(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Sullivan’s irrelevance in defense of democracy

Two years ago this week, supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol…

  • By Rich Moniak
  • Saturday, January 7, 2023 12:11am
  • Opinion

Two years ago this week, supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to disrupt Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election. Sen. Dan Sullivan condemned the violence and noted the rioters “did not have the last word.”

But that’s only true in the formal sense that Congress did certify the election and Joe Biden was sworn in as the nation’s 46th president. Since then, Sullivan and many of his Republican colleagues silently acquiesced to Trump’s revival of the stolen election lie that animated the rioters. Among some of his supporters, they’ve even been called patriots and political prisoners.

Now we’ve learned that after order had been restored to the Capitol, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, made two phone calls to Sullivan still seeking to delay the certification and ultimately overturn the election. That fact was included in the final report by the House Select Committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack.

In an email to the Anchorage Daily News, a spokesperson acknowledged the calls from Giuliani but stated Sullivan didn’t answer them because he didn’t recognize the phone number. He didn’t listen to the messages the caller left until two days later, at which time he realized “Giuliani actually had the wrong number, as the message made clear the calls were intended for another Senator, not Sen. Sullivan.”

But Giuliani’s mistake in dialing the wrong number doesn’t change the fact he was blatantly asking another U.S. Senator to help Trump subvert the Constitution. And a true defender of the Constitution would have considered publicly disclosing those calls while turning over the evidence to the Attorney General’s office.

That’s not a conclusion made by the Select Committee. Indeed, they made no further reference to Sullivan. But the one they did make was in a paragraph that stated Giuliani also called four other senators and a congressman, each of whom were known to be assisting Trump’s continuing effort to overturn the election.

That may be why Sullivan felt it was necessary to have his spokesperson criticize the Select Committee for not “doing its own due diligence” by reaching out to him. But it’s an unfair charge because he could have and should have voluntarily provided them with the information.

There’s no doubt Sullivan was acutely aware of the ridiculously false claims of election fraud Trump tweeted out to the world. He knew Trump and his allies had filed and lost more than 60 lawsuits challenging the results. On some of those, judges appointed by Trump excoriated his attorneys for failing to submit any credible evidence of fraud. And Sullivan can’t possibly deny knowing that Trump personally asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” and illegally declare him the winner in that state.

Furthermore, the day after he voted to certify the election, Sullivan lent credibility to Trump’s lies by stating “it is increasingly clear that tens of millions of Americans, including thousands of Alaskans, question the legitimacy of the outcome of this election.” He cosponsored a bill calling “for the establishment of a 9/11-type commission that will bring transparency to many of the issues and irregularities of the 2020 election.”

But he later voted against establishing an independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection and the events that led up to it.

Throughout Trump’s fraudulent schemes to remain in the White House, Sullivan refused the honorable paths of speaking and seeking the truth. His only serious condemnation came during the second impeachment trial. But he followed that with a lame reading of the Constitution to acquit Trump.

I think that sorry record left the Select Committee with no expectations that Sullivan would be cooperative. And if the only evidence they had that he may have been a participant on Trump’s illegitimate team were the phone calls from Giuliani, then his testimony would have added little to nothing to their pursuit of the truth.

Absent their interest in his testimony, Sullivan still had ample opportunities to let committee and the American public know the truth about those calls. Instead, he chose to believe they were inconsequential and would never be revealed. And that decision makes him an irrelevant figure in the stand against the greatest domestic threat to American democracy in 160 years.

• 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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