SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah legislator is seeking to impeach Attorney General Sean Reyes for "misusing the powers of his office" in his recent campaign to overturn the country's election results.
Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, opened the bill Tuesday and said in a statement the decision was not made lightly. Stoddard said Reyes has been shameless in his effort to "undermine our country's election results."
"As an attorney and a public officer, he has violated his duty to the state," Stoddard said. "He has put the aims of special interest groups above the voters who elected him."
In a statement released Tuesday evening, Reyes said impeachment was "a drastic measure," especially if Stoddard is simply looking for answers to questions.
"If I had questions regarding his bill, I wouldn't send a subpoena, I'd make an appointment with him," he said. "My door is always open."
Days after November's presidential election, Reyes issued a statement saying he would review and advise on potential lawsuits relating to the election on his personal time. By December, the recently re-elected attorney general had joined 16 other states in supporting a Texas petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to review the election process.
The move infuriated former Gov. Gary Herbert and Gov. Spencer Cox, who at the time said they were not consulted and called the involvement an unwise use of taxpayer money.
"I know many state legislators along with a majority of Utahns wanted this question answered and still do," Reyes said, referring to the issues brought up by the Texas petition. "I understand the Supreme Court is hesitant to address even important constitutional issues like this amid political controversy. Nevertheless, it is a question that remains and needs to be answered before the next election cycle."
"As Attorney General, I have to defend state election laws and advise the executive branch but can't do so if the force of those laws is in question," he continued.
The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit, saying Texas did not have legal standing to bring the case forward. The petition was one of several attempts former President Donald Trump and his supporters made to overturn the results of the election, claiming there was widespread election fraud that led to the win of President Joe Biden.
My thoughts: pic.twitter.com/lopCgoJome— Andrew Stoddard (@RepAStoddard) January 26, 2021
State election officials have reported no evidence of widespread fraud and Trump's lawyers and other accusers did not present evidence in court of the type of fraud that was alleged. Since the election, Trump falsely claimed victory several times and repeatedly told his followers Biden's win was fraudulent.
Hundreds of rioters later descended upon the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in the name of Trump as lawmakers met to certify Biden's win. Multiple people died in the storming and hundreds have since been arrested.
Trump was impeached for the second time during his presidency, this time for his alleged role in inciting the violent insurrectionists to attack the Capitol. His impeachment trial is slated to begin in February.
The Republican Attorneys General Association, a group Reyes has ties to and has accepted campaign contributions from, has since been linked to the violent Jan. 6 riot in D.C., something Stoddard said needed to be looked at.
"Reyes has not provided clear answers to his involvement with any of this," Stoddard said. In the wake of the attack, Reyes condemned rioters in a series of tweets.
Stoddard added that he believed impeaching Reyes was the best course of action to investigate his involvement with the lawsuit and determine further action.
Members of the state's House of Representatives can file an impeachment resolution against a public officer for "high crimes, misdemeanors, or malfeasance in office," according to Utah Code 77-5, and the House needs at least a two-thirds vote to succeed.
The Alliance for a Better Utah, a nonprofit group aimed at holding politicians accountable, supported the move and said they look forward to learning what the investigation uncovers.
"The people of Utah deserve to know," the group wrote on Twitter.
State Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, tweeted his support of the bill and called for ethics in the attorney general's office.
"My action is not meant as a display of incivility or partisanship," Stoddard said. "My decision comes from a desire to make sure that our state is represented ethically and to hold public officers to the highest standard of public responsibility."