reality-based world?

        1. To be fair Trump did beat HIV and herpes so I would have thought he would be the perfect man to beat this virus. 😉

          1. Not only did he beat herpes; avoiding STDs was his own personal Viet Nam (according to him, that is).

  3. There’s actually quite a long history here. Back when he was elected Attorney General in2014, Ken Paxton was under investigation for securities fraud, for misleading investors. I don’t recall the exact details, but the essential complaint was that at the time, before his election, he was working as an investment adviser, and he was promoting a product in which he had some personal interest.
    There were state investigations and federal SEC investigations. I don’t recall the exact details, but the essential complaint was that The SEC investigations were wrapped up, without any criminal referrals, but shortly after his election, he was indicted by the grand jury of his home county. Since then there have been back and forth issues on change of venue, and related issues.
    Since IANAL, I won’t try to get too deeply into them, but a peculiar problem is the question of, if a trial is moved to a new venue, then who is responsible for prosecuting it — it’s not the responsibility of the District Attorney of the Count where it is moved, because the prosecution isn’t in the interest of the people of that county. So it takes outside counsel to act as prosecutors. And how are they compensated, for what can be a very complicated trial.
    So that case has been stalled for going on five years now, but it’s been out there in the ether for as long as Paxton has been AG, and this coming along today is hardly a surprise to those who watch Paxton.

    1. So it’s never the responsibility of a county where the venue’s changed to to handle the prosecution. That’s always the job of the DA who has jurisdiction over the crime. Change of venue just changes where the trial is held. The issue here is that the local DA in question is personal friends with Paxton, so he recused his office early on. Ordinarily another DA would be appointed as a special prosecutor, but none of them wanted to take it because of the relationship between DAs and the AG’s office. That left appointing private attorneys, which was done. But the private attorneys charged a HUGE amount. The judge who appointed them approved it, but the county commissioners (county government, like a city council) balked at paying it. There were court cases about whether they were authorized to get that amount, which they lost, but they don’t want to do the job because they say they’re not getting paid an adequate amount. That’s where most of the jockeying and time have gone.

      1. Thanks for the insight KenveeB. I’m kinda perversely interested in this trainwreck.

        Any thoughts about what these new bribery allegations could be about?

        1. No idea! I’ve followed the procedural aspects of the special prosecutors, because it affects having special prosecutors appointed in other cases where I might be involved, but haven’t followed anything on the merits with Paxton’s cases.

    2. Wouldn’t prosecution be the job of a special prosecutor, or doesn’t the AG office in Texas have those? Of course a SP would have to be named and appointed, which is pretty damn unlikely with a Republican controlled state government.

      1. No one from the AG’s office can be a special prosecutor to prosecute their own boss. It’s a conflict of interests. Ordinarily either the AG or another DA’s office is appointed as a special prosecutor in Texas, but there are problems with that just because it’s the AG involved.

  4. Sounds like leftist lawfare crap.
    ccmc-aus gives some shaky narrative with absolutely no named crime. Indictments are meaningless,
    Just of the top of my head, Tom Delay, Kay Baylee Hutchinson, and Gov, Rick Perry. All accused, Delay actually convicted before the truth came out and the conviction had to be set aside. Sen Ted Stevens, also convicted, but not in Texas.
    History and the Dems reliance on lawfare instead of winning policies, is enough to doubt the veracity of the accusers.

    1. Yes, noted leftist Jeff Mateer.

    2. iowantwo is just another Radical Left Socialist who hates law and order.

    3. Hahaha sure, Paxton, already charged with securities fraud, then went and hired a bunch of conservative activists who were really closer “leftists” (which is the same as anti-corruption) who now want to risk their jobs solely to take out Paxton. Great plot there!

    4. Jeff Mateer. Recommended for a judgeship by Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, nominated by President Trump for the Eastern District of Texas. Nomination later withdrawn due to prior unearthed but undisclosed comments re: transgender children are part of “Satan’s plan” and support for conversion therapy. He used to work at the First Liberty Institute, where he is now returning. First Liberty Institute is not a “leftist” organization.

    5. Agree, just a big leftist conspiracy. Another thing, how can good politicians possibly raise $25K at a time in donations if they can’t help out large donors with special favors when the donors’ offices and home get raided by the FBI? The AG has first amendment rights, too.

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