Former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection, John Owens, claims that he was ordered by Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton to drop the case against Trump U for political reasons. Owens claims that he was issued a cease and desist letter from Paxton’s office after he had made a 14-page internal summary of Texas’s case against the fake University public.
According to the documents provided by Owens, his team sought to sue Trump, his company and several business associates to help recover more than $2.6 million students spent on seminars and materials, plus another $2.8 million in penalties and fees.
Owens said he was so surprised at the order to stand down he made a copy of the case file and took it home.
“It had to be political in my mind because Donald Trump was treated differently than any other similarly situated scam artist in the 16 years I was at the consumer protection office,” said Owens, who lives in Houston.
Owen’s boss at the time was Greg Abbott, who has been accused by mainstream outlets of colluding to let Trump U off the hook, often comparing him to Florida’s Pam Bondi, but that has been disproven repeatedly.
Despite all the light shed on Trump U’s trouble in Texas, some things still remain shady.
Paxton issued a media release about the cease and desist later Friday, saying Owens had divulged “confidential and privileged information.”
Owens first learned about the state’s action against him on Friday afternoon when contacted by the AP for response.
“I have done nothing illegal or unethical,” said Owens, a lawyer. “I think the information I provided to the press was important and needed to be shared with the public.”
Whether Owens acting as a whistleblower was wrong or not, Paxton’s attempts at reigning this information in has caused something of a Streisand effect, with news outlets reporting on the scandal left and right. Ross Ramsey at the Texas Tribune figures this would have gone away, had not Paxton accidentally stoked the fires by trying to blow it out.
The Texans would probably have this in their rear-view mirrors if the current attorney general had kept his head down. Now there’s a new controversy to keep the story fresh.
The damage here comes more from Paxton than from Owens. Abbott has a plausible explanation for what happened and even a brag that he ran Trump U out of Texas on a rail. One of his former aides says it was he, and not Abbott, who closed the file on the seminars and annoyed John Owens.
Now Bigfoot has arrived, in the form of Ken Paxton telling Owens that he shouldn’t have brought any of this to light. To a suspicious mind, that raises a question about what else lives in the closed-case files that we mere civilians are not supposed to see. Whistleblowers sometimes have interesting things to say.
Not that Texans necessarily want this to stay in the shadows. If there’s corruption, we want to know about it.