Austin, August 12 – The General Investigating Committee of the Texas House of Representatives essentially voted to permit the Texas Rangers’ Public Integrity Unit to investigate “the facts and circumstances of the June 12, 2019 meeting between Michael Quinn Sullivan and Representatives Dennis Bonnen and Dustin Burrows and provide a copy of its final investigative report to the committee at the conclusion of its investigation.” By declining to conduct a formal investigation into the June 12, 2019, meeting about which Sullivan, the Chairman of Empower Texans, has accused Bonnen, Speaker of the Texas House, of trying during the meeting to give him a quid pro quo, which would technically constitute a bribe under the Texas Penal Code.
The quid pro quo, which several members of the Texas House have confirmed who have listened to Sullivan’s tape recording of the meeting was that Empower Texans’ blog correspondents would receive House press credentials in return for Sullivan’s assurance he would stop criticizing the 86th Texas Legislature’s poor performance and would only campaign against certain House members in the 2020 election. Bonnen invited Sullivan to the meeting after the two of them coincidentally met in the Terminal of Hobby Airport in Houston. When Sullivan arrived at Speaker Bonnen’s office in the Texas Capitol, Sullivan claims he was surprised that State Representative Dustin Burrows, Republican of Lubbock and Chairman of the House Republican Caucus, was also in attendance.
Many individuals have begun to dub the investigation and scandal “Bonnengate.”
State Representative Morgan Meyer, the Chairman of the House General Investigating Committee and a Republican from Dallas and close political ally of Bonnen, called for his Committee to conduct a formal investigation. The Golden Hammer has confirmed with two members of the Texas House of Representatives and a staff member of the General Investigating Committee that Meyer originally intended to call for appointment of a Special Prosecutor to lead the investigation on behalf of the Committee and possibly to refer criminal allegations to appropriate prosecutors in Texas. The House members and Committee staffer requested anonymity.
Under Texas law, the General Investigations Committee has full subpoena power. The Golden Hammer‘s sources also confirmed that Meyer intended to subpoena Sullivan, at least one other Empower Texans employee, as well as Bonnen and some of his staff members.
The potentially horrible trick
There was potentially a horrible trick afoot, about which many conservative Republican activists had become aware. Under Texas Government Code Section 301.025, if a person testifies before the House Committee 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.
In other words, if Bonnen were to testify truthfully before the House Committee about the June 12 meeting in his office, after he first objects to questions that may incriminate him, Bonnen would enjoy full transactional immunity and would not be subject to a criminal prosecution, even for offering a quid pro quo to Sullivan!
A 1968 Texas Attorney General Opinion confirmed that under Section 301.025, a witness appearing before a duly constituted and authorized subcommittee of the House State Affairs Committee, either voluntarily, invited or subpoenaed, will gain immunity from state criminal prosecution concerning any unlawful acts about which he is required to testify over his objection, whether his testimony is under oath, or such oath is waived by the subcommittee.
Therefore, Bonnen would gain immunity from state criminal prosecution concerning any unlawful acts about which he is required to testify before the House General Investigating Committee.
Bonnen appointed Meyer as Chairman of the House General Investigating Committee.
Monday’s Committee hearing
Meyer, however, clearly led the Committee to do the right thing, which is to permit law enforcement authorities in the form of the Texas Rangers to investigate the matter, which would not allow Bonnen to garner any sort of immunity. Two politically-charged Committee members were absent from the meeting, democrat State Representative Joe Moody, who is the Speaker Pro Tempore, and would succeed Bonnen as Speaker, if Bonnen were to resign or otherwise leave office, and Republican State Representative Sarah Davis of Houston, who is generally unpopular among grassroots conservatives.
The Committee convened at 10:18 a.m. After very brief discussion of the most general nature, Chairman Morgan Meyer called the meeting into executive session. The Committee spoke for about 45 minutes in executive session and then came out and voted unanimously in an open meeting to request the Texas Rangers Public Integrity Unit, under its authority under Chapter 411, Government Code, to conduct an investigation into the facts and circumstances of the June 12, 2019 meeting between Michael Quinn Sullivan and Representatives Dennis Bonnen and Dustin Burrows and provide a copy of its final investigative report to the committee at the conclusion of its investigation.
There being no further business, at 11:10 a.m., on the motion of the chair and without objection, the meeting was adjourned subject to the call of the chair.
Rep. Meyer, Chair
Brittney Baldovinos, Clerk