Eric Schmitt sworn in as Missouri attorney general

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JEFFERSON CITY - Republican Eric Schmitt was sworn-in as Missouri's 43rd attorney general Thursday.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson appointed Schmitt, who previously served as state treasurer, after the state's former attorney general, Josh Hawley, was elected to the U.S. Senate in November. Hawley, also a Republican, was sworn into office in Washington on Thursday.

During his swearing-in address, Schmitt said he will work to protect Missorians.

"No family should be concerned at all about heading downtown to watch a ballgame in downtown St. Louis," he said. "No child in Chillicothe should lose her dad to the opioid epidemic."

Schmitt said he has been focused on recruiting people to work in his office.

"This is going to be an office where we value professionalism, and we're going to treat everybody fairly," he said. "So that'll be the hallmark." 

In November, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported a top aide to Schmitt used the Confide app, which deletes messages after they are opened.

Schmitt said he doesn't want his employees to use the app.

"No one will use Confide on official phones, and I encourage everyone not to use it on their personal phones either," he said.

Some staff of former Gov. Eric Greitens used the app, and there was an investigation into whether the deletion of messages used for government business violated open records laws. But Hawley released a report saying no laws were broken.

Schmitt did not comment on whether his office will continue ongoing investigations from Hawley's tenure.

Schmitt said he will focus in fighting the ongoing opioid epidemic and supporting local prosecutors.

"People deserve to feel safe," he said. "This is a very basic issue and something that the attorney general's office, I think, can play a very important role in."

After Parson appointed Schmitt to replace Hawley, Parson announced state Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, would be the next state treasurer. Fitzpatrick will be sworn in later in January, according to a news release from the treasurer's office.

Parson, the previous lieutenant governor, took over the statehouse when Greitens resigned in June 2018. Parson then appointed state Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, to be lieutenant governor.

In a lawsuit filed last summer, Missouri Democrats and a World War II veteran challenged Parson's appointment. Cole County Judge Jon Beetem dismissed the suit on July 11, 2018, but the Missouri Democratic Party filed an appeal.

The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments on the case on Nov. 7. 2018. The court has not yet announced its decision.

The changes in leadership mean voters did not elect the state's governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer and attorney general.

Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who attended Thursday's ceremony along with Parson, said provisions are in place for circumstances like this.

"I think it's a mark of how well-constructed our government is that you can have changes like this that are planned for," he said. "It follows seamlessly and without problems, and the people of the state are still well-served."

Ashcroft said he believes Schmitt will fill the role well.

"I'm looking forward to the continued great service of the attorney general to protect the people of this state and to enforce the laws of this state," he said.