Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
Embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sought a meeting with the Travis County district attorney's office to discuss a donor's complaints about law enforcement agencies, the district attorney's office said Thursday, raising questions about the timeline Paxton himself has laid out in the recent scandal. The disclosure of the meeting, which was attended by Paxton, his donor and the donor's attorney, came a day after the attorney general released new information addressing the claims seven senior aides made last week that he ran afoul of the law.
At the center of those allegations, according to reports in the Houston Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman, is Nate Paul, the Paxton donor and an Austin real estate investor whose home and office were raided by federal authorities last year. In September, documents show, Paxton appointed Brandon Cammack, a "special prosecutor," to investigate a complaint Paul made to local authorities about misconduct by federal and state officials. Paxton’s aides felt compelled to report their boss’s actions to authorities after they discovered Cammack had issued subpoenas targeting “adversaries” of Paul, the newspapers reported.
Among the documents Paxton released Wednesday was a June 10 referral from the Travis County district attorney’s office that asked the attorney general’s office to investigate a complaint containing “allegations of misconduct by employees of the State Securities Board, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Department of Public Safety, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas and a federal magistrate.” Paxton did not release the complaint itself.
But the district attorney's office said it was Paxton who initially approached them to arrange a meeting, in which they heard Paul's complaints.
"The scope and nature of the complaints comprised matters that the D.A.'s Office would normally refer to a law enforcement agency with the resources necessary to conduct the investigation," a statement from the office said. Given the targets of Paul's complaints, which included the Texas Department of Public Safety, the office said, "the only appropriate agency left to whom we would typically make the referral was the Office of the Attorney General."
The documents released by Paxton do not prove or disprove any allegations made against him, especially as those claims — which seven top aides said they sent to law enforcement authorities but have not made public — remain murky. Instead, the documents and the statement from the district attorney's office offer more detail about the timeline of the Texas attorney general’s office’s work on the case. Paul’s office and home were raided in August 2019, nearly a year before Travis County authorities referred the complaint to the Texas attorney general’s office, where Cammack has said his work is ongoing.
Paxton also released a contract between the agency and Cammack, who is being paid $300 per hour to investigate the criminal allegations made in the complaint and compile a report about any potential criminal charges he comes across during the investigation. Cammack, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, is a Houston criminal defense attorney and has practiced for about five years.
Paxton said he hired outside counsel for the job “because employees of the Texas Attorney General impeded the investigation, and because the Attorney General knew Nate Paul.” Paxton has not explained how his employees have impeded any investigation. But a spokesperson for the agency seemed to suggest Saturday that the agency was investigating the seven whistleblowers.
“Making false claims is a very serious matter and we plan to investigate this to the fullest extent of the law,” said the spokesperson Kayleigh Date.
Paxton said the outside help was necessary in part because of his own relationship with Paul, but the contract shows Cammack does not have full independence. Cammack and Paxton both signed a document agreeing that Cammack would “conduct an investigation, under the authority of the [Office of the Attorney General],” and “only as directed by the OAG.” Cammack would also not be involved in any indictments or prosecutions after submitting the investigative report, the contract specifies.
Ryan Vassar, deputy attorney general for legal counsel, exchanged emails with Cammack in early September as he signed the agency’s contract. Weeks later, Vassar was among the seven top aides who would alert authorities to potential criminal behavior by his boss.
Cammack affirmed to Vassar in a Sept. 4 email that he had no conflicts of interest related to the investigation.
The release of the documents comes as Paxton combats what he has called “false allegations” from “rogue employees.” Top state leaders have called the allegations concerning, but Paxton has said he will not be resigning as attorney general.
Paxton defended Cammack on Wednesday for issuing the subpoenas. But he did not address reports that Cammack’s subpoenas targeted adversaries of Paul.
One of Cammack’s subpoenas went to Amplify Credit Union — which has sued Paul and his firm for unpaid debts. Kendall Garrison, chief executive officer of Amplify Credit Union, told The Texas Tribune that Cammack personally delivered the subpoena — which was “out of the ordinary.” It was submitted to legal counsel for review and later quashed.
“Many criminal investigations involve grand jury subpoena’s [sic] being issued to assist in an investigation,” Paxton’s Wednesday statement said.
Deputy Attorney General Mark Penley took action to nullify the subpoenas issued at the request of Cammack, saying Cammack was “not properly authorized to act as a Special Prosecutor” and had been notified of that on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. A district judge in Travis County granted the motion Oct. 2, the same day it was filed.
Cammack told The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday that Paxton had directed him to continue his work as special prosecutor and was working to reissue subpoenas.