AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Monday morning he intends to file criminal complaints against the 12 state representatives who led his impeachment trial. He claims they threatened him by publishing his personal information, including his home address, in a document release last week and broke a new state law.
“The impeachment managers clearly have a desire to threaten me with harm when they released this information last week,” Paxton said in a statement. “I’m imploring their local prosecutors in each individual district to investigate the criminal offenses that have been committed.”
Paxton said he will file the complaints in each of the managers’ eight home counties. KXAN reached out Monday morning to all 12 state representatives for comment as well as visited their offices at the Texas Capitol. Rep. Andrew Murr, the Junction Republican who served as chairman of the board of managers, released a statement firing back at Paxton, which you can read in full below.
“Growing up on a ranch, I was taught to keep the manure on the outside of my boots,” Murr wrote in part. “Mr. Paxton’s baseless threats about filing criminal complaints are horse manure, and they are filling his boots full.”
Paxton said the lawmakers violated House Bill 611, which created a new criminal offense for doxing when it passed the legislature earlier this year. The law states, “A person commits an offense if the person posts on a publicly accessible website the residence address or telephone number of an individual with the intent to cause harm or a threat of harm to the individual or a member of the individual ’s family or household.” According to its language, violating this law could result in a Class B misdemeanor charge.
The Texas Senate acquitted Paxton last month on all 16 articles of impeachment approved by the House of Representatives. The House impeachment managers released piles of evidence last week, including many items deemed inadmissible during the 10-day impeachment trial. The hundreds of pages of documents provide more information about the Paxtons’ home renovations central to one of the impeachment articles, as well as a behind-the-scenes transcript that details why Laura Olson — the woman Paxton is accused of having an extramarital affair with — ultimately didn’t testify after being called to the witness stand.
Brian Smith, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University in Austin, noted the information posted online last week was later redacted. Despite that, Smith said this fits into the promise Paxton made after his acquittal.
“The attorney general said he was going to go after the people,” Smith said, “and this is one of the things he’s doing is making it very difficult for them politically by going after the House managers.”
It remains unclear whether any district attorneys will take up Paxton’s criminal complaints and consider charges against the lawmakers. His announcement, though, came on the first day of the third special legislative session. Smith said the timing could further deepen divides among state leaders and upend efforts to pass the priorities handpicked by the governor.
“If it does become a criminal charge, then we could see this really derail the special session, and from that, this just is going to serve to widen that gulf between the House and the Senate,” Smith said. “We know that they were on very different pages about the pre-impeachment process, and we saw from the earlier special sessions that there’s still a lot of disagreement between the House and Senate. The big loser here is definitely Greg Abbott because he’s the one that called this special session, and he needs the House and Senate to agree and get his school choice plan passed. All of this makes it very politically difficult.”
Fights over school vouchers or school choice, border security measures and expanding COVID-19 mandate bans to the private sector are all on the agenda for this special session.
Full statement from Rep. Andrew Murr
“By threatening to file meritless complaints against the Texas House Board of Managers, Attorney General Ken Paxton is once again using retaliatory tactics against those he perceives as his enemies. He is trying to distract from the legal and ethical controversies that he has created for himself.
“The law that Mr. Paxton cites in threatening to file criminal complaints requires an intent that does not exist in this case. Lawyers for the House managers worked diligently to make redactions where appropriate, and when the House learned that certain unredacted information had been placed online, the information was timely addressed. That being said, the House has every right to publish information pursuant to the very law that he complains of.
“Mr. Paxton’s address has been listed on the Senate website in Impeachment trial exhibits since mid-August, yet he never called for the Senate to remove it. It has also been listed on Travis County websites under his name or the name of his trust for years.
“Growing up on a ranch, I was taught to keep the manure on the outside of my boots. Mr. Paxton’s baseless threats about filing criminal complaints are horse manure, and they are filling his boots full.
“Mr. Paxton should stop trying to harass legislators and instead tend to the Office of the Attorney General, which has been hollowed out by the departure of high-quality, conservative deputies who blew the whistle on his immoral and unethical behavior.”