In public testimony before the panel Wednesday, Erin Epley, lead counselor and former Harris County prosecutor, and others, said Paxton abused his position as attorney general to provide federal classified documents to Nate Paul, a real estate investor, friend and donor to Paxton’s past campaigns.
It was also revealed that Paul’s attorney asked Paxton to appoint outside legal counsel to assist in an on-going federal investigation aimed at Paul and his business, which he did, according to Mark Donnelly, a prosecutor of the U.S. attorney of the Southern District of Texas and another investigator on the case.
In return for these favors, Paul assisted Paxton in a home renovation for one of his properties, said Epley.
In light of this testimony and other information gathered in the months-long investigation, the possibility that Attorney General Ken will be censured or impeached appeared to increase.
Before this week, claims of these illegal actions were known, but it wasn’t until Wednesday’s testimony that the five-member committee heard details alleging the investigators’ findings that Paxton broke multiple state laws, misspent office funds and breached his limit of power to help Paul.
The investigation was launched in March but concealed and referred to as “Matter A” when first announced in the short committee meeting held on Tuesday.
Epley revealed prior to starting testimony on Wednesday that Paxton’s actions were at the center of the investigation, which started after an initial inquiry on the payout of the $3.3 million whistleblowers lawsuit.
The lawsuit involved four of Paxton’s former deputies who alleged they were fired after alerting authorities to what they said were cases of Paxton accepting bribes and other wrongdoings. Their termination after making these claims would be a violation of state law which states it is illegal for employees to be let go after informing law enforcement about alleged illegal activity on the part of their supervisors, Epley said.
Epley, Donnelly and other counselors on the case — Ryan Patrick, a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s son; Terese Buess, a veteran prosecutor of Harris County District Attorney’s Office; Donna Cameron, a career prosecutor in various Texas counties; and Brian Benken, a former prosecutor with Harris County District Attorney’s Office — conducted numerous interviews sitting down with 15 employees for the attorney general’s office.
All but one of these individuals claimed that they were concerned over Paxton’s retaliation against them, according to Epley.
Paxton has led a scandal-ridden time in office as attorney general, facing securities fraud charges and a federal investigation into the whistleblowers’ initial claims.
However, he managed to be successful in re-election efforts and garnered support from his conservative counterparts over his tenure.
After the committee meeting – which was open and live streamed to the public – members went to executive order to deliberate and upon returning, they reported no action was taken.
The committee can meet whenever they choose until the end of the legislative session on May 29. If the committee does not convene to discuss the matter before this date, they will need the approval of Governor Greg Abbott, House Speaker Dade Phelan and support from at least 50 members – or the majority – of the House to call a special session to discuss the possibility for impeachment or censure.
Paxton released a statement in response to the investigation:
“The liberal leadership of the Texas House has routinely killed conservative legislation including important bills which would help secure our border and protect the integrity of our elections. They have demonstrated nothing but contempt for the traditional values of conservative Texans. It is not surprising that a committee appointed by liberal speaker Dade Phelan would seek to disenfranchise Texas voters and sabotage my work as Attorney General. The false testimony of highly partisan Democrat lawyers with the goal of manipulating and misleading the public is reprehensible. Every allegation is easily disproved, and I look forward to continuing my fight for conservative Texas values.”