As the Senate’s impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton continues this week, the “whistleblowers” trust of the FBI and refusal to investigate the agency has taken center stage.
Five of those who have testified in the trial so far are among a group of former employees of the Office of the Attorney General that reported Ken Paxton to the FBI in 2020 due to what they said was illegal and unethical abuse of office.
Specifically, they have alleged as part of their grievances against Paxton that he was abusing his office to help Nate Paul. Paxton asked them to look into alleged misbehavior from the FBI, after Nate Paul was part of a federal raid.
Last week, Ryan Vassar—former deputy assistant attorney general for legal counsel and one of those whistleblowers—testified that he trusted the FBI, saying he had “no reason not to.”
When asked if he could think of a reason in the last 3-4 years not to trust the agency, he maintained he could not. That trust was also echoed by David Maxwell, the former director of law enforcement at the attorney general’s office.
On Monday, another whistleblower—Mark Penley, the former deputy assistant attorney general for criminal justice–testified that he believed investigating the FBI would be “insane.”
According to Penley, Nate Paul told Paxton he had evidence that suggested that the FBI’s search warrant may have been digitally manipulated while the search was underway. Paxton told Penley to look into it. Penley, in speaking with the FBI, determined there wasn’t anything there and told Paxton as much. In response, Paxton asked him to relay that to Nate Paul.
“The idea that the state of Texas Attorney General’s office would go investigate the federal courthouse, investigate federal agents and also state agents that were Task Force officers on the raid, and that those were agents from the DPS in the state securities board, that we would investigate a federal magistrate judge and federal prosecutors was insane,” said Penley.
That trust for the agency is at odds with a poll of Republican primary voters in Texas taken last year following the agency’s raid of President Donald Trumps Mar-a-Lago residence which showed 73 percent had an unfavorable opinion of the agency.
While the trial began just last Tuesday, an end appears in sight this week. At the start of Monday’s meeting, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick anticipated that testimony would conclude by Friday. Senators will then be given opportunity to deliberate before making their decision. The prosecution needs 21 senators, or two-thirds, to remove Paxton from office.