Murkowski, Sullivan, Tillerson headed to Fairbanks for Arctic Council

By Erica Martinson, Alaska Dispatch News - May 10, 2017
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Rex Tillerson, chief executive of ExxonMobil, speaks during the 2015 IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston on April 21, 2015. (F. Carter Smith / Bloomberg)
Rex Tillerson, chief executive of ExxonMobil, speaks during the 2015 IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston on April 21, 2015. (F. Carter Smith / Bloomberg)

WASHINGTON — Alaska U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan hitched a ride to Fairbanks Wednesday with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the three headed to an Arctic ministerial conference there.

The three are leaving Washington, D.C. after a morning of State Department and White House official meetings with Russian officials, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. The FBI is pursuing an investigation into potential connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks with reporters at the Alaska Dispatch News offices on Wednesday, October 14, 2015. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks with reporters at the Alaska Dispatch News offices on Wednesday, October 14, 2015. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

Murkowski and Sullivan both suggested that the timing of the firing raised questions and concerns.

“Whether or not you are a supporter of Mr. James Comey’s actions as FBI Director, the timing of his firing – in the middle of an investigation into Russia’s interference in our election – is serious cause for concern,” Murkowski said in a statement Wednesday morning.

“The timing of the president’s firing of Director Comey raises questions that will need to be answered by the administration,” Sullivan said.

[Uncertainty about US climate policy looms over marquee Arctic Council event]

But, he noted that Trump “has the authority to choose the director of the FBI whom he believes will best lead the agency.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan meets with Alaska Dispatch News reporters on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, in Midtown. (Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News)
Sen. Dan Sullivan meets with Alaska Dispatch News reporters on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, in Midtown. (Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News)

Sullivan said that during the conformation of a new FBI director, investigations by the FBI and the Senate Intelligence Committee should continue regarding “Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, and the possible illegal unmasking of private citizens by federal officials. These investigations need to be free of political interference,” he said.

“The President cited that one of his reasons for firing Comey as FBI Director was that he had lost the public’s trust and was unable to carry out the duties needed for the job. It is now our job to restore that trust,” Murkowski said.

Tillerson and Trump separately met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Wednesday morning. Lavrov is expected to head to Fairbanks Wednesday as well.

Representatives of Murkowski and Sullivan said Tuesday that the senators were joining Tillerson on his State Department flight out of Andrews Air Force Base to Fairbanks for the Arctic conference.

A separate meeting between Murkowski, Ivanka Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt that was scheduled for Tuesday, to discuss an international climate agreement, was postponed, according to Murkowski’s spokeswoman Karina Petersen.