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Politics & Government

Will Utah Have Its Own Impeachment? Utah Lawmaker Opens Investigation Into Attorney General Sean Reyes.

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State Attorney General's Office
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Sean Reyes has been Utah’s attorney general since 2013 and recently won re-election in 2020.

This story has been updated to reflect new statements from Attorney General Sean Reyes and lawmakers.

Republican Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is facing a possible impeachment. The move stems from his ties to an organization that urged people to go to the U.S. Capitol the day it was sieged and for his involvement in challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, announced Tuesday morning that he planned to sponsor an impeachment resolution against Reyes, which he said is the best way to investigate Reyes’ actions. The other option is to request files through the state’s public records law, GRAMA.

“Impeachment really isn't my main goal — the investigation is,” Stoddard said. “It's just impeachment was the method that I had to use to get to it.”

Stoddard acknowledged that some will see this as a partisan move, but he argued “we can't have true civility until we have true accountability.”

Reyes criticized the move in a statement.

“Impeachment is a drastic measure, especially if, as Rep. Stoddard says, he is simply looking for answers to his questions,” Reyes said. “If I had questions regarding his bill, I wouldn’t send a subpoena, I’d make an appointment with him. 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."

The day before the pro-Trump violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the Republican Attorney Generals Association sent out robocalls encouraging people to come to a Trump rally held outside the Capitol that day. The call also encouraged people “to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections.” Reyes is a former chair of RAGA’s nonprofit arm, the Rule of Law Defense Fund. The group donated $125,000, along with additional in-kind contributions, to Reyes’ 2020 re-election campaign.

Reyes’ office denied any involvement in the robocalls and said in a statement that Reyes “condemns in the strongest possible terms all acts of violence and lawlessness at the Capitol building.”

The calls in January weren’t the first time that Reyes faced scrutiny over his involvement in investigations into unsubstantiated election claims of election fraud.

Back in November, the attorney general also traveled to Nevada during a “personal weekend” to investigate unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Additionally, Reyes signed on to a Texas lawsuit contesting the election results in several battleground states. That lawsuit was thrown out by the Supreme Court.

Stoddard said he did not inform House leadership that he intended to open an impeachment resolution before he announced it publicly Tuesday morning. House Speaker Brad Wilson has so far declined to comment.

House Speaker Brad Wilson released a statement Tuesday evening that indicated he was not in favor of pursuing an impeachment investigation.

“Impeachment is a loaded word that will certainly grab headlines, but I have not seen any evidence that the attorney general’s actions meet the threshold set for us to pursue that course of action,” Wilson said. “Spending valuable time with prolonged debate on the matter would hinder our ability to handle the more pressing matters at hand.”

But legislative leaders in the Senate are critical of the impeachment resolution.

“That's kind of a Washington, D.C. effort of divisive politics,” Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said. “I'm really disappointed in the resolution and I hope it doesn't go anywhere because I just don't believe that's productive. In Utah, we're better than that.”

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said he would describe the impeachment effort “in maybe one or two really short words and they probably shouldn’t be put into print.”

Neither Gov. Spencer Cox nor Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson are in favor of the impeachment effort.

“We have many serious and pressing matters in the state of Utah today,” they said in a joint statement. “This is not one of them.”

Another Democrat, House Minority Leader Brian King, is trying to put some guardrails on Reyes’ powers as attorney general. King is sponsoring a bill to require the attorney general to only sign on to lawsuits that “support or protect state interests.”

King said he’s supportive of the impeachment inquiry as a way to investigate the attorney general.

“It’s a pretty serious thing what happened on Jan. 6 … and we shouldn't be minimizing it,” King said. “To the extent that anybody wants to minimize active involvement by our attorney general in what happened on Jan. 6, they need to reevaluate their position and their oaths of office.”

Updated: January 26, 2021 at 1:36 PM MST
This story has been updated to reflect new statements from Attorney General Sean Reyes and lawmakers.
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