Two Utah prosecutors — one a Republican, the other a Democrat — claim they have uncovered evidence that could implicate Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) in their investigation into state politicians and online gambling interests. Both lawmakers' offices have dismissed the claims.
Sam Gill and Troy Rawlings are already working with the FBI and are now urging federal prosecutors with the Department of Justice to open an investigation. So far, the DOJ has declined to do so.
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 11: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) answers questions following a weekly policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on March 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. Reid commented on allegations made by Sen. Dianne Feinstein regarding the CIA and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Win McNamee/Getty Images
“The Utah officials say the evidence relates to suspect campaign contributions and other financial transactions,” ABC News reports.
Gill, a Democrat and district attorney in Salt Lake County, said there could be an “innocent explanation” or a “sinister explanation” behind the evidence. The only way to get to the bottom of it is to fully investigate, he said.
Rawlins, the district attorney in Davis County, argued the “most appropriate entity to review those type of things, if they would, would be the Department of Justice.”
He said the DOJ has a responsibility to “look at allegations of conduct or misconduct involving federal officials.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah pauses while speaking at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md., Thursday, March 6, 2014. Thursday marks the first day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which brings together prospective presidential candidates, conservative opinion leaders and tea party activists from coast to coast.(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
More from the ABC News report:
When they began, their effort was narrowly focused on allegations of corruption facing the newly elected Utah Attorney General, John Swallow. Swallow has denied the allegations against him, but resigned his state post in November, less than a year after being elected.
The investigation, with the assistance of the FBI team, has continued to focus largely on state players. But the two local prosecutors said they may be forced to consider expanding it to include federal players if the Department of Justice remains on the sideline.
“If somebody commits crimes and there's a nexus to the state of Utah and we can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, it doesn't matter who they are,” Rawlings said. “Even a U.S. senator. And no, we're not afraid of that. That's our job.”
Information about the investigation is limited because the probe is still ongoing. As the Washington Times notes, the case hinges on a few key questions:
• whether both or either politician sought or received money or other benefits from donors and/or fund-raisers in connection with doing political favors or taking official actions;
• whether Mr. Lee provided accurate information when he bought, then sold a Utah home for a big loss to a campaign contributor and federal contractor, leaving his mortgage bank to absorb large losses.
Further, some of the allegations seem to rely on claims made by one of the key players who worked at a St. George, Utah, bank that handled transitions made by one of the world's largest online poker companies to process hundreds of millions of dollars in proceeds.
"Johnson claims he was instructed by online poker figures to hide illegal contributions to the campaigns of Reid and Lee in 2010 by finding 'straw donors' who were reimbursed from poker accounts in the bank for money they supposedly contributed," the report states.
Johnson is awaiting trial in Utah on 86 Internet fraud charges. He is accused of cheating people out of millions of dollars.
Adam Jentleson, a spokesperson for Sen. Reid called the claims by the district attorneys a “publicity stunt.” He said Reid “has never been contacted in regards to this investigation" and called Johnson "a desperate individual who’s been indicted on over 80 counts."
A spokesman for Sen. Lee also said no one from the prosecutor’s office or the FBI has contacted the Utah senator.
Read the full ABC News report here.