Several top deputies of Texas‘ attorney general have reported to law enforcement that their boss engaged in crimes including bribery and abuse of office, according to an internal letter.
In a single-page letter to the director of human resources in the attorney general’s office, the seven senior lawyers wrote that they reported Republican Ken Paxton to “the appropriate law enforcement authority” for potentially breaking the law “in his official capacity as the current Attorney General of Texas.”
“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 offences,” the Thursday letter states. It was first reported jointly by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV and subsequently obtained by The Associated Press.
The letter does not offer specifics but nonetheless stands as a remarkable accusation of criminal wrongdoing against the state’s top law enforcement officer by his own staff, including some longtime supporters of his conservative Christian politics. It is likely to deepen legal trouble for Paxton, who has spent nearly his entire five years in office under felony indictment for securities fraud, although the case has stalled for years over legal challenges.
Philip Hilder, Paxton’s defence attorney in the securities case, declined to comment on the new allegations Sunday. Paxton pleaded not guilty in that case but it is not clear whether the new accusations are related.
In a statement to the American-Statesman Paxton’s office said: “The complaint filed against Attorney General Paxton was done to impede an ongoing investigation into criminal wrongdoing by public officials including employees of this office. Making false claims is a very serious matter and we plan to investigate this to the fullest extent of the law.”
The investigation referenced in the statement was unclear. A spokeswoman for the attorney general did not immediately respond to an email and phone call Sunday.
“These allegations raise serious concerns,” Gov. Greg Abbott, also a Republican, said in a Sunday statement. He declined to comment further “until the results of any investigation are complete.”
The letter was signed by the deputy attorneys general for policy, administration, civil litigation, criminal investigations and legal counsel, as well as Paxton’s first assistant, Jeff Mateer, and Mateer’s deputy. None of them responded to messages seeking comment Saturday or Sunday.
Mateer resigned from Paxton’s office Friday to rejoin a prominent conservative non-profit law firm in the Dallas-area, according to the Dallas Morning News. The First Liberty Institute did not immediately respond to an inquiry about him Sunday.
Paxton, a Republican who is in his second term, has raised his national profile as a conservative crusader under President Donald Trump, including leading a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act that goes before the Supreme Court this fall and leading Lawyers for Trump, a group supporting the president’s reelection.
The FBI and the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Western District of Texas did not immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday.