The Office of Attorney General (OAG) announced that it was closing an investigation that has been at the center of allegations of abuse of office and bribery against Attorney General Ken Paxton.
“Today, Travis County notified our office it was closing their file from complainant Nate Paul. In this case, we can only investigate in response to a request for assistance from the District Attorney’s office. This investigation is now closed,” stated the office.
The decision comes after Travis County District Attorney (DA) Margaret Moore sent a letter to Paxton distancing herself from the OAG’s investigation.
“My office has closed this file and will take no further action. Furthermore, I have instructed my employees to have no further contact with you or your office regarding this matter,” wrote Moore.
The controversy surrounding Paxton came to light last weekend with the abrupt resignation of First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer and news breaking about Mateer and six other top aides requesting an investigation into Attorney General Ken Paxton for criminal allegations.
Since then, the ongoings of the office have been rife with questions.
While many of those questions remain unanswered, more information has trickled out throughout the week with the additional statements from Paxton and Moore.
On Sunday, a text message first published by the Houston Chronicle between Mateer and Paxton connected the attorney general with Austin real estate investor Nate Paul.
“General Paxton, yesterday, each of the individuals on this text chain made a good faith report of violations of law by you to an appropriate law enforcement authority concerning your relationship and activities with Nate Paul,” wrote Mateer.
The extent of the “relationship and activities” between Paul and Paxton are unclear, but their connection dates back to at least 2018 when Paul contributed $25,000 to the attorney general’s reelection bid.
Paul’s company, World Class Holdings LLC, has been plagued by a number of lawsuits in the past few years, and his home and offices were raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in August of last year.
The purpose of the raid remains unclear.
Whether related to the August raid or other matters too, Paul brought a complaint against the FBI to the Travis County District Attorney (DA).
Paxton indicated as much in a statement following news of the text tying him to Paul.
“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,” said Paxton. “My obligation as attorney general is to conduct an investigation upon such referral.”
Although Paxton’s statement suggested that the case originated from the Travis County district attorney’s office, Moore released a statement claiming that Paxton was not telling the whole truth.
While affirming that the case was indeed referred to Paxton’s office, Moore claimed that Paxton had first brought the issue to her attention.
“The Attorney General of Texas personally approached the Travis County District Attorney’s Office to arrange a meeting. The meeting included Nate Paul, his attorney, Michael Wynne, and Mr. Paxton,” said Moore.
Moore said that “at the Attorney General’s request, the D.A. representative listened to Mr. Paul’s complaints.”
However, she said that the scope of the complaint required an investigative agency with more resources.
Because Paul’s complaint contained allegations against the FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety, Moore’s office made a referral of the case to the Office of Attorney General (OAG).
Documents released by Paxton this week show that Don Clemmer, the director of the Special Prosecutions Division in Moore’s office, sent a letter of referral dated June 10, 2020 to David Maxwell of the OAG.
The letter was marked as received by the Office of the Attorney General on June 17, 2020.
In Moore’s letter to Paxton on October 9, she further clarified that, “The referral cannot and should not be used as any indication of a need for investigation, a desire on the Travis County D.A.’s part for an investigation to take place, or an endorsement of your acceptance of the referral.”
“Any action you have already taken or will take pursuing this investigation is done solely on your own authority as provided by Texas law. The newly surfaced information raises serious concerns about the integrity of your investigation and the propriety of your conducting it,” said Moore.
Paxton claimed that following the referral to his office, he hired an outside contractor, Houston attorney Brandon Cammack, to conduct the investigation.
“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,” said Paxton.
The “Outside Counsel Contract” signed by both Paxton and Cammack stipulates a $300 hourly rate for Cammack to “conduct an investigation, under the authority of the OAG, of the criminal allegations contained in the complaint referred to the OAG by the [Travis County] District Attorney’s Office.”
Furthermore, under the contract, Cammack was to “prepare a report documenting any potential charges that may be discovered in the course of the investigation.”
“Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this OCC, Outside Counsel shall conduct its investigation only as consistent with the complaint referred to the OAG and only as directed by the OAG. Except for Outside Counsel’s duty to provide a post-investigative report, this OCC expressly excludes legal services relating to any other post-investigation activities, including, but not limited to, indictment and prosecution,” reads the contract.
The exclusion of prosecution in Cammack’s contract has led to criticism of Paxton for framing Cammack’s role as “an outside independent prosecutor.”
Cammack has also been criticized for issuing subpoenas which are reportedly targeted against Paul’s “adversaries.”
Cammack told the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday that he plans to file new subpoenas after Mark Penley, the deputy attorney general for criminal justice and one of the senior officials requesting an investigation into Paxton, reportedly intervened through a Travis County court to stop the original subpoenas.
The OAG defended Cammack’s use of subpoenas when the contract was released.
“Many criminal investigations involve grand jury subpoena’s being issued to assist an investigation. Our office has confirmed that Independent Counsel Cammock did contact the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, after the contract was signed, and sought their assistance with obtaining grand jury subpoenas,” stated the OAG on Wednesday.
The Houston Chronicle reported on Thursday that one banker received a subpoena from Cammack and said that Paul’s defense attorney, Michael Wynne, joined Cammack in delivering the notice.
On Friday, a representative from the Texas Department of Public Safety reportedly said that criminal allegations regarding Paxton “have been referred to federal authorities for investigation by the FBI,” and that while the Texas Rangers are not currently part of the investigation, they “remain available to assist if necessary.”
State executives, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, expressed concern about the allegations against Paxton, but said that they were withholding further comment until more information is made available.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21), who worked as the first assistant attorney general under Paxton prior to Mateer, called for Paxton’s resignation on Monday, but Paxton said that he would not resign.
Brent Webster, who worked as an assistant district attorney for Williamson County, was appointed by Paxton to fill Mateer’s position as the second-highest official within the OAG.
With the closure of the OAG’s investigation into Paul’s complaint, any fallout from the allegations remains to be seen.
“Criminal investigations are crucial to seek justice for families across the state, but it is a small part of the wide-ranging issues this office handles. We proudly stand by the good, hard work our office continues to conduct every day for all Texans,” stated the OAG on Friday.
Texas House Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano), who serves as the chairman on the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence which has jurisdiction over the OAG, sent a letter to Paxton on Friday expressing his concerns about the allegations and noting that he supports “a full and complete investigation by appropriate law enforcement agencies.”
Leach also requested a “written report as to what specific steps are being taken [. . .] to ensure that the effective operations of the agency continue in full force and effect,” and that the report be delivered to all members of the legislature within the next week.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include reference to the letter sent by Rep. Leach.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.