AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Monday he won’t step down after his top assistants accused him of violating the law.
On Saturday, the Austin American Statesman newspaper and KVUE-TV reported Paxton’s seven top assistant attorneys general sent a letter to human resources saying, “We have a good faith belief that the Attorney General is violating federal and/or state law, including prohibitions relating to improper influence, abuse of office, bribery, and other potential criminal offenses.”
The letter, posted on the news organization’s reporter on Twitter, says the officials sent a text to Paxton telling him they notified law enforcement.
The allegations have many in the political sphere in Austin and around the state buzzing.Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak said, “This is a political earthquake in Texas politics. There’s no question about it.”
Media reports say the concerns surround Paxton’s ties to Austin real estate developer Nate Paul. CBS 11 News called Paul’s office Monday afternoon seeking comment, but have not heard back.
In a statement Monday, Paxton said, “The Texas attorney general’s office was referred a case from Travis County regarding allegations of crimes relating to the FBI, other government agencies and individuals… Because employees from my office impeded the investigation and because I knew Nate Paul, I ultimately decided to hire an outside independent prosecutor to make his own independent determination. Despite the effort by rogue employees and their false allegations I will continue to seek justice in Texas and will not be resigning.”
Brandon Cammack, a Houston attorney, confirmed Monday that the Attorney General’s office hired him in late August or early September to conduct a criminal investigation, but said he could not discuss details.
He referred all other questions to the Attorney General’s Office.
Legal analyst David Coale of Dallas said the allegations need to be taken very seriously, especially when you consider who is making them. “It’s almost unprecedented, really, to have this many people at this high rank at an agency all come together and sign the same document.”
Coale said the question now is how will the Attorney General be able to run the office. “It’s difficult to run any office with this kind of internal turmoil, much less one that’s under this kind of political scrutiny and fulfills this kind of important role in the day to day governance of the state.”
Paxton announced Monday that Brent Webster, will become his new First Assistant Attorney General.
Webster has served as the First Assistant District Attorney in Williamson County and has recently been a civil litigator and criminal defense attorney in private practice.
Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement Sunday, “These allegations raise serious concerns. I will withhold further comment until the results of any investigation are complete.”
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick issued a statement Sunday as well. “I learned about this from media reports. These issues are obviously concerning. I will wait until the investigation is complete before making any additional comments.”
The Texas Democratic Party has called on Paxton to resign, and so has the Democratic Attorneys General Association.
In a Facebook post, Republican Central Texas Congressman Chip Roy, who was Paxton’s top assistant in the Attorney General’s office before a staff change, agreed saying, “For the good of the people of Texas and the extraordinary public servants, who serve at the office of the Attorney General, Attorney General Ken Paxton must resign.”
Mackowiak said he doesn’t believe Paxton has to leave office now. “My belief is that the Attorney General probably has a few months to figure out if he can serve in this role while the investigation is ongoing. Figure out what the facts are that are being alleged, and then determine what his own legal strategy is going to be.”
Paxton is already under indictment facing three unrelated securities fraud charges from before he was elected Attorney General.
One of the special prosecutors in that case, Brian Wice of Houston said Monday they will investigate the new allegations.
Paxton has pleaded not guilty to the charges.