Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas on Wednesday named John Scott, a longtime ally and a former Texas secretary of state, to serve as an interim replacement for the suspended attorney general, Ken Paxton, while Mr. Paxton faces trial in the State Senate.
Mr. Paxton was impeached by the state House of Representatives on Saturday over charges that he had used his elected position to benefit himself and a campaign donor.
Mr. Abbott, in a statement announcing his decision, said he chose Mr. Scott to “step in as a short-term” replacement while Mr. Paxton battles 20 articles of impeachment in a Senate trial expected to start late this summer. Mr. Scott served as a deputy attorney general under Mr. Abbott.
Why It Matters
In announcing his choice, Mr. Abbott cited Mr. Scott’s past experience as a former deputy attorney general who “knows how the Office of Attorney General operates.”
Mr. Scott served as Mr. Abbott’s top deputy for civil litigation when the Republican governor served as attorney general before becoming the state’s chief executive in 2015. Mr. Scott also served on an interim basis as Texas secretary of state, the chief elections officer appointed by the governor, for just over a year before stepping down in December 2022.
“His decade of experience and expertise in litigation will help guide him while serving as the state’s top law enforcement officer,” Mr. Abbott said. The governor’s statement did not include Mr. Paxton’s name or offer any comments on the accusations against him.
Mr. Scott, who has more than three decades of legal experience, also served as the chief operating officer of the state’s Health and Human Services Commission.
During the political turbulence following Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory over Donald Trump, Mr. Scott briefly represented the former president in an unsuccessful lawsuit against the certification of Pennsylvania’s vote after other attorneys quit. Mr. Scott himself stepped away from the litigation three days later, saying in a court filing “that Plaintiffs will be best served” by his withdrawal, according to news accounts.
As Mr. Scott steps into the attorney general’s position, six top staff members have taken a leave of absence to help defend Mr. Paxton in the upcoming impeachment trial, according to reports in The Daily Wire website and The Texas Tribune.
The employees include the office’s top appellate lawyer, Solicitor General Judd Stone, who served as a clerk to the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and was later chief counsel to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and the litigation chief Chris Hilton, who has made news recently by denouncing lawmakers’ moves toward impeachment.
As secretary of state, Mr. Scott had a “close working relationship” with Mr. Paxton and the attorney general’s office as a defendant in litigation against the state’s voting laws, said Sam Taylor, who served as secretary of state for communications under Mr. Scott. “That was true regardless of who the secretary was, including John Scott,” Mr. Taylor said.
The Texas Senate, which will decide whether to convict Mr. Paxton and remove him from office, adopted a resolution this week that calls for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Senate’s presiding officer, to choose a date “no later than” Aug. 28 to convene the court of impeachment. A seven-member Senate committee will prepare recommended rules of procedure for the trial to be submitted to the Senate on June 20.
The House, serving as the equivalent of a grand jury, has named 12 impeachment managers to prosecute the case, including the five members of the House General Investigating Committee that conducted the once-secret investigation that led to the impeachment.
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