Trump University

Indicted Fraudster Ken Paxton is a Little Fuzzy on Free Speech

Texas attorney general and Dukes of Hazard villain Ken Paxton is not pleased with former deputy chief of consumer protection John Owens. Ownes recently spoke to reporters and disclosed that a state investigation of Trump University was shut down for political reasons by then-attorney general and current Governor Greg Abbott.

We don't necessarily have to take Owens' word for it. Greg Abbott's campaign received a $35,000 donation from Donald Trump shortly after Abbott dropped the investigation. That's not exactly a slam-dunk, but it certainly lends credence to the accusation.

The Abbott administration could have simply denied the accusations and moved on, but Attorney General Ken Paxton has gone a step further by sending a cease and desist letter to John Owens.

In a letter dated Friday, First Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Mateer asks John Owens to "immediately cease and desist from disclosing any privileged or confidential information" from his time in the office, which ended when he retired in 2011. [...]

"While everyone has First Amendment rights to free speech, the law strictly prohibits attorneys from releasing confidential and privileged information."

John Ownes has denied that he has released anything confidential or privileged and, ironically, Paxton's claim that Owens has released confidential information makes his accusation against Abbott seem even more credible.

Why would Paxton try to use the power of the state to silence a critic if the critic is wrong? If there's nothing to see here, why try to claim Owens has disclosed privileged information? If Owens simply made it up, how could it be privileged?

It wouldn't exactly be a big surprise if Paxton didn't think this all the way through.

As you know, Attorney General Ken Paxton is a little unsure how the law works. Paxton is currently facing criminal and civil charges for fraud. Paxton did not disclose that he was paid to lobby for a fraudulent business while he was a state representative.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's campaign also received a large $25,000 donation from Trump after dropping an investigation of Trump University.

  • Aynwrong

    Another commenter on a different site made the point that Trump has been or is being investigated by state governments all over the country over Trump U. Texas, Florida and New York as well (The NY investigation is still ongoing). The question that this should lead to is why has Trump only focused on this one particular judge in this one particular lawsuit. Are all these investigations “unfair?”

    • muselet

      Well, Greg Abbott and Pam Bondi let themselves be bought—cheaply, too—so Donald Trump’s not making a lot of noise about Texas or Florida. However, he has been bleating about how awful Eric Schneiderman is, he’s incompetent, he’s biased, blah blah blah, bleagh.

      Trump may be a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic creep, but he is predictable.


  • muselet

    … [T]he law strictly prohibits attorneys from releasing confidential and privileged information.

    Yes. Yes, it does.

    What First Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Mateer doesn’t trouble himself to explain is what information John Owens revealed which is in any way confidential or privileged. The investigation of Trump University was dropped, and Donald Trump did make a $35,000 donation to Greg Abbott’s campaign a few years later.

    The only thing new in Owens’s accusation is that the investigation was dropped on orders from the top, ie Greg Abbott. How that qualifies as confidential or privileged information is … unclear. Okay, fine, you could make a superficially-convincing case for confidentiality (the inner workings of the Office of the Attorney General shouldn’t be disclosed), but privilege?

    Either Jeffrey Mateer (or his boss, Ken Paxton) is a really bad lawyer or he’s not as canny as he thinks he is.