Federal prosecutors call grand jury for Paxton case in San Antonio

The witnesses and focus of the inquiry have not been disclosed, but the news is the latest in a string of legal issues for the embattled Texas attorney general.

By Sarah Asch & Sean SaldanaAugust 11, 2023 3:09 pm,

An impeachment trial for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is in the Texas Senate’s hands after the state House voted to impeach him back in May for a variety of alleged offenses, including securities fraud. 

At the same time, a case filed in 2015 is slowly moving toward trial in Harris County and an investigation into allegations that the AG may have committed several crimes in connection to his relationship with a prominent real estate developer and friend, Nate Paul.

Then yesterday, news broke that a federal grand jury has convened in San Antonio and has called witnesses close to Ken Paxton. 

Ryan Autullo is chief Texas political reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and has been covering the trial. He joined Texas Standard to talk about what’s known so far. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Paxton’s got a lot on his plate, obviously, with that impeachment trial in the Senate coming up no later than the start of September. Tell us a little bit more about this grand jury that’s apparently been convening in San Antonio. What are you hearing? 

Ryan Autullo: As you’ll remember, back in 2020, around this time, the feds launched an investigation into him in connection to his relationship to the now-famous infamous Austin developer, Nate Paul. And this appears to be the culmination of that investigation. 

Well, what are officials – the federal prosecutors, the Justice Department – what are they saying about what specifically they are looking for here? About what they’re trying to present to this grand jury? 

So the feds historically have been tight-lipped. I mean, you could ask them for a weather forecast and they would make no comment. They just do not talk about anything.

So they’re not telling us who the witnesses are, what the witnesses are saying, how far along this case is right now. But in patching things together, my colleague Tony Plohetski and I have identified some witnesses that are testifying and they are very close to Ken Paxton. And they will also probably be testifying before the Senate in the impeachment trial. 

But as we’ve been talking about here, this on top of everything else that Ken Paxton is facing – most notably that impeachment trial in the Texas Senate coming up next month. Is there any way that what’s happening now with that grand jury in San Antonio might factor into the impeachment proceedings?

It’s a really good question. And I’ve spoken with many legal insiders to see if there’s a strategy here.

The thought is maybe that the feds would like to wrap up their investigation potentially with indictments prior to the Senate trial so that they can kind of take control and keep control of this. And maybe it would pressure the senators to not make this a political spectacle and show that there is a grand jury that already reviewed these allegations. 

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What about Paxton’s legal team? Has there been any reaction from them? 

Paxton’s lawyer said he has no way of knowing whether there is a grand jury going on in San Antonio or not. He says he’s having a hard time getting information from the feds, just like anyone else would be.

I think that they are prepared for anything. They know that this investigation has been going on now for three years.

So it just adds to the many legal issues that Ken Paxton has. He’s a very, very busy guy right now.

» RELATED: The ‘very Texas-centric’ way Ken Paxton’s attorneys are trying to kill his impeachment probe

You know, something that raised a lot of eyebrows when Paxton was first impeached was that he has not been convicted of any of the crimes that have been alleged against him, at least not so far. Is there concern about the fact that this news is coming out now in the weeks just prior to impeachment, or are supporters of Paxton raising red flags and saying this is an attempt to, in some way, affect that trial?

Well, certainly Paxton does not like the timing of this because it reminds the senators who will sit as jurors, that there is this federal case against him going on and that it is potentially reaching a conclusion with a grand jury reviewing it. So he is going to have to worry about a potential federal indictment as he’s worrying about trying to keep his job – return to his job – as Texas attorney general.

So just a very, very stressful moment for him and his attorneys. 

But, of course, so far, no federal charges have been formally brought against Paxton, correct?

None that we know of.

And we do not know, and I’m still doing my research, when this federal grand jury may be done reviewing the case. You know, it could be weeks. It could be months. We just do not know. 

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