Justice Department prosecutors in Washington, DC, have taken over the corruption investigation into Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
State prosecutor Kent Schaffer, who is separately investigating Paxton, told CNN in an interview that the Justice Department notified him of the change. The yearslong corruption investigation had, until now, been under the control of federal prosecutors in Texas.
The recent takeover by federal prosecutors at Justice Department headquarters in Washington is the most recent development in the investigation of the Texas attorney general, which was initiated after several aides accused Paxton of bribery, abuse of office and other potentially criminal offenses in 2020. It also comes just days after Paxton agreed to a tentative $3.3 million settlement with four of the aides who made the public accusation.
Paxton has repeatedly denied allegations of wrongdoing. In a statement to CNN after the settlement was announced last week, Paxton said he had “chosen this path” to “put this issue to rest.”
The investigation will now be handled by the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, according to Schaffer. The Public Integrity Section handles high profile prosecutions of government officials, including in cases of bribery and corruption.
It is not clear what prompted the move to replace the federal prosecutors in Texas on the case.
A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.
Paxton’s attorney Dan Cogdell told The Associated Press, which first reported the development, that he had previously asked for prosecutors from the Western District of Texas to be off the case because they had “an obvious conflict,” but that he had not personally been notified of the move. Cogdell did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN.
CNN has also reached out to Paxton’s office for comment.
In an interview with CNN, Schaffer said that “there is no reason in the world that [the Texas prosecutors] couldn’t have continued with the prosecution.” He said he worries “Ken Paxton has committed a crime … and he won’t have to answer for it.”
He continued: “This cat’s got nine lives, and it looks like he’s used up about seven or eight of them.”