Ken Paxton Insists He Is Not Seeking Trump Pardon With Election Lawsuit

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has insisted he's not seeking a pardon from President Donald Trump as he pursues a lawsuit aimed at overturning the 2020 election results in four states that backed President-elect Joe Biden.

Paxton, a Republican, is being investigated by the FBI for allegedly using his office to illegally benefit a wealthy donor. Members of Paxton's staff made the allegations and called for a probe of their now-former boss.

Speaking to Fox News on Thursday, Paxton refuted accusations that the Texas lawsuit was an attempt to win a pardon from the president. Critics on both sides of the aisle have linked the case to Paxton's ongoing legal troubles. Paxton was asked to respond to a claim from conservative commentator Erick Erickson.

"So Erick has no idea what he's talking about," Paxton said.

"I've been working on these issues for the last year," he said. "We had 12 lawsuits in Texas that dealt with mail-in ballots, that dealt with voter certification, that dealt with all types of election issues and this is just one more.

"So, this is ridiculous for Erick to make that accusation. He has no idea what he's talking about."

"Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas, is under a federal investigation and would love a presidential pardon," Erickson had said in his daily email. "His lawsuit is just more performative leg humping by someone desperate to curry favor with President Trump."

Ken Paxton attempts to claim that he’s not fishing for a pardon

— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) December 11, 2020

Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska expressed a view similar to Erickson's, telling The Washington Examiner on Thursday: "I'm no lawyer, but I suspect the Supreme Court swats this away. From the brief, it looks like a fella begging for a pardon filed a PR stunt rather than a lawsuit—as all of the assertions have already been rejected by federal courts and Texas' own solicitor general isn't signing on."

Texas Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins is not attached to the lawsuit, which has been submitted to the Supreme Court. Paxton is asking the court to instruct state legislatures in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to throw out what he calls "tainted" election results and choose their own slate of presidential electors. This would allow those electors to vote for Trump when the Electoral College meets on December 13.

Speculation that Paxton is fishing for a presidential pardon has been bipartisan. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat whose state is being sued by Texas, told MSNBC on Thursday that the lawsuit was "so incredibly outrageous."

"Ken Paxton, the attorney general, the state of Texas, has been under federal indictment for quite some time," Nessel said. "The FBI continues to investigate him, not just for securities fraud but for a variety of other matters, and I think this is as clear signal that he is sending to President Trump requesting a presidential pardon, and that's it. It's a last-ditch effort ."

A variety of legal experts have said Paxton's lawsuit will not succeed and suggested the Supreme Court will refuse to hear it because Texas has no standing to sue its sister states in this way.

However, the president has the power to pardon Paxton if he chooses. The Texas attorney general would not need to be charged with any federal crimes or have to admit guilt.

Texas Attorney General Kenneth Paxton in 2016
Texas Attorney General Kenneth Paxton speaks to members of the media as Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller (R) listens in front of the U.S. Supreme Court April 18, 2016 in Washington, DC. Paxton has said he isn't seeking a pardon from President Donald Trump. Alex Wong/Getty Images