Embattled Texas AG drops case that set off staff revolt
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday closed an investigation into a wealthy donor that sparked an extraordinary riot among the Republican top MPs, accusing him of bribery and abuse of office, and sparking new calls for him Resignation.
The announcement came hours after Austin prosecutors expressed discomfort about why Paxton opened an investigation wanted by Nate Paul, an Austin developer and donor to Paxton, whose offices were raided by the FBI. State agencies also confirmed Friday that they had forwarded criminal allegations made by Paxton's own employees against their boss to federal agencies.
"The newly emerged information raises serious concerns about the integrity of your investigation and the accuracy of your conduct," said Travis District Attorney Margaret Moore, who directed her office to cut off contact with Paxton on the case.
Paul gave Paxton $ 25,000 in campaign contributions in 2018. Federal authorities did not disclose why they raided Paul's offices last year, but Paul later went to his own investigation because his constitutional rights were violated.
Paxton, who vowed not to resign this week, said in a statement that he had dropped Paul's complaint as local prosecutors are now no longer involved. But Moore has denied Paxton's claims as the case started, saying that it was he who first approached her about Paul this summer.
“Criminal investigations are critical to achieving justice for families across the state, but this is only a small part of the wide-ranging issues this bureau addresses. We pride ourselves on the fact that our office does a great job every day for all Texans, ”said Paxton.
Paul's attorney, Michael Wynne, didn't respond to requests for comment on Friday.
Closing the investigation is unlikely to ease pressure on Paxton, who has spent almost all of his five years in office on separate charges of securities fraud. He has denied the wrongdoing regarding the Paul complaint, accusing "rogue employees and their false allegations".
Republican MP Chip Roy, who used to work for Paxton, called for his resignation this week. Another Republican lawmaker who chairs a committee overseeing Paxton's office also raised concerns on Friday.
"If the real and legal claims of your own officers are true, I believe you must voluntarily step down from your position and encourage you to do so," Republican Rep. Jeff Leach wrote in a letter.
Moore, a Democrat, distanced himself a week after Paxton's top MP accused him of bribery and abuse of office after hiring an outside lawyer to investigate Paul's allegations. Paxton said the Travis County Attorney's Office had referred the case to his office, but Moore wrote Friday that "this should not be used as an indication of any need for investigation."
The outside attorney Paxton hired was Brandon Cammack, who graduated from law in 2015 and runs a modest criminal defense practice. He has no experience as a prosecutor but is linked to one of Paul's defense lawyers. He hasn't responded to repeated requests for comment this week.
Keith Byers, an attorney and retired FBI agent overseeing public corruption cases in Texas, suggested the attorney general's investigation was "a cheap diversionary tactic and nothing more than political drama".
Byers said the FBI is often concerned about the motives of people who report crimes to them, and then immediately makes the allegations public.
"I understand, however, that at times a situation can become so unbearable that desperate people decide to step off the sinking Titanic and scream in the hope that someone will send help," he said.
Paxton has said he called in an outside lawyer because he knew Paul and because the attorney general's staff were trying to block the investigation. The full nature of Paul and Paxton's relationship is unclear.
It's also unclear what Paul alleged against federal law enforcement, but his allegations came to light a year after the FBI searched his home and office. The FBI has refused to comment and Paul's attorney has not answered any questions about his allegations.
Bleiberg reported from Dallas.
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