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.
"I would just ask that they consider the source and they try their best to get it right. I respect their judgement and responsibility they have to represent the people, but I sure hope they get it right," said Swallow, a former Utah House member.
Swallow is the subject of at least two investigations and two complaints to the Utah State Bar.
The Department of Justice Public Integrity Section is investigating Swallow's dealings with Johnson and other entrepreneurs.
Last week, imprisoned businessman Marc Sessions Jenson produced receipts showing he covered Swallow's expenses for three trips to a ritzy Southern California resort in 2009.
Jenson said Swallow, in private practice at the time, bragged that he would soon be working as the attorney general's chief deputy and could help with his legal troubles.
Swallow said he couldn't talk any more about Jenson because his office is currently prosecuting him on new fraud charges.
But he did say, "As a private lawyer, you talk to people about legal representation. "Even if you don't end up representing them, there's nothing wrong with that."
Lt. Gov. Greg Bell is appointing special counsel to determine whether Swallow violated Utah election laws, specifically failing to disclose his interest in a consulting firm and a family trust and payments he received from another consulting job.
Swallow said he followed the advice of his estate planning attorney who told him he didn't need to provide that information because he was neither a trustee nor a beneficiary of the trust.
He said he believes the elections office has completed its investigation.
"All they need is, I believe, someone to look at what the facts are and decide whether or not that complies with the law," Swallow said.
The Democratic-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah and a former director of the state Divisions of Consumer Protection allege professional misconduct in separate complaints to the state bar.
Swallow said those complaints are being used as a "political weapon" and should have remained confidential.
"For someone to have filed it and then have released it to the media shows animosity and political agendas, rather than getting to the truth of something," he said.
In the interviews, Swallow said all the stories about him have been one-sided. Given the opportunity to tell his side, he cited the federal investigation and said when he speaks publicly, he wants it to be about attorney general business.
Despite the cloud hanging over the office, Swallow said, he put his "white shirt and tie" on and goes to work every day. He said he's moving forward with his agenda and goals to stand up for the state and to protect children and the rights of Utahns.
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