DALLAS (AP) — Lawyers for Texas’ embattled attorney general have asked the state bar association to drop its investigation into whether the Republican’s failed efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election amounted to professional misconduct, arguing the probe is an unconstitutional overreach.
In late May, the State Bar of Texas began looking into Attorney General Ken Paxton’s petitioning of the U.S. Supreme Court to block Joe Biden’s victory based on bogus claims of fraud. The investigation was prompted by a Democratic Party activist’s complaint that the Republican official’s actions were frivolous and unethical.
In a wide-ranging formal response Thursday, Paxton’s office argued that the activist lacks the standing to bring a complaint against the attorney general and that the bar’s investigation amounts to the judicial branch unconstitutionally intervening in the work of the executive.
“The regulation of the professional conduct of attorneys does not extend to the regulation of the decisions of the Attorney General, his Office, or any other agency that happens to be led by a licensed attorney, or any public official who may happen to be a licensed attorney,” a lawyer for Paxton’s office wrote in the 22-page reply.
Kevin Moran, the 72-year-old president of the Galveston Island Democrats, said he’s proceeding with his complaint. He provided Paxton’s response to The Associated Press and said “my reading of it is that he has declared himself above the law, essentially.”
A spokeswoman for the bar, which operates under the authority of Texas Supreme Court, declined to comment. Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The investigation is just one on Paxton’s legal and political liabilities. He is facing a years-old criminal case, a newer FBI investigation and challenges from two Republican primary opponents who have sought to make electoral hay of the various controversies.
Paxton pleaded not guilty in a state securities fraud case, which has been stalled since 2015. He has broadly denied wrongdoing in the separate criminal probe launched after his then-top deputies reported him to the FBI last year for alleged bribery and abuse of office.
Paxton’s legal problems aren’t repelling GOP donors, but some are starting to throw money at his challengers. George P. Bush outraised the two-term attorney general after entering the race in June, pulling in $2.3 million while Paxton raised $1.8 million over the last six months, according to new campaign finance figures posted Friday.
Republican Eva Guzman, a former Texas Supreme Court justice, also raised more than $1 million for what is likely to be the state’s most competitive GOP primary in 2022.
In December, Paxton’s office asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the electoral defeat of Donald Trump, although he did so without Texas’ top appeals lawyer, who would usually argue the state’s cases before the high court. The Supreme Court justices threw out the petition.
A succession of other judges and state elections officials have refuted claims of widespread voter fraud, and Trump’s own Justice Department found no evidence of fraud that could have changed the election’s outcome.
The case drew more than 80 bar complaints against Paxton and his top deputy, according to the attorney general’s response. It said the bar initially dismissed all the complaints but the tribunal that oversees grievances against lawyers overturned those decisions in four cases.
Along with Moran’s, the response states, the other complaints the bar is investigating came from a lawyer, a man who described himself as a “citizen of Texas” disgusted by Paxton’s actions and David Chew, the former chief justice of a state appeals court.
Paxton’s lawyers largely dismissed Chew’s claims as “vague, non-specific, and conclusory.” The retired judge could not be immediately reached for comment.
3 men charged in deadly 2018 Missouri duck boat accident
A local prosecutor charged a boat captain and two other employees Friday over 17 deaths in July 2018 when a tourist duck boat sank on a Missouri lake during a severe thunderstorm, reviving the threat of long prison sentences seven months after federal charges against them were dismissed.
The total of 63 felony charges were filed in Stone County against the captain, the general manager and the manager on duty the day of the accident for the Ride the Ducks attraction on Table Rock Lake near the tourist mecca of Branson, in southwestern Missouri.
Captain Kenneth Scott McKee, of Verona, general manager Curtis Lanham, of Galena, and manager on duty Charles Baltzell, of Kirbyville, were charged after a federal judge dismissed earlier charges filed by federal prosecutors, concluding they did not have jurisdiction.
Among the dead were nine members of a family from Indianapolis and victims from Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas. Tia Coleman, a member of that Indianapolis family who lost her husband and three children, said in a statement that her “prayers had been answered” with the charges.
“I’m so hopeful that we are one major step closer to justice for all those that perished, and to preventing that what happened to them from ever happening again,” Coleman said.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, whose office will assist with the prosecution, and County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Selby announced the charges.
“The victims deserve justice,” Schmitt said in a statement.
McKee, 54, faces 29 charges, including 17 charges of first-degree involuntary manslaughter. The 12 additional charges allege that he endangered child passengers on t
Rescuers race to prevent more death from European floods
BERLIN (AP) — In one flooded German town, the ground collapsed under family homes. In another, floodwaters swept through an assisted living center, killing 12.
Rescue workers across Germany and Belgium rushed Friday to prevent more deaths from the continent’s worst flooding in years as the disaster claimed dozens more lives and the search went on for hundreds of missing people. The death toll stood at more than 125.
Fueled by days of heavy rain, the floodwaters also left thousands of Germans homeless after their dwellings were destroyed or deemed to be at risk, and elected officials began to worry about the lingering economic effects from lost homes and businesses.
Elsewhere in Europe, dikes on swollen rivers were at risk of collapsing, and crews raced to reinforce flood barriers.
Sixty-three people perished in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, including 12 residents of an assisted living facility for disabled people in the town of Sinzig who were surprised by a sudden rush of water from the nearby Ahr River, authorities said.
In neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia state, the number of dead stood at 43, but officials warned that it could increase.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was “stunned” by the devastation and pledged support to the families of those killed and to cities and towns facing significant damage.
“In the hour of need, our country stands together,” Steinmeier said in a statement. “It’s important that we show solidarity for those from whom the flood has taken everything.”
A harrowing rescue effort unfolded in the German town of Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne, where people were trapped when the ground gave way and their homes collapsed.
Fifty people were rescued from their houses, county administrator Frank Rock told German broadcaster n-tv. Aerial photos showed what appeared to be a massive landslide at a gravel pit on the town’s edge.
“One has to assume that under the circumstances some people didn’t manage to escape,” Rock said.
Authorities cautioned that the large number of missing could stem from duplicated reports and difficulties reaching people because of closed roads and disrupted phone service.
After Germany, where the death toll stood at 106, Belgium was the hardest hit. The country had confirmed the deaths of 20 people, with another 20 still missing, Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told the VRT network Friday.
Several dikes on the Meuse Rriver that runs from Belgium into the Netherlands were at risk of collapsing, Verlinden said. Authorities in the southern Dutch town of Venlo evacuated 200 hospital patients due to the river’s looming threat.
The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, who hopes to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel as the nation’s leader after Germany’s election on Sept. 26, said the disaster had caused immense economic damage to the country’s most densely populated state.
“The floods have literally pulled the ground from beneath many people’s feet,” Gov. Armin Laschet said at a news conference. “They lost their houses, farms or businesses.”
Federal and state officials have pledged financial aid to the affected areas.
Malu Dreyer, the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, said the disaster showed the need to speed up efforts to curb global warming. She accused Laschet and Merkel’s center-right Union bloc of hindering efforts to achieve greater greenhouse gas reductions in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and a major emitter of planet-warming gases.
“Climate change isn’t abstract anymore. We are experiencing it up close and painfully,” she told the Funke media group.
Steinmeier, the German president, repeated his calls for greater efforts to combat global warming.
“Only if we decisively take up the fight against climate change will we be able to limit the extreme weather conditions we are now experiencing,” he said.
Experts say such disasters could become more common in the future.
“Some parts of Western Europe ... received up to two months of rainfall in the space of two days. What made it worse is that the soils were already saturated by previous rainfall,” World Meteorological Organization spokesperson Clare Nullis said.
While she said it was too soon to blame the floods and preceding heat wave on rising global temperatures, Nullis added: “Climate change is already increasing the frequency of extreme events. And many single events have been shown to be made worse by global warming.”
The German military had deployed over 850 troops to help with flood efforts, and the need for help is growing, Defense Ministry spokesman Arne Collatz said. He said the ministry had triggered a “military disaster alarm.”
Italy sent civil protection officials, firefighters and rescue dinghies to Belgium to help in the search for missing people.
In the southern Dutch province of Limburg, which also has been hit hard by flooding, troops piled sandbags to strengthen a 1.1-kilometer (0.7 mile) stretch of dike along the Maas River, and police helped evacuate low-lying neighborhoods.
Caretaker Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the government was officially declaring flooded regions disaster areas, making businesses and residents eligible for compensation. Dutch King Willem-Alexander visited the region Thursday night and called the scenes “heartbreaking.”
Meanwhile, heavy rain in Switzerland caused several rivers and lakes to burst their banks. Public broadcaster SRF reported that a flash flood swept away cars, flooded basements and destroyed small bridges late Thursday in the northern villages of Schleitheim und Beggingen.
Erik Schulz, the mayor of the hard-hit German city of Hagen, 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Cologne, said a wave of other regions and ordinary citizens offered to help.
“We have many, many citizens saying ‘I can offer a place to stay. Where can I go to help? ... Where can I bring my shovel and bucket?’” he told n-tv. “The city is standing together, and you can feel that.”