Texas DA Finds AG Paxton Violated Public Records Law By Withholding Jan. 6 Texts

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) speaks outside the U.S. Supreme Court on November 1, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office (TSCDO) in Texas has found that state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) violated the state’s public records law by refusing to release his texts from the time when he was in D.C. for a Trump rally on the day of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

The TSCDO’s Director of Public Integrity and Complex Crimes, Jackie Wood, sent Paxton a letter on Thursday saying the office’s investigation into a complaint filed by several Texas news outlets supported their allegation that Paxton had violated the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA). The law requires public officials to retain and turn over communications related to official business on their personal electronic devices.

Per Wood’s letter, which was obtained by the Austin American-Statesman, the district attorney’s office agreed with the news outlets that Paxton had failed that requirement and was claiming attorney-client privilege “improperly” as a means to withhold the messages.

Wood pointed out that Paxton’s own office “has long agreed” that records on a public official’s personal devices are subject to the TPIA. Her letter includes an excerpt from the office’s 2020 handbook on the law stating: “Adopting the attorney general’s long-standing interpretation, the definition of ‘public information’ now takes into account the use of electronic devices and cellular phones by public employees and officials in the transaction of official business.”

The letter warned Paxton that he had four days to “cure” the violations before the TSCDO files a civil lawsuit against him and his office.

The Austin American-Statesman, Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News filed the complaint last week after Paxton’s office rejected the media’s requests for his text and emails from Jan. 5 to Jan. 11 in 2021.

The attorney general, who led a failed lawsuit to get the Supreme Court to throw out the 2020 election results, spoke at the Trump rally in D.C. that came right before a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.

Paxton is also engulfed in other legal woes over allegations of corruption from his former aides.

Read Wood’s letter below:

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

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