Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is attempting to withhold all messages he sent or received during the Capitol riot on January 6. The Texas Public Information Act gives the public the right to review government records; several Texas news outlets have requested copies of his internal communications only to be rebuffed.
Paxton’s refusal to cooperate prompted The Texas Tribune and ProPublica, The Austin American-Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle, and The San Antonio Express-News to form a coalition dedicated to obtaining the documents and reviewing them.
“The news outlets discovered that Paxton’s office, which is supposed to enforce the state’s open records laws, has no policy governing the release of work-related messages stored on Paxton’s personal devices,” they noted in a collective report published in each of the respective news outlets. “It is unclear whether the office reviews Paxton’s email accounts and phones to look for requested records, or whether the attorney general himself determines what to turn over without any outside checks.”
The outlets reported that a spokesperson for the Office of the Attorney General justified the withholding of these communications by citing the Texas Administrative Code, which “specifies how long agencies have to hold on to records but is distinct from the open records law.”
Paxton, a noted ally of former President Donald Trump, has made headlines in the past for pushing conspiracy theories about the election, at one point filing a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the election results in the key swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, all of which were won decisively by President Joe Biden.
“What we have in President Trump is a fighter,” Paxton told a group of Trump’s supporters on January 6 shortly before they stormed the United States Capitol. “And I think that’s why we’re all here. We will not quit fighting. We’re Texans, we’re Americans, and the fight will go on.”
Paxton has also had significant legal troubles. He was recently indicted on securities fraud and accused of bribery amid allegations that he abused his power while in office.
Earlier this month, social media company Twitter sued Paxton, saying he retaliated against the company by opening an investigation into the company’s content moderation practices after it banned Trump from its platform in the days following the Capitol riot.
“Twitter seeks to stop AG Paxton from unlawfully abusing his authority as the highest law-enforcement officer of the State of Texas to intimidate, harass, and target Twitter in retaliation for Twitter’s exercise of its First Amendment rights,” the company wrote in its filing.
Twitter added that Paxton “made clear that he will use the full weight of his office, including his expansive investigatory powers, to retaliate against Twitter for having made editorial decisions with which he disagrees.”
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.