American Oversight obtained emails from the office of Florida’s attorney general in which staff members derided Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s long-shot and widely condemned election-challenging lawsuit of December 2020. The records, which were reported on by the Tampa Bay Times on Monday, reveal lawyers in the office of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody — who the next day joined more than a dozen other state attorneys general in supporting it — ridiculed the lawsuit as “batshit insane” and “weird,” and speculated about Paxton’s motivations for filing it.
On Dec. 8, Paxton announced the lawsuit seeking to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election in the key swing states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The next day, 17 attorneys general from states across the country, including Moody, had signed on to an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to hear the case. On Dec. 11, the Supreme Court rejected it, claiming that the attorneys general lacked standing for the case.
The records we obtained include emails sent by lawyers in the Florida attorney general’s office regarding Paxton’s lawsuit. On Dec. 8, Deputy Solicitor General Evan Ezray alerted colleagues to the lawsuit and wrote that it was “interesting” the filing did not come from Texas’ solicitor general, Kyle Hawkins.
Senior Deputy Solicitor General Christopher Baum replied that the lawsuit was “batshit insane,” and that he was unsurprised Hawkins was not on it, adding that Hawkins must be “the only guy in the Texas AG’s front office who didn’t quit/wasn’t fired for alleging that Paxton committed crimes.”
In another email, Baum noted that a colleague had questioned whether Paxton’s efforts in furthering President Trump’s baseless election fraud claims were his “request for a pardon.” It is unclear from context, but this may have been a reference to the FBI investigation, first reported on in November 2020, into whether Paxton illegally used his office to financially assist donors with business affairs after top officials in the attorney general’s office tipped off federal law enforcement about the attorney general’s potential crimes.
The next day, Attorney General Moody signed on to the brief asking the Supreme Court to hear Paxton’s case. The documents obtained by American Oversight also contain communications sent by staff members immediately after Moody joined the amicus, including an email from one attorney instructing those answering the office’s phones that the office did “not need a lot of notes” on callers’ concerns, and to tell callers that the office would be issuing a press release later that day.
In the Tampa Bay Times’ article, a spokesperson for Moody dismissed the emails as “water cooler conversation by a few employees in response to breaking news and prior to any request to join a jurisdictional brief.” The spokesperson continued, “As the Attorney General has previously said she wanted the Supreme Court to review and decide this matter to prevent future confusion and erosion of voter confidence.”
“The Office of the Florida Attorney General joined in an unprecedented and dangerous effort to overturn the 2020 election despite knowing the legal arguments were baseless,” American Oversight’s Executive Director Austin Evers said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “This is the epitome of bad faith and a gross misuse of official resources in service of the ‘big lie’ and putting party over country.”
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