SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert called on federal authorities investigating Attorney General John Swallow to “either charge or exonerate,” accusing them of taking too long to look into allegations that surfaced late last year.
“Good grief, U.S. Attorney’s Office and those involved in it, come to a decision. The cloud hanging over it is unacceptable,” the governor said during the taping of his monthly news conference on KUED Ch. 7.
Herbert declined to say whether he has expressed his frustration directly to federal authorities. “I think they probably understand I’m a little bit perturbed. But I’m making it public today.”
Swallow spokesman Paul Murphy said the attorney general, too, would like to see the investigation completed and his name cleared. He said Swallow trusts the FBI and the Department of Justice are doing a thorough job.
"They alone know how long it will take," Murphy said.
Herbert, a Republican, said he has not been updated on the status of the investigation and even questioned whether authorities were looking into allegations that Swallow was involved in an attempt to bribe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
“You know, I keep hearing rumors out there. I know people who have been interviewed,” the governor said, declining to name them. He said he hasn’t been interviewed by federal authorities in connection with the case.
Federal investigators are looking into Swallow's relationship with indicted St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson. Johnson claims Swallow helped arrange a deal to pay off Reid to thwart a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Johnson's Internet marketing company.
Investigators also are looking into allegations that Swallow, a Republican, made campaign promises in exchange for donations from Internet entrepreneurs.
The investigation into Swallow needs to be completed, Herbert said, so the state can do what it needs to do to respond.
“It’s time,” he said. “I don’t understand why there’s the delay. Either charge or exonerate. But let’s get it done.”
University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell said recently that federal criminal investigations of this kind typically happen over "many, many months — not over many, many days."
"Even if the U.S. Attorney's Office could give us some sort of clarity here, the clarity would take six to nine months would be my guess," he said.
Cassell, a former federal judge, said it takes to interview witnesses and collect documents.
The U.S. Attorney's Office acknowledged in January that the FBI and DOJ are looking into Swallow. The office had no comment Wednesday.
Herbert told reporters he is, however, “absolutely 110 percent confident” that Lt. Gov. Greg Bell will be cleared of any wrongdoing related to his ordering an audit of a state department in a child-abuse case in 2011.
“I can tell you, all of the issues I’ve seen about that, this is much ado about nothing. The oversight responsibility we have as elected officials is real,” the governor said. “I can’t be as confident about the attorney general. I don’t know all the details there.”
The state elections office also is looking into allegations that Swallow violated campaign finance reporting laws.
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