Marco Rubio wants you to know he's very tough on Russia. He even sponsored a bill to rename the street outside the Russian embassy after a slain opposition leader. Take that, Vlad! So surely there would be no senator in today's James Comey hearings more eager to grill the fired FBI director about whether Donald Trump illegally tried to stop a criminal probe into his presidential campaign's possible collusion with Putin's regime, right?
Nope! You must have forgotten that Marco Rubio is the dictionary definition of a career politician. He's a walking receptacle for PAC money, an empty vessel more than happy to roll around in the political winds until he finds a position that — first and foremost — advances his own career.
After a curiously timed, intimate dinner with Trump last night, Rubio apparently decided that position was going full-on attack dog to help the president, the same guy Rubio (correctly) spent months on the campaign trail calling a "con man."
Rubio asked Comey zero questions about the Russians' influence on the elections (which the ex-FBI head later testified was a "massive effort" that was "about as un-fake news as you can possibly get.") Rubio spent zero minutes honing in on the extent to which Trump interfered in an ongoing criminal probe. (Comey later called Trump a liar and said the president indeed fired him to muck up the probe.)
So how did Florida's junior senator spend his allotted seven minutes?
By trying to paint Trump's utterly inappropriate conduct as benign — and then slamming Comey for not "leaking" the fact that Trump wasn't, at the time, personally under investigation.
"This all comes down to three things: The president asked for your loyalty, and you said you would be honest. He asked you on one occasion to let the Mike Flynn thing go because he's a good guy," Rubio said, before noting that the president admitted to the Flynn request in press interviews the next day.
(Note to Marco: Just because the president is dumb enough to admit in a televised interview that he tried to obstruct justice does not mean obstruction of justice is not a big deal.)
Then came Rubio's would-be coup de grâce.
"This investigation is full of leaks left and right. We learn more from newspapers than in our open hearings, for sure," Rubio said. "You ever wonder why in all this investigation, the only thing that's never been leaked is that this president is not personally under investigation, despite the fact that Democrats and Republicans in leadership positions in Congress have known that for weeks?"
Huh, good question Marco! Except that story did leak!
Here's the lead of the story:
President Trump was correct when he said he wasn’t personally under investigation in the FBI’s Russia election meddling probe, two key senators said Thursday, though both of them said the government owes the public a better explanation of what’s going on.
The Times cites its reporting to Sen. Chuck Grassley, the head of the Senate's Judiciary Committee.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
As dumb as Rubio's nationally televised self-own was, his line of questioning also missed the entire point of Comey's assurances to the president that — at that time — he was not under investigation.
Comey's investigation was honing in on senior White House and campaign officials like Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort. He never told the president or the Senate today that the investigation would never lead directly to Trump himself. It just hadn't gotten there yet.
In fact, the whole reason he declined the president's urging to publicly state he wasn't under investigation is because if the probe did turn directly onto Trump, he'd then be obligated to publicly say so.
No one who's closely watched Rubio's rise to prominence in South Florida was surprised by his performance at the Comey hearing today. Marco Rubio looks out for Marco Rubio — and if he's decided to hitch his train to Trump's, not even blatant Russian intrusion into American democracy will stand in his way.