Watch CBS News

Texas House Committee investigators accuse AG Ken Paxton of misconduct

Texas House committee explains months-long investigation into Attorney General Ken Paxton
Texas House committee explains months-long investigation into Attorney General Ken Paxton 03:41

AUSTIN ( – The Texas House General Investigating committee, which includes three Republicans and two Democrats, accused Attorney General Ken Paxton of misconduct and other potential crimes.

Investigators hired by the committee spent more than three hours discussing their findings.

Erin Epley, Lead Counsel for the committee said, "The scope of our inquiry was related to malfeasance, which is unlawful criminal activity."

She and the other investigators told lawmakers the evidence they found shows Paxton could face violations that include abuse of official capacity, retaliation and official oppression and dereliction of duty.

The Chair of the committee, Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Kerrville said, "That is a pretty comprehensive list of concerns, that's alarming to hear, that curls my mustache."

The investigators said their probe into Paxton began in March, weeks after the Attorney General announced he was settling a whistleblower lawsuit filed against his office by four of his former top staffers for $3.3 million.

Paxton wanted taxpayers to foot the bill for the settlement, but lawmakers needed to approve it first. 

Epley said, "This agreement was made prior to approval from the Texas Legislature, yet the settlement obligated the taxpayers of Texas, not General Paxton, to pay the $3.3 million for a settlement related to his actions." 

Investigators for the House committee explained the settlement would prevent a trial and keep details of the allegations against Paxton out of public view.

Court records show Paxton fired the whistleblowers after they went to the FBI, making allegations of bribery against Paxton and his alleged involvement with a real estate developer who donated $25,000 to his campaign.

The investigators told investigators Paxton used his office to help the campaign donor.

Murr asked investigators, "Do you feel like there's a lot of evidence there to support those allegations?" 

The investigators each said yes. 

Paxton hasn't been charged amid the ongoing federal investigation.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

WATCH: Jack Fink interviews Dallas appellate lawyer David Coale on AG Paxton

Jack Fink interviews Dallas appellate lawyer David Coale on AG Paxton 06:06

Paxton released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying in part, "The false testimony of highly partisan Democrat lawyers with the goal of manipulating and misleading the public is reprehensible."

Epley told lawmakers she worked for the former U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Texas Ryan Patrick.

He was appointed by former President Donald Trump and is the son of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.

Cait Wittman, Communications Director for House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Phelan, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon that said in part, "The Attorney General appears to have routinely abused his powers for personal gain and exhibited blatant disregard for the ethical and legal propriety expected of the state's expected of the state's leading law enforcement officer."

The committee met in executive session but ended the hearing without making any decisions about potential next steps in the Paxton case.

But they could soon decide whether to censure Paxton or bring impeachment articles against him or do nothing.

If the House were to impeach the Attorney General, two-thirds of the Senate would have to convict him.

Wittman said Phelan supports recommendations that may come from the House committee.

The hearing marked the second day of political drama at the Texas Capitol during the final week of the regular legislative session.

On Tuesday afternoon, Paxton issued a statement accusing Phelan of being drunk while presiding over the House Friday night and called on him to resign. "Texans were dismayed to witness his performance presiding over the Texas House in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication.. While I hope Speaker Phelan will get the help he needs, he has proven himself unworthy of Texans' trust and incapable of leading the Texas House." 

Conservatives, who've been critical of Phelan's leadership of the House, circulated a video clip on social media over the weekend.

Phelan hasn't commented on Paxton's accusation.

A short time later, the House committee held a brief meeting announcing that it would meet Wednesday morning to discuss the committee's investigation into Paxton.

Wittman said Tuesday, "The motives for and timing behind Paxton's statement today couldn't be more evident" and that it "amounts to little more than a last ditch effort to save face." 

Texas AG Ken Paxton calls on Speaker Dade Phelan to resign, accusing him of presiding over House whi 03:25
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.