Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has so far proved too wily for political opponents and prosecutors, winning reelection and rising to national prominence as a conservative crusader even while under felony indictment. Criminal allegations from his top deputies have set him up to square off against a formidable new opponent: A federal prosecutor with a team of FBI agents and a track record of getting corrupt public officials sent to prison, reports the Associated Press. Paxton has not been charged with a crime in the months since eight senior officials in his office reported him to the FBI for bribery, abuse of office and other offenses allegedly committed in helping a wealthy donor trying to fend off his own federal investigation.
Federal investigators are checking into Paxton’s actions and connections to Nate Paul, an Austin real estate developer who employs a woman with whom Paxton is said to have had an extramarital affair. Overseeing the effort is San Antonio-based Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Blackwell. Paxton has denied wrongdoing. His unsuccessful lawsuit trying to overturn the presidential election has raised questions about whether he’s seeking protection from President Donald Trump. Blackwell is a hard-charging but fair prosecutor. He has a knack for boiling down the complex facts of white-collar investigations, a down-to-earth demeanor and Louisiana accent that endears him to juries. “He’s probably the best trial attorney I’ve ever seen,” said Sean O’Connell, a Virginia lawyer who worked with Blackwell as a federal prosecutor in Texas. Paxton has used political connections and legal maneuvers to stall the prosecution of his state securities fraud case. Five years after Paxton pleaded not guilty itis unclear where or when he will face trial. A federal pardon would preclude a federal case, but it is possible the FBI could hand off its findings to state prosecutors.