Gov. Abbott’s Accuser Divulging Privileged Info, Says Texas AG — Issues Cease and Desist Letter

On May 23, 2005, real estate mogul and Reality TV star Donald Trump at a news conference in New York where he announced the establishment of Trump University.
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

The Office of the Texas Attorney General (OAG) has issued a cease and desist letter against the man at the center of the Trump University allegations against Governor Greg Abbott. The OAG claims that John Owens may have disclosed “confidential and privileged” information that is the property of the OAG.

“Current and former Assistant Attorneys General have a duty to follow all rules related to the practice of law in the state of Texas,” First Assistant Attorney Jeff Mateer said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “While everyone has First Amendment rights to free speech, the law strictly prohibits attorneys from releasing confidential and privileged information.

The statement from the OAG notifies Owens that his “breach of various legal obligations” and demands “immediate compliance with all applicable state laws and rules of conduct.

The OAG’s statement reveals they believe “six violations of conduct Mr. Owens may have committed by divulging confidential and privileged information.”

  • Government Code S 552.352: A person commits a misdemeanor by distributing confidential information. The memorandum released to the media contained information made confidential under section 17.61(f) of the Business and Commerce Code.
  • Penal Code SS 37.10(a)(4), (6): A person commits a felony or misdemeanor by possessing a governmental record knowing it was unlawfully obtained or with intent that it be used unlawfully.
  • Penal Code S 39.02(a)(2): A public servant commits a felony or misdemeanor by knowingly misusing government property that has come into his possession by virtue of his public employment if he intends to obtain a benefit or harm or defraud another.
  • Penal Code S 39.06(b): A public servant commits a felony by disclosing information for a nongovernmental purpose that he has access to by means of his employment and has not been made public if he intends to obtain a benefit or harm or defraud another.
  • Texas Business and Commerce Code S 17.61(f): Materials produced in response to a civil investigative demand may not be disclosed to any person other than the authorized employee of the Office of the Attorney General without the consent of the producer of the materials.
  • Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct 1.05(b): A lawyer shall not reveal a former client’s confidential information to anyone other than the client, the client’s representatives, or the employees of the lawyer’s law firm. A ruling from the Open Records Division that pre-dated your disclosure of a particular memorandum held that the memorandum contained information protected by the attorney-client privilege. Tex. Att’y Gen. OR2016-10415, at 3 (May 9, 2016).

Owens has claimed that the investigation into Trump University by the OAG may have been terminated because of promises of political donations to Abbott’s campaigns. Those allegations appear to have been discredited by his former boss, David Morales, in an interview with the Texas Tribune. “To be clear, I did not discuss this matter with General Abbott,” Morales stated. ““My decision to approve the request to investigate and to devote state resources to that investigation was made without regard to the fact that the company was associated with Donald Trump.”

In 2010, Trump University was forced out of Texas thanks to the efforts of then Attorney General Greg Abbott. Officials in the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) at the time demanded financial records, promotional and advertising materials and other materials. Additionally, the OAG demanded the names of Texans who bought the programs offered in the state. Trump University refused to submit the documents and pulled out of the state, agreeing to stop doing business, Newsmax reported in February 2016.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional information.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and is a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.

Texas OAG Cease and Desist Letter v John Owens


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