Former Texas Deputy Attorney General Mark Penley on Monday said he warned Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) that it would be “very dangerous” and “unethical” for the office to investigate Austin real estate developer Nate Paul’s claims of law enforcement misconduct.
As the second week of the impeachment trial kicked off, Penley testified that he planned to tell Paxton at a 2020 meeting that probing Paul’s allegations was “a very dangerous investigation for him to continue,” citing that the attorney general was a friend of Paul’s, and that Paul was a campaign donor to Paxton.
“There was no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing. There was no legal basis to continue the investigation. There was no ethical basis to continue the investigation,” Penley said.
“And then I also told him, there was great risk to him. This could look like bribery; this could turn into a criminal charge against him. I told him this could turn into a media scandal if it got out. I said, ‘You should not be doing this, please back away from this, let me handle this my way,’” Penley said, adding that “I told him of those things and many others.”
Penley was the latest witness to take the stand in the historic trial, the first of its kind in the Lone Star State’s history. He was among the whistleblowers who filed suit against Paxton, alleging they were pressured to resign and then fired in retaliation after they reported Paxton.
Paxton pleaded not guilty to corruption charges last week, related to allegations that the attorney general abused his office to help Paul.
Penley said during his testimony that he felt Paul was “trying to manipulate” him, Paxton and former OAG director of law enforcement David Maxwell “to do an investigation that has no merit.” Maxwell also reportedly testified last week that he also tried to warn the attorney general.
Penley further argued he thought Paxton was “misguided” and “too aligned” with Paul, as well as “biased against law enforcement to his detriment.”
With the whistleblower’s testimony, prosecutors on Monday continued building their case against Paxton, who is currently suspended and could be permanently removed from office over the matters at hand.
Witness testimony is expected to continue over the next few days.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who is presiding over the proceedings, said as the trial resumed that, given the time limits for both sides, jury deliberations could start as soon as late Thursday or Friday this week.
“We will not take a day off until a final resolution,” Patrick said. “From this moment forward, no off-days until the trial deliberations and the decision is given.”
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