Less than a week after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton agreed to apologize and pay $3.3 million in taxpayer money to settle a whistleblower lawsuit, control of the related corruption investigation of Paxton has been transferred from the San Antonio U.S. attorney to the Justice Department's Washington, D.C.-based public integrity section, the Texas Tribune reports. Paxton's attorneys had accused local prosecutors of a conflict of interest because of the way the whistleblower allegations had been handled.
In October 2020, eight former top deputies accused Paxton of bribery and abuse of office after they claimed he had done political favors for real estate developer Nate Paul, a friend and donor who contributed $25,000 to Paxton’s 2018 campaign. All eight of those employees either were fired or resigned. Among the issues Paxton involved himself in, the employees said, was the appointment — over the objections of attorney general staff — of a special counsel to look into whether FBI agents and federal prosecutors had improperly raided Paul’s home in 2019. Those agents and lawyers would have been part of the Western District of Texas. Justice Department officials knew of the overlap within weeks of the reports to federal authorities but allowed the Texas-based prosecutors to continue working the case. State prosecutors Brian Wice and Kent Schaffer, who are handling a separate securities fraud case against Paxton, said in a statement that they were notified Thursday that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas had been recused from the case by the Justice Department.