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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says he won't resign after accusations of criminal activity by top aides
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who came under fire this weekend with allegations of bribery and abuse of office by seven of his most senior aides, will not resign his post as the state's top lawyer, he said Monday.
"Despite the effort by rogue employees and their false allegations I will continue to seek justice in Texas and will not be resigning," Paxton said in a statement.
The statement comes less than two days after top aides with the agency called for a criminal investigation of Paxton, writing "we have a good faith belief that the attorney general is violating federal and/or state law including prohibitions related to improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential criminal offenses."
Media reports have tied the allegations to Paxton's relationship with Nate Paul, an Austin real estate developer and Paxton donor. According to the Houston Chronicle and Austin-American Statesman, former First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer and the other officials felt compelled to act after Paxton allegedly appointed a special prosecutor to target "adversaries" of Paul.
In his limited public statements on the allegations, Paxton has pointed the finger back at the top deputies accusing him of wrongdoing. But Paxton claimed Monday that he was merely investigating a case that had been sent to the agency, as is his responsibility.
"The Texas attorney general's office was referred a case from Travis county regarding allegations of crimes relating to the FBI, other government agencies and individuals. My obligation as attorney general is to conduct an investigation upon such referral," Paxton said. "Because employees from my office impeded the investigation and because I knew Nate Paul I ultimately decided to hire an outside independent prosecutor to make his own independent determination."
Paul is a controversial real estate investor whose net worth Forbes estimated at around $800 million in 2017, whose assets include some of Austin's most prime downtown properties and a smattering of self-storage facilities. But his real estate empire has shown signs of decline, with at least 18 of Paul's companies declaring bankruptcy in the past year, according to the Austin Business Journal. And in 2019, his home and business office were the targets of an FBI raid, according to local news reports.
Even after top Republicans called the allegations concerning and U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, Paxton's former chief deputy, called for his resignation, Paxton signaled he will charge ahead through the allegations.
Paxton on Monday announced he would appoint Brent Webster, a former criminal district attorney in Williamson County, as his new first assistant attorney general, replacing Mateer, who resigned Friday and was one of the seven top aides leveling accusations at Paxton.
Without commenting on the circumstances of Mateer's departure, Paxton praised Webster's "substantial real-world experience." Webster has also worked as a civil litigator and criminal defense attorney in private practice, according to a news release from the Texas attorney general's office.
"I am confident that he will diligently and faithfully serve the office and the people of Texas," Paxton said in a statement.
Roy called on his former boss to resign from his post Monday, becoming the most high-profile Republican to do so so far.
"For the good of the people of Texas and the extraordinary public servants who serve at the Office of the Attorney General, Attorney General Ken Paxton must resign," Roy said in a statement. "The allegations of bribery, abuse of office, and other charges levied against him by at least 7 senior leaders of the Office of the Attorney General are more than troubling on the merits."
"But, any grace for him to resolve differences and demonstrate if the allegations are false was eliminated by his choice instead to attack the very people entrusted, by him, to lead the office – some of whom I know well and whose character are beyond reproach."
Roy called the office of the attorney general "too critical to the state and her people to leave in chaos."
"The Attorney General deserves his days in court, but the people of Texas deserve a fully functioning AG's office," he added.
Roy served as Paxton's initial first assistant attorney general during Paxton's first term, but resigned upon Paxton's request in a major shake-up of senior staff in 2015. He was elected to Congress as a Republican in 2018.
By Monday afternoon, Roy said he would return campaign donations from Paul, the real estate investor tied up in the allegations against Paxton.
"Upon learning of the recent news about Nate Paul and the Attorney General, we combed our financial records & found $2700 from a Nate Paul in the 2018 cycle. I do not recall meeting Mr. Paul and it shows as an online contribution," Roy tweeted.
Edgar Walters contributed reporting.
With more research done on the COVID-19 Delta variant, Austin Public Health is upping its goal of 70% vaccinated to at least 80% due to the extreme virality of the strain.
As more Delta cases are identified—up to 29 cases are confirmed in Travis County—health officials are urging the unvaccinated to get their shots to contain the spread and relieve hospitals from reaching full capacity.
Austin-Travis County surpassed the Stage 5 threshold on Friday and has reached a seven-day average of 61 hospital admissions. However, Austin health leaders have yet to make an official shift as the Delta variant calls for new guidance, APH Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said at a joint Travis County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday morning.
The new guidance has yet to be released, but Walkes said it will take into account the viral load of Delta on both unvaccinated and vaccinated people.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the Delta variant was as contagious as chickenpox, which has a herd immunity threshold of at least 90% vaccinated.
Although 63.42% of those eligible in Travis County are fully vaccinated, breakthrough cases—where vaccinated people are contracting COVID-19—are being identified. APH has identified 1,496 breakthrough cases of the roughly 800,000 vaccinated. Most breakthrough cases are showing less severe symptoms or are asymptomatic, according to APH.
Health officials are still asking residents to wear masks, although the city cannot mandate any masking orders due to an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
"Our challenge is going to be whether we're going to stand as a community and everyone who can get vaccinated, get vaccinated, and everyone wear a mask—that's what it's going to take," Walkes said.
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Save Austin Now police petition will reach November ballot after county clerk certifies 25,000 signatures
Save Austin Now is now 2-0 over Austin City Council after its petition to add more staffed police officers to the Austin Police Department was certified, garnering over the 20,000 votes needed to make it on an election ballot.
The petition calls for more police staffing per city resident, quicker response times and more training for city police officers in the wake of increasing violent crime rates nationwide and a year of limited APD staffing. The City Council will now decide whether to implement the ordinance outright or add it to the November election ballot; it will likely do the latter.
Over 25,000 of the 27,778 signatures racked up by the public safety petition were certified as valid, well over the 20,000-vote threshold required to be certified with the City Clerk. City Clerk Jannette Goodall placed the city's seal of approval on the petition on Tuesday morning.
The petition, by the same political group that got the camping ban reinstated through a petition in May, seeks to:
- Require minimum staffing of two officers per 1,000 residents
- Require a minimum standard of 35% community response time
- Add 40 hours of training
- Require city council members, Mayor Steve Adler and other city staff to enroll in the Citizens Police Academy
- Facilitate minority officer hiring through foreign language proficiency metrics
Austin's 160 patrol vacancies have dropped its staffing rate to 1.2 officers per 1,000 residents, according to the department. APD's response time has increased by about one minute and 50 seconds in a year.
The petition comes nearly a year after APD's budgets were slashed by city council following the summer's Black Lives Matter protests, which saw several demonstrators severely injured as millions called for justice in the police-related deaths of George Floyd and locally Mike Ramos, an unarmed Black man killed by APD officer Christopher Taylor, in April 2020.
Austin and the U.S. have experienced a widespread uptick in violent crime rates in 2021. The city has reached 49 homicides in 2021, higher than the total number of murders in all of 2020 and the 38 homicides in the city in 2019. Austin police officers have seen response times rise as the department suffers increased vacancies and fewer newcomers while cadet classes are being readjusted.
Opponents argue the ordinance would ramp up a policing budget while taking away from other departments including Fire, EMS, violence prevention, and mental health care. City Council Member Greg Casar, the Travis County Democratic Party and the Austin Justice Coalition have spoken out against the organization's latest public safety move, calling out the campaign as a "right-wing petition" that misleads those who sign.
🔥 PANTS ON FIRE: Republican-front group Save Austin Now is lying about their petition!
They say their measure is about police reform, when it's really about devastating our city budget - all for the benefit of the police union. Watch the video here ⬇️ #ATX pic.twitter.com/Z6QQSfhHfH
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) August 2, 2021
The latest battle between city council and Save Austin Now will be decided by Austin residents in the Nov. 2 election.
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Austin City Limits fest and iHeartRadio Fest are the latest festivals to announce the removal of rapper DaBaby, who has come under fire for homophobic comments made during a recent festival.
The 29-year-old rapper, whose real name is Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, was dropped by Lollapalooza just hours before his set on Sunday, followed by the Governor's Ball in New York and Nevada's Day N Vegas after making unsolicited comments about men with HIV/AIDS at the Rolling Loud Festival in Miami. Rolling Stone Magazine confirmed with iHeartRadio organizers that DaBaby will no longer perform.
DaBaby will no longer be performing at Austin City Limits Music Festival — lineup update coming soon. pic.twitter.com/jAYfdJFxJf
— ACL Festival (@aclfestival) August 3, 2021
There is no word on who he will be replaced with yet, though rumors on ACL's subreddit, r/aclfestival, are saying they expect Tyler, The Creator, who performed at Lollapalooza. Kirk will be replaced at Day N Vegas by rapper Roddy Ricch.
Kirk later backtracked his offensive statements on his Instagram story, but again faced criticism for not exactly apologizing.
After facing a second round of backlash for his Instagram statements, the rapper posted on Instagram, saying:
In addition to being dropped from the festivals, DaBaby has been denounced by fellow celebrities like Dua Lipa, Madonna and Elton John.
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