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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox both was and wasn't in any rush to offer his opinion when he was asked about the FBI's execution of a search warrant at former President Donald Trump's Florida residence Monday.
"We really don't have much information," adding that he's "always cautious" to weigh in on a situation when he doesn't have enough information, during an online question-and-answer town hall meeting with Utahns on Tuesday evening.
The question about the raid was the last one the governor answered, resulting in a 6-minute response.
FBI agents swarmed Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate after a judge signed off on a search warrant. The U.S. Justice Department hasn't revealed much about the search; however, Trump's family has indicated that agents were looking for official presidential records taken from the White House, according to Reuters.
It happened as Congress continues to investigate the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, which is tied to Trump's election loss in November 2020.
Cox explained that he could see both sides of the argument currently playing out. On one hand, the federal government has never taken action in a way like what played out on Monday; on the other hand, he said the former president should not be considered above the law — if he did violate laws.
"Any time something that happens with a former president of the United States and we have another party in office, there is automatically going to be a reflexive movement to believe that it is political," he said. "I think, I hope that the Department of Justice and FBI really understand that and understood that when they undertook this.
"We do not believe in punishing our political enemies or using the levers of justice — or police powers of our state — to punish in any way our political adversaries," he added. "I don't believe that Republicans should do that to Democrats. I don't believe Democrats should do that to Republicans. ... It worries me."
So while he figures Democrats will celebrate the raid as proof that Trump is guilty of crimes and Republicans will bemoan the raid as a possible political tactic, he says he will just wait for the facts to come to light before forming an opinion on the matter.
The governor had plenty of thoughts when it came to other political topics, such as recent attacks on Utah election security. Simply put, he believes Utah's elections are safe and secure.
He pointed out that the Utah Legislature seems to pass a new law every year that improves the integrity of Utah elections, especially with most residents voting by mail. This year, they approved a plan to add cameras outside of dropboxes to ensure the boxes aren't tampered with.
"We have audits every year, in every one of our election systems, to make sure they are functioning the right way," he said. "We do it right before an election, we do it right after an election. We do these sample audits to make sure things are working."
Dealing with the drought
Drought and water consumption, however, seemed to be the topic of the day. Utah's reservoirs are at about 51% capacity statewide, according to the Utah Division of Water Resources.
Cox said he favors more efficient uses of water, such as water-wise lawns and "more responsible" farming practices, by using new technologies that use less water.
He also believes Utah's new law that can temporarily remove the state's "use it or lose it" policy will also help allow water to flow into the Great Salt Lake, which is at its lowest levels ever recorded. Critics of the plan argue that the new law still doesn't permanently protect the Great Salt Lake, though.
More projects, including ones to improve streamflow to the Great Salt Lake, are on the docket, according to the governor.
Why Utah gas prices remain above the national average
Cox led off Tuesday evening's event by answering a question about why Utah's gas prices are still well above the national average.
Gas currently costs about $4.71 per gallon in Utah, according to AAA data as of Tuesday evening. That's about 68 cents per gallon above the national average; however, Utah's average is also nearly a dime below where it was last week and about 50 cents below where it was a month ago.
The governor reminded his online audience that the high gas prices overall are a mixture of things, including Russia's invasion of Ukraine. He also blasted the Biden administration for what he calls a lack of oil and gas development in the U.S., something he has criticized before.
There are other factors as to why Utah is usually above the national average. For instance, there isn't enough oil and gas production in Utah to provide for the state's needs and there isn't enough refining capacity either, Cox said. The state then relies on imported gas, which drives up the cost.
"Historically, as the rest of the country comes down, we come down slower; but as the reservoirs build up, then we even out with the rest of the country," he said. "We're headed in that direction but (we) can't get there soon enough."
What about the teachers?
One thing the governor said he is willing to do is to pay teachers more because, well, the state might have to. Many school districts are worried about staff shortages as the new school year starts.
What does he think is the fastest solution? Increase the pay of teachers, which is an area where the state has historically lagged behind others. This is a tactic the state is already using to help attract and retain Utah Highway Patrol troopers during a shortage.
"It's the right thing to do and that's exactly what we should do," Cox said. "I believe the same should be done for teachers."