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Texas district attorney says AG Ken Paxton violated open records law, must release Jan. 6 records

A Texas district attorney’s office said in a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) that he violated the state’s open records laws and was required to release communications sought by five newspapers relating to the Jan. 6, 2021, rally that preceded the Capitol riot.

Jackie Wood, the director of public integrity and complex crimes for the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, told Paxton that their office had determined that he had violated Texas open records laws after news outlets sought to receive information related to communications about the Jan. 6 rally he attended.

The top editors at the Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, San Antonio Express-News and Austin American-Statesman filed a complaint with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office earlier this month, The Texas Tribune reported.

Paxton and his wife attended a rally prior to the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, in which former President Trump falsely claimed that widespread voter fraud cost him the 2020 presidential election, the news outlet noted. 

According to the district attorney’s office response to their complaint, editors and reporters had sought information about communications he made between Jan. 5 and Jan. 13, 2021, communications he received from a phone number regarding to “state business” on Feb. 12 and “records of any text messages from Feb. 19, 2021 exchanged between AG Paxton and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes related to official business, including, but not limited to, visiting a live law enforcement scenario simulators.”

The district attorney’s office response to their complaint cited responses from Paxton’s office that either claimed the information was protected under attorney-client privilege, said there was “no information responsive to your request” or provided identical documents that had been previous provided by another state’s attorney general.

Wood wrote to Paxton that their office found that he had violated Texas open records laws and said he had four days “to cure this violation.”

A spokesperson for Paxton said that neither the Texas attorney general nor any employee in his office had violated Texas open records laws.

“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,” the spokesperson, Alejandro Garcia, said in a statement. “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.”

The Texas Tribune noted that, according to Texas law, states agencies that have an open records complaint made against them either have to be handled by the Texas attorney general or the Travis County district attorney, which the news outlet notes is a Democrat, José Garza.

Updated 10:21 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump jan. 6 riot Ken Paxton

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