Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is fighting a lawsuit seeking to block him from investigating Backpage.com.
Hawley filed a motion Tuesday against Backpage, arguing its lawsuit is frivolous and should be tossed out.
Hawley launched an investigation of the company this year and in May issued civil investigative demands seeking documents from Backpage, which hasn’t yet complied.
In response, Backpage.com sued Hawley. The company has said it doesn’t have control over sex-related ads and has immunity from potential lawsuits over those ads.
But The Washington Post has reported that documents reportedly show Backpage has been involved in creating or developing third-party content on its site. Hawley said evidence uncovered by his office supports that.
An attorney for Backpage didn’t immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment Tuesday.
Hawley, a Republican, is weighing a run next year against Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, who said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters that she has been investigating Backpage for two years.
McCaskill said she and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio are introducing a bill that would strip federal liability protections from websites that “assist, support or facilitate” violations of sex trafficking laws.
Of Hawley’s efforts to get documents from Backpage, McCaskill said:
“I think frankly he could get a lot of information just from us that he is seeking in his civil action, but I’m also going to send it to all the prosecutors who have criminal jurisdiction.”
Lindsay Wise, The Star’s Washington correspondent, contributed to this story.