The comments by Alaska’s top elected leaders to former President Donald Trump’s indictment say a lot about what they think of the public.
Two out of the three — our governor and junior U.S. senator — must think the public is politically motivated above all else, unable to consider the facts and unwilling to believe that the former president could ever do anything wrong.
A federal grand jury in Florida indicted Trump on 37 counts for his dishonest and allegedly illegal handling of highly sensitive, national security-level secret documents. Essentially, the former president and staff packed up a lot of top-secret documents when voters booted him out of the White House, carted the papers off to his private residence in Florida, hid them from the National Archives and investigators, and lied about it the entire time.
Trump must think stealing classified documents is the same as pilfering nice towels when he checks out of a hotel. The difference being that he owns the hotel, so he’s only stealing from himself, though I suppose it’s possible that his hotel submitted a fraudulent insurance claim for the stolen towels.
These were not mundane secret documents, such as the wine price list for a state dinner. The indictment reports that the purloined paperwork included information about defense and weapons capabilities of the United States and foreign countries, U.S. nuclear programs, potential vulnerabilities of the U.S. and its allies to military attack, and plans for a possible retaliatory attack.
No one knows what Trump planned to do with the documents. Odds are, even he didn’t know. The former president is a self-promoting opportunist, not a thoughtful planner.
Alaska’s senior U.S. senator, Lisa Murkowski, was the only one of the state’s three top leaders who provided a reasoned, non-judgmental response to the indictment. “When you look at a series of 37 charges here, it would appear to me that they are serious,” she told reporters in Juneau on June 9. “It ought not matter who you are — whether you are a former president, whether you are an intelligence analyst that kept classified documents — these are serious matters and no one can pretend that they have the ability to look the other way on the law. So, we’ll see where these steps in this process go next.”
Alaska’s other U.S. senator, Dan Sullivan, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy saw the same indictment through their judgmental, partisan-tainted glasses. President Joe Biden is the villain, not Trump, they said.
In a prepared statement, Sullivan suggested the indictment would “do lasting damage to our polarized nation.” Note that he didn’t say Trump had done any damage. In Sullivan’s politics-dominates-everything world, the indictment is the problem, not the crime.
“The Biden administration is shoving our country into dangerous territory that is eroding trust in critical institutions of our government,” Sullivan said on social media. There he goes again, blaming the messenger, not the criminally liable.
It was more of the same from Dunleavy.
“There is no denying President Trump is the most persecuted president in our country’s history,” Dunleavy said on Twitter before the indictment was made public. “I am afraid the American people will continue to lose trust in our governmental institutions.” Maybe the governor confused “persecuted” with “prosecuted,” but what’s the right word matter when making an irresponsible political point.
And the worst of it? Both Dunleavy and Sullivan issued their defense of Trump, their attacks on Biden, their dismissal of the grand jury’s work without having read the indictment. They used social media to comment on what they heard about on social media, without even taking their Twitter thumb off the keys long enough to do some homework.
“You’ve got my statement and that’s what I’m sticking with,” Sullivan told reporters.
No reason to keep an open mind when politics rule the day.
• Larry Persily is a longtime Alaska journalist, with breaks for federal, state and municipal service in oil and gas, taxes and fiscal policy work. He currently is publisher of the Wrangell Sentinel weekly newspaper.