Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton continues to be under official scrutiny for possible criminal behavior, but an internal investigation report from his office released on Tuesday states that Paxton broke no laws. However, the report leaves many questions unanswered.
Last fall, eight attorneys in Paxton’s own office accused the attorney general of using his position improperly to benefit his friend and campaign donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate businessman. Four of the whistleblowers claim that Paxton retaliated against them for their accusations.
The matter has since been under investigation by the FBI, but the AG’s office also apparently conducted an internal, and apparently anonymous, investigation. No outside investigators or prosecutors were brought in for the matter. No one’s signature accompanies the final report.
“There is no evidence that Nate Paul attempted to bribe AG Paxton,” the report states. “The Complainants attempt to use a campaign donation as proof of the bribe, however, Paul has made only one campaign donation to AG Paxton in 2018 – not only well before the allegedly improper actions taken by AG Paxton in 2020, but even before the FBI’s 2019 raid that formed the gravamen of Nate Paul’s criminal complaints.”
The whistleblowers allege that Paul, who has donated $25,000 to Paxton and helped the AG remodel his home, contacted Paxton for help once he was under FBI investigation himself.
Chuck Lindell of the Austin American-Statesman had several questions about the report that made him doubt it. In a long thread on Twitter, he noted:
1. The report fails to mention the strange circumstances that lead to the push for and official guidance on some foreclosures involving Paul. In Texas law, opinions from the AG office must be sought by a public official, in this case. The report acknowledges that the guidance was sought by State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola). Hughes himself has stated that the AG office provided him with the specific language for the request, something the senator had never seen before. Basically, the office needed someone like Hughes to request guidance and gave Hughes the exact language it wanted for the purpose, which is unusual.
2. The report also does not mention that this opinion was strangely rushed and involved an uncommon amount of hands-on work from Paxton. The process started on a Saturday in August and was heralded by a press release on Sunday. Paxton ordered that the opinion be finished before the weekend. It’s almost unheard of for the AG office to issue a press release regarding their opinions, and the fact that one was done specifically for such a close associate of Paxton’s raises red flags.
Despite the report, the matter is far from settled. The FBI investigation is ongoing, and there is a civil lawsuit from the whistleblowers. Next month, an appellate court will decide whether to listen to Paxton’s request to have the case dismissed. The whistleblowers themselves are very unsatisfied with the internal investigation.
“The takeaway from this internal report is that, although Ken Paxton remains under active federal investigation, the people who still work for Paxton say he did nothing wrong,” reads a written statement from their lawyers. “Of course, the one-sided internal report is full of half-truths, outright lies, and glaring omissions.”
Paxton faces contentious re-election next year after having spent his term under criminal indictment for a separate matter.