AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday picked a longtime ally who oversaw Texas’ elections in 2022 to temporarily serve as attorney general following Republican Ken Paxton’s historic impeachment on allegations of misconduct and crimes.
John Scott, who stepped down as Texas Secretary of State last year, takes over as the state’s top lawyer on an interim basis while Paxton awaits a trial in the state Senate that could result in his permanent removal. The trial is set to begin no later than Aug. 28.
Paxton was impeached last weekend by the Texas House of Representatives, triggering his immediate suspension from office.
Abbott has kept silent about Paxton in the week since House Republicans began impeachment proceedings. The governor announced Scott’s appointment in a statement that did not mention Paxton or comment on the accusations against him.
“John Scott has the background and experience needed to step in as a short-term interim Attorney General during the time the Attorney General has been suspended from duty,” Abbott said.
Scott has been a trusted hand of Abbott’s for more than a decade. He served as a state litigator when Abbott was attorney general, and when Abbott’s pick for secretary of state in 2019 was derailed after a bungled review of voter rolls, the governor turned to Scott instead.
At the time, the appointment alarmed voting rights groups over Scott’s brief stint as a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team that challenged the 2020 election results. Scott withdrew from the case after only a few days and has said he does not dispute that President Joe Biden won the election.
Paxton weathered years of scandal and maintained his party’s support to win three statewide attorney general’s races before the vote in the Republican-controlled House abruptly swept him from power.
The vote came after a monthslong House investigation into the attorney general that resulted in 20 charges alleging sweeping abuses of power, including obstruction of justice, bribery and abuse of public trust.
Paxton has criticized the impeachment as an attempt to “overthrow the will of the people and disenfranchise the voters of our state.” He has said the charges are based on “hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproven claims.”
Texas’ senators will serve as “jurors” in Paxton’s upcoming trial — one of whom could be his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, who has not said whether she will participate in the proceedings.
During his yearlong stint as Texas’ election chief, Scott was tasked with trying to give voters confidence about election results and the ability to cast a ballot after Republicans passed a sweeping new voting law. Those efforts got off to a bumpy start during Texas’ first-in-the-nation primary as voters struggled to navigate new mail voting requirements, resulting in counties throwing out nearly 23,000 mail ballots.