SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said Friday he will take a "personal weekend" to help "review and advise" any potential lawsuits out of state related to the 2020 presidential election.
His announcement comes as Utah politicians have reacted to claims from President Donald Trump about votes cast during the election. Trump, who is trailing the electoral vote according to projections by the Associated Press, said Thursday that his team expected "a lot of litigation" in the coming days as votes continue to be counted.
Reyes didn't say where he was going or his exact role was in the statement. Citing a spokesperson for the Republican Attorneys General Association, the Deseret News reported Friday that Reyes was in Nevada providing legal advice there. Nevada is one of the five remaining states that the Associated Press hadn't called, as of Friday afternoon.
Reyes claimed there were "irregularities" in the ballots that were either intentional or incidental. It wasn't clear what those irregularities were.
"I certainly do not believe all votes in the 2020 election are fraudulent — many dedicated volunteers and officials across the nation, including in Utah, worked hard to ensure a fair process," his statement read, in part. "But, if even some actions in battleground states resulted in improper votes being counted or proper votes being rejected, that compromises the overall fairness of the electoral process and can disenfranchise the votes of millions of Americans."
It only adds to the ongoing likelihood the Republican Party will challenge some election results in court. The Republican National Committee announced Friday that it had formed teams to challenge presidential election results in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The four states are where Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden was leading as of Friday afternoon. The Associated Press has called the race for Biden in Arizona and Michigan based on available election data.
Biden currently leads Trump 264-214 in electoral votes, according to AP projections. The predictions are formed based on election results, data of remaining ballots and ballot counting trends; but the results aren't final until states canvass election results. The state canvass process remains ongoing, not just in states without a clear winner but in states with a clear winner.
Reyes' tweets and the RNC team were announced after Trump spoke Thursday and again claimed rampant fraud in the ballot counting process in the states in which he was trailing. Again, the president spoke broadly about the claims and didn't provide evidence or details about the fraud he alleged.
"If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us," he said.
The AP debunked that claim and several others from his press briefing.
"Neither Trump's campaign aides nor election officials have identified substantial numbers of 'illegal' votes, much less the mammoth numbers it would take to ruin an easy win by Trump," AP writers Calvin Woodward and Maryclaire Dale pointed out Friday.
"He frequently speaks as if mail-in voting itself is illegitimate," they continued. "But it unfolded in accordance with state voting rules, in some cases adapted by officials to help voters get through the (COVID-19) pandemic safely."
There are many accusations of fraud that have circulated online but none have been substantiated or led to the uncovering of widespread corruption. One video in Michigan showed a person wheeling a wagon that some said was a box full of ballots into a counting center after polls closed. WXYZ, a TV station in Michigan, confirmed that person was one of their cameramen and the box actually contained camera equipment.
Another claim is that voters were handed Sharpie pens to fill out ballots in Arizona's Maricopa County but the ballot counting machine couldn't read the ballot. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, tweeted Thursday that his office was "now confident that the use of Sharpie markers did not result in disenfranchisement for Arizona voters."
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel fact-checked a claim that Wisconsin officials "found" 100,000 ballots early Wednesday morning that tilted the state's race toward Biden. The newspaper pointed out that a jump in results at that time was due to the city of Milwaukee finally reporting its absentee ballot results, which leaned Democratic.
The AP also currently lists the Democratic Party leading the Republican Party 212-194 in the House of Representatives based on projected results, with many races — including Utah's 4th Congressional District — yet to be determined; the Democratic Party held a 232-198 edge in the House heading into the election. A party needs to control 218 seats for House majority.
Senate majority is also unclear at the moment. The AP projects the Senate is led by the Republican Party, 48-46, with some races yet to be decided. A party needs 51 seats to hold the Senate majority. Final results there won't be determined until or after Jan. 5, 2021, when Georgia holds a special runoff election for both of its Senate seats.
Still, the wait for presidential election results is at center stage of the ballot counting process. In announcing members of the teams set to challenge results in four states, RNC chairperson Ronna McDaniel said in a statement Friday that she believed there were "clear irregularities" in the election but also didn't identify what those were.
"Every candidate, in every office from president down to the local level, has a legal right to challenge irregularities that occur in the process of canvassing ballots," her statement reads, in part. "We intend to ensure that every lawful voter has their vote counted in accordance with the law, that observers are granted the access they are due under state law, and that any irregularities that have occurred — whether by malicious intent or incompetence — are fully investigated to the fullest extent allowed under of the law. We will not give up on this process until every last issue has been resolved."
Sen. Mitt Romney chimed in Friday, tweeting that Trump is "within his rights" to request recounts or to call for investigations of voting irregularities "where evidence exists."
He criticized the other claims the president has made during the week. "He is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen — doing so damages the cause of freedom here and around the world, weakens the institutions that lie at the foundation of the Republic, and recklessly inflames destructive and dagererous passions," Romney said.
Rep. Chris Stewart tweeted that states must "continue to count all legal votes and if there is a legitimate claim to fraud, it should be investigated and brought before the courts."
As noted by the Congressional Research Service, all states have until Dec. 8 to have election results certified and disputes settled under federal law that was created in 1887.
Reyes himself was up for reelection this week and won another four-year term in office; his Democratic challenger, Greg Skordas, has conceded.
The leader of Alliance for a Better Utah, which touts itself as a nonprofit that "holds politicians accountable and advocates for progressive policies" for a better Utah, blasted Reyes on Friday.
"Days after being reelected, Attorney General Sean Reyes has left Utahns out to dry by abandoning his post to give his full attention to Donald Trump, attempting to undermine the outcome of a democratic election to advance his own partisan interests," said Chase Thomas, the organization's executive director, in a statement Friday.
"His unfounded allegations of voter fraud are irresponsible and simply not true. Just because Reyes may not like the results of the election doesn't make them any less valid. Every vote matters, and every vote must be counted," the statement continues, in part. "As the attorney general of a state that has enjoyed mail-in voting for years, Reyes should know this. Whether acting in his private or public capacity, preparing to contest election results that he personally dislikes is an absolute betrayal of the trust Utahns have placed in him."
Contributing: Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com