I have three things to say about this.
In new allegations revealed Wednesday, Texas House investigators accused suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton of engaging in a complex cover-up to hide his relationship with real estate investor Nate Paul as senior aides grew increasingly concerned about Paxton’s willingness to use his office to benefit Paul.
The subterfuge allegedly included Paxton and Paul creating an Uber account under an alias so they could meet each other and so the attorney general could visit the woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
And once Paxton learned several high-ranking officials in his office reported his behavior to the FBI, the House impeachment managers alleged, he took immediate steps to cover up his relationship with Paul, including wiring a $122,000 payment to a Paul-affiliated company in an effort to hide home renovations that Paul had provided for free.
The allegations, outlined in a series of filings with the Texas Senate’s court of impeachment, shed new light on the relationship between Paul and Paxton that is at the core of his impeachment proceedings.
Among the new claims: Top deputies in the attorney general’s office persistently warned Paxton that Paul was a “crook” and that there was no merit to his claims that he had been unfairly treated by law enforcement, and that the two met at least 20 times in spring and summer 2020, sometimes discussing the FBI investigation into Paul’s faltering real estate empire.
Paxton “blindly accepted Paul’s conspiracy,” impeachment managers alleged. “Senior Staff urged Paxton to stay away. But when it came to Paul, Paxton was immune to reason.”
Paul was arrested in June on federal felony charges of lying to financial institutions to secure business loans.
Responding to Paxton’s pretrial motions that seek to dismiss all 20 articles of impeachment, including four that will not be included in the Sept. 5 impeachment trial, House managers also detailed multiple actions in which Paxton allegedly sought to use his office to benefit Paul.
They alleged that Paxton conducted a “sham criminal investigation” into Paul’s “adversaries,” routinely overriding concerns from agency staff who told him that Paul was a “criminal” and that Paxton needed to “get away.”
Instead, House managers alleged, Paxton became increasingly “entangled in Paul’s web of deceit” and “went to great lengths” to hide his relationship with Paul — using a burner phone and secret email accounts, ditching his security detail and using the fake Uber name to be “ferried to his lover’s or Paul’s properties more than a dozen times.”
In response to Paul’s favors — including allegedly employing the woman and paying to remodel Paxton’s home — Paxton “continually abused the power of his office to advance Paul’s aims,” House managers alleged.
In one instance, Paxton allegedly told agency staff that he did not want the office to assist law enforcement “in any way” with an investigation into Paul, who Paxton claimed was being “railroaded” and needed “unprecedented” access to sensitive information about his case.
After meeting with “alarmed” senior staff, Paxton allegedly demanded files about Paul’s criminal case that included an unredacted FBI letter that identified individuals involved in a 2019 raid on Paul’s home and businesses.
“Paxton held onto the file for more than a week,” House managers wrote. “Ultimately, OAG did not disclose the information to Paul. But Paxton did.”
In a written response, filed with the Senate on Tuesday and made public Wednesday, the impeachment team challenged other pretrial assertions from Paxton’s lawyers, who claimed the articles of impeachment were deficient because they failed to list specific laws that Paxton allegedly broke.
“Impeachable offenses need not be indictable crimes,” the House team argued. “Impeachment in Texas seeks to protect against conduct that undermines the integrity of the office, disregards constitutional duties and oaths of office, abuses government process and power, and adversely impacts the system of government.”
What’s more, the team argued, many of the articles listed particular crimes, and several detailed “how Paxton abused his office for his own personal benefit or that of Nate Paul and business entities controlled by Paul.”
More broadly, the managers emphasized that the impeachment trial is not a criminal or civil proceeding, as Paxton’s side has implied. In one new filing, the managers wrote that an impeachment trial is “a unique, if not mostly Political, with a capital ‘P’, proceeding — i.e., an action by the representatives of the people challenging official actions that are contrary to the public interest.”
That view aligns with the view that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who leads the Senate and is acting as judge in the impeachment trial, offered in a TV interview Tuesday.
“It’s not a criminal trial. It’s not a civil trial. It’s a political trial,” Patrick told the Fox affiliate in Houston.
1. I don’t know about you, but any activity in which one feels the need to use burner phones and fake Uber accounts seems to me to be not on the up and up. Everyone deserves privacy, even elected officials, but these are not things that most people do in the course of their normal business. In a vacuum there may be legitimate reasons for that sort of thing, but in this context it’s just damn suspicious. Also, too, taking all these steps to cover one’s tracks almost always requires doing some amount of lying, by necessity to people you know. I’m just saying.
2. I’m glad we settled the question about what kind of trial this is. It had been keeping me awake at night.
3. In the end what I think this all comes down to is how many Republicans are there in the Senate who have decided they’ve had enough of Ken Paxton’s shit? He’s been their low scorer in the last two elections, his biggest supporters are the rich guys who love to throw millions of dollars in attacks against other Republicans, and while he’s had his successes in the courts, he’s no legal genius. Anyone can file a lawsuit with these Trump judges he has access to. I don’t know what will happen with the impeachment trial, but I think it’s a matter of whether the evidence is enough to convince at least nine of those people that they can do better, they don’t need this. We’ll see. The Chron has more.