U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, speaks to a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature at the Alaska State Capitol on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, speaks to a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature at the Alaska State Capitol on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Dan Sullivan’s convenient amnesia

Here’s a history lesson that Sullivan’s public persona is desperate to forget.

  • By Rich Moniak
  • Friday, April 7, 2023 12:48pm
  • Opinion

“The indictment of a former president and current candidate for the White House is unprecedented and will almost certainly do lasting damage to our polarized nation” Sen. Dan Sullivan wrote in a news release last Friday. He argued that it’s “moved our country into banana republic territory,” and added the “American people will see through this abuse of the rule of law.”

Here’s a history lesson that Sullivan’s public persona is desperate to forget.

Early in the morning after election day in 2020, then-President Donald Trump declared himself the winner despite the fact the millions of votes in key states had yet to be counted. With absolutely no evidence at all, he called the election “a major fraud on our nation.” He proceeded to beat that drum for the next two months. It culminated in a violent attack on the nation’s Capitol.

There’s no question Trump’s unprecedented acts seriously damaged American democracy and further polarized the nation. Or that he mocked the justice system with dozens of frivolous lawsuits to overturn the election and an ill-advised scheme to convince Vice-President Mike Pence to block Congress’s certification of it.

Now I’m not impressed by the facts alleged in the indictment. But to take a page from Sullivan’s defense of Trump’s right to challenge the 2020 election, everyone needs to let this case play out in a “transparent, observable” manner while trusting “our institutions and our courts are here to work through the challenges.”

Then again, Sullivan’s statement last week wasn’t written for anyone who understands that. It was aimed at a particular audience—the people who trust Fox News hosts like Sean Hannity. Indeed, it was a somewhat restrained echo of Hannity, who called the indictment “a disgusting political hit job the likes of which we have never seen in this country.”

Of course, thanks to the lawsuit Dominion Voting Systems filed against Fox News, we know their talk show hosts don’t tell their audience what they really believe.

On camera, Tucker Carlson is one of Trump’s biggest fans. But in a text message sent to a co-worker two days before the insurrection at the Capitol, he expressed relief that the network was “very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights.” And he followed up by writing “I hate him passionately.”

We’ll never know what Sullivan says about Trump in private. Sen. Lisa Murkowski may though. During the widespread protests over the murder of George Floyd, she endorsed this blistering attack on Trump by James Mattis, his former Secretary of Defense. “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. … We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”

After reading that, Murkowski wondered if her colleagues “are getting to a point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally” and find “the courage of our own convictions to speak up.”

Unfortunately for America, she’s among the small minority who found it.

For more than six years, Fox News and much of the Republican Party have acted like parents who coddled their seriously troubled adolescent. Knowing that holding Trump accountable for his irresponsible and loathsome behavior would erode their image among the party’s base, they opted to empower him by looking the other way.

In that regard, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, may be the worst offender. But before becoming an unabashed Trump defender, he predicted this mess they’re in.

“The bottom line is that I believe Donald Trump would be an absolute, utter disaster for the Republican Party” he said on “Face the Nation” in 2016. A few months later he added the party would “deserve” being destroyed if Trump was the nominee.

But it’s not an indictment for falsifying business records in connection with a scheme to benefit his electoral prospects that will finish the job. It’ll happen when Trump’s banana-republic-like scheme to overturn the 2020 election catches up to him.

And when indictments related to that are issued, Sullivan needs to remember what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said during Trump’s second impeachment trial — “former presidents are not immune from being held accountable” in our criminal justice system.

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