SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's new attorney general is under fire and trying to prove he did not arrange or take a bribe. Monday evening, he denied allegations that he brokered a deal between businessman Jeremy Johnson and Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.
Attorney General John Swallow joined elected officials from both political parties and called for an investigation of the charges leveled against him by St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson.
"I categorically deny that these allegations are true," Swallow said. "I'm looking forward to clearing my good name. I know this investigation will help."
Allegations surfaced last week that Swallow helped broker a bribe between Johnson and Sen. Reid — an accusation Reid's office said he had "no knowledge of or involvement in."
"For him to come out now and say we had some kind of scheme to bribe someone is absolutely ludicrous."
Johnson, who is under indictment for mail fraud, also said Swallow put him in touch with people who had ties to the Federal Trade Commission — the agency investigating his company. He said he was told those connections could make that investigation go away. The price tag: $600,000.
"With very little information, it's been easy for people to get excited about this," Swallow said. "But now, as more and more information continues to come out, people are going to know this isn't true."
Swallow said he only put Johnson in touch with a friend and former client who knew lobbyists that might be able to help him with federal regulators — before Johnson was sued by the FTC.
"It did not seem at the time, to me, that it was that big of a deal for me to go ahead and say to him, ‘I will introduce you to someone I know who knows people who might be able to help you, for a fee,'" Swallow said.
"For him to come out now and say we had some kind of scheme to bribe someone is absolutely ludicrous," he added.
"This is not a partisan issue ... everyone in the state wants to know if the attorney general of their high government officials (is) a crook. It's that simple."
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis made a formal inquiry Monday, asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate Utah Attorney General John Swallow.
"This is not a partisan issue," Dabakis said. "I mean, everyone in the state wants to know if the attorney general of their high government officials (is) a crook. It's that simple."
The allegations are enough for some Utah Republicans to call for an investigation as well.
"Give them subpoena power," said Enid Greene Mickelsen, former GOP congresswoman. "Let them go through and figure out exactly what happened, and present it to the public. This is the top law enforcement officer in the state."
Swallow flatly denied the allegations late Monday afternoon and called for an investigation himself.
Along with denying the allegations, Swallow wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah David Barlow Monday, also calling for an investigation.
"I urge your office to look into these allegations," Swallow wrote, "and I pledge my full support and cooperation."
Meanwhile, the attorney general is forced to face what he calls a "horrendous" situation. The past few days, he said, have "been some of the worst days of my life."
The judge has set a Feb. 8 deadline for any new evidence, or new indictments, related to the Johnson case. If Swallow were to be implicated in any way, his name would most certainly be included in a new indictment.