Will House vote for impeachment proceedings against Swallow?
Burbank believes lawmakers may be reluctant to begin an investigation because the public will expect to see results after the incidents in question are detailed for the first time outside of media reports.
"That really opens a door. It's hard for politicians to then say, 'We began investigating and there's nothing there,'" the professor said. "It's very hard to then say there wasn't really anything going on."
Lawmakers, Burbank said, won't be expected to look at "illegal actions that have to be proven in court. They're going to be about, 'Does this look bad?'"
There's also an issue of the cost involved in an impeachment proceeding. Although the state has yet to estimate the price tag, similar efforts in other states have cost millions of dollars.
Lockhart said her constituents are split over what action lawmakers should take.
"I'm hearing the entire spectrum, people who say it's a media witch hunt, there's no facts out there, etc., all the way to others who say he's got to go, he clearly can't do the job," she said. "I would have to say I hear more of that — 'It would be better if he resigned' — than I hear anything else."
There is more pressure, too, from others weighing in on the Swallow situation.
Two groups, the conservative Sutherland Institute and the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah, have called on Swallow to resign. Gov. Gary Herbert cited Swallow's ethical challenges and said if the attorney general worked for him, he'd be gone.
Lockhart declined to publicly state whether she believes Swallow should step down because of her potential involvement in impeachment proceedings. "He maintains his innocence," she said. "And I can't make decisions for him."
House Minority Leader Jen Seelig, D-Salt Lake, said she agrees with the speaker on the need to approach a legislative investigation carefully.
"I think everyone just wants to be absolutely correct," she said. "If the goal of this is to restore the public trust, we've got to do it right."
While GOP House members mull impeachment proceedings, the Republican-controlled Senate will stay on the sidelines for now.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said the Senate and House have separate impeachment duties and both are jealously guarding them.
"I think it's clearly the responsibility of the House to file articles of impeachment and go through the investigative process," Niederhauser said.
The Senate, he said, needs to remain impartial because it would conduct the trial if the House advances articles of impeachment.
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