GOP senator who voted to acquit Paxton wants Senate to consider reopening impeachment proceedings

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

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A Republican state senator who voted to acquit Ken Paxton in his impeachment trial last year wants the Senate to consider restarting proceedings now that the attorney general is no longer fighting the whistleblower claims in court that were central to the trial.

The bombshell request came in a letter Thursday from retiring state Sen. Drew Springer to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his Senate colleagues.

“At this stage, and the point of this letter, I am asking the Senate whether there is a legal mechanism to reopen the impeachment proceedings,” Springer wrote. “Failure to at least consider this possibility runs the risk of AG Paxton making a mockery of the Texas Senate.”

Springer’s letter came days after Paxton announced he would not contest the facts of the whistleblower lawsuit in an attempt to end it without having to testify under oath. The lawsuit was filed in 2020 by a group of former top deputies who said they were improperly fired for telling federal authorities they believed Paxton was abusing his office to help a wealthy friend and donor, Nate Paul.

Paxton’s recent reversal in the whistleblower lawsuit was especially striking because one of the articles of impeachment that he was acquitted on alleged that he violated the Texas Whistleblower Act. Springer wrote that Paxton “completely changed his position in less than four months.”

A spokesperson for Patrick, who served as judge in the trial, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Paxton dismissed Springer's letter in a statement to the Tribune.

"Springer has to leave the senate because he was such a bad senator, wasn’t going to get re-elected, and needed a job," Paxton said. "Why should anyone listen to his sour grapes."

After Springer released his letter, a Democratic senator who voted to convict Paxton, Sen. Sarah Eckhardt of Austin, said on X that she supports "reopening the impeachment proceedings" in light of Paxton's latest legal maneuvering.

In his latest move to end the lawsuit, Paxton also said he would accept any judgment, potentially opening up taxpayers to more than the $3.3 million sum that was in a tentative settlement deal last year. Springer said Paxton has “essentially written a blank check” at the taxpayers’ expense and that he should have to answer questions under oath if he seeks any funding approval from the Legislature.

Despite his reversal, Paxton has not been able to wriggle out of the lawsuit in Travis County district court. As of now, he is required to sit for a deposition on Feb. 1.

Springer’s letter comes as he is freer from political consequences than most of his GOP colleagues because he is not seeking reelection. But his term is not over until January 2025, giving him a voice in the Senate for nearly another year.

Springer was one of 16 GOP senators who voted to acquit Paxton on all impeachment articles — and keep him in office — at the trial in September. Springer seemed especially conflicted with the decision after facing political threats in his solidly red district.

In the race to succeed Springer, Paxton has endorsed Carrie de Moor, a Frisco emergency room physician who surfaced as a potential challenger while the trial was still underway. Springer is backing one of de Moor’s rivals, Brent Hagenbuch, the former Denton County GOP leader. Patrick has also endorsed Hagenbuch.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at

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The businessman at the center of Ken Paxton’s impeachment charged with new federal crimes

By Zach Despart 

The Texas Tribune

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Nate Paul, the Austin real estate investor whose relationship with Attorney General Ken Paxton was central to his September impeachment trial, was charged with new crimes by federal prosecutors on Wednesday.

The U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas filed an amended indictment charging Paul, 36, with four counts of wire fraud related to allegations that he lied to business partners who invested in real estate with his company, World Class Holdings, and its affiliates.

They are in addition to the eight felony counts prosecutors filed in June, which allege that Paul provided false information to financial institutions in order to obtain loans to purchase properties.

Paul’s attorney, David Gerger, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Paul’s trial is scheduled for July of 2024.

Neither of the indictments mention Paxton, who was acquitted by the Texas Senate of 16 articles of impeachment in September.

Paul and Paxton met sometime before 2020, though the origins of their friendship remain unclear. Seven former senior aides to Paxton reported the attorney general to the FBI in September 2020, concerned that his friendship with Paul included corruption and bribery.

They alleged that Paxton abused his office by helping Paul investigate and harass business rivals, delay foreclosure sales of his properties and procure confidential records on the police investigating him.

During this time, Paul’s business empire — which he once told a reporter was worth $1 billion — was faltering. In 2020 alone, 18 of Paul’s properties filed for bankruptcy.

The claims of the whistleblowers, who either quit within weeks of their report or were fired by Paxton, became the basis of the Texas House’s vote in May to impeach Paxton. The House members leading investigation argued that in return for those favors, Paul paid to renovate Paxton’s home and helped him pursue and cover up an extramarital affair with a former Senate staffer.

During the impeachment trial, whistleblowers testified they believed Paul to be a criminal and were concerned that Paxton was essentially turning the keys of the office over to him.

In the new filing, prosecutors said Paul repeatedly misled partners about how he was using partnership funds, a deception furthered by overstating the balances of partnership accounts.

“During his career in commercial real estate, Paul has repeatedly engaged in deception to persuade individuals and organizations to entrust money to him, and he has used the money to enrich himself and expand the commercial real estate businesses that he controls,” the indictment states.

The indictment lists six businesses as victims; three in Texas and one each in Florida, Colorado and North Carolina. The government is seeking to seize $172 million and any properties connected to Paul’s alleged criminal conduct.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

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Lawsuit by Attorney General Ken Paxton’s accusers can continue, Texas Supreme Court rules

Lawsuit by Attorney General Ken Paxton’s accusers can continue, Texas Supreme Court rules

By Patrick Svitek 

The Texas Tribune

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The Texas Supreme Court has sided with former top deputies of Attorney General Ken Paxton and cleared the way for their whistleblower lawsuit to move forward.

The all-Republican Supreme Court on Friday rejected Paxton’s request to dismiss the lawsuit after the case had been on pause pending a possible settlement with the whistleblowers. The decisions came four days after the whistleblowers asked the court to reinstate the case — and about two weeks after Paxton was acquitted in his impeachment trial before the Texas Senate.

The lawsuit will return to a Travis County trial court.

"We are looking forward to obtaining a trial setting and to preparing this case for trial as soon as possible,” the whistleblowers' lawyers said in a statement.

Four whistleblowers sued the attorney general's office in 2020 for wrongful termination and retaliation after they reported Paxton to the FBI, alleging he abused his office to help a friend and donor, Nate Paul. They almost settled with the attorney general’s office for $3.3 million earlier this year — until Texas House investigators, concerned about using taxpayer dollars for the settlement, started probing the lawsuit’s claims and recommended Paxton’s impeachment.

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The series of events effectively froze the case at the Texas Supreme Court. But on Monday, the whistleblowers held a news conference to announce that they were asking the high court to jump start their case in light of Paxton’s acquittal.

“The political trial is over, and it’s time for the case to return to a real court,” whistleblower Blake Brickman said Monday.

Paxton’s office declined to comment on the news conference, saying only that its lawyers would respond in court. But it appears they did not file a reply prior to Friday’s ruling.

Brickman is a plaintiff in the lawsuit with three other former Paxton deputies: Ryan Vassar, David Maxwell and Mark Penley. The four fired deputies testified as prosecution witnesses at Paxton’s impeachment trial.

The Supreme Court provided no explanation for its decision Friday, noting only that Paxton’s petition for review was denied with Justice Evan Young not participating.

The case reached the Texas Supreme Court in early 2022, after a state appeals court and the trial judge rejected pretrial attempts by Paxton’s agency to dismiss the lawsuit.

The Texas Whistleblower Act protects state workers from retaliation by other employees for reporting potential crimes to law enforcement. Paxton has argued his agency acted properly because it has the right to fire employees “at will” and because the whistleblower law does not apply to Paxton because he is an elected official, not a “public employee.”

“Like the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and members of this Court, he is an elected officer, chosen by the people of Texas to exercise sovereign authority on their behalf,” Paxton’s office said in its petition for review to the Supreme Court.

Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday’s ruling.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at

Donald Trump claims credit for saving Ken Paxton

By Matthew Choi 

The Texas Tribune

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Former President Donald Trump is claiming credit for Attorney General Ken Paxton’s acquittal.

Posting on his Truth Social platform Monday, Trump claimed that his sporadic defenses on social media for his long-time ally helped sway the course of Paxton’s impeachment trial.

“Yes, it is true that my intervention through TRUTH SOCIAL saved Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from going down at the hands of Democrats and some Republicans, headed by PAUL RINO (Ryan), Karl Rove, and others, almost all of whom came back to reason when confronted with the facts,” Trump said, naming checking former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and former White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove.

Neither Republican had a formal role in the impeachment process, though Rove penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed prophesying Paxton’s demise.

Paxton was impeached over allegations that he abused his office to help Austin real estate investor Nate Paul in exchange for personal favors. The Texas House voted on a bipartisan basis to impeach Paxton in May.

But Paxton’s impeachment trial ended Saturday with acquittal on all 16 charges. Trump celebrated the verdict shortly after, praising Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presided over the Senate trial, and calling for the removal of Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan. Trump, who is the only twice-impeached president in U.S. history, dismissed the charges against Paxton as “political persecution.”

That was the former president’s only public statement about the impeachment during the Senate trial. When the House voted to impeach Paxton in May, Trump posted on his social media site denouncing the proceedings and promising to target Republicans who turned against Paxton.

Paxton and Trump have long been closely aligned on policy, with the attorney general leading a lawsuit in 2020 to challenge the results of that year’s election in Trump’s favor. The Supreme Court swiftly threw out the lawsuit.

Paxton has also led a host of lawsuits against the Biden administration, ranging from attempting to toss the Affordable Care Act to challenging the constitutionality of a federal funding package. Trump also endorsed Paxton in his 2022 reelection primary, even as other Republicans including former U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, and former Land Commissioner George P. Bush courted the former president’s support.

“Ken has been a great A.G., and now he can go back to work for the wonderful people of Texas. It was my honor to have helped correct this injustice!” Trump’s Monday post continued.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at

At impeachment, lawyer recounts Texas AG Ken Paxton supervising his investigation into FBI and judge

A junior lawyer testifying at Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial said Tuesday that he kept Paxton informed through encrypted communications of every step he took in launching a criminal investigation into law enforcement officials at the behest of one of the attorney general's wealthy donors.

The testimony on the sixth day of the historic proceeding addresses a central charge against Paxton: that the Republican abused his office to help a local real estate developer resist FBI investigation by hiring an outside lawyer to look into the agents, a judge and other officials involved in the probe.

That lawyer, Brandon Cammack, told the jury of state senators who could decide Paxton's political fate within days that he consulted with the attorney general about how to proceed. Cammack also said he kept Paxton apprised as he obtained a series of grand jury subpoenas with guidance from the developer's lawyer.

“I did everything at his supervision,” Cammack said of Paxton.

Paxton has pleaded not guilty in the impeachment. He is not required to be present in the Senate for testimony and was absent Tuesday, as he has been for most of the trial. It was Paxton's hiring of Cammack in 2020 that prompted eight of his top deputies to report the attorney general to law enforcement for allegedly breaking the law to help developer Nate Paul. Their allegations prompted an FBI investigation of Paxton that remains ongoing.

That year, Paul alleged wrongdoing by state and federal authorities, including a federal judge, after the FBI searched his home. Several of Paxton's former deputies have testified for the prosecution in the impeachment trial and said they found Paul's claims “ludicrous" and not worthy of investigation.

Paul was indicted in June on charges of making false statements to banks. He has pleaded not guilty.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers prosecuting Paxton's impeachment have alleged that in return for Paxton's help, Paul paid for renovations to his Austin home and employed a woman with whom the attorney general was having an extramarital affair.

Cammack testified Tuesday that he met several times with Paxton, Paul and Paul's lawyer about Cammack's investigation, and regularly forwarded Paxton information Paul's lawyer was sending him about whom to target with grand jury subpoenas. Cammack said Paxton used the encrypted email service Proton Mail for these communications and that the attorney general told him to communicate over encrypted messaging service Signal.

Cammack said he learned that Paxton had a different official email address when he saw it copied on an email from one of Paxton's deputies ordering Cammack to stop his investigation.

In 2020, Cammack was five years out of law school and had a modest criminal defense practice in Houston. He testified that Paxton hired him at the recommendation of Paul's lawyer, whom he said he knew socially. Cammack recalled that as he was being hired Paxton told him he would “need to have some guts” for the investigation Paxton had in mind. He said he was exited to be working for Texas' top lawyer and impressed after the attorney general took him to watch a news conference. “It was cool,” Cammack said.

Ken Paxton’s top deputy, the first impeachment witness, describes an attorney general out of control

By Zach Despart 

The Texas Tribune

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"Ken Paxton’s top deputy, the first impeachment witness, describes an attorney general out of control" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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At the end of September 2020, it finally made sense to Jeff Mateer why his boss, Attorney General Ken Paxton, was devoting so much of the agency’s attention to Paxton’s friend, Austin real estate investor Nate Paul.

In Wednesday testimony that took up most of the second day of Paxton’s impeachment trial, Mateer said that for months he could not figure out why Paxton had brushed off repeated warnings that assisting Paul in his business disputes was an improper use of state resources.

And then, as the office was erupting in crisis when senior deputies learned that Paxton had quietly hired an outside lawyer to conduct an investigation on Paul’s behalf, Mateer said he learned something else. Paul had hired the woman with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair, allowing her to move to Austin, where the attorney general could more easily visit her.

“It answered the question, why is he engaging in all these activities … on behalf of Mr. Paul?” Mateer testified. “It seemed to be he was under undue influence. At times, I wondered: Is he being blackmailed?”

In more than six hours of testimony, Mateer — the first witness called by the House impeachment managers — detailed his growing concerns through the summer and fall of 2020 about Paxton’s relationship with Paul, culminating in Mateer’s decision to join other senior advisers in reporting the attorney general’s behavior to the FBI on Sept. 30.

“I concluded that Mr. Paxton was engaged in conduct that was immoral, unethical, and I had the good faith belief that it was illegal,” Mateer testified.

Paxton’s lawyer attempted to cast Mateer as a rogue employee and disloyal friend of Paxton, arguing that the former first assistant jumped to conclusions about impropriety based on incomplete and inaccurate information. Attorney Tony Buzbee also accused Mateer of leading an attempted coup against Paxton.

But as Paxton has cast the impeachment as a persecution led by Democrats and liberal Republicans, Mateer presented a problem. He is an evangelical Christian and champion of religious liberty whose hiring by Paxton was praised by conservatives. And unlike four other senior deputies who filed a whistleblower lawsuit and later negotiated a proposed $3.3 million settlement — prompting Paxton’s camp to suggest they had a financial motivation for their allegations — Mateer simply quit within days of meeting with FBI agents in 2020.

Paxton on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to 16 articles of impeachment. The bulk of the House’s case centers on allegations that Paxton misused the power of the attorney general’s office to harass Paul’s perceived enemies, including business rivals, judges and law enforcement officials.

As expected, the attorney general’s affair with Laura Olson, the former Senate aide Buzbee identified by name during the trial, took center stage in the trial.

Mateer exhibited a pained expression when asked about the relationship, as Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, sat about 30 feet away — present for the trial but barred from deliberating or voting by Senate rules. Prodded by impeachment lawyer Rusty Hardin, Mateer said the affair was the missing piece that explained the bizarre behavior Paxton had exhibited in asking his senior deputies to help Paul.

Mateer added that he was present for a 2018 meeting in which Paxton, joined by his wife, admitted to the extramarital affair but said it was over and that he had recommitted to his marriage.

“Mr. Paxton apologized and, using Christian terminology, I would say he repented,” Mateer said. “I assumed it was over because that’s what he said.”

Sen. Paxton, at her desk, took notes as Mateer spoke. She has maintained a bright disposition during the trial, chatting with colleagues during breaks and waving to supporters in the gallery.

Mateer’s appearance was widely anticipated due to his position as Paxton’s most senior deputy and because he has said little publicly in the nearly three years since he resigned his post in October 2020.

Yet it was initially unclear if Mateer’s testimony would live up to its top billing when it began late Tuesday afternoon. Hardin, a genteel lawyer for the House managers, meandered while asking Mateer about his background, leaving senators to wonder when, if ever, he would get to the point.

Wednesday offered a reset. Hardin, normally loquacious, buckled down. He led Mateer through the summer of 2020, asking him to explain his growing discomfort with Paxton’s actions.

Mateer said he first knew little about Paul but was concerned when Paxton wished to personally argue a court motion in a case involving a charity that had sued two of Paul’s businesses. He said his consternation grew when Paxton directed the office to issue a legal opinion limiting foreclosure sales during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were at the forefront of having Texas reopen and to stop COVID restrictions. … We were the ones pushing to have Texas open up,” Mateer said. “The opinion took the complete opposite view.”

Impeachment managers allege that Paul used the opinion to delay the foreclosure sale of several properties.

Mateer also said Paxton repeatedly pressured him to approve the hiring of an outside lawyer to investigate claims made by Paul. The former top deputy recalled that Paxton called him late on Sept. 28 and was “very upset” with Mateer’s refusal to support the hiring, adding that Paxton’s demeanor led him to believe he had been drinking.

Mateer said the next day, he and other senior officials realized that the outside lawyer, Brandon Cammack, had in fact started working for the office weeks earlier, without their knowledge. They also discovered Cammack had issued subpoenas to banks that had lent money to Paul’s businesses.

“We considered it sort of a crisis moment,” Mateer said. “Everything regarding Mr. Paul was coming to a head.”

Another senior official then rushed to court and persuaded the judge to throw out the subpoenas, arguing Cammack had no power to issue them.

Buzbee attempts to discredit Mateer

For the cross-examination, Buzbee’s rapid-fire, quick-pivot questioning of Mateer was in stark contrast to Hardin’s chronological questioning that bordered on tedious. Instead of offering a counter-narrative to the House’s version of events, Buzbee sought to discredit Mateer and land punches where he could.

He homed in on a theme of Mateer as a misguided employee and friend who should have taken his concerns directly to Paxton instead of going behind his back to report him to law enforcement. He challenged Mateer’s contention that he and other senior deputies were attempting to protect the attorney general from himself.

“In order to protect Ken Paxton, what you did was you then called the FBI?” Buzbee asked. “That’s how you protected your friend?”

“That’s not correct, sir,” Mateer replied.

Buzbee suggested that if Mateer had asked Paxton about Cammack, he would have learned that the attorney general had properly hired him and that the subpoenas were a legitimate inquiry into a second Paul complaint that Mateer did not know about.

“So you went to the FBI thinking that this kid, as you called [Cammack], should not be subpoenaing banks?” Buzbee asked. “But you now know that if he was charged … to investigate bid rigging, then that might be something that he might subpoena?”

“I actually don’t know that,” Mateer replied.

What Buzbee did not mention, however, was that Paul’s second complaint alleged that he was the victim of a wide-ranging conspiracy by business rivals, a court-appointed lawyer and a federal judge to steal his properties. No evidence has emerged, in the impeachment trial or any other forum, supporting the claim, which Paul code named “Operation Tarrytown.”

And House exhibits reveal that Paul and his lawyer had directed Cammack on how to conduct the probe, including by identifying investigative targets and writing the subpoenas.

As the cross-examination entered its third hour, Buzbee tried to elicit damaging admissions from Mateer, but the seasoned lawyer was unfazed. At one point, Buzbee asked at what hourly rate would an outside counsel be too expensive for the attorney general’s office.

“What’s your rate?” Mateer quipped.

At another, Buzbee returned to the argument that Mateer was insubordinate in joining other senior advisers in reporting Paxton to law enforcement.

“You were involved in a coup, weren’t you?” Buzbee asked.

“Absolutely not,” Mateer said.

Paxton a no-show, again, for trial

Paxton was again absent for Wednesday’s impeachment proceedings.

The suspended attorney general was present Tuesday morning while Buzbee entered not guilty pleas on his behalf, but he did not return after the lunch break as lawyers for the House impeachment managers called their first witness.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is the presiding officer over the impeachment trial, agreed with Paxton’s attorneys Tuesday after they argued that trial rules did not require Paxton’s presence beyond entering a plea.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at

Nearly 4,000 pages show new detail of Ken Paxton’s alleged misdeeds ahead of Texas impeachment trial

Investigators leading the impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have released nearly 4,000 pages of documents that lay out in new detail how the embattled Republican allegedly used multiple cellphones and an alias on a ride-sharing app to conceal an affair, and pressured top aides to help a donor who is now facing criminal charges.

The reams of exhibits, most of which were publicly filed late Thursday and include emails and text messages, are the foundation of House Republicans' case that Paxton abused his office and should be ousted at the end of a historic impeachment trial that begins Sept. 5 in the Texas Capitol.

“It’s a complicated story,” Mark Penley, one of Paxton's former deputies, told investigators during a deposition in March. “But if you understand what was going on, this was outrageous conduct by an Attorney General that’s supposed to be the chief law enforcement officer for the State of Texas, not the chief lawbreaking officer.”

Paxton, who has been suspended from office since being impeached by the GOP-controlled Texas House in May, has broadly denied wrongdoing and waved off the accusations as politically motivated.

A spokesperson for Paxton did not respond to an email requesting comment Friday.

Both sides are under a gag order imposed by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who will preside over the trial in the GOP-controlled state Senate. Paxton's wife, Angela, is a senator but is barred from voting in the proceedings.

The documents provide the fullest picture to date of accusations that have shadowed Paxton since eight of his highest-ranking deputies, including Penley, staged an extraordinary revolt in 2020 and reported him to the FBI. They alleged that Paxton had unlawfully used the power of his office in an attempt to shield Austin real estate developer Nate Paul from legal troubles.

In December 2019, Penley told investigators, Paxton met him at a Starbucks in a wealthy Dallas enclave and asked him to take a phone call with him inside a car in the parking lot. Penley said the call was with Paul and that Paxton described him as a friend who was having issues with the FBI.

Months later, Penley said in the deposition, he met Paxton outside a Dunkin Donuts at a strip mall and urged him to back away from Paul. But Penley said Paxton instead pressed him to approve paying an outside attorney whom Paxton had hired to look into Paul's claims.

Paul was arrested in June and charged with making false statements to banks in order to procure more than $170 million in loans. He has pleaded not guilty.

The newly filed exhibits also include Uber records that allegedly show Paxton using an alias, “Dave P.”, to hire rides to conceal visits to Paul and a woman with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair. The documents also include accusations that Paxton used multiple phones.

Paxton was reelected to a third term in November despite the cloud of scandal, which his supporters say shows that voters want him in office. Paxton is also facing multiple legal troubles beyond the impeachment, including a securities fraud indictment from 2015 that has yet to go to trial and an ongoing FBI investigation.