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When Texas’ attorney general needed someone to probe a claim by one of his wealthy political donors alleging crimes by the FBI, he turned to a junior Houston lawyer with no prosecutorial experience, a modest criminal defense practice and ties to the donor’s defense attorney.

Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton said his own staff had been working to “impede the investigation” into real estate developer Nate Paul’s allegations against federal law enforcement. He explained that’s why he brought in an “outside independent prosecutor” to look into the case.

The move led Paxton’s top deputies last week to accuse him of bribery and abuse of office.  It’s unclear what underlies these allegations, and what would have recommended Brandon Cammack to handle the fraught investigation.

But Cammack’s contract shows he’s not independent of Paxton. And social media posts show Cammack and Paul’s defense attorney, Michael Wynne, are connected on Facebook and are both part of a Houston civics organization. The lawyers didn’t respond to questions about their connections.

Paxton’s choice of outside counsel raises further questions about a decision that has deepened political, and possibly legal, trouble for the attorney general. Paxton rose to national prominence during his time in office but also has spent most of it maintaining his innocence in the face of a felony indictment.

Cammack told Paxton’s staff in an early September email that “my firm does not have any conflicts of interest with regards to this investigation.” Paxton office did not respond to questions about the lawyer’s selection. The attorney general has resisted calls for his resignation and cast blame on “rogue employees and their false allegations.”

Cammack’s father said he thinks his son is being set up as a “scapegoat.”

“I think Paxton was looking for someone that could get beat up on. I think he might have been looking for an easy mark,” Samuel Cammack III said. “Brandon doesn’t even have the ability to do what Paxton was asking him to do.”

A 2015 University of Houston Law Center graduate, Cammack is being paid $300 an hour to look into the complaint from Paul, who gave Paxton a $25,000 campaign contribution in 2018. It’s unclear what the developer has alleged, but his claims came to light a year after the FBI searched his home and office.

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