The impeachment trial of Ken Paxton may help answer some questions about one of the more brazen (alleged) attempts by Paxton to help his buddy Nate Paul.
More than a year before Ken Paxton would be impeached by the Texas House, a state Senate committee began poking around an issue that could help determine whether the Republican attorney general remains in office or not.
At issue was Brandon Cammack, a five-year lawyer hired by the attorney general’s office in 2020 to investigate whether a Paxton friend — Austin real estate investor Nate Paul — had been mistreated in a federal investigation into Paul’s businesses.
Paxton has argued that Paul raised important questions that required investigation. But for high-ranking whistleblowers in Paxton’s office, Cammack’s hiring was one example of Paxton’s extraordinary willingness to misuse his power to help Paul.
At a February 2021 meeting of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Joan Huffman — an influential Republican from Houston — asked Paxton how Cammack had come to be hired.
The question was an important one. In fall 2020, eight executives in Paxton’s agency met with FBI agents and state investigators to accuse Paxton of misusing his official authority to help Paul by hiring Cammack and by taking other unusual actions. Cammack, they alleged, misrepresented himself as a special prosecutor to secure 39 subpoenas intended to harass law enforcement and prosecutors investigating Paul.
Paxton referred Huffman’s question to his top aide, First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster, even though Paxton was directly involved in hiring and supervising Cammack and Webster was working elsewhere when Cammack was hired.
Standing next to Paxton, Webster replied that the Travis County district attorney’s office had asked for help investigating Paul’s claim that search warrants for his home and businesses had been improperly doctored in 2019.
Webster said Cammack was hired by the attorney general’s office as an “outside counsel” to assist the Travis County district attorney’s office with its investigation of Paul’s claims. Cammack later became a special prosecutor when he “worked with” the district attorney’s office to get the grand jury subpoenas, Webster said.
“I’ve interviewed [assistant district attorneys] from Travis County and seen documents from Travis County that prove the fact that the Travis County DA’s office made Brandon Cammack a special prosecutor,” Webster said. “We did not make Brandon Cammack a special prosecutor, that was within the purview of the Travis County DA’s office.”
Travis County prosecutors say Webster’s portrayal was not true.
Margaret Moore, the district attorney at the time of Cammack’s hiring, said her office did not ask Cammack to investigate the case or seek any subpoenas.
“We didn’t even know him,” Moore said.
Gregg Cox, who worked in high-level positions for the Travis County district attorney’s office until 2020, said Cammack obtained the subpoenas on his own.
“There was no invitation, there was no request, there was nothing that would have authorized the use of a special prosecutor or the issuance of grand jury subpoenas,” Cox said.
“They’re trying to justify something that was done inappropriately by falsely describing it,” Cox said.
As the Texas Senate prepares for Paxton’s impeachment trial in September, Webster’s comments could come under scrutiny by some of the same senators who heard his testimony in February 2021.
This is a long story, and it boils down to whether Paxton hired this green attorney to act as a “special prosecutor” for the sole purpose of throwing sand into the gears of the FBI investigation of Nate Paul, and also whether he then lied about it to the Senate when they asked him. We first heard the name “Brandon Cammack” almost three years ago, and he and this saga were a big part of the House General Investigations Committee’s hearings, which were explosive in their own right and then led to the impeachment itself. I’m sure the feds will be watching this. Paxton minion Brent Webster may have his own legal stuff to sweat about because of this as well. I cannot wait for this trial to begin.