Ken Paxton’s difficult summer turned, as September rolled around, into a triumphant autumn. After he was impeached by the Texas House on twenty counts alleging corruption, a jury whose majority consisted of elected Republicans under intense political pressure to acquit him did just that, leaving Paxton tanned, rested, and fully in command as the state’s chief legal officer. As fall turns to winter, it appears Paxton isn’t content to just kick back in the luxurious Oklahoma lodge he apparently bought last year without filing the required financial disclosure forms. Rather, the embattled attorney general has spent the past few weeks filing lawsuits and authoring opinions with a downright audacious energy. If you stopped paying attention to Paxton after he was acquitted in his impeachment hearing, here’s what you’ve missed over the past few weeks.

November 20: Paxton Investigates Media Matters for America

In November, the progressive media nonprofit organization Media Matters for America attracted the attention of giant cowboy hat enthusiast and sometime Texan Elon Musk. Musk claimed that the group published fraudulent findings that users of his social media platform, X, formerly known as Twitter, could be shown ads for major brands alongside posts from users who were antisemitic or denied the Holocaust.

Musk’s subsequent defamation lawsuit, filed in Fort Worth despite neither Media Matters nor X being based in Texas, didn’t exactly offer clear vindication for his position. It argued that Media Matters used X for the purpose of following major brands as well as users that publish antisemitic content. According to the suit, this caused the advertising algorithm to place those ads alongside content in the Media Matters feed in a way that would be unlikely to happen with a typical user who wasn’t actively seeking antisemitism or Holocaust denial on the site. Is that fraud? Ultimately, that will be up to the courts to decide, but Paxton didn’t want to wait.

Paxton’s office issued a press release announcing an investigation into Media Matters, which it described as “a radical anti-free speech organization,” claiming that the AG himself was “extremely troubled” by the allegations Musk made. Threatening to use the power of the state against a media organization on behalf of a right-wing billionaire was necessary, Paxton said in a statement, “to ensure that the public has not been deceived by the schemes of radical left-wing organizations who would like nothing more than to limit freedom by reducing participation in the public square.”

November 30: Paxton Sues Pfizer Over the COVID-19 Vaccine

Ten days after launching his investigation into Media Matters, Paxton announced another high-profile action. This time the AG’s office sued Pfizer, claiming that the drug manufacturer had “misrepresent[ed] the effectiveness of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine and [was] attempting to censor public discussion of the product.” The state is seeking more than $10 million in fines.

Texas’s lawsuit is based on the difference between the terms “relative risk reduction” and “absolute risk reduction” with regard to the COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer claimed in November 2020 that its vaccine was 95 percent effective against infection, a number based on the vaccine’s relative risk reduction. This is a fairly technical issue on which to hang a lawsuit, but the difference between “relative risk” and “absolute risk” has emerged as an obsession of anti-vaccine activists during the pandemic. (A 95 percent “relative risk reduction” means that a vaccinated person is 95 percent less likely to be infected than an unvaccinated person; that same number as an “absolute risk reduction” would mean that a person who was 100 percent certain to be infected now had a 5 percent chance of being infected. Because the risk of contracting an infectious disease is based on a wide variety of factors, experts have argued that the relative risk is the more relevant figure.) Paxton argues that the statistic is “misleading” and that Pfizer “embarked on a campaign to intimidate the public into getting the vaccine as a necessary measure to protect their loved ones.”

Pfizer released a statement the day the suit was filed, writing that Texas’s case “has no merit” and promising a response in court “in due course.”

December 6: Paxton Joins a Lawsuit by the Daily Wire and the Federalist Against the U.S. State Department

Less than a week later, Paxton announced another lawsuit, this one against the United States Department of State. The cause? The State Department issued grants to the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a British nonprofit organization, and NewsGuard, a website that creates “transparent reliability rankings” for media outlets. GDI was awarded $100,000 in 2021, while NewsGuard received $25,000 the prior year.

GDI published a list in October 2022 that identified the “riskiest sites” for encountering disinformation, which included the Daily Wire and the Federalist, as well as eight other media companies, most of them conservative-leaning. The lawsuit describes the organization’s disinformation index as a “blacklist” that it claims reduces advertising revenue to the outlets, and characterizes the $125,000 in combined funding as “one of the most egregious government operations to censor the American press in the history of the nation.” (NewsGuard, which is not a defendant in the suit, said in a statement that its funding from the State Department’s Global Engagement Center was limited to “tracking false claims made in state-sponsored media outlets in Russia, China, and Venezuela.” GDI did not respond to Texas Monthly‘s request for an interview.)

December 7: Paxton Sends a Letter Threatening to Punish Hospitals If They Comply With a Judge’s Order to Perform an Abortion

Texas’s current abortion law guarantees exceptions to what is otherwise a total ban on the procedure in the event that the patient “has a life-threatening” physical condition resulting from the pregnancy that puts them at “serious risk” of death or “substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”

Kate Cox, a pregnant Texas woman whose nonviable pregnancy threatened her ability to have children in the future, believed her situation constituted an exception to the ban. Unsure if the potential damage to her reproductive system constituted “substantial impairment of a major bodily function” in the eyes of the state, Cox sued and, on December 7, was granted a temporary restraining order by a Travis County judge that allowed the procedure. The same day, Paxton issued a blistering letter to three Texas hospitals, warning that complying with the judge’s order “will not insulate you, or anyone else, from civil and criminal liability for violating Texas’ abortion laws” and noting that, even if the court order did prevent the state from taking action against the hospital or its doctors, “it does not enjoin actions brought by private citizens,” referring to the state’s “bounty” law that allows anyone to sue anyone else who facilitates an abortion in Texas. Paxton was unsubtle in his attempt to ensure that Cox did not terminate her pregnancy, which doctors had determined would not result in the birth of a healthy baby capable of surviving outside of the womb. “We remind you that the TRO will expire long before the statute of limitations for violating Texas’ abortion laws expires,” Paxton wrote. He then went on to argue with the doctor’s medical judgment. Since the state abortion ban went into effect in the summer of 2022, Texas doctors have sought clarity on whether various circumstances would qualify; organizations including the Texas Medical Association have asked the Texas Medical Board to provide guidance, which it has, to this point, declined to do.

Paxton’s warning to the hospitals quickly became moot; after he filed an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, the higher court intervened, blocking the restraining order and preventing Cox from receiving the abortion in Texas. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Cox in her lawsuit, she left the state to receive the procedure, which remains legal in many other parts of the country.

Paxton’s schedule is set to get busier come spring, as the securities-fraud indictment against him that was initially filed in 2014 is set to finally go to trial. If anyone expected him to appear daunted by that prospect, or by his recent impeachment, they look likely to be sorely disappointed.