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Is the audit of Utah AG Sean Reyes a precursor to impeachment?

Three lawmakers say 'I don't know,' too early to say
Posted at 10:20 PM, Nov 14, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — One branch of local government has unanimously voted to investigate another.

Twenty Republicans and six Democrats pushed for a legislative audit into Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and the Utah AG's Office.

They got their wish.

They want answers to some of the same questions FOX 13 News has been asking about Reyes' travel schedule, Reyes' use of campaign funds, and Reyes' ties to the nonprofit Operation Underground Railroad.

READ: Utah Attorney General was subject of criminal investigation along with Tim Ballard, OUR

Lawmakers said they were approached on Monday night to see if they wanted to sign the letter asking for the audit.

"Is this the beginning of an impeachment?" asked FOX 13 News investigative reporter Adam Herbets.

"I don't know. I think it would be too early to say that," said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross. "If several other shoes drop, then that could change, but I don't think we're even close to that threshold right now."

"Is it fair to say that the results of the audit will help you and your colleagues make that decision?" Herbets asked.

"Oh, absolutely. I'm not saying it's teed up for a decision right now. I take impeachment very, very seriously," Weiler said. "There's been a loss of confidence in the attorney general, but I think that is very, very different thing than an impeachment."

According to Utah's Constitution, only the Utah House of Representatives has the power to impeach someone. The Utah Senate's power rests with any trial and removal from office.

Requests for audits are typically only submitted by one or two legislators, not 26 legislators.

Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, said it was not a coincidence that both Republicans and Democrats pushed for the audit.

"Is this the beginning of an impeachment?"

"It all depends on what the audit comes up with," Riebe said. "If the audit comes up with some nefarious activities, then I think it is the beginning of an impeachment."

Full documents: Utah AG Sean Reyes accused of witness tampering and intimidation

Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, was among the Republicans reaching out to his colleagues to ask if they wanted to sign the letter.

"I don't know. I don't know anybody that's talking about impeachment right now," McKell said. "I think the public deserves better... I don't think (Reyes) wants to be the attorney general. He spends a lot of time doing things that are not relevant to his job as attorney general."

Weiler pointed to Reyes being "less than forthcoming" with the media as one of his concerns.

Reyes has not answered questions from FOX 13 News about his fundraising for OUR.

Reyes has not answered questions from FOX 13 News about his use of a personal email address to forward a fraud complaint to his close friend Tim Ballard, the founder of OUR.

Reyes has not answered questions about what he knew, or didn't know, about Ballard's ties to the CIA.

Ballard is accused of grossly exaggerating his employment with the agency to raise millions of dollars for OUR. According to a lawsuit filed by five women, Ballard was simply an "unpaid intern."

Ballard is also accused of "sexual misconduct" and the "spiritual manipulation" of female OUR employees.

Reyes' office has not complied with requests to provide a copy of his schedule to the public despite the Utah State Records Committee ruling that it is a public record.

READ: Qatari government paid for Utah Attorney General trip to World Cup

"I'd like to know all the trips that the AG has been on in the last three or four years," Weiler said. "I really would, because I know they're trying to hide that information from the media."

The Davis County Attorney's Office opened a criminal investigation into Reyes because of his ties to OUR, asking questions about what the Utah AG's Office did with OUR money.

The investigation, which is at least partially concluded, did not result in any charges.

Utah's last three attorneys general have each been the subject of criminal investigation.

Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow were arrested and charged, but they were not convicted.

None have been impeached.

Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Midvale, called for Reyes to be impeached in 2021 after the January 6th riots. The move was largely seen by Republicans as political. It went nowhere because very few, if any, Republicans supported it.

An investigation published by the Salt Lake Tribune revealed how Reyes has traveled extensively since his 2020 reelection, with donors supporting more than 30 stints at high-end resorts across the country, in Mexico and in Europe — along with a Texas excursion to shoot feral hogs from a helicopter.

Now both parties hope the audit answers their questions.

"I've known Sean for a long time. I think he's a good person. I have no doubt that he's a good husband and father," Weiler said. "I don't think he is corrupt, per se. I haven't seen anything, you know, to indicate that he's corrupt, per se."

The Utah AG's Office said it "welcomes working with auditors to get them the information they seek."

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