Paxton calls out Texas House speaker amid allegations from lawmakers
AUSTIN, Texas - There's more legal trouble for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton after a Texas House committee laid out a long list of possible crimes this morning. It includes securities fraud, gifts to public servant, abuse of official capacity, retaliation and more.
Now, yesterday, Paxton called on House Speaker Dade Phelan to resign, accusing Phelan of being drunk on the House floor last Friday.
Katie Naranjo, chair of the Travis County Democratic Party, and Matt Mackowiak, chair of the Travis County Republican Party, joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.
MIKE WARREN: Katie, before we get to Paxton, does Dade feel any kind of an explanation as to what was going on in that video?
KATIE NARANJO: It sounded like he was operating the House floor and hitting a gavel to have the people's business move on. I'm not here to defend Phelan or the Republican Party and what they're doing to Texans this session, which is atrocious. But he has nothing to answer for. He was doing the people's business.
MIKE WARREN: Ken Paxton. There has been smoke around him since the get go for years now. The fact that this smoke just doesn't go away, does that itself have an impact on his effectiveness as an attorney general?
MATT MACKOWIAK: Well, controversy is never helpful. You know, I think if you follow the work the AG's office has done, he has stayed focused on the work over the last several years as he's had this stuff that he's been trying to deal with, filing lawsuits, you know, fighting for consumers and protecting consumers, doing all the things the attorney general's office does. In the first case, this securities fraud case that has been held up now for multiple years over a question of venue and question of a private lawyer's not being fully paid. This most recent allegation related to bribery from a donor has never resulted in actual charges. And the House committee that's looking into this is looking into the fact that a settlement of $3.3 million was reached between some whistleblowers in his office and the attorney general. Since that was a part of official duties that would generally be paid by taxpayers, and the House has rejected that. So, look, these questions are not helpful, obviously, to him. He wants to put them behind him. For some reason, the House has decided to bring them back up, even though I don't know that they brought any new facts into this. They basically recited all the things that have been reported on previously.
MIKE WARREN: Okay, Katie, what do you think is going on here with the attorney general?
KATIE NARANJO: Matt is just totally sweeping this under the rug. You have the top law enforcement authority in the state of Texas using his official capacity in what now has resulted in an FBI investigation of misconduct. You have continued misuse of funds and of time and effort of the attorney general not in the will of the people, Texas taxpayers who are paying his salary. And in part of that, you also sadly lost many public servants who were whistleblowers. And the fact that the top chiefs of the attorney general's office sent a letter to the attorney general, quit their jobs because they did not want to be complicit in the criminal activity, so far that the House committee today outlined numerous criminal investigation issues, as well as charges that could be filed against the attorney general. This is a huge deal, and my question is, at what point will the Republican Party hold their elected officials accountable?
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MIKE WARREN: Finally, Matt Mackowiak, I wanted to ask you about this Dade Phelan video. Does he owe an explanation as to what was going on there?
MATT MACKOWIAK: Yeah. If you show the short clip of the video, it did show him having some slurring of his words while leading the House session. I think it was on Friday or late Friday night last week. If you look, there's a longer video that shows he was perfectly fine right before that and perfectly fine right after that. And as someone who went to college, I can tell you, you generally not drunk and slurring your words for a very short period of time. If it happens at all, it happens for a longer period of time. So I don't know what happened there. I certainly know that that House members do during particularly if the session goes late in the night or on the weekends. You would hope that the leaders wouldn't do that, particularly when they're presiding, because when you're down to the end of the legislative session, when there's so much riding on what happens and what doesn't happen. So the speaker has not really spoken to this directly. I would be pretty surprised if he was drunk while he was presiding. Obviously, that would be inappropriate. We'll have to see what other facts emerge going forward.
MIKE WARREN: Okay. We've got to wrap it up for now. Katie, Matt, thank you both very much.