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Texas solicitor general latest exit in embattled AG's office

Last Updated Jan 13, 2021 at 3:56 pm EST

DALLAS — Texas’ solicitor general who did not join embattled Attorney General Ken Paxton’s failed efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election is resigning, a person with knowledge of the move told The Associated Press.

Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins informed Paxton’s office of his plans to resign on Tuesday, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the move had not been announced publicly. It was not immediately clear why he resigned or exactly when he will leave office.

Hawkins’ departure is set to be the latest exit of a senior official in Paxton’s office since September, when the Republican’s top deputies accused him of bribery and abuse of office on behalf of a donor. All eight of his accusers have since quit or been fired, and their accusations are the focus of an FBI investigation into Paxton.

Neither Paxton’s office nor Hawkins immediately returned requests for comment Wednesday.

Solicitor general is one of the most prominent positions in the Texas attorney general’s office, where Republican Sen. Ted Cruz once held the job. The solicitor general typically leads and argues cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

But in December, Hawkins left his name off a Texas lawsuit backed by President Donald Trump that asked the Supreme Court to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. The court’s rejection of the case amounted to a stark repudiation of a legal claim that was widely regarded as dubious.

Neither Hawkins nor the attorney general’s office have said why he did not join the election challenge. Hawkins argued a major case before the Supreme Court as recently as November, during the latest Republican-led effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Paxton has denied wrongdoing after former staff accused him of crimes in the service of a wealthy donor, who also employs a woman with whom the attorney general allegedly had an extramarital affair. Separately, Paxton is awaiting trial on felony charges from 2015 that accuse him of defrauding investors in a Texas startup technology company. He has pleaded not guilty.

Paxton spoke at Trump’s rally in Washington last week before the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol. He later made false claims on social media that Trump supporters were not those responsible.

On Wednesday, 47 state attorneys general signed a letter condemning the riot at the Capitol as “a direct, physical challenge to the rule of law and our democratic republic itself.” The letter sent to Acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen called on those charged with enforcing the law to ensure that lawless violence does not go unchecked.

Paxton did not join the letter.

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Weber reported from Austin, Texas.

Jake Bleiberg And Paul J. Weber, The Associated Press