The Law According to Ken Paxton Or, this is what a white supremacist take-over looks like
Newsletter for November 2, 2021
Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General, is ready for the patriot revolution. At least he sounded like it at a Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers event in Mesquite last weekend. With the unmasked audience seated in rows of chapel pews – and following a bizarre cosplay of George Washington exhorting attendees to stage a second revolution and claiming the American Revolution was the “first war against Islamic terrorists” – Paxton gave two anecdotes that both involved talking to Trump in his limo before calling for revolution:
[Our rights] can’t be taken away. Whenever a government starts to do that, we have a right to remove that government, to change that government.
That sounds to me like overthrowing the properly elected government. Oh wait. He’s already said that a few times before. During the events of January 6, he claimed the violence was being perpetrated by “antifa.” (Wrong.) In El Paso at a meeting about the “border wall,” Paxton complained about the abandoned materials and lack of progress. In addition, the Texas Attorney General asserted (falsely) that the election was stolen by Biden and the Democrats and agreed with an audience member who called it an “overthrow.”
And as chair of “Lawyers for Trump,” Paxton filed a lawsuit – and joined Texas as a party—challenging the election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Why is Texas involved? How can Paxton be the lawyer for Texas and Trump? Who cares! A court threw the lawsuit out. Election law experts panned it, calling it “garbage.” It now appears that Paxton filed the lawsuit on behalf of Trump, as in he didn’t even write it. Perhaps that was something Trump talked to Paxton about in his limo? (Paxton is now facing a complaint made to the Texas state bar that he violated attorney ethics.)
In front of the CSPOA fans and Richard Mack, Paxton was not cowed. Instead he bragged about filing “17 lawsuits in 10 months,” which he compared to his prior record of suing the Obama administration 27 times. (He most recently sued the Biden administration over vaccine mandates.) He then pivoted to his lawsuit over the “remain in Mexico” policy and condemned Merrick Garland for comments that, in Paxton’s words, “threatened every parent in America,” by investigating recent incidents of threats against school board members.
As far as I know, that October weekend was the first time he addressed CSPOA members specifically. (The CSPOA just opened a North Texas chapter after a Texas training event in the Woodlands, which has inspired a whole host of other Texas trainings. The CSPOA also managed to get its trainings to qualify for official credit for law enforcement education. )
Paxton knows that sheriffs will be essential to his pet causes: sowing the seeds of distrust in democracy, encouraging border vigilantes, and pretending that he hasn’t been under indictment (for securities fraud and abuse of office) since he took office in 2015.
One of Paxton’s projects this year is a slick YouTube series on “Texas Borderlands” featuring white-hatted sheriffs. The first video begins with incendiary clips of people walking around, setting a truck on fire, a series of B-roll that is repeated at least 5 times in two ten-minute videos. Sheriff A.J. Louderback speaks first; he’s the sheriff of Jackson County – which is about 2 hours southwest of Houston and NOT on the U.S./ Mexico border – and kind of a big-wig in the world of rural Texas sheriffs, speaking often at the state capitol on “border issues.” (He also spoke at SXSW on “marijuana” for some reason.) Alongside the sheriffs, there’s District Attorney Brent Smith in Kinney County, whose main work experience is ranching and has been a major force in the propaganda machine demonizing immigrants and otherwise agitating local militia groups. (He uses the word “invasion” multiple times. There’s a lot to say about Kinney County, but that’s another problem.)
The rhetoric is really something. The sheriffs describe a scenario where the U.S./Mexico border will be “overwhelmed” by immigrants, which also arguing immigration is not political. “The United States will cease to exist!” one sheriff ad-libs, more than a little hyperbolically.
The funniest part is that Paxton says he “understands” – Paxton grew up in the Midwest, Oklahoma, and North Texas. He has never in his life lived “on the border.” The videos only have a few hundred views, so they aren’t exactly viral. And, I get it, there are so many other things going on that Paxton feels like a small fish to fry – a fish who like limos. But with sheriffs on the Texas border actively soliciting militias, the fact that the Attorney General is uninterested in public health and welfare, all of the many challenges facing people who live in Texas, it’s notable that the sheriffs have a friend in Ken.