Texas attorney general Ken Paxton left the state while a brutal winter storm caused millions of residents to be without power and clean water, on the same day senator Ted Cruz travelled from the state on a controversial trip to Mexico.
Mr Paxton’s spokesman Ian Prior told the Houston Chronicle on Monday that the attorney general and his wife, Texas state senator Angela Paxton, travelled to Utah last Wednesday.
The spokesperson said that Mr Paxton left Texas to speak with Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, for a “previously planned” meeting to discuss a myriad of topics, including an antitrust lawsuit against Google.
“While there, AG Paxton had a number of meetings with the Utah Attorney General over the course of several days,” Mr Prior told the Chronicle on Monday.
“I cannot further share additional details or the specific reasons on the need for the meeting concerning Google as it involves an ongoing investigation,” he added.
The attorney general made the trip while millions of Texas residents were without power and clean water, amid the historic Winter Storm Uri that caused pipelines to freeze in the state.
Mr Prior confirmed that Mr Paxton did not lose power in his home and claimed that he did not leave the state until most households had electricity and heating again.
However, the Chronicle noted that at the time of Mr Paxton’s trip to Utah, more than 2 million Texan households were still without power, while millions more were struggling to access clean water.
Mr Paxton is now the third Texas politician to be confirmed to have left the state amid the storm last week.
Senator Ted Cruz faced widespread criticism and calls to resign for leaving the state on Wednesday with his wife Heidi Cruz, 48, and children Catherine and Caroline, to travel to a Ritz Carlton resort in Cancun, Mexico, costing around $300 (£214) a night.
Mr Cruz claimed that he made the trip at the request of his daughters, but returned the next day after the controversy erupted. His family stayed at the resort until Saturday before returning to Texas.
Although he has not apologised, Mr Cruz acknowledged late last week that he understood why people were “upset” and said that the trip “was obviously a mistake and in hindsight I wouldn’t have done it”.
The third politician, state representative Gary Gates, also caused uproar by flying to Florida on Wednesday after his home lost power during the storm.
Mr Gates defended himself by saying that he was concerned for the safety of his daughter and ill wife, after pipes burst and 30 per cent of their home was flooded.
“My wife is still recovering from an illness she has been battling for two weeks, and the room of my adult daughter, who is mentally handicapped and still lives with us, flooded,” Mr Gates told the Chronicle.
Last week, Mr Paxton launched an investigation into the grid operator for the state, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, amid calls for action on the power outages.
Mr Paxton said he will look into the operator’s “mishandling of this week’s extreme winter weather,” and added: “We will get to the bottom of this power failure and I will tirelessly pursue justice for Texans”.
About 14 million Texans are still under Boil Water Notices after public water systems were compromised by the severe cold weather, but power outages are back to normal levels in the state.
President Joe Biden is preparing to visit Texas this week following a declaration of a major disaster for the state, after the storm killed more than 30 people and caused disruption to vaccine shipments.