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Dogged reporting, spycraft expose Texas attorney general scandal

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Dallas-based law enforcement reporter Jake Bleiberg used source work, non-public documents and a technique borrowed from spycraft to connect recent criminal allegations against the Texas attorney general to the conservative Republican’s previously unreported extramarital affair.

In late September, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s top deputies accused him of criminally abusing his office to help a wealthy donor. Bleiberg spent weeks building sources in his aggressive pursuit of answers to what was behind these explosive, but unspecified, allegations.

Those efforts paid off last week when Bleiberg was able to obtain a transcript of the donor’s testimony in a private legal proceeding. During the deposition, real estate developer Nate Paul acknowledged that the attorney general recommended he hire a woman whom Bleiberg knew Paxton was rumored to have had an affair with. The sensitive transcript document was picked up at a “dead drop” – a prearranged drop spot – by Austin reporter Paul Weber.

Bleiberg then worked sources he’d developed while breaking earlier stories about Paxton and Paul to identify people whom the attorney general may have told about his affair. His relentless outreach ultimately turned up two people with firsthand accounts of Paxton acknowledging the affair in 2018.

Thoughtful and speedy editing by Texas editor Adam Causey and Central Desk editor Jeff McMurray put the story on the wire before other news outlets,and helped explain the tangle of overlapping criminal allegations, investigations and counter investigations around Paxton and Paul.

The reporting allowed AP to draw back the curtain on one of America’s most prominent conservative legal crusaders and break major news on a highly competitive story. It revealed a relationship that’s almost certainly at the center of an ongoing federal public corruption probe.

The response from Paxton has been telling — total silence.

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