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As FBI moves closer, Texas' Paxton denies he's fishing for a pardon

Paxton appeared on Fox News this morning and said the idea that he's fishing for a pardon from Trump is "ridiculous." It's really not.
Image: Ken Paxton
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during a press conference in Austin, Texas, on May 1, 2018.Nick Wagner / Austin American-Statesman via AP file

The Associated Press reported a few weeks ago that the FBI is investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), taking a close look at allegations that Paxton "broke the law in using his office to benefit a wealthy donor." As Rachel noted on the show last night, the Austin American-Statesman has advanced the story, reporting that federal law enforcement served at least one subpoena on the Texas Republican's office.

Three sources confirmed to the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV that FBI agents delivered the request for information to the agency's headquarters on West 14th Street. The sources did not immediately know how many subpoenas were issued or what information FBI agents sought. Federal authorities are investigating claims by former top Paxton aides that he used his position to aid Austin investor Nate Paul, whose offices were raided by the FBI last year.

The article added that the issuance of a federal subpoena "on a state agency, and especially involving the state's top attorney, is a highly unusual move that likely would have required higher level approval from the U.S. Justice Department."

And while the scandal is striking in its own right, there's an important larger context to all of this. As regular readers know, Paxton was already under indictment on felony securities fraud charges when members of the Texas Republican's own team made multiple criminal allegations against him. Now, the FBI is literally knocking on his office's door.

It's against this backdrop that the scandal plagued Paxton decided to spearhead a ludicrous new lawsuit this week, trying to overturn election results in states where he and Trump didn't like the results.

As the outgoing president abuses his pardon powers, and weighs the possibility of handing out pardons "like Christmas gifts" before leaving office, is it implausible that the scandal-plagued Texas attorney general filed a doomed case in the hopes that he'll receive a presidential reward that would make his legal troubles go away?

Paxton appeared on Fox News this morning and said the idea that he's fishing for a pardon is "ridiculous."

It's really not. The Texas AG's legal troubles are quite serious, and just as importantly, they involve alleged federal crimes, which the president has the legal authority to address. As his legal jeopardy grew more serious, Paxton -- after every state had already certified their election results -- filed a truly embarrassing lawsuit intended to make Trump happy.

Is it really that outlandish to draw a connection between the two?

Of course, Paxton could resolve the matter entirely by announcing he would not accept a presidential pardon if Trump offered him one, though I have a hunch the Texas Republican won't take such a step.