ATLANTA — One is a veteran former corporate chieftain with a direct line to the White House. The other is a younger investigative journalist who says his opponent is the embodiment of all that is wrong with Washington.Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff present dramatically different visions of government as they square off for Perdue’s U.S. Senate seat, one of two up for grabs in Georgia this November as Democrats try to retake control of the chamber. Fresh off his primary victory, Ossoff aims to unite Democrats behind a message that it’s time to purge the federal government of Pres...
"The federal grand jury probe that led to the raid of Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar's home and office in Texas this week has begun issuing subpoenas, seeking records about a wide array of U.S. companies and advocacy organizations, many of them with ties to the former Soviet nation of Azerbaijan," reported Mike Levine. "Among the information being sought, according to one subpoena reviewed by ABC News, are records related to the congressman, his wife Imelda, and at least one of his campaign staffers."
Cuellar, who is also a co-chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, is fully cooperating with the investigation, according to his attorney.
There is no indication at the moment that Cuellar or his wife are criminal targets of the investigation — but, according to the report, the information sought from them is broad-reaching.
"In addition to other information, the subpoena reviewed by ABC News seeks records 'relating to anything of value' that the congressman, his wife, and others close to them may have been offered by certain business leaders or foreign officials," said the report. "The subpoena also asks for records relating to any 'work, act, favor, or service' that Cuellar or his wife may have provided at the behest of certain foreign companies, government officials, American business leaders, or others."
Azerbaijan, a former Soviet state in central Asia, has a history of under-the-table lobbying practices in the United States to launder the reputation of its authoritarian regime.
Cuellar, a moderate who has represented Texas' 28th district since 2005, is facing a challenge from progressive attorney Jessica Cisneros in this year's primary.
Attorney General Ken Paxton said the Travis County district attorney's determination that Paxton violated open records laws by withholding information related to his trip to Washington, D.C., on the day of the Capitol insurrection was "meritless" and that his office had fulfilled its obligation under the law.
Last week, the district attorney's office gave Paxton four business days to turn over communications requested by the state's leading newspapers relating to his trip or face a lawsuit.
On Friday, Austin Kinghorn, a lawyer for the attorney general's office, dismissed the district attorney's findings, saying that office had provided no provisions under the state's open records law that had been violated and implied that the newspapers had made the requests to publish stories about them.
"In each instance, complainants' allegations rely on unsupported assumptions and fundamental misunderstandings of the PIA [Public Information Act] and its requirements," Kinghorn wrote. "Frustrated that they have failed to uncover anything worth reporting following 'numerous open records requests to AG Paxton office for various documents,' complainant newspaper editors have sought to leverage your office's authority to further their fishing expedition, or worse, manufacture a conflict between our respective offices that will give rise to publishable content for the complainants' media outlets."
Ismael Martinez, a spokesperson for that Travis County district attorney's office, confirmed the office received the letter but couldn't comment further.
The Travis County district attorney's office action stems from a complaint by editors from five of the state's top newspapers — the Austin American-Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News — alleging that the state's top law enforcement official had violated Texas' open records law by withholding communications related to Paxton's trip to Washington, D.C., last year that they argue are subject to disclosure.
In a joint statement, the editors of the newspapers wrote, "We’re disappointed in the attorney general’s response. We believe these records are public and should be released. We hope the Travis County district attorney continues to hold the attorney general accountable for following our state’s open records laws and continues to advocate for the public’s right to know in this case.
"The newspapers want records related to Paxton's communications in the days surrounding the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. On that day, Paxton spoke at a pro-Trump rally that preceded the storming of the Capitol. His wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, also attended the rally.
In the letter, the attorney general's office said the newspaper editors base their complaint on an "awareness of a small number of inconsequential documents they believe should have been produced" in public records requests and "baselessly speculate" that Paxton is failing to comply with the open records law.
Kinghorn said the "inconsequential documents" include a text message sent to Paxton's personal cellphone by a Dallas Morning News reporter and two "spam" emails and an internal email that announced the temporary closure of an office parking garage.
The Texas Public Information Act grants the public the right to government records, even those kept on personal devices or on a public official's online accounts.
Normally, the Texas attorney general's office enforces the state open records law. But when an open records complaint is filed against a state agency, the law says the Travis County district attorney or the attorney general must handle them. In this case, the newspapers filed their complaint with the Travis County district attorney.
Paxton's office has dismissed the district attorney's actions as a "fake controversy drummed up by hard-left local officials because they want to reignite hysteria about the attorney general’s political speech on January 6 ... which was not an official state activity."
José Garza, the Travis County district attorney, is a Democrat. Paxton is a Republican and an acolyte of former President Donald Trump. He has been endorsed by Trump in his reelection bid, in which he faces three Republican challengers and several Democratic challengers.
In their complaint, the newspapers said Paxton was using attorney-client privilege to withhold every single email and text message around the time of the Jan. 6 rally.
The newspapers also complained that the attorney general's office had no policy for handling work-related records kept on personal devices or accounts, like the text message sent by the Dallas Morning News reporter to Paxton's personal phone.
The journalists further complained that Paxton had responded to a request for his text messages about a trip to Utah during last year's February freeze by providing the communications of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, but not his own. When a reporter for The Dallas Morning News asked why the office had not provided Paxton's text messages, a lawyer for the attorney general's office responded, "General Paxton provided the messages."
Paxton is in the midst of his most difficult reelection cycle yet.
The two-term Republican is seeking reelection this year but is facing stiff competition from three GOP challengers: Land Commissioner George P. Bush, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert.
The three have blasted the incumbent for multiple legal issues he is facing, including a 6-year-old securities fraud case that has dogged him since his first year in office. He overcame that to win reelection in 2018. But in October 2020, eight of his former top deputies accused him of bribery and misuse of office. Weeks later, all eight deputies had either been fired or resigned from the attorney general's office.
Four of those whistleblowers are now suing Paxton under the state's whistleblower law. They are seeking compensation for lost wages and other damages, and some are seeking reinstatement to their former positions.
Paxton is also reportedly under FBI investigation for the allegations registered by the whistleblowers.
He has denied wrongdoing in all of these cases.
Former Trump aide brazenly admits to fake elector scheme on national TV -- but says 'everything was done legally'
A former White House aide admitted Friday night on national TV that he helped organize a campaign to submit fake electoral certificates from several states that falsely claimed former president Donald Trump won the 2020 election.
Boris Epshteyn, who was subpoenaed this week by the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol insurrection, told MSNBC: "Yes, I was part of the process to make sure there were alternate electors for when, as we hoped, the challenges to the seated electors would be heard and be successful."
Epshteyn went on to claim that "everything that was done was done legally, by the Trump legal team, according to the rules, and under the leadership of (Trump lawyer) Rudy Giuliani."
CNN first reported Thursday that Giuliani "oversaw efforts in December 2020 to put forward illegitimate electors from seven states that Trump lost, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the scheme."
"The sources said members of former President Donald Trump's campaign team were far more involved than previously known in the plan, a core tenet of the broader plot to overturn President Joe Biden's victory when Congress counted the electoral votes on January 6," CNN reported.
At least two state attorneys general have referred investigations into the fake electoral certificates to the Department of Justice.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, has said she believes those who signed the certificates violated multiple state and federal laws.
Clips from Epshteyn's interview and reactions below.
That's a confession of participating in a criminal conspiracy.https://twitter.com/Acyn/status/1484672337916010496\u00a0\u2026— Mark (Non-Fungible) Mucci (@Mark (Non-Fungible) Mucci) 1642811439
Epshteyn: Everything that was done was done… under the leadership of Rudy Giuliani pic.twitter.com/GX6yQCaKbk
— Acyn (@Acyn) January 21, 2022
That sound you hear is Epshteyn's lawyers collectively running for the door. https://twitter.com/Acyn/status/1484672337916010496\u00a0\u2026— Katie S. Phang (@Katie S. Phang) 1642810109
Lock him up!https://twitter.com/acyn/status/1484672337916010496\u00a0\u2026— JGoodman (@JGoodman) 1642810696
\u201cAlternate electors\u201d are the electoral college cousins of Kellyanne\u2019s alternative facts. Much less of a mouthful would just be fake or fraudulent.https://twitter.com/acyn/status/1484672337916010496\u00a0\u2026— Lesley Abravanel (@Lesley Abravanel) 1642810601
Judge: Did you steal the money?\nBank robber: I took alternate ownership of the funds.https://twitter.com/Acyn/status/1484672337916010496\u00a0\u2026— David Corn (@David Corn) 1642809683
The "genius" of Trump is apparently if you are powerful and public admit to your crime without shame it won't be treated like a crime. But the man just admitted to election fraud on TV. Should be open and shut case.https://twitter.com/Acyn/status/1484672337916010496\u00a0\u2026— Jon Walker (@Jon Walker) 1642809294