Sen. Sullivan defends support of Trump nominee Kavanaugh

Sen. Dan Sullivan addressing the AFN convention. ()Photo by Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan says he has spoken to Brett Kavanaugh amid Kavanaugh’s pending nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court about concerns raised by the Alaska Federation of Natives this week.

Listen now

AFN announced Wednesday it opposes Kavanaugh’s appointment to the high court, citing his past opinions on Native rights. AFN is the largest Native organization in the state. Alaska’s other senator, Lisa Murkowski, is seen as a potential swing vote in Kavanaugh’s confirmation. But Sen. Sullivan has said – and, after talking to Kavanaugh, still says – he will vote to confirm the Trump nominee.

Speaking to reporters today in his Anchorage office, Sullivan said that if he thought Kavanaugh was hostile or opposed to Alaska Native interests, he would not support his confirmation.

“And yesterday, I asked judge Kavanaugh directly if he held such views. And he said no, and I believe him,” Sullivan said.

Part of AFN’s opposition had to do with a memo Kavanaugh wrote about Native Hawaiians not being legally recognized as tribes. Asked if he thought Alaska Native tribal recognition would be safe with Kavanaugh as a justice on the Supreme Court, Sullivan said yes.

“I’m not saying that’s an illegitimate line of reasoning, but they are apples and oranges, legally,” Sullivan said. “I think the Hawaii case is completely non-applicable to Alaska Natives.”

Sullivan was traveling from Washington D.C. to Alaska today as news broke about allegations against Kavanaugh that he sexually assaulted a woman in high school, something Kavanaugh strongly denied. Sullivan said he was still getting caught up on the news but would have serious concerns about voting to confirm Kavanaugh if the allegations turned out to be true.

A previous version of this story claimed AFN is the “oldest and largest” Alaska Native organization in the state. It is not the oldest.