By robert downen, Patrick Switek And zach desparteTexas Tribune

,New allegations: Ken Paxton used burner phone, secret email account, fake Uber name to hide relationship with Nate Paul“First published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs — and engages with — Texans about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Texas House investigators accuse suspended attorney general in new allegations that surfaced Wednesday Ken Paxton Senior aides become concerned about Paxton’s willingness to use his office to benefit Paul due to his involvement in a complex cover-up to hide his relationship with real estate investor Nate Paul.

In the hoax, Paxton and Paul allegedly created an Uber account under an alias so they could meet each other and so the attorney general could meet the woman he was having an extramarital affair with.

And when Paxton learned that several high-ranking officials in his office had told the FBI about his behavior, House impeachment managers alleged, he took immediate steps to conceal his relationship with Paul, including Also included was paying $122,000 to a Paul-affiliated company. An attempt to hide the renovations of the house provided by Paul for free.

The allegations, outlined in a series of petitions filed in the Texas Senate impeachment court, shed new light on the relationship between Paul and Paxton that is at the core of their impeachment proceedings.

Among the new claims: Top representatives in the attorney general’s office repeatedly warned Paxton that Paul was a “crook” and that there was no merit to his claims that he had been mistreated by law enforcement, and that the two were at least 20 They met frequently in the spring and summer of 2020, occasionally discussing the FBI investigation into Paul’s faltering real estate empire.

The impeachment managers charged, Paxton “blindly accepted Paul’s plot.” “Senior staff urged Paxton to stay away. But when it came to Paul, Paxton was immune to logic.”

Paul was arrested in June on federal felony charges of lying to financial institutions to secure a business loan.

Responding to Paxton’s pre-trial motion seeking to dismiss all 20 articles of impeachment, four of which will not be included in the Sept. 5 impeachment trial, House managers also detailed a number of actions in which Paxton allegedly sought to use his office to benefit Paul.

He alleged that Paxton conducted a “spurious criminal investigation” of Paul’s “opponents”, routinely ignoring the concerns of agency staff, who told him that Paul was a “criminal” and that Paxton should be “shunned”. needed to go”.

Instead, House managers alleged, Paxton quickly “fell into Paul’s web of deceit” and “did much” to hide her relationship with Paul—using a burner phone and secret email accounts, her Being driven to her boyfriend or Paul’s properties “more than a dozen times” by ditching security details and using a fake Uber name.

In response to Paul’s favors—which allegedly included employing the woman and paying to remodel Paxton’s home—Paxton “consistently abused the power of his office to further Paul’s objectives”. ,” the House managers alleged.

In one instance, Paxton reportedly told agency staff that he did not want the office to assist law enforcement “in any way” in its investigation of Paul, whom Paxton claimed had “railed” him. being done and requires “unprecedented” access to sensitive information about it. Case.

After meeting with “concerned” senior staff, Paxton reportedly demanded files regarding Paul’s criminal case, including an unpublished FBI letter detailing individuals involved in a 2019 raid on Paul’s home and businesses. was identified.

House managers wrote, “Paxton withheld the file for more than a week.” Ultimately, the OAG did not disclose the information to Paul. But Paxton did.

In another instance, Paxton was accused of issuing a legal opinion that halted the pending foreclosure sale of Paul’s businesses in 2020 at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. House investigators cited two agency employees who said they were forced to work overnight to submit opinions while Paxton frequently called them.

A Paxton employee told investigators, “It looked like someone was holding her hostage.”

The managers said the opinion, which was reportedly edited by Paxton himself, was published at 1 a.m. on August 2, 2020, and said the foreclosure proceedings posed a risk to public health — throughout the pandemic. Despite the state’s “open for business” mantra.

The next day, the managers alleged, Paul cited the opinion to successfully delay foreclosure.

House managers wrote, “It is hard to imagine a more open abuse of Paxton’s office than this.”

Paxton’s legal team filed more than a dozen motions to dismiss all articles of impeachment, often arguing that the underlying allegations were unfounded or fell under the legitimate duties of the attorney general’s office.

His lawyers also accused the Texas House of trying to “subvert the will of the voters”, who last year re-elected Paxton to a third term despite various public scandals in 2015. One argument emphasized that Paxton could not be impeached for alleged misconduct that predates his most recent term. Elections under the so-called “earlier doctrine”. And he dismissed some of the allegations against him, saying that, even if they were true, they were not serious enough to warrant his removal from office.

Paxton’s attorneys also attacked two articles of impeachment related to bribery, saying there was no evidence of “kickbacks” and that Paxton’s relationship with Paul was “a personal relationship with a constituent and that the constituent found something that the Attorney General had done” was nothing more. to agree in some way.

Under the rules adopted by the Senate, any pre-trial motion to dismiss or nullify the articles of impeachment must be voted on by the senators. A majority – 16 senators – can approve an article’s dismissal, placing a preliminary test on the determination of the chamber’s 19 Republicans to allow prosecution of the charges. These votes are set to be taken soon after the trial begins in September.

In a written reply filed with the Senate on Tuesday and made public on Wednesday, the impeachment team challenged other pre-trial claims from Paxton’s attorneys, who claimed that the articles of impeachment were insufficient because they failed to list specific laws. which were allegedly broken by Paxton.

The House team argued, “Impeachable offenses need not be impeachable offenses.” “Impeachment in Texas seeks to protect against conduct that undermines the integrity of office, disregards the constitutional duties and oath of office, abuses official process and power, and prejudicially affects the system of government “

In addition, the team argued, many of the articles listed specific crimes, and several detailed “how Paxton abused his office for his own personal gain or for business entities controlled by Nate Paul and Paul.” Did.”

More broadly, the managers emphasized that the impeachment trial was not a criminal or civil proceeding, as Paxton’s side described it. In a new filing, the managers wrote that the impeachment trial “proceeds in a unique, if not mostly political, way with a capital ‘p’ — that is, an action by the people’s representatives challenging official actions contrary to the public opinion.” Is interested.”

This approach is in consonance with the approach of the Lieutenant Governor. Dan Patrickwho leads the Senate and is serving as a judge in the impeachment trial, made the offer in a televised interview on Tuesday.

“This is not a criminal case. This is not a civil trial. This is a political test,” Patrick told a Fox affiliate in Houston.

House managers also asked the Senate to reject Paxton’s proposal to rescind the articles or return them to the House to add more details to the charges. The managers said the demand reflected a “fundamental misunderstanding” of how impeachment works, arguing that the Texas constitution does not require the level of detail common in civil or criminal proceedings.

The managers said, “A person can be impeached without an indictment, so Paxton has no right to demand more details.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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