Attorney General John Swallow says he's no criminal

Published: Tuesday, May 14 2013 6:15 p.m. MDT

Utah Attorney General John Swallow appears on "The Doug Wright Show" in Salt Lake City Tuesday, May 14, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General John Swallow said Tuesday that someone is behind the stream of allegations that have drenched his office the past five months but he declined to name names.

"It's hard for me to not come on the radio every day, to not come on TV every day and tell people what I really think and who I really think is behind this," Swallow said on KSL NewsRadio's "The Doug Wright Show." "But I'm keeping that to myself and hoping that people will be patient long enough for this process to resolve itself."

Pressed afterward to elaborate, Swallow didn't want to talk about what he meant and added that maybe he shouldn't have made the on-air comment.

"I don't think it's in my best interest to start blaming others right now," he said. "I wish I could comment further on it and I could. I have the agency to answer those questions, but I think they're questions better left for another day, and I feel badly that I raised that."

Swallow spoke to KSL and the Deseret News on Tuesday in his first extended interviews since indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson implicated him in January in what Johnson claims was a deal to pay off a powerful U.S. senator to derail a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Johnson's Internet marketing company in 2010.

The first-term Republican, though, wouldn't address in detail the various accusations thrown at him, saying he didn't want to interfere with or jeopardize the ongoing federal investigation.

"I'm not a perfect person, but I tell you I'm sure not a criminal," Swallow said.

And he said he expects to be exonerated and has no plans to resign.

"I'm a little handicapped right now because of the situation I'm in. I get that. People say, 'That's not fair. You ought to leave.' I can't control the situation I'm in, and if I felt I did something that wrong, I would leave," Swallow said. "But I'm not about to walk out of this office because people make allegations that aren't true."

The interview came on a day when GOP legislative leaders were briefed on the impeachment process and a day before state lawmakers were to convene for interim study meetings for the first time since the 2013 Legislature adjourned in mid-March.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser have different takes on when the Legislature would act. Niederhauser prefers for the investigation to run its course, while Lockhart said there's no commitment to wait.

Lockhart would not rule out the House — where impeachment is initiated — making an impeachment decision before the investigation is done.

“I’m saying we haven’t made any decisions,” she said. “All options are on the table at this time.”

Told that Swallow had said he hoped lawmakers would wait until the investigation was completed — and that it's what he would have done when he served in the Legislature — Lockhart responded, "The attorney general is no longer a member of the Legislature."

Both Lockhart and Niederhauser say impeachment proceedings are not imminent.

Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said he doesn't believe the accusations against Swallow have risen to malfeasance, high crimes or misdemeanors, the impeachment criteria outlined in the Utah Constitution.

"It would have to be at almost a criminal level to instigate an impeachment process," he said. "We don't feel it's at that level at this point."

Swallow said he thinks it's only fair that lawmakers wait on the outcome of the ongoing federal investigation.

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