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November 29, 2023

Abbott appoints interim attorney general in Texas following Paxton’s impeachment

Abbott appoints interim attorney general in Texas following Paxton’s impeachment

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday appointed former Secretary of State John Scott to temporarily serve as attorney general after the state House impeached Ken Paxton.

“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 in a statement Wednesday. “His decades of experience and expertise in litigation will help guide him while serving as the state’s top law enforcement officer.”

Abbott, a Republican, made the interim appointment days after the state’s GOP-controlled House voted 121-23 to impeach Paxton — with 60 of its 85 Republican members, including Speaker Dade Phelan, supporting his suspension on charges that include bribery and misuse of office.

Paxton has been under FBI investigation for years in connection with allegations that he abused his office to help a donor. He is also awaiting trial on an indictment alleging state securities fraud from 2015.

Paxton, who has denied any wrongdoing, called the impeachment proceedings a “politically motivated sham” in a statement Saturday.

The House has delivered articles of impeachment to the state Senate, which will hold a trial to decide whether Paxton should be permanently removed from office. The trial is expected to begin no later than Aug. 28, with a jury that could include his wife, Sen. Angela Paxton.

Abbott — who did not refer to Paxton by name or comment on the impeachment in his statement appointing Scott — touted Scott’s record as an attorney, saying he has “handled cases at all levels of the justice system.”

Scott, whom Abbott appointed secretary of state in late 2021, resigned last year after he oversaw the 2022 midterm elections as the top elections official and presided over an audit of the state’s 2020 election results.

Scott previously served as deputy attorney general for civil litigation when Abbott was attorney general. Scott was also once appointed as the state Health and Human Services Commission’s chief operating officer.

Paxton, a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump who was first elected ’ attorney general in 2014, led a failed legal effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in four battleground states in 2020. He also backed Trump when Trump launched his White House re-election bid last year.

Trump defended Paxton on his social media website, Truth Social, over the weekend, suggesting the proceedings were a form of election interference and a “very unfair process.”

Zoë Richards

Zoë Richards is the evening politics reporter for NBC News.

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