The Texas Senate late Thursday published nearly 4,000 pages of documents submitted by House impeachment managers prosecuting the case against embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The documents, included in three sets of exhibits, were submitted as further proof of Paxton’s alleged abuse of office and come three weeks ahead of the Texas Senate trial that will ultimately determine Paxton’s fate.
The three-term attorney general was impeached by the Texas House in May. Most of the articles of impeachment are related to Paxton’s relationship with Nate Paul, an Austin-based real estate investor who is a close friend and campaign donor.
Paul was charged in June with eight felony counts of making false statements to mortgage lenders and other financial institutions.
According to House impeachment managers and the evidence they’ve presented, Paxton tried to use his office to intervene in a federal probe into Paul’s misdeeds and even tried to use that power to quash the investigation.
Thursday’s document dump reveals how Paxton decided to continue helping Paul despite warnings from top staff at the Office of the Attorney General concerning Paul’s behavior. The documents also show how Paxton’s relationship with Paul went beyond merely using his position as AG to protect him.
The Texas Newsroom went over the released exhibits and here are the top takeaways:
‘Ken, you are going to get yourself in trouble’
According to transcripts of interviews made to Paxton’s top staff by the House-hired investigators, the now-suspended attorney general was told over and over not to trust Paul and urged to resist Paul’s calls that Paxton launch an investigation.
David Maxwell served as director of Criminal Law Enforcement for the Office of the Attorney General from 2015 to 2020.
Maxwell interviewed Paul and his attorney on multiple occasions after Paxton asked his department to do so. Maxwell heard Paul accuse the federal government of wrongdoing for executing a search warrant against him.
Maxwell told House investigators that he “refused to involve any of my people in it, because I knew from the beginning that what [Paxton] was asking me to do was not legal and was not right.”
Eventually, Maxwell told Paxton directly that “Nate Paul is running a Ponzi scheme that would make Billie Sol Estes envied.”
He told Paxton to get away from Paul.
“I said, ‘Ken, you’re going to get yourself in trouble, and I wish you’d listen to me. … You could be charged with bribery,’” Maxwell said, adding that Paxton blew him off and ignored his pleading.
Despite his staff telling him to not get involved, interviews with his deputies show Paxton decided to continue using his office to protect Paul.
That included hiring an outside attorney — blowing agency protocols — to issue grand jury subpoenas to help Paul in his fight against the federal government.
Mark Penley, a former federal prosecutor who served under Paxton as deputy attorney general for criminal justice at the Office of the Attorney General, told House investigators the Republican’s behavior was “outrageous.”
“As the Attorney General’s conduct ramped up to become more and more unreasonable and illogical and crazy, all I can think about in my mind is, he’s pressuring me but I don’t have one iota of evidence of any wrongdoing by the people that Nate Paul is claiming did something wrong,” Penley said.
“This was outrageous conduct by an Attorney General that’s supposed to be the chief law enforcement officer for the State of Texas, not the chief lawbreaking officer,” he said.
A $121,617 wire transfer
On Sept. 30, 2020, Paxton’s top deputies met with the FBI to report Paxton.
“Eight people went to the FBI, including me, and told them that there was criminal behavior going on on the part of the Attorney General,” Penley told House investigators.
Hours after that meeting with the FBI, Paxton wired $121,617 to a company affiliated to Paul. House impeachment managers claim Paxton made the payment in an attempt to hide that Paul had provided Paxton with home renovations for free.
The payment came from Paxton’s blind trust.
The owner of the company that received the money, Cupertino Builders, is a friend of Paul.
Ken Paxton, aka Dave P.
House impeachment managers also argue Paxton’s relationship with Paul goes beyond trying to shield him from a federal investigation or getting free home renovations.
There were Uber rides, too.
The documents include a certificate of authenticity from a custodian of records for Uber, the popular ride-hailing company, showing an account was opened under the name Dave P. that “matches the identifiers for Warren Kenneth [Ken] Paxton.” The account was opened in late October 2019 and used Paul’s email to sign up.
Prosecutors have alleged the account was used to facilitate Paxton’s trips to see Paul and a woman with whom the attorney general allegedly had an affair. A travel log labeled “Dave P.’s relevant Uber locations” shows several pickup requests at addresses in affluent Austin neighborhoods that are “close to [the] Paxton residence,” according to the filings.
The impeachment managers alleged in earlier filings that one of the perks Paxton received via his connections with Paul was access to the account to meet his alleged paramour, which KVUE reported occurred dozens of times.