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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday appointed John Scott to temporarily serve as Texas’ attorney general after the House of Representatives voted to impeach Ken Paxton, a Republican, over allegations of misconduct and crimes.
The historic impeachment triggered Paxton’s automatic suspension from office pending the outcome of a trial in the state Senate that could result in his permanent removal. The Senate has set the trial to begin no later than Aug. 28.
Scott, an attorney, has previously worked in the attorney general’s office and recently served as Texas Secretary of State. Abbott appointed him as the state’s chief elections officer in October 2021 and he served until December 2022, when he left the post before the state Senate would vote to confirm his appointment.
Abbott made the announcement in a statement that did not mention Paxton by name or comment on the accusations against him. The governor has been publicly silent about Paxton since the impeachment proceedings began last week.
“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.
Paxton weathered years of scandal and maintained his party’s support to win three state-wide 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.”
Scott briefly joined former President Donald Trump’s legal team last year as it challenged the 2020 election results, although he withdrew after three days. His appointment as Texas’ elections chief troubled voting rights groups as it came amid pressure from Trump and Republican activists to perform an audit of elections even though Trump won the state by 300,000 votes.
Scott also served as deputy attorney general when Abbott was attorney general. As a state litigator, he defended Texas’ strict voter ID law, which was allowed to take effect after years of court challenges by Democrats and minority rights groups.