HOUSTON, Texas -- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is the only state attorney general in the United States who did not sign on to either of two letters sent this week condemning the violent insurrection of the U.S. Capitol mounted last week by supporters of President Donald Trump.
Paxton has individually condemned the violence on television and social media while falsely claiming the pro-Trump mob that invaded the Capitol was infiltrated by liberal antifa activists. There has been no evidence that antifa activists participated in the Jan. 6 attack that left five people dead and was intended to disrupt the certification of the presidential election results.
Attorneys general from 46 states - in addition to those representing Washington D.C. and three U.S. territories - signed a letter Tuesday sent to Acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen condemning the attack. Only Paxton and the Republican attorneys general from Louisiana, Indiana and Montana did not sign the letter.
"The events of January 6 represent a direct, physical challenge to the rule of law and our democratic republic itself," the attorneys general wrote in the letter, sent by the National Association of Attorneys General. "As Americans, and those charged with enforcing the law, we must come together to condemn lawless violence, making clear that such actions will not be allowed to go unchecked."
By Wednesday, those three holdouts sent Rosen their own letter, which Paxton also did not sign.
In addition to condemning the violent mob, the three attorneys general urged their colleagues to "stand together against all political violence," calling out antifa activists.
Asked why he did not sign either letter of condemnation, Paxton said through a spokesperson that he "already addressed this issue multiple times" and pointed to recent tweets and a Fox News interview in which he disavowed the mob and "absolutely" said its violent actors should be prosecuted.
"A certain, small percentage of those people crossed the line, and when you ... cross the line, and you start harming other people's property, and you start harming people, you should be held accountable," Paxton said in the Jan. 7 interview with Fox Business.
Paxton signed on to a Jan. 6 statement from the Republican Attorneys General Association condemning the violence, saying "I call on protesters in our state and our nation's Capital to practice their constitutional right in a peaceful manner. I stand for election integrity and the democratic process. I will not tolerate violence and civil disorder."
Paxton's critics said they are not surprised the attorney general, among a number of Republicans and Trump supporters who have falsely claimed the election was stolen by Democrats, did not sign on to the letters. The morning of the attack, Paxton, a co-chair of the Lawyers for Trump coalition, urged Trump supporters to continue fighting President-elect Joe Biden's victory.
"After inciting the violence we saw last week and wasting Texas taxpayer dollars on baseless lawsuits that never see any results, Paxton is an embarrassment to this state and a traitor to this country," said Abhi Rahman, a spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party.
On Wednesday, Paxton's office was also hit with the loss of one of its top staffers.
Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins is leaving the agency at the end of this month. The exit comes in the wake of a scandal at the agency, and also Paxton's controversial lawsuit at the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn the election results, which Hawkins - the agency's appellate expert - did not sign onto. Hawkins has not answered questions about why his name did not appear on the case.
His replacement will be Judd Stone, an attorney in the solicitor general's office who previously worked for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans - and engages with them - about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Ken Paxton is only state attorney general in the U.S. who didn't sign letters condemning Capitol insurrection
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