U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told KXAN this afternoon that he’s “troubled” with how Attorney General Ken Paxton is running the office Cornyn himself once held. He also called the accusations against Paxton by some of his senior aides “very serious” and said they need to be investigated.
“I revere that office,” Cornyn said. “It’s a tremendous responsibility to be the chief law enforcement officer of the state. That’s why I’ve been troubled from the beginning, from his first indictment that hasn’t been resolved in five years. I think that is a bad thing for the office and I wish he would’ve gotten that resolved one way or another earlier."
“The latest allegations — of course I have no personal knowledge of. But I agree that they’re very serious and they need to be investigated and I trust they will be.”
Cornyn said he would reserve judgment until more details are known.
Last week, Paxton was accused by seven of his most senior aides of bribery and abuse of office. He said Monday that he will not resign his post as the state’s top lawyer.
Paxton’s top aides called for a criminal investigation, writing that “we have a good faith belief that the attorney general is violating federal and/or state law including prohibitions related to improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential criminal offenses.”
Even before the latest allegations, Paxton was facing legal troubles. He has been under indictment for more than five years on felony charges of securities fraud, but has yet to go to trial on the charges amid side battles over where the case will be heard and how much the special prosecutors appointed to take the case to trial will be paid.
“I’m not really happy with the way he has handled that office, particularly under a cloud these last five years,” Cornyn told KXAN. “I know a number have called upon him to step down. I think we oughta reserve judgment until we know more about the details. But it is pretty dramatic when his senior staff walk out and basically file a complaint against him. That’s really unprecedented.”
Media reports have tied the latest allegations to Paxton’s relationship with Nate Paul, an Austin real estate developer and Paxton donor. According to the Houston Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman, former First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer and the other officials felt compelled to act after Paxton allegedly appointed a special prosecutor to target “adversaries” of Paul.
Cornyn is not the first Republican in the state to distance himself from Paxton amid the allegations. U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, who served as Paxton’s top deputy before resigning in a major staff shakeup in 2015, called for Paxton to resign earlier this week.
Gov. Greg Abbott, meanwhile, previously said the allegations against Paxton “raise serious concerns.”
Correction: Due to an editing error, the initial headline on this story misquoted U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. He said he's "not really happy" with Paxton, not "really not happy."