Swallow reaching out to lawmakers who may be asked to impeach
A.G. sits with FBI, then reaches out to legislators to derail impeachment talk; he says he feels “picked on by the press.”
Published: June 6, 2013 12:42PM
Updated: June 11, 2013 01:12PM
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Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo John Swallow, Utah Chief Deputy Attroney General, says payday lenders are appropriately regulated in the state -- an area of disagreement with his Democratic rival in the election for attorney general.

Embattled Attorney General John Swallow has been reaching out to Republican House members, telling his side of allegations to lawmakers who may be asked to decide whether to impeach Utah’s top cop.

Swallow has met with or called several legislators within the past several days to discuss concerns that have been raised.

The attorney general canceled a meeting planned for Wednesday at the Taylorsville home of Republican Rep. Johnny Anderson, who had invited Swallow to offer his version of events and answer questions from a group of lawmakers.

“I called him Monday to let him know some concerns I had about what I’ve been reading about and discuss the options I thought he had, one of which was resignation,” Anderson said. “We talked for about an hour and, while he didn’t necessarily convince me that resignation is not a prudent course of action, at some point, he did convince me that the people who might be making the decision on impeachment ought to have his side of the story.”

Anderson said he was told that Swallow was leaving town Friday and his schedule kept him from attending.

Swallow — who recently met with the FBI — remains under federal and state investigation after a string of allegations, including that he helped broker deals to assist a businessman suspected of defrauding thousands of customers and that he promised protection to potential campaign donors to his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff.

House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, planned to attend and said it would have been a valuable opportunity for lawmakers — who could be asked to weigh in on impeachment — to hear Swallow’s explanations.

“If we’re going to start a process like this, we can’t have all the information we glean from this come to us through the media,” Hughes said. “Some direct conversations with the attorney general need to be had and some hard questions asked with the expectation of some answers back.”

On Monday, Swallow sent an email to lawmakers touting the office’s work on public-lands issues, protecting traditional marriage and cracking down on online predators and criminal immigrants.

“I would invite you to contact me at anytime if you have any questions about what we are doing,” Swallow wrote, “or how things are going at the attorney general’s office.”

Swallow has spoken with several other lawmakers in the past week, including a face-to-face meeting with Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, who was the first legislator to call for Swallow’s resignation. Ray said he advised him to go talk to some legislators and tell his side of the story.

“He’s feeling quite picked on by the press,” Ray said. “There wasn’t anything that changed my mind either way. It was good information.”

Ray said he still believes the public has lost trust in Swallow and that he should step away — either resign or take a leave — until the investigation is done.

Rep. Derek Brown, R-Cottonwood Heights, who spoke with Swallow recently, said the attorney general was frustrated because Swallow felt like he hasn’t been able to fully respond to the allegations.

Brown said that also puts legislators in a tough spot.

“The difficulty as legislators is we want to have all sides of the story,” he said, “and there really isn’t a mechanism in place for us to do that.”

Last week, Rep. Spencer Cox, R-Fairview, wrote that impeachment is the process available for legislators to investigate the allegations against Swallow.

In a recent interview, Swallow’s attorney, Rod Snow, said his client was interviewed by the FBI more than a month ago — just before the case was transferred to the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section — and was told that he was considered a witness rather than a target of the investigation.

“As John views the events and as I look at what they asked that pertained to John,” Snow said, “it was my assumption that he wouldn’t be charged, and that is our expectation.”

Snow declined to detail what was discussed in the meeting with the FBI, preferring not to get in the way of the probe. Snow also has been in contact with investigators since then, but said there have been no subsequent meetings between Swallow and agents.

Meantime, House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, sent another email with information about the impeachment process to House members, her third such correspondence.

Wednesday’s email included a document from the Congressional Research Service on the grounds for impeachment and four pages of quotes from various sources about the standards for impeaching an official.

Republican House members plan to spend their June 19 caucus discussing the impeachment process.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke