Updated at 5:30 p.m. with additional campaign donations made by Nate Paul.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Monday he would not be resigning over allegations of bribery, abuse of office and other potential criminal offenses against him made by his top staffer, even as his former top lieutenant Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Austin called for him to step down.
“Despite the effort by rogue employees and their false allegations I will continue to seek justice in Texas and will not be resigning,” Paxton said in a written statement hours after Roy made his call for the attorney general to resign.
Roy worked in Paxton’s office as first assistant attorney general. He resigned in 2016 after The Dallas Morning News reported that Roy and another Paxton staffer remained on the state’s payroll for more than a month after they stopped working.
Roy said the character of the whistleblowers is “beyond reproach” and called for Paxton to resign “for the good of the people of Texas and the extraordinary public servants who serve at the Office of the Attorney General,” in a statement Monday.
The Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV reported Saturday that several of Paxton’s top employees filed a whistleblower complaint with allegations about possible illegal activity by the state’s top lawyer.
A story published late Sunday by the Houston Chronicle reported that the accusations have to deal with Paxton’s relationship with Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, who donated $25,000 to Paxton’s 2018 campaign against Democrat Justin Nelson. Paul donated $2,700 to Roy in 2018, but Roy said in a tweet that he does “not recall meeting Mr. Paul and it shows as an online contribution.”
Paxton also said in his statement that his office was referred a case from Travis County regarding allegations of crimes relating to the FBI, other government agencies and individuals.
“My obligation as attorney general is to conduct an investigation upon such referral,” Paxton said. “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.”
This is not the first time allegations have been made against the attorney general. He is under indictment for fraud.
Upon learning of the recent news about Nate Paul and the Attorney General, we combed our financial records & found $2700 from a Nate Paul in the 2018 cycle. I do not recall meeting Mr. Paul and it shows as an online contribution.
— Chip Roy (@chiproytx) October 5, 2020
In his statement, Roy argued that the attorney general’s office is too important to the state and the nation, and Paxton’s resignation could prevent “chaos.”
“The Attorney General deserves his days in court, but the people of Texas deserve a fully functioning AG’s office,” Roy said.
Besides Paxton and Roy, Paul has made donations to several other Republican officeholders, including $10,000 to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in October 2018. Patrick’s spokeswoman said he is donating the money to charity.
“Nate Paul made a one-time contribution to the lieutenant governor two years ago,” Patrick’s spokeswoman Sherry Sylvester said. “He does not recall ever meeting him, and he doesn’t know him. But because questions are being raised, he is donating the $10,000 to the Be An Angel charity.”
In 2019, Paul donated $2,800 each to Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin. He gave $2,700 to McCaul in 2018.
Cornyn’s campaign said Monday they will donate the amount Paul gave to the Boys and Girls Club.
In October 2018, the Austin developer also gave Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar $5,000, Land Commissioner George P. Bush $2,500 and Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller $1,000 each.
Hegar said late Monday he’s donating the $5,000 from Paul to Feeding Texas.
The George P. Bush campaign “will fully return the donation from Mr. Paul,” spokeswoman Kasey S. Pipes said.
“In 2018, Nate Paul contributed $1,000 to the Christi Craddick campaign in response to a statewide fundraising solicitation by mail. Outside of this interaction, Chairman Craddick and Mr. Paul have never communicated,” said Justin Dudley of the Craddick campaign. “In light of the recent allegations, Chairman Craddick intends to donate the $1,000 contribution to the Capital Area Food Bank.”
Miller wasn’t ready to donate or return Paul’s contribution.
“Unlike others, Commissioner Miller is not ready to try and convict this gentleman without him having due process,” said Todd Smith, Miller’s campaign spokesman. “Should it be found that he indeed has committed wrongdoing, Commissioner Miller will donate whatever contribution he has received from Mr. Paul to an appropriate charity like National Mounted Warfare Foundation or some other charity that supports our troops.”
Paul also gave $10,000 to former Gov. Rick Perry in 2010 and $5,000 to Sen. Ted Cruz in 2009 when he briefly explored running for Texas attorney general.
Texas Democratic Party Communications Director Abhi Rahman said Republican lawmakers have known “who Paxton is for years now.”
“Calling for indicted Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton to resign now is simply the absolute bare minimum that can be done,” Rahman said.
Republican officials have been hesitant to make any calls to action. Instead, they are waiting for the investigation.
Allen West, the chairman of the Texas Republican Party, wouldn’t say directly whether Paxton should resign.
“There are allegations that have to be properly investigated. … Anytime you hear about those types of allegations, you’ve got to be concerned about it. But what my priority has to be is on this election coming up,” he told to The Dallas Morning News.
Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement that the allegations “raise serious concerns,” but “I will withhold further comment until the results of any investigation are complete.
While Patrick called the allegations “obviously concerning,” he said he would wait to comment until the investigation is complete.
Luke Twombly, communications director for the Texas Republican Party said, “We are sure that the allegations will be rightfully investigated.”
Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said this recent scandal will “continue to taint the Republican brand of Texas, right before the election.”
“It’s a very big deal,” he said, noting that Abbott “decided not to back him up,” saying instead that he’s concerned about the allegations.
But West said Texas Republicans who are on the ballot next month shouldn’t worry about being dragged down by the cloud hanging over Paxton.
“He’s not on the ballot, and I think that the people here at Texas understand that that’s an isolated thing and that will be taken care of,” West said. “And of course, you know, Congressman Roy was the first deputy in the attorney general’s office so he understands the workings and the machinations that go on there, far better than anyone else, so maybe he has more information than I have which enabled him to make the decision that he made with the statement about asking the attorney general to resign.”
In another development Monday, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, John Bash, announced he was resigning, effective Friday. The Western District would likely prosecute any potential case related to the whistleblower complaint.
Bash said U.S. Attorney Bill Barr had selected Gregg Sofer to serve in the role. Sofer had served as the office’s criminal division chief. Since early this year, he has been in Washington, D.C., serving as counselor to Barr.
Bash’s wife, Zina Bash, works for the Texas Attorney General’s office. In his resignation announcement, Bash said that last month, he had accepted a job offer in the private sector and informed Barr of his decision. He didn’t mention his wife’s connection to Paxton’s office in his announcement.
And the multistate investigation of Google is at risk of splintering further after the Paxton allegations, The Washington Post and Bloomberg News reported Monday night
The Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) on Sunday called on Paxton to resign, saying the allegations threatened their “joint work,” which includes a bipartisan investigation into whether Google is violating antitrust laws.
“Any allegation that bribes were accepted demands a serious review of Paxton’s influence and decisions regarding cases and settlements involving his office,” the Democratic group said.
Splits in the state coalition were surfacing before the allegations against Paxton. With the Justice Department preparing to file its own lawsuit against Google within the next two weeks, some attorneys general are urging their colleagues not to join the federal case and instead work with another group of states led by Colorado and Iowa that are pursuing a separate investigation, according to people familiar with the matter.
Paxton announced the states’ Google investigation in 2019 from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. Their probe came on the heels of the Justice Department’s own investigation into the search giant. Together, they represent potentially the most significant monopoly case in the U.S. in two decades. Texas has been expected to sign on to the Justice Department’s case, which will target Google’s conduct in online search, Bloomberg has reported.
Washington Bureau chief Todd J. Gillman and Lauren McGaughy in Austin contributed to this report.