SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker has opened a bill to impeach state Attorney General Sean Reyes.
Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, opened the bill file which will trigger an investigation into the conduct of Utah's top law enforcement officer, specifically over his support of President Trump.
"I don’t know that it specifically merits impeachment, but it’s the only way to get a full investigation," Rep. Stoddard said in an interview with FOX 13 on Tuesday morning. "Specifically, I want to look at his ties to RAGA, the Republican Attorney General’s Association, and their ties to what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6, and also the work he did to undermine the election both on his own time and signing on to Texas’ brief."
In a statement late Tuesday, Reyes criticized the move.
"Impeachment is a drastic measure, especially if, as Rep. Stoddard says, he is simply looking for answers to his questions. If I had questions regarding his bill, I wouldn’t send a subpoena, I’d make an appointment with him," the attorney general shot back. "During this session, my team has helped Rep. Stoddard with his criminal justice bills but I don’t believe he has ever asked to meet with me to discuss his concerns. My door is always open."
Reyes made no secret of his support of former President Trump and his unsubstantiated claims of election fraud. Following Trump's defeat on Election Day, Reyes took personal time to travel to Nevada to help the Trump campaign's investigation in voter ballots.
Before the end of the year, Reyes joined 16 other attorneys general by including Utah in a petition to invalidate election results in states won by President Joe Biden. The lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Reyes defended that move in his statement.
"As I stated at the time Utah joined the Texas lawsuit, we need to have the U.S. Supreme Court answer a critical constitutional question regarding separation of powers. Namely, when are executive and judicial branches allowed to change or disregard state law without approval of the legislative branch or referendum process," he said. "I know many state legislators along with a majority of Utahns wanted this question answered and still do. I understand the Supreme Court is hesitant to address even important constitutional issues like this amid political controversy. Nevertheless, it is a question that remains and needs to be answered before the next election cycle."
By opening the bill, an investigation is launched into whether there is "high crimes, misdemeanors or malfeasance." If misconduct is found, the Utah House of Representatives would then draft articles of impeachment. It would take a two-thirds vote to actually make that happen — and the bill likely has narrow odds in a Republican supermajority.
House Republican leaders have so far declined to comment on the resolution. Rep. Stoddard insisted it was not a "message bill," designed to make a statement but not actually do anything.
"I know impeachment is kind of the fad now, but that’s not what I’m looking for," he told FOX 13. "What I want to know is, is he doing what he should to represent the interests of the state? As the attorney general, his client is the state and I feel like there have been multiple times when he’s failed in that attorney-client relationship to advocate for the interests in the state."
Rep. Stoddard is not the only lawmaker running a bill targeting the attorney general. House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, has introduced a bill to limit the kinds of "friend of the court" briefs the attorney general can file, restricting them to state interests only, and with consultation from the governor.
In 2013, the House voted to launch an investigation into then-Utah Attorney General John Swallow, but it was outside the typical impeachment process. They ultimately decided not to proceed with any impeachment (in part because they didn't have the full support of House members). Swallow, along with his predecessor Mark Shurtleff, faced criminal charges alleging corruption.
Swallow resigned, which led to Reyes being appointed. He has since been re-elected to his office, which is an independent member of the executive branch.
Ultimately, charges were dropped against Shurtleff and Swallow was acquitted in a jury trial.