Trump's unhinged ANWR story again contradicts Sen. Dan Sullivan's version of reality

To hear Sen. Dan Sullivan tell it, President Donald Trump showed a complete mastery of the key policy questions regarding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in a meeting two years ago.

Trump gave a muddled ANWR ramble a year ago in which he said he didn’t care anything about the subject until a friend told him every president since Ronald Reagan had failed to get ANWR opened for exploration.

“And after that, I said, “Oh, make sure that’s in the bill,’” said Trump, referring to the amendment in the 2017 tax bill that opened a portion of the refuge.

“It was amazing how that had an impact. That had a very big impact on me, Paul (House Speaker Paul Ryan). I really didn’t care about it, and then when I heard that everybody wanted it — for 40 years, they’ve been trying to get it approved, and I said, ‘Make sure you don’t lose ANWR,’” Trump said to a Congressional GOP retreat in West Virginia on Feb. 1, 2018.

After those remarks, Sullivan told a Washington Post reporter that Trump wasn’t telling the truth, though Sullivan, who never criticizes Trump, did not use those words.

Sullivan said that he and Sen. Lisa Murkowski had told Trump all about ANWR drilling in early 2017 and Trump knew everything worth knowing.

The Post report on Feb. 1, 2018 said Sullivan countered Trump’s ANWR tale this way: "No, no, no, look," Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said in an interview after Trump's speech, recalling exactly how he and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) made their pitch. ‘We had the opportunity to brief the president last year. It was early, like February or March. Over an hour, in the Oval, you know, that's a lot of time.’"

With then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also in “the Oval,” Sullivan and Murkowski went into detail with Trump, who already knew a lot about Alaska, according to Sullivan.

"It was maps, it was on his desk, Zinke was there. And it was all about Alaska, all about Alaska issues, all about our priorities. And we talked about ANWR," Sullivan said.

"He's been rock solid on this, ever since, ever since," Sullivan told the Post in 2018.

“The Alaskan senators were pleased with how well-versed Trump already was about the state,” the Post said.

One of the obvious questions is whether Trump has indeed been “rock solid” and is trying to be a comedian about ANWR or if he has forgotten what he was told two years ago.

On Saturday, Trump invented another version of the ANWR creation story at the Conservative Political Action Conference in a two-hour talk-a-thon. Any poor man who gave that performance on a street corner would be hustled off to counseling, but power has its privileges.

Without naming Murkowski, Trump hinted to CPAC that he could have kept ANWR out of the tax bill and might have done so because he was mad at her for failing to do his bidding.

The truth is that the ANWR provision was in the GOP tax bill not because of Trump, but because without it, Murkowski would probably have opposed the tax bill.

Trump likes to make up his own version of the past, twisting facts to match his mood.

Trump’s Murkowski complaint could be a reference to the Obamacare repeal vote, but more likely he is telling it this way now because he is still mad at Murkowski for opposing Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court last year, which had nothing to do with ANWR.

He told CPAC that ANWR may be the largest oil and gas field in the world and “I got it approved.” Wrong on both counts.

Then he said he didn’t want ANWR to be in the tax bill. “ And I didn’t want to get it approved for a certain reason because I thought somebody treated me very badly, very badly. Don’t get that vote very often. And I said, you know, I don’t wanna get it. Then I get a call from a friend of mine. And he’s in the oil business.”

“He said to me, ‘Hey, and they all call me Mr. President,” Trump said.

And just like that, Trump lost his train of thought and never returned to finish his ANWR story.

He went into an extended routine about how friends that he has known for decades who used to call him Don or Donny, now call him Mr. President.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson offered a rational summary of Trump’s performance: “The president of the United States gave a rambling and incoherent two-hour speech in which he raved like a lunatic and told crazy, self-serving lies from start to finish. If that no longer qualifies as alarming, we’re in serious trouble.”

From Dermot Cole: I created this blog in late 2017 to help fill a void in the level of political commentary and analysis, drawing upon what I’ve learned in reporting on state and local government in Alaska since 1976. The readership has been growing and I want to thank everyone for the encouragement along the way.

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Dermot ColeComment