SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Republican lawmakers were discussing the legal ins and outs Wednesday of a possible impeachment of state Attorney General John Swallow.
The three-hour caucus meeting of House Republicans marks the first time state lawmakers have involved themselves in the controversy surrounding Swallow, who has been dogged by allegations of misconduct starting shortly after he assumed office in January.
He’s the subject of a federal investigation and complaints filed with the Utah State Bar and the elections office.
The lieutenant governor’s office, which oversees Utah elections, is bringing on outside attorneys to help investigate complaints against Swallow.
Swallow, a Republican, has denied any wrongdoing, and his personal attorneys have told lawmakers that any impeachment proceedings would be unjustified.
Swallow dropped by a Wednesday morning meeting of conservative lawmakers to answer detailed questions about the allegations against him. Swallow told reporters afterward that he wanted a chance to tell his side of the story, and he said the federal investigation he asked for in January will clear his name.
“I just felt like my side of the story needed to be told,” Swallow told reporters after the meeting.
“They deserve to hear my side of the story, and I want to make sure that they know that I’m a man who’s trying to do the best I can in my office, and that the allegations that are out there are very biased, from very incredible sources.”
Swallow said he’s not concerned about the meeting scheduled later Wednesday to discuss the possibility of an impeachment investigation.
“I’m not here to judge what they decide to do one way or the other,” he said. “There is a very active federal investigation going on, which I’ve called for, that I believe will clear my name. If the Legislature feels like they need to do something on top of that, then that is their prerogative and I completely respect their prerogative.”
The controversy around the attorney general began after Utah businessman Jeremy Johnson, who faces 86 federal counts of fraud and money laundering, accused Swallow of engineering a plot to thwart a Federal Trade Commission probe by bribing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Reid and Swallow have denied Johnson’s allegations.
Johnson is one in a series of Utah businessman in trouble with regulatory agencies who has alleged Swallow and former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff offered to protect them from investigators or prosecution in exchange for money or favors.
Swallow and Shurtleff have denied any wrongdoing.
Last week, Gov. Gary Herbert, also a Republican, told reporters that he’s alarmed about the allegations surrounding the attorney general, and if Swallow worked for Herbert, the attorney general would be fired.
Meanwhile, House Democrats, which make up only 14 of the 75 members in the House, have all called for an investigation and possible impeachment of Swallow.
Two-thirds of the members of the Utah House of Representatives would have to be in favor of an impeachment session in order for that process to start. If the House later voted to impeach Swallow, the Senate would serve as judge and jury.
Impeachment is a relatively rare process that’s only been started once in Utah history. In 2003, the House approved a resolution to begin an impeachment investigation of a Utah judge facing drug charges, but the judge resigned before the investigation began.
Two Republican House lawmakers have publically called on Swallow to resign, saying it would save public dollars from being spent on any potential impeachment investigation.
Swallow has repeatedly said he has no plans to step down.
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