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Utah lawmaker opens bill to explore impeachment against AG Reyes

Jan 26, 2021, 10:18 AM | Updated: 4:37 pm
Impeach sean reyes...
FILE -- Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes gives the keynote speech during a luncheon for Comcast NBCUniversal scholarship recipients at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Comcast NBCUniversal awarded $51,000 in scholarships to 34 Utah students as part of its annual Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes issued a statement late Tuesday, responding to a state lawmaker who opened a bill file exploring the possibility of impeachment against him. 

Stoddard: impeachment one of few options available to address Reyes

In a statement released Tuesday, Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Midvale, said Reyes “has worked shamelessly over the past few months to undermine our country’s election results,” and “put  the aims of special interest groups above the voters who elected him,” a statement by Stoddard read. “As an attorney and a public officer, [Reyes] has violated his duty to the state. He has put the aims of special interest groups above the voters who elected him.”

Stoddard’s bill to impeach Reyes is unlikely to gain much traction in the Republican-controlled Utah Legislature.

“I’m afraid I would describe this in maybe one or two really short words, and they probably shouldn’t be in print,” said Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, the Utah Senate budget chairman, according to Deseret News.

Stoddard joined Dave & Dujanovic to elaborate on his thoughts, which said were not driven by politics. 


Rep. Stoddard joined Dave and Dujanovic to discuss his proposed bill for impeachment against Reyes. 

 


As a legislator, a member of a coequal branch of government, my options to investigate these potentially unethical and impeachable offenses are very limited,” Stoddard said in his statement. “I can file a GRAMA request, or I can open a bill file seeking impeachment. The current state code provides no in-between option for the legislative branch to investigate another branch of government.” 

Stoddard criticized Reyes for his participation in the Republican Attorneys General Association, which Stoddard asserted is “very concerning given their role in inciting the domestic terrorism that occurred at our nation’s Capitol on January 6th.”  

Reyes responds to impeachment call

Late Tuesday, Reyes called impeachment “a drastic measure,” and extended an invitation to Stoddard to talk further. 

“If I had questions regarding his bill, I wouldn’t send a subpoena, I’d make an appointment with him,” Reyes said in his statement. “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, RAGA and election challenges

On Dec. 9,  Reyes joined 17 other attorneys general in endorsing a lawsuit brought by Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton calling for the 62 Electoral College votes in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — four battleground states won by President Joe Biden — to be invalidated.

The other states — all won by Mr. Trump — that joined the rejected petition were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Reyes defended Utah joining the Texas lawsuit in a tweet on Dec. 9.

 

On Dec. 10, an impeachment petition drive began circulating on Change.org  aimed at attracting 5,000 online supporters. The call for Reyes’ impeachment surpassed the 5,000 mark by the next morning.

On Dec. 11, the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out the Texas lawsuit to contest Biden’s victory. In its unsigned ruling, the court said Texas lacked standing to bring the case.

“Unwise use of taxpayers’ money” 

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the lawsuit seditious. “Texas’ efforts to get this [Supreme Court] to pick the next president has no basis in law or fact,” he said.

Reyes also reportedly took personal time off to join former Mr. Trump’s unsupported legal challenges to overturn the legal vote in Nevada. After visiting Nevada, Reyes said he saw evidence of voting irregularities that may have resulted in improper votes being counted or proper votes being rejected, according to Deseret News.

At the time, Gov. Gary Herbert and Gov.-elect Spencer Cox said they were not consulted about joining the Texas lawsuit and  called doing so  “an unwise use of taxpayers’ money.”

“The attorney general did not consult us before signing on to this brief, so we don’t know what his motivation is. Just as we would not want other states challenging Utah’s election results, we do not think we should intervene in other states’ elections,” they wrote at the time.

Stoddard’s full statement is below:

Utah’s Attorney General, Sean Reyes, has worked shamelessly over the past few months to undermine our country’s election results.  As an attorney and a public officer, he has violated his duty to the State.  He has put the aims of special interest groups above the voters who elected him.  His involvement with RAGA, the Republican Attorneys General Association, has been very concerning given their role in inciting the domestic terrorism that occurred at our nation’s Capitol on January 6th.  Reyes has not provided clear answers to his involvement with any of this.  

As a legislator, a member of a coequal branch of government, my options to investigate these potentially unethical and impeachable offenses are very limited.  I can file a GRAMA request, or I can open a bill file seeking impeachment. The current state code provides no in-between option for the legislative branch to investigate another branch of government.  Therefore, after much consideration, I have opened this bill file to impeach the Attorney General.  My action is not meant as a display of incivility or partisanship.  My decision comes from a desire to make sure that our state is represented ethically and to hold public officers to the highest standard of public responsibility.

In December, Attorney General Reyes joined 16 other attorneys general in endorsing a baseless Texas petition to invalidate the election results in four battleground states won by President Joe Biden – Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin, which was ultimately rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.  He also reportedly took personal time off to join former President Trump’s unsupported legal challenges to overturn the legal democratic vote in Nevada. 

Under Utah Code §77-5, members of the House of Representatives may file a resolution of impeachment against public officers for “high crimes, misdemeanors, or malfeasance in office.”  The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment but requires at least a two-thirds vote to succeed. 

More response from Reyes

As to his involvement in the election lawsuits, Reyes defended his role in Tuesday’s 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 wrote. 

He also denied any involvement in planning or encouraging violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. 

“I immediately and emphatically denounced the lawlessness and loss of life on January 6 in the same manner I condemned the equally tragic riots, looting, burning, violence and loss of life all summer long in cities across our nation,” Reyes said.

Related: How the impeachment process works in Utah

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Utah lawmaker opens bill to explore impeachment against AG Reyes