Former President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at a rally in Anchorage on Saturday afternoon, making good on a promise made more than a year ago to campaign against Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
“I do not know where other people will be next year, but I know where I will be — in Alaska campaigning against a disloyal and very bad Senator,” Trump said in a statement last March. This rally will be his first in the state, though he stopped in Anchorage during his tenure in the White House to refuel on trips to and from Asia.
In the U.S. Senate race, Trump is endorsing Republican Kelly Tshibaka, who is echoing unfounded allegations over the results of the 2020 elections.
Trump has also weighed in on the U.S. House election in support of former Gov. Sarah Palin, favoring her over fellow Republican candidate Nick Begich, who has said he voted for Trump in both 2016 and 2020.
In the governor’s race, Trump has given a conditional endorsement to incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy, saying he will support him only if Dunleavy does not endorse Murkowski’s reelection. Dunleavy has accepted the endorsement, but he will not participate in a planned fundraising event with Trump before the rally. The governor plans to meet with Trump on Saturday, according to Dunleavy’s campaign spokesman Andrew Jensen.
Tshibaka, the former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration under Dunleavy, is counting on Trump’s support in her run against Murkowski, who was one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to impeach the former president.
“I think we’re going to see a huge surge in support,” Tshibaka said in a phone interview earlier this month when asked about how the rally will impact the campaign.
Trump has faced renewed scrutiny in recent weeks with new evidence emerging from the U.S. House Jan. 6 committee linking him to the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol in 2021. In public hearings by the committee, testimony has indicated that Trump knew his supporters were armed on Jan. 6 and wanted to join them in the Capitol.
Murkowski said in a phone interview Thursday that she has been “watching the outcome from the Jan. 6 hearings.”
“My view of things is it doesn’t look too favorable for our former president,” Murkowski said when asked if Trump should face criminal charges for his involvement in the insurrection. “Beyond that, we will see how Alaskans welcome him.”
Tshibaka has rejected the idea that Trump is to blame for the attack.
“The individuals who broke the law and entered the Capitol, the people engaged in violence and destroying property — they’re responsible for their actions,” Tshibaka said. “The Jan. 6 committee is illegitimate and sensational.”
She has rejected the work of the committee, which was formed through a U.S. House vote largely along party lines.
“The way they’re conducting it with no regard for due process, no cross examinations, not being truthful in providing evidence that runs contrary to the witness evidence that they’re showing is a disservice of disinformation to the public. It’s trying to distract people from this disastrous Biden administration and everything that’s happening. And it looks like it’s an attempt to do a third Trump impeachment,” Tshibaka said.
“The Jan. 6 committee is handpicking what it shows. The entire time that (the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol) was happening, Trump was on the stage at the other end of the mall, and all the evidence shows that,” she added.
In fact, Trump left the rally to return to the White House at 1:17 p.m. on Jan. 6, well before before the Capitol was breached.
Tshibaka still casts doubt on the validity of the 2020 election, pointing to Arizona and Pennsylvania as states where she questions results.
“There’s a lot around the 2020 election that still is vague and undetermined. But we absolutely accept that President Biden is president,” Tshibaka said.
The House Jan. 6 committee is scheduled to hold another public hearing next week, and the U.S. Department of Justice is separately investigating the events of the Capitol attack. The public hearings have fueled calls for Trump to face criminal charges for his involvement in the attack on the Capitol.
Dunleavy did not respond to several questions sent to his campaign spokesman about his position on the 2020 election results and Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attacks.
“Gov. Dunleavy has been clear that he will remain focused on his race,” spokesman Jensen said in response to several emailed questions. Dunleavy has previously said that “no president has done more for Alaska than Donald Trump.”
Palin was not available for an interview on Thursday. The former governor endorsed Trump in his 2016 presidential run and in 2017 visited the White House at Trump’s invitation.
The rally, scheduled for 4 p.m., will take place in the 5,000-seat Alaska Airlines Center on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, despite some pushback from university students, faculty and staff.
“As a publicly funded university, it would be both illegal and unconstitutional to prevent a group from leasing university facilities based on speech that may occur in the facility or speech that we disagree with,” UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell said in a message to the university community sent July 1.
Save America, a political action committee that supports Trump, is under contract to pay the university $53,000 for facility use.
“After the completion of the rental, any additional costs will be added to the total cost,” Austin Osborne, a spokesperson for the university, said in an email. Such costs could include extra staffing and information technology needs, he said.
Traffic disruptions are expected, but the university “is working with the U.S. Secret Service and various municipal partners to mitigate the effect the event will have” on the university and surrounding areas, according to Osborne.
Anchorage Police Department spokesperson Cherie Zajdzinski said in an email that the rally is “business as usual for APD.”
“UAA has requested traffic control through APD and we will provide the support for this event as we would for any other event at that venue. UAA will pay for the officers’ time,” Zajdzinski said.