Top aides of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked federal law enforcement authorities to investigate allegations of improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential crimes against the state’s top lawyer.
In a one-page letter to the state agency’s director of human resources, obtained Saturday by the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV, seven executives in the upper tiers of the office said that they are seeking the investigation into Paxton “in his official capacity as the current Attorney General of Texas.”
The Thursday letter said that each “has knowledge of facts relevant to these potential offenses and has provided statements concerning those facts to the appropriate law enforcement.”
Paxton, a 57-year-old Republican, was elected in 2014. His office said in a statement Saturday evening: “The complaint filed against Attorney General Paxton was done 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.”
The statement did not elaborate.
The letter to human resources was signed by Paxton’s first assistant, Jeff Mateer, who resigned Friday, as well as Mateer’s deputy and deputy attorneys general overseeing divisions that include criminal investigations, civil litigation, administration and policy.
“We have a good faith belief that the attorney general is violating federal and/or state law including prohibitions related to improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential criminal offenses,” the letter states.
Their decisions to report possible illegal activity involving their employer represents a stunning development in an agency that prizes loyalty, particularly from within Paxton’s inner circle. It places a renewed spotlight on Paxton, who is already under indictment for alleged securities fraud.
The complaint concluded by saying that they notified Paxton in a text message Thursday that they had reported the alleged violations to law enforcement.
The whistleblowers, who notified human resources to protect their jobs, offered no other details about the allegations and did not describe what they believe Paxton did that was illegal. Efforts to reach them were unsuccessful Saturday.
Mateer’s inclusion in the complaint letter, and his departure as Paxton’s second in command, was particularly significant, coming from a political ally who shared a conservative Christian perspective on many social and legal issues.
“Stunned” doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about this news. This is a bombshell, and it’s a question of how big it is. The fact that this accusation was made by Paxton’s staffers, including an ideological ally like Jeff Mateer, makes it all the more momentous. I cannot wait to see what happens next.
Paxton’s defense appears to be “I’m not doing illegal stuff, it’s these staffers of mine who are the bad guys”. Not sure how well that will work out, but as we do not have any details from either side as yet, it is very likely there’s more to this, and we’re just going to have to wait to see what else there is. Neither this story nor the KVUE story has a copy of the letter, so what you see here is what we’ve got. Stay tuned. See Jessica Shortall on Twitter for more.