U.S. attorney for Utah John Huber resigns

Huber served in the role for six years, and said he’s stepping down at the request of President Joe Biden.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) US Attorney John Huber talks about "Operation Reboot" a statewide Sex Offender operation involving the US Marshals Service and 11 separate statewide agencies, during a news conference on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. Huber announced on Wednesday that he'll resign as U.S. Attorney for Utah at the request of President Joe Biden.

U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber announced Wednesday that he’ll resign from his post at the direction of President Joe Biden.

Huber has served as Utah’s top federal prosecutor for six years, and was initially appointed by President Barack Obama. This is the second time a president has asked him to step down. When President Donald Trump took office in 2017, he also asked Huber to quit, although the former president later re-nominated Huber for his old job later that year. Huber remained in his position through Trump’s term.

“From the time President Obama appointed me, through President Trump’s administration and up to my final day of service, I have aspired to be a statesman who prioritizes patriotism over partisanship,” Huber wrote in his resignation letter.

His last day will be Feb. 28.

“Certainly, our nation is in the midst of considerable discord and strife,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, with the unique perspective as the only United States Attorney appointed by both President Obama and President Trump, I observe that what binds us together as Americans is so much stronger than the issues that would pull us apart.”

It has become common for new presidents to ask for the resignation of the top federal prosecutor in each district. Utah has only one federal district.

Highlights of Huber’s tenure include battling with Rep. Phil Lyman over restitution payments when Lyman, a former San Juan County commissioner, was convicted of a misdemeanor after leading a ATV protest down Recapture Canyon. Lyman ultimately paid the remaining balance of his $95,955.61 in damages with one lump sum last October.

He negotiated an immunity agreement with the Utah Transit Authority, which had been mired in controversies over high executive pay, bonuses, sweetheart deals with developers and conflicts of interest. UTA agreed to cooperate and to submit to federal monitoring. But prosecution of former UTA board member and developer Terry Diehl fell apart before it reached trial.

The Trump administration also tasked Huber with investigating the Clinton Foundation and the FBI’s inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Huber closed the probe without bringing charges in January 2020, prompting Trump to later tweet that the attorney was a “garbage disposal unit for important documents.”

But Huber threw his support behind several Trump initiatives, including tougher punishments for people who re-enter the U.S. illegally and blocking some federal funds from going to so-called “sanctuary” cities.

Huber, who is from Magna, was also a tough-on-crime prosecutor, who recently tackled gangs and violence in Utah by targeting people accused of drug and gun crimes and giving them hefty federal sentences.

His office used this tactic in Ogden as part of the revived Project Safe Neighborhoods program, and it was recently announced that his office was partnering with officials in Salt Lake City to do the same.

Huber said in 2018 that they were aiming to incarcerate the worst offenders and stop the revolving door of criminals going in and out of Utah’s jails and state prison. Some critics said this approach, however, could lead to over-incarceration of people who commit minor crimes.

Last year, Huber was involved in a large effort, called “Operation Reboot,” which ensured sex offenders were properly registered. He said the success of the operation showed that calls to defund police departments were “ludicrous.”

In a commentary published last week in The Salt Lake Tribune, Huber wrote that local partnerships have resulted in “significant reductions in violent crime and drug trafficking carried out by chronic offenders, gang members, and Mexican cartel affiliates.”

”In my experience, my colleagues across administrations would not disagree with objectives to hold violent offenders accountable, to stem the tide of dangerous drugs that bring death and despair to our neighborhoods, and to seek out those who exploit the vulnerable,” he wrote. “Americans are united on these issues and so many more.”

Huber wrote in that commentary that he had fulfilled leadership roles under two administrations and added: “I now look forward to serving at the pleasure of President Joe Biden.”

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