Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, speaks during a news conference on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, speaks during a news conference on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Opinion: Sullivan defends democracy abroad, but not at home

On Tuesday, Sen. Dan Sullivan uncharacteristically defied Donald Trump. He along with 21 other Republicans and almost 50 Democrats voted to pass a bill providing Ukraine with military aid to defend its embattled democracy. But he continues to look the other way while Trump attacks the underpinnings of American democracy.

“You don’t ‘preserve’ democracy by removing candidates from the ballot,” Sullivan said in January after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump’s involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection disqualified him from the presidency.

The profound irony of those words is it would have died here three years ago if Trump’s unconstitutional scheme to remain in power had been successful.

In the brief Trump submitted with his appeal of the Colorado ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, his attorneys introduced him as “the leading candidate” to be his party’s presidential nominee.

That’s a true statement. But it’s entirely dependent on something that’s not true. Trump wouldn’t even be a candidate if Republican voters knew he’s been lying all along about the 2020 election being stolen.

He never had “plenty of proof” of fraud, which he first claimed two days after the election. He wasn’t telling the truth a few weeks ago when speaking to a talk show host on Newsmax. “There’s so much evidence,” he said. ‘There’s so much proof. We have it all. Nobody wants to hear about it.”

The Supreme Court would have examined the evidence three years ago if Trump included it with his motion to intervene in the very undemocratic Texas lawsuit that would have thrown out all the votes in four states. But rather than admit he had none, Trump argued it wasn’t necessary “to prove that fraud occurred.” The issue was whether state officials unlawfully loosened “the measures for ballot integrity so that fraud becomes undetectable.”

More recently, as a criminal defendant in a related case he defended his frequent references to a “rigged” and/or “stolen” election as merely an expression of a “disfavored viewpoint” that’s “not readily verifiable or falsifiable.”

By not reporting the contradictions between Trump’s public statements and his defenses in court, the conservative news media helps him perpetuate his stolen election lie. And if he wins the election in November, he’ll want to turn that fiction into a nationally ratified fact.

Attempts to rewrite history in that Orwellian fashion have already begun. Last July, a group of House Republicans proposed a resolution to expunge the Jan. 6 related Article of Impeachment against him “as if such Article had never passed the full House of Representatives.”

But falsifying the historical record may not be enough to satisfy the MAGA faithful. They’ll probably expect him to fulfill his promise to pardon everyone convicted for their involvement in the insurrection. And starting with President Joe Biden, to prosecute all the offenders they think helped steal the election from him.

Recall how Trump warned Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that he could be held criminally liable for not reversing the election results in his state. Raffensperger’s disclosure of that conversation not only angered Trump, it temporarily made him the face of an alleged nationwide conspiracy that included the state and local election officials who certified Biden’s victory, the network officials who called the race for him, and investigative reporters who debunked Trump’s many false claims of fraud.

Speculating Trump would prosecute so many people may seem over the top. But if the election really was stolen, he’ll have to take some action. After all, he can’t let what he frequently referred to as the “crime of the century” go unpunished. The only option to not prosecuting those who allegedly committed it is to admit he’s been lying all this time, which he’ll never do. Or pardon everyone for a crime they’ll insist never happened.

Sullivan contributed to putting our democracy in this sorry state. Although he criticized Trump’s judgement immediately after the insurrection, he lent credibility to the stolen election narrative by saying the concerns of those who didn’t trust the official results “should not be dismissed.” Since then, he’s offered nothing in response to anyone’s concerns.

And now, while he’s doing the right thing by voting for aid to bolster Ukraine’s defenses, he’s continuing to act as if Trump’s endless attacks on America’s democratic institutions aren’t even happening.

• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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