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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: ken paxton

Texas Attorney General Pursued Bogus Cases Against Election Workers

In the GOP-led crusade to promote groundless allegations of fraud in the 2020 election, an effort that has largely scrutinized voters,Texas attorney general Ken Paxton — election denier and afterthought to the rally that preceded January 6 — has been working an angle more extreme than his counterparts.

The top law enforcement official -- who once sneaked out of his home and fled on a truck driven by his wife to escape a subpoena -- has bared his animus against a pillar of American democracy: election workers.

An investigation by ProPublica, published Wednesday, found that Paxton, a Trump super-fan who played a key role in the ex-president’s failed 2020 coup, opened at least 390 cases into alleged electoral misconduct between January 2020 and September 2022 but secured only five election-related convictions.

Ten of those probes delved into baseless allegations of election crimes and misconduct by poll workers, many of whom, the Washington Post reported, are considering leaving their posts after a relentless barrage of right-wing harassment that has hindered their jobs and jeopardized their safety.

One of Paxton’s election-worker probes, ProPublica noted, was spurred by a Bexar County GOP chair, Cynthia Brehm, who refused to certify the results of her re-election bid after a landslide defeat to her challenge, citing an “active investigation” by Paxton’s office into the “severely compromised” results.

The publication also noted that allegations of obstructing a poll watcher were all Paxton’s office needed to open most of its election-worker probes. The shocking animosity over unfounded claims led to mass resignations by unhappy poll workers, who unwittingly undertook fending off conspiracy theories and tolerating threats of physical harm as part of the job.

Texas is one of few states that impose criminal penalties for obstructing a poll watcher, partisan volunteers monitoring election sites, including impeding the individual from moving about the polling place as they please — an “offense” that’s punishable by up to one year behind bars.

Paxton’s election-worker probe also encompassed Democratic-leaning cities, investigating election officials, some of whom are elderly citizens, with as little as complaints made by voters to go on.

According to ProPublica, Paxton had attempted to prosecute local election official Dana DeBeauvoir, who spent nearly 40 years in service of her county government., for asking a maskless poll watcher who was photographing ballots and recording polling place proceedings, both of which violated the rules, to leave the polling site.

The watcher flew into a rage, “screaming and banging on the window of the room where votes were being counted” before the police arrived and removed her from the scene, DeBeauvoir told ProPublica.

To DeBeauvoir’s shock, a county official informed her weeks later that Paxton’s office had opened a criminal investigation into her conduct. “I never felt more alone,” DeBeauvoir told the paper. “Everything that was being said was completely untrue. And I could not defend myself.”

In an unusual move, however, Paxton brought DeBeauvoir’s case before a grand jury in a conservative county, not in Travis County, where the incident took place, the publication noted. However, that grand jury declined to indict DeBeauvoir.

A representative for Paxton did not respond to requests for comment on the case.

Although Paxton’s last-ditch attempt to grasp unilateral authority to pursue criminal charges for perceived election fraud was rejected by Texas’ highest criminal court last month, the conservative provocateur has spared no effort and expense to push the Big Lie.

Despite the slew of legal issues Paxton is facing, including an FBI investigation into his alleged aiding of one of his top donors, voters will have their say in Paxton’s tenure before the courts do, as the controversial conservative is up for reelection in the midterms.

Paxton’s office didn’t respond to ProPublica’s request for comments, but his crusade against confidence in the country’s elections is still ongoing.

Paper Rips Texas Attorney General (And QAnon) Over Bungled Trafficking Probe

The Houston Chronicle's editorial board is offering a brief history lesson for QAnon supporters who believe in pushing conspiracy theories about Democratic leaders and lawmakers being at the center of child sex trafficking rings.

According to the board, an actual child sex ring was reportedly discovered in Texas but when it came to making sure criminals suffered consequences for their actions, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, is said to have dropped the ball.

"So where’s QAnon when you need them? We’re talking about the secretive cult of conspiracy-mongering crazies who believe that Democrats are pedophiles prone to making meals of their victims at the behest of evil Hillary Clinton and who worship Donald Trump," the editorial board wrote.

The board went on to raise questions about the irony of former President Donald Trump's support of the movement while Paxton and QAnon supporters ignore a problem in their own backyard.

"We’ve noticed that the former president has taken to wearing a Q pin on his lapel, but in the interest of truth, justice, and the American way, we ask, how can these folks stay anon when an actual elected official in the great state of Texas has, by his rank incompetence, abetted what would appear to be actual cases of child sex-trafficking?"

Recounting the disturbing situation that unfolded in Waco, Texas, the board wrote: "Last year, the AG’s office proudly announced that the Human Trafficking Unit of the Criminal Investigations Division had arrested a group of people involved in a scheme in Coryell County, a rural county west of Waco, to ship teenage girls to Dallas and other Texas cities, where they were forced to 'exchange sexual contact for crystal methamphetamine.'

"Paxton’s office dubbed its sex-trafficking investigation 'Operation Fallen Angel,'” the board added.

Now, unfortunately, the board is reporting that the investigation fell flat. "Now, thanks to a blockbuster investigative report by the Associated Press, we learn that Operation Fallen Angel has quietly fallen apart because of the AG’s bungling.

"Six of the people indicted are now free. One is being held in the Coryell County jail on other charges, while an eighth died in jail. The AP reports that Paxton’s attorneys were recently forced to drop four of the human trafficking and sexual assault cases — because they misplaced one of the victims."

The issue in Texas appears to underscore a bigger issue that was uncovered by the Associated Press.

Per the Houston Chronicle: "The AP investigation found that, as of August, the number of assistant attorneys general in the division that handles human trafficking cases was down by 40 percent. The number of assistant attorneys general in the criminal prosecutions division was down more than 25 percent from two years ago. The group that deals with financial and white-collar cases had been cut by more than half and has merged with another division."

The board concluded with a blistering assessment of Paxton's leadership and posed a compelling question to voters. "Paxton’s buffoonish adventures may read like a comic strip, but the harm he’s doing to this state is real," the board wrote. "How long will his supporters stand by and let it happen?"

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Top Texas Law Enforcement Official Doesn't Get How Gun Laws Work

As the country deals with the shock, horror, and grief wrought by the Uvalde, Texas school shooting, the latest turn in a vicious cycle of American gun violence, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, took up the microphone -- not merely to offer thoughts and prayers, but to rebut the growing demand for gun safety legislation.

In a Wednesday interview with Newsmax, Paxton weighed in on the widespread calls for gun regulation after multiple news outlets reported that the gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, had celebrated his birthday on May 16 by shopping for two AR-15-style rifles and 375 rounds of ammunition, which he used to kill 19 children and 2 teachers.

Paxton argued that gun control laws wouldn’t have prevented Ramos from gunning down 21 people. “Having a gun law that told him not to have a gun I don’t think would’ve stopped any of this,” said Paxton. "Look, we already have laws against killing people and this guy apparently didn't care what the law was,

“So I think that’s not the right focus,” the Republican added, after which he claimed that the voices calling for tighter laws governing the acquisition and ownership of weapons – Democrats, gun control advocates, and families of school shooting victims – “obviously have a political agenda.”

Paxton shared with Newsmax his very own suggestion to end the school shooting menace: Having “teachers and other administrators who have gone through training and who are armed” will make it "more difficult for people even to get in that point of entry."

“First responders typically can’t get there in time to prevent a shooting,” Paxton said. “It’s just not possible unless you have a police on every campus, which for a lot of these schools is almost impossible."

The Texas attorney general, a target of ongoing corruption probes, continued: "I think you're gonna have to do more at the school, because it typically involves very short periods of time, and you have to have people trained on campus to react."

Later, on Fox News, he reiterated his opposition to stronger gun regulation.

“We can’t stop bad people from doing bad things,” he said. “If they violate murder laws, they’re not going to follow gun laws. I never understood that argument,” Paxton added.

Paxton’s comments were ridiculed on Twitter by the White House Digital Director, Rob Flaherty, who tweeted, "'Laws don't work' - guy who enforces laws."

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas announced that the state would look into the shooting.

“I have instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers to work with local law enforcement to fully investigate this crime. The Texas Division of Emergency Management is charged with providing local officials all resources necessary to respond to this tragedy as the State of Texas works to ensure the community has what it needs to heal.”

Florida GOP Lawyers Privately Mocked Lawsuit To Overturn 2020 Election As 'Insane'

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) filed his lawsuit in hopes of overturning the 2020 presidential election, appellate attorneys in Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody's office reportedly wasted no time mocking the frivolous legal effort.

According to The Tampa Bay Times, multiple lawyers had critical reactions to the lawsuit as they believed it likely would not go far. The publication reports that one lawyer described it as "bats--t insane" while another lawyer simply said it was "weird."

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Texas Schools Are Defying Abbott's Mask Ban-- And Winning

In July, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) fanned the flames of the GOP culture war against mask mandates, signing an executive order that barred government agencies, including school districts, from requiring masks to quell the rapid spread of the delta variant. Luckily, schools in the Lone Star State fought back, and a ruling from the Texas Supreme Court may have finally put the nonsensical and dangerous ban of mask mandates to rest-- after the court struck it down earlier this week.

The decision to rescind the order was based on a technicality, not the legality of the rule, as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the state's high court to overturn a bevy of temporary restraining orders that allowed schools to mandate masks. Since a state appellate court didn't get the chance to hear the case, the Supreme Court left those restraining orders in place.

And on Thursday, the Texas Education Agency announced they would stop enforcing the ban due to "ongoing litigation," adding, "Further guidance will be made available after the court issues are resolved."

This has left many to question how long the win for Texas schools will last. But legal challenges aren't the only way schools can require masks, as one clever Texas school district found.

Paris Independent School District made masks a part of their dress code, and they note in a statement that "nothing in the Governor's Executive Order 38 states he has suspended Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code, and therefore the Board has elected to amend its dress code consistent with its statutory authority."

Texas Republicans are battling masks while the state struggles to contain the virus. The Texas Tribune reports, "Out of nearly 12,000 people hospitalized with COVID in Texas on Monday, more than a quarter of them are in the state's ICU beds." NPR adds, "With more than 16,000 new daily cases, Texas is one of the states with the highest risk of COVID-19."

Abbott should know firsthand just how threatening the Delta variant is, as the fully vaccinated governor tested positive for COIVD-19 on Tuesday. And guess what? Per the New York Times, Abbott attended several crowded events in the days leading up to his positive test, and "photographs from the events show that few of those who met with the governor wore masks, and neither did Mr. Abbott."

Breakthrough cases like Abbott's are occurring, but public health officials note that the vaccines are still proving effective at reducing the severity of COVID-19. Masking up is another simple and effective way to slow the spread of the virus -- and as the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 hits record highs, they are an absolute necessity at schools.

Texas Attorney General Admits Voter Suppression Saved State For Trump

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

One need only compare now-President Joe Biden's losses in Texas in 2020 to his losses in Idaho or Wyoming to see that Texas has gone from deep red to light red. Biden lost Texas by six percent; he lost Wyoming by 43 percent, Idaho by 30 percent, and North Dakota by 43 percent. Nonetheless, the Democratic Party has, historically, had a turnout problem in the Lone Star State; Democrats are going to need a heavier turnout in the Democrat-leaning parts of the state if they are going to win statewide races (presidential, gubernatorial or U.S. Senate) in the future. And Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, during a June 4 appearance on Steve Bannon's podcast, essentially admitted that voter suppression helped former President Donald Trump win Texas in 2020.

Paxton told Bannon, who served as White House chief strategist in the Trump Administration in 2017 following his years as chairman of Breitbart News, that had his office not blocked Harris County from sending out mail-in ballot applications to its residents, Trump would have lost Texas in 2020. Harris County includes Democrat-leaning Houston.

"Trump won by 620,000 votes in Texas," Paxton told Bannon. "(The) Harris County mail-in ballots that they wanted to send out were 2.5 million. Those were all illegal, and we were able to stop every one of them."

What Paxton described as "mail-in ballots" were mail-in ballot applications. There's a difference between sending out 2.5 applications for mail-in ballots and actually sending out 2.5 mail-in ballots. And there was nothing evil or sinister about the applications that Harris County officials wanted to send out, as Paxton claimed.

Nonetheless, Paxton's comments were revealing, as they underscore the fact that far-right Republicans like Paxton and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are scared to death of the possibility of Democrats ramping up voter turnout in the more Democratic parts of the state — which include not only Houston (which hasn't had a Republican mayor since the early 1980s), but also, Austin, El Paso, Dallas and San Antonio. However, the Texas GOP has a very strong ground game in countless rural counties in North Texas and Central Texas, and they really know how to turn out the Republican base in those areas of the state.

Journalist Sharon Zhang, reporting on the interview in Truthout on June 7, stresses that it's "unclear" whether or not Trump "would have actually won the state if Harris County had been allowed to follow through on its plan to make voting more accessible."

"While President Joe Biden won the county by a 13-point margin or nearly 220,000 votes, with record-breaking voter turnout, Trump carried the state with over 600,000 votes," Zhang explains. "Regardless of whether the results would have been any different for Biden had Harris County been able to send out mail-in ballot applications, Paxton's statement about the election results seven months after the fact is revealing of how conservatives view elections and voting rights. Rather than ensuring that elections are conducted fairly, they openly support blocking access to the ballot by any means necessary — especially among voters in more Democratic leaning and non-White areas."

Zhang continues, "Paxton, after all, is the same person who sued to disenfranchise millions of voters in battleground states following Biden's victory in the 2020 elections. Regardless of whether Paxton's lawsuit against the mail-in ballot applications handed Trump his victory in Texas, it was certainly one more tool in the GOP's voter-suppression toolbox for the state."

Indicted For Securities Fraud, Attorney General Is Asking Texans To Reelect Him

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Ken Paxton, the Republican attorney general of Texas, is under indictment for insider trading and is being investigated for political corruption. Still, he said Tuesday, he is fully planning to run for reelection next year.

After Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced he is "seriously considering" a 2022 primary challenge to Paxton, the embattled incumbent confirmed on Tuesday that he is running for another term.

Paxton mocked Bush, the grandson of George H.W. Bush and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, on a Dallas radio show for running because he "hates being land commissioner" and sees the attorney general job as a stepping stone to running for president.

Paxton questioned whether Bush is qualified for the position of attorney general, saying, "He hasn't even proved himself in [his current job], let alone a job like this, which takes a lot of legal ability, which he" doesn't have.

But Paxton's own ability to follow the law has been very much in dispute since he was elected attorney general in 2014.

In July 2015, a Texas grand jury indicted him on two criminal charges of securities fraud and one of failing to register with the state as an investment adviser. He allegedly had offered to sell stock in a tech company without disclosing that he was being paid by that business.

"I am innocent of these charges," he claimed at the time. "It is a travesty that some would attempt to hijack our system of justice to achieve political ends they could not accomplish at the ballot box." The case has still not come to trial.

Last September, a group of senior Paxton staffers asked the federal government to investigate him for "improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential criminal offenses." The whistleblowers pointed to allegations that Paxton had used his position to do special favors for Nate Paul, a real estate developer and a top donor to Paxton. The FBI is reportedly investigating Paxton's actions.

Days after the staffers came forward, Paxton released a statement decrying "false allegations" by "rogue employees."

By November, six of the whistleblowers had alleged retaliation by Paxton, and four of them had been fired from their positions.

On January 6, Paxton appeared at a rally near the White House and egged on Donald Trump supporters, telling them, "We're here. We will not quit fighting." After the crowd marched to the Capitol and rioted, Paxton falsely claimed the attackers were "not Trump supporters."

When news organizations requested copies of work-related messages and emails sent by Paxton while he was in Washington for the rally, Paxton refused to release them.

Last month, two former Paxton business partners successfully named him as a "responsible third party" in another unrelated securities fraud case. They say that in his role as a lawyer for a Texas company, Paxton "committed legal malpractice." He has not been charged with any crime in that matter.

A Paxton spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Contrary to his assertions of great legal skill, Paxton has lost a lot of his cases as attorney general.

In 2016, the conservative Texas Supreme Court rejected his attempt to nullify the first same-sex marriage conducted in Texas. Paxton has consistently opposed equal treatment for LGBTQ people.

In December, he was behind a failed lawsuit to get the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out 2020 presidential electors for Joe Biden in four states and make Trump the winner of the election.

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said in response, "From the brief, it looks like a fella begging for a pardon filed a PR stunt rather than a lawsuit — as all of its assertions have already been rejected by federal courts and Texas' own solicitor general isn't signing on."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.