SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Gov.-elect Spencer Cox continued to show public frustration over Attorney General Sean Reyes' decision to join 16 other attorneys general in an amicus brief aimed to throw out election results in four states that President-elect Joe Biden won.
Their comments were made while Reyes attended a White House luncheon in Washington, D.C. While in the nation's capital, the attorney general authorized a motion for Utah to intervene in the case. Utah became the sixth state to have join the lawsuit first filed by Texas.
Herbert, again, insisted state leaders were not consulted about the legal matter; in fact, he said he learned about it after a member of the press called to seek comment.
"I think this might be — in fact, it is a waste of our taxpayer's dollars to engage in this that's going to happen anyway without our involvement," Herbert said.
Both Herbert and Cox, who are Republicans, were speaking at the state's weekly COVID-19 press briefing when they were asked about Reyes' decision to join the amicus brief. The brief seeks to overturn election results, an action that would benefit President Donald Trump who was seeking a second term while representing the Republican Party.
Former Vice President Biden secured more than 270 electoral college votes needed to win the election, based on certified election results. The electors for each state are set to complete the states' process in the presidential election next week.
Cox pointed out that Reyes can make decisions separately from the governor's office because he works independently from the office. He said he also understands there are many U.S. citizens who wished that the presidential election ended differently but that allegations of voting fraud made in the weeks since the Nov. 3 election haven't produced much merit.
The governor-elect, who is an attorney by trade, said he reviewed the allegations made in the lawsuit and dozens of others that have already been thrown out in various courts.
"There is a possibility that voter fraud has happened, but you actually have to have evidence," he said. "I know there's a lot of evidence on YouTube and on the interwebs. I've looked at it; it's all been easily debunked. I keep waiting for the smoking gun that has been promised; I've yet to see it."
"I've talked to attorneys, lots of attorneys that practice in this area, and I've asked any of them if they think there's any chance of this succeeding — and all the good ones tell me 'no'; the mediocre ones tell me 'no'; and I haven't found a bad one that's even said 'yes,'" Cox later added. "Again, it's a frustrating time for people but we can do better."
VIDEO: @SpencerJCox on evidence of voter fraud: "I keep waiting for the smoking gun that has been promised. I've yet to see it."— Ladd Egan (@laddegan) December 10, 2020
About @SeanReyesUT joining #Texas#election lawsuit: "Whether #Utah gets involved in this won't change anything at all. It just costs money." @KSL5TVpic.twitter.com/m7NmsUchw4
A spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office confirmed with KSL.com that Reyes was in Washington attending a White House luncheon Thursday as a part of "a pre-arranged series of meetings." The official told KSL.com the process to join the brief included having the solicitor general read it, the executive staff meet about it and then send an email to join the amicus. They estimated that joining the brief cost "probably less than $1,000."
The same official told KSL TV that the Attorney General's Office had spoken with Herbert's attorney, so they believed Herbert should not have been caught off guard by Reyes's decision.
The lawsuit, filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, asks the U.S. Supreme Court to toss out election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which were all states President Donald Trump won in 2016 and lost in 2020.
It argues the results should be invalidated due to fraud and irregularities that took place during the election. The respective states in the lawsuit have all certified election results after investigations into their elections and are not among the 17 states in the lawsuit.
Herbert and Cox singled out that point in a statement Wednesday, saying they would be offended if outside states meddled in their election results if they concluded there was no widespread and systematic voting fraud within their election. The governor on Thursday added that he has no program with lawsuits over election results but that's something that states should avoid.
"That's the responsibility of the candidate and the campaign," he said. "I would take a dim view when I was a lieutenant governor running the elections office and have someone come in and say we're not doing it right in our state."
It's clear that there are split opinions among Utah's politicians about the amicus brief that goes beyond just Herbert, Cox and Reyes. For instance, Rep. Chris Stewart tweeted Thursday that he supports Reyes's efforts.
"There are questions that clearly need to be answered and this lawsuit is an effort to get those. We need all of the information to restore faith in our election process," he tweeted.
Utah House Democrats, on the other hand, joined Herbert and Cox in dismissing Reyes's participation. In a statement Thursday, Utah House Democratic Caucus officials said Reyes " chooses division over unity" and "does not appear to be working for the well-being of all Utahns."
"Reyes's actions call for closer scrutiny and oversight of the Office of the Attorney General's budget to ensure that the office is properly serving the interests of the state of Utah," the statement read, in part. "The Attorney General should immediately withdraw Utah from this embarrassing and irresponsible lawsuit."
Meanwhile, Cox said Thursday he believed the Texas lawsuit was the result of an effort of individuals doing whatever they could to prove they were right about the issue.
"Confirmation bias is a helluva drug," he said. "It just is. We all want to be proven right. We do. It's natural. I get it, but it can also be dangerous and that's my biggest concern."
Contributing: Ladd Egan, KSL TV