GOP Lawmakers Call for Texas Attorney General to Resign After Bribery Claims

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton waits for the arrival of Vice President Mike Pence at Love Field Airport in Dallas on June 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Calls for the resignation of embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton grew Monday from fellow Republicans after seven senior staffers reported him to federal officials for alleged bribery and abuse of office tied to the investigation of a campaign donor’s enemies.

GOP Congressman Chip Roy, whose district includes Austin, tweeted Monday morning Paxton must resign “for the good of the people of Texas and the extraordinary public servants” in the attorney general’s office. Roy served as Paxton’s initial first assistant until he was asked to resign in 2015. He was later elected to Congress in 2018.

Roy said the allegations made by Paxton’s senior staff “are more than troubling on the merits” and that the work of the attorney general’s office “is too critical to the state and her people to leave in chaos and to risk the work of over 700 lawyers managing almost 30,000 legal cases” at any one time.

Paxton’s staffers wrote a letter to their boss’ office on Oct. 1, disclosing they reported him a day earlier to federal law enforcement regarding crimes he allegedly committed in his official capacity as attorney general.

“We have a good faith belief that the attorney general is violating federal and/or state law, including prohibitions relating to improper influences, abuse of office, bribery, and other potential criminal offenses,” the one-page letter states. “Each signatory below has knowledge of facts relevant to these potential offenses and has provided statements concerning those facts to the appropriate law enforcement authority.”

The seven staffers include former First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer — who resigned several days ago — as well as Deputy First Assistant Attorney General Ryan Bangert, Deputy Attorney General for Civil Litigation Darren McCarty, Deputy Attorney General for Legal Counsel Ryan Vassar and Deputy Attorney General for Administration Lacey Mase.

Paxton’s office quickly denied the allegations late Saturday evening, accusing the senior staffers of acting 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,” Paxton’s office said in a statement.

Roy appeared disappointed at Paxton’s threat against his staff.

“Any grace for him to resolve differences and demonstrate if the allegations are false was eliminated by his choice instead to attack the very people entrusted, by him, to lead the office – some of whom I know well and whose character are beyond reproach,” Roy posted Monday on Facebook.

Paxton flatly refused to resign Monday afternoon, admitting the allegations surround his involvement in a case referred to him by Travis County officials regarding campaign donor and Austin real estate investor Nate Paul. Paxton said Sunday the case involved “allegations of crimes relating to the FBI, other government agencies” and unidentified individuals.

“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,” Paxton said in a statement. “Despite the effort by rogue employees and their false allegations, the AG’s office will continue to seek justice in Texas.”

First reported by the Houston Chronicle and Hearst Newspapers, Paxton’s staff intervened when that special prosecutor, Houston attorney Brandon Cammack, had a Travis County grand jury last week issue subpoenas targeting Paul’s enemies. Deputy Attorney General J. Mark Penley, one of the seven senior staffers, filed a motion to quash the subpoenas on Oct. 2, which was granted within hours.

“He is not properly authorized to act as a special prosecutor, and … has no authority to appear before the grand jury or issue grand jury subpoenas,” Penley’s motion to quash stated.

Paul has donated to the campaigns of at least three other Texas Republicans in the past two years, including Roy, U.S. Senator John Cornyn and Congressman Michael McCaul, according to donor records at the Federal Election Commission.

Roy confirmed Paul’s $2,700 donation to his campaign Monday afternoon.

“I do not recall meeting Mr. Paul and it shows as an online contribution,” Roy tweeted.

State Representative Sarah Davis, R-Houston, was the first Republican to urge Paxton to resign. She tweeted Sunday that Paxton was “innocent until proven guilty,” but acknowledged the attorney general has also been under criminal indictment for five years on felony securities charges relating to his time in the Texas House of Representatives.

“With these new allegations of bribery and abuse of office, Paxton needs to quickly address these allegations or resign so he can devote his time to his own personal legal matters,” Davis said.

Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, both Republicans, declined to comment on the allegations against Paxton on Sunday, each stating they will wait until an investigation is complete before commenting.

The FBI did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.

Questions over Paxton’s ethics have dogged him for half a decade. A Collin County grand jury charged Paxton in August 2015 with two first-degree felony counts of securities fraud and a third-degree felony count of failing to register with the Texas State Securities Board from his time in the Texas House.

Prosecutors claim Paxton urged investors to invest $600,000 in technology firm Servergy without disclosing he would earn a commission and misrepresented he was investing in the McKinney-based company.

Paxton faces up to 99 years in state prison if convicted. The criminal case has been stuck in pretrial for over five years as the case has been moved to Harris County and back while Paxton has launched several attempts at having the judge removed.

In the meantime, the case did not prevent Paxton from serving his entire first term as attorney general. He narrowly won reelection in 2018 with 50.6% of the vote over Democrat Justin Nelson.

Paxton has repeatedly denied the criminal charges against him, blaming his political opponents for retaliating against him for opposing policies by then-President Barack Obama.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a similar civil lawsuit against Paxton in April 2016 in federal court in Dallas over the Servergy matter. A federal judge dismissed that lawsuit six months later, finding Paxton “did not have a legal obligation to disclose his financial arrangements” to the firm’s investors.

One year later, a Dallas-area district attorney launched an ethics probe into Paxton accepting a $100,000 gift for his legal defense fund from James Webb, leader of a company that was being investigated for Medicaid fraud.

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