The Volokh Conspiracy

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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."


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 Mateer was previously nominated to a federal district court by President Trump, but his nomination was subsequently withdrawn.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."