AUSTIN, Texas – A Texas state representative from Fredericksburg has refused a request from the KSAT 12 Defenders to release public emails from the dates surrounding his trip to Washington, D.C., to attend a President Donald Trump rally.
The Jan. 6 rally immediately preceded a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that has led to hundreds of federal charges and a massive FBI investigation.
Days after the siege, state Rep. Kyle Biedermann, a Trump-aligned Republican in the Texas House representing Kendall, Comal and Gillespie counties, downplayed the deadly riot during a talk-radio appearance.
That prompted the Defenders to request a copy of all emails sent to and from his Texas House of Representatives email address between Dec. 10, 2020, and Jan. 11, 2021.
Under Texas law, email inboxes maintained by taxpayer-funded government agencies, including the Texas Legislature, are public.
Biedermann’s chief of staff, Karin Dyer, responded to the request in late January claiming the office had nothing responsive to release.
After the Defenders challenged the claim that Biedermann had not received or sent any emails during those 30-plus days, Dyer responded that it is not the office’s policy to disclose information that is confidential by law. Dyer then cited two sections from the Texas Government Code.
However, email records for the inbox of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, obtained by the Defenders through an open records request, show that Biederman did indeed receive an email during that time period. Coincidentally, on Jan. 6, Biedermann received an email from Abbott naming a person from his district to the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists.
“Apparently there was at least one email sent to the representative’s office during the relevant time frame, which raises the question of whether there were other emails that have not been produced. If there is any additional material responsive to the request, and not subject to an exception from disclosure, it should be produced immediately,” said Jim Hemphill, a veteran First Amendment attorney based in Austin.
The office, to date, has not requested a ruling from the Texas Attorney General’s Office about whether the requested emails would be considered confidential and could be withheld. The AG’s office is the agency that issues rulings and opinions on whether certain information is excepted from public information law.
The Defenders have filed a complaint against Biedermann’s office with the attorney general’s office over the refusal to release the emails.
There is no indication that Biedermann traveled to or inside the Capitol Jan. 6, but he is the third known state elected official to have been in the vicinity during the deadly attack. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also attended the rally, delivering a speech urging supporters to keep “fighting.” His wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, R-Dallas, appeared with him on stage.
“We came because we wanted to be heard and we’re sick and tired of what’s been going on by the elite media and the elite politicians who continue to ignore us,” Biedermann told a Dallas-area talk radio host a day after the rally and deadly riot.
Biedermann, during his radio appearance, blamed the insurrection on “a few radicals.”
To date, however, more than 300 people have been criminally charged for their alleged roles in the assault on the Capitol.
A bill filed in the Texas House by Biedermann Jan. 26 would potentially give voters a chance to decide in November whether the state legislature should develop a plan to secede from the rest of the United States.
Biedermann’s bill, and the idea of seceding to an even greater degree, has been criticized in recent weeks after the state’s standalone electric grid failed Feb. 15, causing power outages for millions of Texas residents during prolonged periods of sub-freezing temperatures.
A still untold number of people died during the outages.
Gov. Abbott has requested assistance in storm recover efforts from the federal government, including from President Joe Biden and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The disaster declaration will help homeowners fix busted pipes and repair property damage caused by the storm and subsequent power outages, and theoretically would not be available for future disaster events in Texas if the state were to secede.