The FBI is investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) over allegations from his agency's former top lawyers that he illegally used his office to help a campaign donor and friend, real estate developer Nate Paul, The Associated Press reported late Tuesday, citing two people with knowledge of the investigation. Paxton, who is still awaiting trial on criminal securities fraud charges from 2015, has denied wrongdoing and said he won't step down.
Eight former top officials accuse Paxton of bribery, abuse of office, and other crimes. Since those aides contacted federal authorities about their allegations between Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, four were fired, three resigned, and one was placed on leave. Four of them have filed a whistleblower suit against Paxton in state court.
Paxton allegedly helped Paul in at least four ways, including ordering his office to hire an outside lawyer to pursue Paul's claim that the FBI improperly searched his home and office last year. Paul said in a deposition last year he had hired a woman on Paxton's recommendation, but not as a favor — Paxton had reportedly carried out an extramarital affair with the woman. The full scope of Paxton's ties to Paul are not known, AP notes.
Before AP revealed the FBI investigation, Paxton said in a statement Tuesday that allegations against him are "overblown, based upon assumptions, and to a large degree misrepresent the facts," the Austin American Statesman reports. "I make no apologies for being a fierce investigator and defender of individual rights in the face of potentially unreasonable and authoritarian actions," he added. "Doing so is not favoritism. It is doing what the people of Texas expect from every law enforcement agency, their attorney general, and the staff of this office."
Paxton, it might be noted, is not intervening in accelerating federal land seizures of private property in the Rio Grande Valley to build President Trump's border wall. Last week, for example, government lawyers filed a "motion for immediate possession" of a strip of an elderly landowner's ancestral lands in Mission, Texas, NPR reports. In 2017, Paxton, previously a defender of private property rights against federal infringement, said he was fine with Trump comandeering land for his border wall as long as the Texas landowners are "compensated fairly."