Updated at 1:20 pm with information on Senator Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, who is accompanying her husband on the Utah trip.
AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton and his wife, Senator Angela Paxton, left Texas for Utah during last week’s freeze.
Ken Paxton’s campaign spokesperson said Paxton traveled to the state to meet with the Utah Attorney General but did not answer questions about when he left or returned. The two Republicans met in Salt Lake City on Wednesday afternoon and again on Friday, according to a spokesman for the Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.
The attorney general was discussing an antitrust lawsuit that several states are pursuing against Google, and Paxton attended a police training program demonstration, said Paxton’s campaign spokesman Ian Prior.
It is not clear why the visit was not postponed. Prior said the couple met multiple times over the course of several days.
“I cannot provide any further details or specific reasons for the need for the meeting regarding Google as it is an ongoing investigation,” said Prior. A attorney general spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.
Angela Paxton, a Republican representing parts of Collin County, “accompanied AG Paxton on a pre-planned trip to Utah that included meetings that benefited their human dignity and law enforcement efforts,” spokesman Randan Steinhauser said in a text message.
Steinhauser did not provide any further details and did not immediately answer questions about who Paxton was meeting with, how the trip was paid for, or when the couple went to Utah.
It is unclear whether the Paxtons returned to Texas.
While U.S. Senator Ted Cruz faced national setbacks during the blackouts for traveling to Cancun, Mexico, it remains to be seen whether the Paxtons will face similar criticism as he said he traveled for official reasons.
The attorney general’s office does key work in emergencies like last week’s freezer, including responding to reports of price cuts in bottled water and hotel rooms as Texans struggled to stay warm and find safe drinking water. Paxton also pledged to investigate the Texas Electric Reliability Council, or ERCOT, the nonprofit that manages the state’s power grid, on its role in the outages.
On Wednesday, the day he met with Reyes, Paxton took to Twitter to share the phone number Texans can call to report price cuts and criticize ERCOT and energy companies.
“They left over 3 million homes without electricity for days, including my own,” Paxton tweeted Wednesday night. “What do you do in response? Raise the prices, be silent, apologize and play the guilt game. It is unacceptable! “
Paxton’s house previously confirmed he had lost power, but said the attorney general did not leave Texas until “after power returned to most of the state, including his own home.”
According to the state network operator, 2.7 million households were without electricity on Wednesday morning. By that evening, nearly 12 million people had disrupted their water supply due to frozen pipes and water treatment equipment going offline, according to the Texan Ministry of Environmental Quality.
Prior said Paxton’s trip to Utah was planned before the winter storm hit Texas last weekend. The attorney general discussed several matters, including the strategy for “upcoming action” in the Google lawsuit, he said.
“He also attended a demonstration of Utah’s Law Enforcement Scenario Simulator, which featured a variety of real-world situations that law enforcement agencies must deal with, such as: B. Use of violence, mental illness and de-escalation. This is a program that AG Paxton in Texas has been considering implementing, ”Prior said in a text message.
He did not answer questions about whether Paxton was paying for the trip out of pocket or using state money. If someone else paid for the trip, Paxton would likely have to disclose the benefactor and value of the gift in public ethics disclosure.
On Friday February 19th, Paxton announced that his agency would investigate ERCOT.
“I’ll work to get to the bottom of what’s going on,” Paxton tweeted the next day. “Texans deserve answers.”
Paxton and Cruz weren’t the only incumbents to leave the state during last week’s deadly winter storm.
Rep. Gary Gates, R-Richmond, traveled to Florida on a private jet on Wednesday, according to The Houston Chronicle. Gates told The Chronicle that he left after his pipes broke, flooded his house and endangered his sick wife and daughter who has special needs.
Cruz and his family flew to Mexico on Wednesday after he said they had lost power at their Houston home. The senator returned to Texas the next day after harsh criticism of fleeing the state as millions of voters were forced to suffer ice-cold homes and water leakage.
At least 32 people died last week from hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, fire, and other storm-related causes, according to the Washington Post.
Paxton, who served as a state attorney and senator prior to his election as attorney general in 2014, has emerged as a national figure in recent months to defend former President Donald Trump. Last year, he filed an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to reverse election results in several key battlefield states and spoke to Trump at the rally in Washington, DC, ahead of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Paxton is under investigation by the FBI for allegedly abusing his office to help a campaign donor, which he denies. He has been charged over the past five years after being accused of defrauding investors in a technology company in northern Texas. He pleaded not guilty and has yet to be tried.
Paxton raised far less money than any other state-elected official in Texas last year, bringing in about $ 305,000.
Last week, Paxton appeared on several Conservative television shows. It is unclear whether he was still in Texas at the time. He publicly announced that he may have been out of the country.
On February 19, he appeared at Fox Business to discuss his investigation against the RobinHood trading platform and called Glenn Beck to discuss his investigation against ERCOT.
Paxton said to Beck, “It’s been a tough week.”
Last week, Angela Paxton shared several tweets about the failures of local officials and utility companies. She sent out information on how Texans could volunteer to “help others in our community who have been hit by the recent winter storm.”
On Thursday, February 18, she pleaded with voters to stay there.
“The roads still remain dangerous,” she tweeted. “Please stay home when you can and be extremely careful when you have to drive.”