Gov. Greg Abbott is steering clear of the legal problems swirling around two of his fellow Republican statewide officials, saying he does not know the facts of their cases and expressing little concern about their ability to serve.
Speaking Wednesday afternoon with reporters, Abbott kept his distance from both the securities fraud charges facing Attorney General Ken Paxton and questions about whether Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller misused public funds. Paxton was indicted by a Collin County grand jury last year and federal securities authorities last month, and Miller is under investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Asked to characterize his level of concern with the legal problems — and whether he was concerned — Abbott said he did not know enough to answer.
"Because I don't know the facts concerning any of the allegations against either of them, I have no basis to have concern," Abbott said. "I think that's up to the appropriate authorities to be involved with."
Pressed on whether he still has confidence in Miller and Paxton, Abbott said his office works "virtually every day with the attorney general and his office, and that's been a very effective working relationship." He said through a spokesman last month that the allegations against Miller "warrant a thorough investigation."
Asked earlier specifically about the Paxton saga, Abbott pointed to his past remarks on the case. His response was nonetheless his first public comment since Paxton, already facing state charges, was hit with a federal case from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
"I've said before that the person is innocent until proven guilty," Abbott told reporters, bringing up the indictments against former Gov. Rick Perry that were ultimately dismissed. "We obviously saw what played out with regard to Gov. Perry."
On Paxton, Abbott continued: "I think he deserves his day in court. In the meantime, I think he's doing a good job of working with my office on issues that affect all Texans."
Statewide officials have not been eager to weigh in on Paxton's legal problems. Asked at this past weekend's Texas GOP convention whether Paxton should resign, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told reporters he did not know all the facts of the case and that it "will play itself out."
On Tuesday, Paxton's office said neither Abbott nor any other statewide official has asked the attorney general to resign.
"No one in any statewide office has done anything but extend support and encourage to the office of the attorney general," Paxton spokesman Mark Rylander told The Texas Tribune.
Abbott made the remarks to reporters Wednesday after a signing of his new book, "Broken But Unbowed," at the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin. It was the first stop on 19-city bus tour that stretches through the end of the month.
Abby Livingston contributed to this report.