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Utah AG John Swallow defends himself in interview with Fox 13

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Posted at 7:48 PM, Jun 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-13 00:03:30-04

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General John Swallow spoke to Fox 13 News about the allegations against him and the possibility of impeachment proceedings.

The newly-elected Attorney General said he is “shocked” anyone is even talking about impeachment, and he said the allegations against him regarding bribery are, “simply made up.”

Swallow also responded to comments made Tuesday by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who said if Swallow had worked in his office as the allegations against him came to light, then Herbert would have fired him by now.

“The governor can fire his staff, and I have the right to fire my staff, but I work for the people of Utah as an elected officer,” Swallow said.

Swallow is under federal investigation, and he has also been accused of bribery. The allegations come from Jeremy Johnson, who is a St. George businessman under a federal indictment for fraud.

Swallow said the allegations are unfounded.

“Categorically false, just simply made up,” he said. “In fact, Jeremy Johnson has since said there was never a discussion with me about a bribe that was a creature of the media, and that's what I'm trying to deal with. Everyone is trying to convict me on hearsay and innuendo in the press ... No I'm not blaming the media, but they're convicting me based on the stories that are coming from the media, through the media.”

Other allegations stem from Swallow's involvement with a man named Mark Jenson, who is serving a 10 year prison sentence for defrauding investors out of millions of dollars. He was prosecuted under Mark Shurtleff's administration, and last month Jenson accused Swallow of taking favors from him.

The AG admits to an elaborate trip to Pelican Hill, an upscale Southern California Resort where Jenson had a villa. Swallow's defense? He was a private attorney at the time.

"It wasn't that unusual where a client or prospective client would fly me somewhere or pick up expenses if I needed to go meet that person at some point... at the time he was under what’s called plea and abeyance with the state,” Swallow said. “I wasn't nearly as concerned as a private attorney about his background and history, as I would have been concerned later as a person in my position."

Several Utah legislators and groups have asked Swallow to step down. Swallow said he has considered resignation, along with all other options.

“Oh, I’ve thought about all the options I have, I’ve thought about what is the best thing for the state of Utah,” he said. “Is it best of the state of Utah to have an attorney general who is falsely accused of things to turn tail and run or is it best for the state of Utah who knows he's innocent to stand tall and strong? The Governor calls this a black cloud over the state. Well I call it a witch hunt.”

Swallow also responded to recent talk of impeachment hearings, and when asked what he would do in that situation he said:

“That's a quite a speculative question. I know what I have and haven't done, and I certainly don't believe anything I’ve ever done in my life reaches the threshold of high crimes, misdemeanors and Malfeasance in office, and I’m a little shocked that anybody is even talking about it right now.”

The House Caucus meets next week to discuss what the impeachment process entails.

Swallow said, "It's a serious thing, and I understand that. I'm not going to say anything pro or con about what the House is doing."

Gov. Herbert also expressed frustration Tuesday over the amount of time the federal investigation into Swallow is taking. Swallow said he is frustrated by the slow pace as well, but he said he believes his name will be cleared.

He said he believes he deserves due process and that people should refrain from making assumptions until the investigation is concluded.

Click here to see the full interview with Swallow.