The Texas House of Representative released almost 4,000 pages of evidence supporting its impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton, who faces removal from office at a trial in the state Senate next month over charges that he abused his office to aide a wealthy donor.
(Bloomberg) — The Texas House of Representative released almost 4,000 pages of evidence supporting its impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton, who faces removal from office at a trial in the state Senate next month over charges that he abused his office to aide a wealthy donor.
The evidence, published late Thursday, includes emails, memos, transcripts of depositions and other records that House officials say provide a detailed accounting of Paxton’s actions and reveal the extent of his relationship with an embattled real estate developer. In May, House lawmakers voted 121-23 in favor of impeaching him.
Paxton, a Republican firebrand known for championing far-right legal fights, now faces 20 articles of impeachment in the Senate trial Sept. 5, including bribery, obstruction of justice and abuse of public trust. The Republican-dominated chamber will decide whether he should be permanently ousted from office.
The majority of charges involve Paxton’s relationship with Nate Paul, a real estate developer and political donor facing separate allegations of wrongdoing. Paxton has been accused of using his office to help Paul, who in turn allegedly helped Paxton conceal an extramarital affair.
Paxton’s lawyers have filed motions to dismiss all of the charges, arguing the allegations are baseless and that House impeachment managers have not provided evidence to support their claims.
Here are five things to know about the new evidence against Paxton:
Urged to Cut Ties
According to various memos and other documents, top staffers urged Paxton to cut ties with Paul.
“During the course of the meeting, I relayed concerns that I had previously raised to General Paxton about his personal involvement in any matters related to Mr. Paul,” said Jeff Mateer, former first assistant attorney general, in a July 22, 2020, memo recapping a meeting with Paxton that was organized by three staffers with concerns about Paul.
Mark Penley, former deputy attorney general for criminal justices, provided handwritten notes detailing a meeting he had with Paxton where they discussed his relationship with Paul.
Penley said he told Paxton he was suspicious of Paul and warned him that Paul could “make up a story and throw (Paxton) under the bus to the Feds” if he was indicted. In a separate memo he emailed to another employee, Penley said he warned Paxton that he could be accused of bribery if the attorney general continued to push for his office to be involved in cases concerning Paul.
“I also warned the AG that if he directed this investigation, and did not listen to advice from his staff, including me, he could possible open himself up to a bribery charge, if it could be made to look like Paul was causing him to direct an investigation for Paul’s personal benefit, i.e., a ‘pay for play’ scheme,” Penley said.
Burner Phone, Fake Accounts
House officials accused Paxton of going to extraordinary lengths to hide his relationship with Paul, including the use of a burner phone and private email address for his communications with Paul.
The documents also show that a secret Uber account was created using the alias “Dave P,” but the account details, including the saved payment method, matched those affiliated with Paxton’s personal Uber account. Trip logs show that the account user took frequent trips to Paul’s home and the apartment of the woman with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair.
Blocking Foreclosure Sales
During the Covid-19 pandemic, state Senator Bryan Hughes, a Republican, asked the attorney general’s office for a legal opinion about whether local emergency orders limiting public gatherings could prevent in-person foreclosure sales from taking place.
In an opinion, the attorney general’s office said such foreclosure sales would be subject to limits on public gatherings. Days after the opinion was issued, Paul used the opinion to halt foreclosure sales on several properties he controlled.
But documents included in the newly released evidence show that Paxton directed Hughes to submit the request for the opinion and ordered staffers in his office to expedite their response — using wording that he provided.
Paxton’s former deputy first assistant attorney general emailed another staffer outlining the events that preceded the release of the opinion, noting that Paxton directed his staff to reach out to Hughes “and ask that he make a request, which he did.”
Paxton’s Alleged Affair
Paxton allegedly had an extramarital affair with a woman named Laura Olson, identified by name in earlier filings before the impeachment proceedings.
The new evidence includes a letter agreement between Olson and World Class Property, one of Paul’s companies. The letter states that Olson was hired in June 2020 to be director of special projects, making $65,000 a year.
The Texas Senate’s impeachment trial next month will be conducted in public, though deliberations by senators deciding Paxton’s fate will be behind closed doors.
Paxton’s wife is state Senator Angela Paxton, but her colleagues voted to prohibit her from casting a vote during the impeachment trial. Still, she will be present during the proceedings.
Read More: Texas AG Ken Paxton’s Impeachment Trial Set for Sept. 5
–With assistance from Julie Fine and Shelly Hagan.
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