Ken Paxton pushed his employees to release confidential FBI records to Nate Paul in the spring of 2020, Ryan Vassar, former deputy attorney general for legal counsel, testified.
Vassar said Paxton was unpersuaded by his argument that releasing the records, which concerned a 2019 FBI-led raid on Paul’s home and business, would upend decades of precedent that information related to ongoing law enforcement investigations is exempt from public disclosure.
“He said he believed something bad had happened to Mr. Paul,” Vassar said. “He felt that Mr. Paul was being railroaded by the FBI and DPS.”
In the spring and summer of 2020, Paul and his lawyer alleged to senior deputies at the attorney general’s office that Paul had been mistreated by law enforcement during the raid a year earlier. They later alleged that Department of Justice officials had altered search warrants, floating the theory that originally agents got permission to search for drugs but after finding none, illegally changed the warrants to search for evidence of financial crimes.
Paul’s lawyers had filed an open records request with the Department of Public Safety, which had sought a ruling from the attorney general, a standard practice for state agencies. Vassar said the office drafted a ruling that recommended the records, which included investigative files that a federal judge had placed under seal, be withheld from Paul. But Paxton disagreed.
“He wanted us to find a way to release the information,” Vassar said. “We were at an impasse.”
Eventually, the attorney general’s office issued a ruling that took no opinion on whether the records should be released, which Vassar said he had never seen done before. The Department of Public Safety did not release the records.
The House impeachment managers allege, however, that Paxton directed an aide to ferry the documents to Paul. Their exhibits have not provided any proof of this, though an outside lawyer hired by Paxton later subpoenaed state and federal law enforcement agents who planned and participated in the raid. Emails to the outside lawyer, Brandon Cammack, show that Paul provided him with the subpoena targets.
The House team alleges Paul could not have known the identities of these officers without Paxton’s help.
— Zach Despart