AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has to turn over records related to the rally for former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021 or face a lawsuit.
In a letter, Garza told Paxton he was in violation of the Texas Public Information Act and has four days to rectify the situation or the DA’s office will sue to have the information turned over.
We reached out to Paxton’s office for a comment. It released this statement to KXAN Friday night:
“Neither Attorney General Paxton nor any officer or employee at the Office of the Attorney General violated any provisions of the Texas Public Information Act. This is a fake controversy drummed up by hard-left local officials because they want to reignite hysteria about the attorney general’s political speech on January 6, 2020, which was not an official state activity. Our agency has complied and will continue to comply with all state and federal law regarding public transparency. Travis County officials are wasting everyone’s time and money with this non-issue.”
Reporters from the Houston Chronicle asked for electronic messages and work-related emails from both Paxton and Brent Webster, the first assistant attorney general, from Jan. 5-13. The requests were made Jan. 13 and 29, and the office responded to the requests in April saying Paxton’s messages were exempt under attorney-client privilege.
“However the OAG released 497 pages of responsive documents from Webster’s account, including some in which Paxton was a recipient,” the letter said.
The DA’s office said that was a misinterpretation of attorney-client privilege.
The Dallas Morning News asked in February for messages from Paxton’s personal cell phone regarding the Jan. 6 rally for former President Trump, and Paxton’s office replied it “had no information responsive to your request.”
The DA’s letter explains that the public information act doesn’t distinguish between personal or employer-used phones, “but rather focuses on the nature of the communication or document.” If the information was regarding official business, the DA’s letter said, it’s subject to disclosure.
The DA’s letter also said Paxton’s office gave reporters information that wasn’t his, but he tried to pass it off as his. In March, Paxton’s office sent reporters screenshots from Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ phone after they both went to a “live law enforcement scenario simulator.”