The Texas Speaker of the House and the Chairman of the House Republican Caucus could receive immunity from their chamber’s General Investigating Committee if forced to testify before upcoming hearings on the matter. The immunity stems from a Texas law if a person speaking before a committee is forced to provide self-incriminating testimony and speaks truthfully about the matter.
Quorum Report’s Scott Braddock raised the issue of immunity Wednesday night after the Texas House General Investigating Committee Chairman Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas) announced the body would meet next week to look into allegations of misconduct made by Michael Quinn Sullivan against House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) and Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock).
In a blog post on Texas Scorecard, Michael Quinn Sullivan accused Speaker Bonnen and House Republican Caucus Chairman Burrows of offering an official government action (the issuance of House Floor press credentials) in exchange for political expenditures against a list of ten Republican state legislators, Breitbart Texas reported. The political meeting allegedly took place in the Speaker’s official office.
“Some in the Capitol community were scratching their heads today about the quick scheduling of a Texas House General Investigating Committee after Vice Chair Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, requested a full probe into the June meeting between Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Empower Texans spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan,” Braddock wrote in an email to subscribers.
“Some observers wondered aloud why the committee is meeting so quickly after only one request from a member of the minority party,” Braddock continued. “Also, why would one of the speaker’s lieutenants agree to investigate the presiding officer now, particularly when an audio recording of the Bonnen/Sullivan meeting has not been made public while Sullivan invites only Republican officeholders and conservative activists to hear it?”
A possible answer, Braddock asserted, is a provision in Texas Government Code, Sec. 301.025 which states:
(a) A witness called by either house or by a legislative committee does not have a privilege to refuse to testify to a fact or produce a document on the ground that the testimony or document may tend to disgrace the person or otherwise make the person infamous.
(b) The legislature may require a person to testify or produce a document concerning a matter under inquiry before either house or a legislative committee even if the person claims that the testimony or document may incriminate him.
(c) If a person testifies or produces a document while claiming that the testimony or document may incriminate him, the person may not be indicted or prosecuted for any transaction, matter, or thing about which the person truthfully testified or produced evidence.
The Texas Association of District and County Attorneys concurred with Braddock’s assessment of the statute, tweeting that members of the legislatures “can immunize each other from criminal prosecution. Because of course they can.”
Correct. In other words: #txlege members can immunize each other from criminal prosecution. Because of course they can.
(Although in fairness, that kind of full transactional immunity hasn’t been invoked in recent history, as far as we can recall.) https://t.co/NYoOefcDul
— TDCAA (@TDCAA) August 8, 2019
Breitbart Texas reached out via email to Chairman Meyer, Vice-Chair Collier, and committee members Matt Krause, Candy Noble, and Leo Pacheco about whether the body intends to compel Bonnen and Burrows to testify, and if such testimony would extend immunity from prosecution under the cited statute. A response from the committee leadership and members was not immediately available.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for Rep. Pacheco responded to Breitbart Texas and said that due to the meeting coming up on Monday, “It would not be prudent for Representative Pacheco to comment at this time.”
Editor’s note: Michael Quinn Sullivan was a former writer for Breitbart Texas.