Reese: Utah Lawmakers Must Rein in the State Attorney General


Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes speaks during the Solidarity Rally against racism at Washington Square Park in Salt Lake City, Utah on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Rishi Deka | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Isaac Reese, Opinion Writer


John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff, the two people who served as Utah’s attorney general before current Attorney General Sean Reyes, both left the position embroiled in corruption scandals — and Reyes is likely to join his predecessors. After years of chaos in the attorney general’s office, Rep. Brian King has filed H.B. 232, which would limit the powers of the state attorney general by requiring them to get the governor’s permission to file an amicus curare brief or join in legal matters outside of Utah. Rep. Andrew Stoddard has also introduced a resolution of impeachment against Reyes, an avid Trump supporter and member of the Republican Attorney Generals Association, in order to prompt an investigation into his actions as attorney general. RAGA encouraged supporters to join in the insurrection that took place on Jan. 6 at the US Capitol. Reyes has sought to undermine the US election and overturn democracy all while dishonoring the state of Utah. These bills would put a check on Reyes’s office and help suppress the political aspirations of a man who has become dangerous to our state and our democracy.

This past December, Reyes joined 17 other state attorneys general in seeking to overturn the election results in swing states that Trump lost, such as Pennsylvania. None of these cases had anything to do with Utah. Our election results were never expected to be fraudulent and our vote-by-mail system is widely supported by Utah Republicans. We have a secure voting system in Utah and national election security officials confirmed that the 2020 election was the most secure in US history. Reyes ignored the facts and, in a legal opinion known as an amicus brief, sought instead to reinstall Trump as president even if it meant destroying American democracy — all while representing the state of Utah.

King decided to run H.B. 232 after Gov. Gary Herbert and then-Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox issued a statement at a daily COVID-19 briefing after Reyes had announced the amicus brief. “The Attorney General did not consult us before signing on to this brief,” the statement read. “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.” Reyes used public funds to pursue a lawsuit that was about his personal political ambition and support for Trump — not Utahns’ best interests. King’s bill would put a check on Utah’s attorney general office and limit the power that position holds, which Reyes has demonstrated is absolutely necessary.

Stoddard filed articles of impeachment against Reyes to gain information about Reyes’s relationship with RAGA, on whose executive committee he sits. RAGA sent out a robocall on Jan. 5 encouraging supporters, whom it referred to as “patriots,” to attend the planned insurrection “to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our election.” RAGA leadership, seeking to absolve themselves of responsibility, insist that staffers sent out the robocall. However, Reyes’s actions and rhetoric following the election show that this robocall was very much in line with RAGA leaders’ views. Stoddard’s decision was, of course, met with backlash from Utah Republicans. Speaker of the House Brad Wilson said, “Spending valuable time with prolonged debate on the matter would hinder our ability to handle the more pressing matters at hand.” But on the same day that Wilson issued that statement, the Utah House debated H.R. 3, a resolution honoring Utah Jazz player Donovan Mitchell. Wilson’s statement was clearly an excuse not to address Reyes’ impeachable actions.

Stoddard’s impeachment resolution is not guaranteed to result in Reyes’s impeachment, but it is the only way to get a proper investigation into Reyes’s ties to the Jan. 6 insurrection. “I know it sounds extreme, but this is really the only way I have to get information. We don’t have any middle ground when it comes to investigation,” Stoddard said in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune.

Reyes has proven to be a rogue representative who prizes his own political agenda over Utahns’ values. Utah lawmakers should take King’s and Stoddard’s concerns — and their own responsibility to hold Reyes accountable — very seriously.


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