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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Monday he plans to file criminal complaints against the group of state representatives who led the impeachment against him for releasing his personal information.
“The impeachment managers clearly have a desire to threaten me with harm when they released this information last week,” he said in a statement. “I'm imploring their local prosecutors in each individual district to investigate the criminal offenses that have been committed.”
The 12 House representatives being targeted by Paxton led the impeachment trial in the Senate after the House overwhelmingly voted to impeach Paxton in May. Last month the Senate acquitted Paxton of 16 articles of impeachment that alleged corruption and bribery.
In a statement Monday, Paxton accused the House impeachment managers of violating a new state law with an Oct. 2 release of documents related to the case. The new legislation cited by Paxton prohibits posting an individual’s personal information such as a home address or telephone number with the intent to cause harm to that individual or their family.
Paxton said he plans to file the criminal complaints in each of the counties represented by the dozen impeachment managers. It is not clear which address is in question. Several of Paxton's addresses are available through already-published public records, often found online from any location through local municipalities' appraisal district databases.
House lawyer Rusty Hardin, who prosecuted Paxton, said Monday that the documents released last week contained the same information that was included in other documents that had already been filed or were admitted into the impeachment trial without objection.
He also said that the information about Paxton's residence is available through public records, and has been for years. Further, he said the release of documents was not conducted with an intent to cause harm to Paxton as he alleged — it was "simply a repeat of public information to anyone that wants to look into it."
If Paxton makes good on his pledge to file the criminal complaints, Hardin said his Houston law firm will consider countering with a criminal complaint against Paxton for making a false report to police.
"This is the exact kind of bullying, uninformed vengeful act that we predicted if the attorney general was not impeached," Hardin said. "He's trying to misuse the criminal justice system to cower and punish people who sought to impeach him under the law. It's just one more outrageous, vengeful act by a man who has no business being attorney general."
House impeachment manager Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, said in a statement that Paxton's attack was a form of retaliation against people he deems his enemies. He suggested Paxton should "stop trying to harass legislators" and instead focus on the attorney general's office.
“Growing up on a ranch, I was taught to keep the manure on the outside of my boots. Mr. Paxton’s baseless threats about filing criminal complaints are horse manure, and they are filling his boots full," he said.
District attorneys or their representatives in three counties home to impeachment managers — Brazoria, Harris and Tarrant — said they had not received any such complaints as of Monday afternoon from Paxton.
A spokesperson for the attorney general's office did not immediately respond to an inquiry seeking clarification. Neither did the other district attorney's offices who are home to other impeachment managers.
Paxton's threat of criminal prosecution against the impeachment managers may still cause alarm.
"I have no position one way or another on the impeachment itself, but it was presumably conducted in accordance with Texas law," said David Loy, legal director of the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit committed to freedom of speech. "It raises serious questions of abuse of power and improper retaliation from the attorney general to turn around and try to prosecute the people who prosecuted the impeachment."