Alaska U.S. senators quiet on colleagues’ critique of President Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House on July 25, 2017. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/The Associated Press)
Yesterday afternoon, two Republicans rocked the U.S. Senate with harsh criticism of President Trump for what they call flagrant disregard for truth and debasing the nation. One even sounded a call-to-arms from the Senate floor, as he announced he won’t run for re-election. So far, Alaska’s two senators aren’t engaging on the issue.

Tuesday was not a normal day in the Senate. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., essentially called the president, the chief of his own party, a serial liar and a danger to the country.Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., took to the Senate floor to, among other things, call on colleagues to stand up to Trump, even if it means alienating Republican voters back home.

“We are not here simply to mark time,” Flake said during his 18-minute address.“Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office. And there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time.”

Flake says senators should think about how they’ll answer when the next generation asks, “why didn’t you do something?” He didn’t say it, but it was clear Flake was talking about the danger he sees in not speaking out on President Trump.

Lisa Murkowski (Republican – Alaska) didn’t comment on the matter (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/The Associated Press). (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
Awaiting Murkowski response

A day later, most Republican senators aren’t embracing Flake’s message, at least not publicly.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski hasn’t issued a statement on the matter. Her tweets included a happy birthday to the United Nations, a notation of her support for disaster relief and a news story about a seal on the runway at Utqiaġvik. Her spokeswoman said she had no time for an interview on the subject of the president’s Republican critics but said Murkowski respects Flake and Corker.

Sen. Dan Sullivan didn’t issue public statements either (though he, too, tweeted about the seal on the runway.) When asked if Corker was wrong when he said the president “has great difficulty with the truth,” Sullivan chalked up Corker’s remarks to a feud.

“Look, I don’t want to get involved with the ongoing dispute between Sen. Corker and the president,” Sullivan said.

As for heeding Sen. Flake’s call to arms, Sullivan said he didn’t listen to the speech because he was chairing a subcommittee meeting Tuesday afternoon, and then was busy with other things. But Sullivan said he does call out the Trump administration on policies he thinks are wrong.

“And, you know, I don’t support the tweets,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think they’re helpful, particularly on foreign policy. And the insults. I have been saying that for months.”

The Alaska senators critized Donald Trump during the presidential race

The Alaska senators spoke up to criticize candidate Trump last year. Both Sullivan and Murkowski called for Trump to give up the Republican nomination after the Access Hollywood tape emerged, in which Trump bragged about grabbing women by the genitals.

Sullivan started his Senate career as a more persistent critic of the president, though at that time it was Democrat Barack Obama. Sullivan said that’s because Obama’s policies were bad for Alaska and his administration shut down access to natural resources in multiple ways.

“When this new administration is actually trying to help us, trying to reverse a lot of that, I want to be as supportive as possible,” Sullivan said. “Particularly when we’re a state that’s in a recession right now.”

Alaska’s senators will no doubt have other opportunities to weigh in on their colleagues’ criticism of the president. Both Corker and Flake have announced they’re not running for re-election, but they will remain in office until January 2019.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Arctic countries blast Trump decision to withdraw from Paris climate deal, Eye on the Arctic

FinlandU.S. pullout from Paris climate pact condemned by Finnish leaders, Yle News

Sweden:  Sweden’s climate minister : U.S. withdrawal from Paris sends a bad signal, Radio Sweden

United States: Democrats urge investigation into Trump administration efforts to pressure Alaska senator , Alaska Dispatch News



Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

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