AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton refused Wednesday to join 49 other state attorneys general in condemning the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol that killed five, instead pushing unfounded claims that leftist radicals infiltrated the mob.
Forty-six state attorneys general signed a letter Tuesday that condemned the Jan. 6 armed attack. They were joined by the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Virgin Islands. Three other state attorneys general who didn’t sign the Tuesday letter filed their own Wednesday, leaving Paxton as the lone holdout.
The letter states the attorneys general are “appalled” by the attack and concludes the rioters “engaged in a range of criminal conduct,” such as unlawful entry, theft, assault and destruction of federal government property.
“We all just witnessed a very dark day in America,” the letter states. “The events of January 6 represent a direct, physical challenge to the rule of law and our democratic republic itself.”
Several thousand people forced their way past U.S. Capitol Police to try and stop the confirmation of Electoral College votes in favor of President-elect Joe Biden. Immediately before the riot, President Donald Trump urged his supporters at a speech in front of the White House to go to the Capitol and encourage Republican lawmakers to oppose the confirmation.
Self-shot video from the rioters show Trump supporters shouting accusations that Vice President Mike Pence was a “traitor” for refusing to reject the valid Electoral College votes. Some are heard demanding Pence “hang” while others carried nooses.
Trump was impeached again Wednesday for inciting the insurrectionist attack, becoming the first president to be charged by the House of Representatives twice.
Several of the rioters have since been arrested and lost their jobs. The FBI has confirmed hundreds of ongoing investigations into the remaining rioters.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen – all Republicans – released their own letter Wednesday, calling the riot an “abhorrent act” that is “an affront” to the country.
“Our people and police officers are targeted and killed, our courthouses and churches burned, and the seat of our nation’s government was breached by an angry mob,” the letter states.
Rokita explained Wednesday afternoon that he could not join his 46 colleagues and sign Tuesday’s letter because they failed to issue a similar statement during the civil unrest last summer. American cities from coast to coast endured weeks of protests and rioting after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, an unarmed Black man.
“I cannot help but wonder where your level of outrage was, as a group, when cities across our country burned last summer,” Rokita said. “Indianapolis, my own state capital, suffered days of destruction as windows were shattered and businesses were shuttered, many of which will never again open.”
Although Paxton refused to sign either letter, he has not remained quiet about the riot. He posted on Facebook on Jan. 7 that the rioters were not Trump supporters and he reposted an image of a conspiracy tweet stating a busload of “antifa thugs” infiltrated the riot.
“They have been confirmed as Antifia [sic],” Paxton posted. “Violence is not the answer.”
Paxton uncomfortably hedged his comments hours later, telling Fox Business that the Trump supporters were “peaceful for the most part” but that those who broke the law should “absolutely” be prosecuted.
“Obviously, a certain small percentage of those people crossed the line,” Paxton said. “When you do that, when you start harming other people’s property and you start harming other people, you should be held accountable. It is the same thing that happened this summer.”
Paxton is a long-standing ally of Trump. Critics claim Paxton launched a last-ditch lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court after the election in order to gain a pardon regarding a federal bribery and corruption investigation against him. Panned by experts as legally dubious, the high court rejected Paxton’s lawsuit to throw out votes from the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and Pennsylvania due to a clear lack of standing.
Paxton is under federal subpoena after his senior staff reported him in October for appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the enemies and creditors of Republican campaign donor Nate Paul. All seven whistleblowers have since been fired by Paxton, with several of them later suing Paxton in state court for retaliation, intimidation and false smears.
The lawsuit claims the outside prosecutor issued 39 subpoenas that were designed to harass law enforcement and federal prosecutors that were looking into Paul and his businesses. Paul’s home and businesses were raided last year, though he has yet to be criminally charged.
Paxton later closed the investigation after former Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore called him out on Oct. 9, accusing Paxton of personally approaching her office with Paul and Paul’s attorney to complain about FBI and Texas Rangers’ investigations into Paul
Another wrinkle in the investigation emerged when two sources alleged in November that Paxton admitted to having an affair in 2018 and Paul admitted during a deposition that month that Paxton approached him to give the mistress a job. Paul denied hiring her as a favor to Paxton.
The federal investigation into Paxton is on top of five-year-old state felony securities fraud charges filed against him in Collin County. Prosecutors claim Paxton urged investors to put $600,000 into technology firm Servergy without disclosing he would earn a commission and misrepresented he was investing in the McKinney-based company while he was a member of the Texas House of Representatives.
Paxton faces up to 99 years in state prison if convicted. The state criminal case has been stuck in pretrial for over five years as the case has been moved to Harris County and back while Paxton has launched several attempts at having the judge removed.
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