When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was the state’s attorney general, he worked on a lawsuit against GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump – then a Republican businessman entering the political sphere on another bid for the highest office in America.
It was 2012 and the top law enforcement official in the state was overseeing a consumer protection team building a suit against Trump University, which had bilked Texas taxpayers out of $2.6 million.
McGaughy found John Owens, a former attorney general staffer, who alleged that the suit was ready to go, right before getting shut down by the higher-ups.
“In the suit there’s pretty incredible allegations,” McGaughy says. “It was strong. They were going to seek millions of dollars in restitution for Texas taxpayers but then, all the sudden, they were told that the lawsuit wasn’t going to go anywhere.”
Owens, the deputy director of the consumer protection division under Abbott, claims that it was a political decision at the top of the agency to not sue Trump, because he was a figure in Republican politics.
Owens told McGaughy that the decision not to do anything stunk. Although he can’t confirm that the decision was made directly by Abbott, Owens says the recommendation for the lawsuit went up to the eighth floor, which is where all the bigwigs in the attorney general’s office work and never made it back down. It’s unclear who ultimately spiked it.
Although Abbott’s spokesperson denies any connection between chucking the Trump case and his boss’s future political plans, Abbott received about $35,000 total in campaign money from Trump in 2013 and 2014, when Abbott was running for governor.
In a statement to the Dallas Morning News, the spokesperson said that the desired outcome was for Trump University to leave Texas.
“He hasn’t yet addressed why the lawsuit wasn’t taken up,” McGaughy says. “That is something we don’t know.”