Unlike Sen. Marco Rubio, Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart actually had the guts today to take a stand on President Donald Trump's firing of James Comey, the FBI Director heading up an investigation into Trump's Russia ties. Of course, celebrating the fact that Diaz-Balart even took some sort of position is an extremely low bar (thanks, Marco!), and Diaz-Balart's actual thoughts on the matter are fairly nauseating.
In a statement released online today, Diaz-Balart said that Comey became a "controversial and divisive figure" after the 2016 presidential race, and effectively deserved to get canned.
"It is clear that Director Comey had lost the confidence of the Deputy Attorney General, Attorney General, and the President," Diaz-Balart wrote. "Unfortunately, he became a controversial and divisive figure due to perceptions that he either helped Secretary Clinton by not moving forward with an investigation, or that he helped then-Candidate Trump with his delayed announcement on October 28th."
I look forward to having an FBI Director that will have the full trust of the American people. pic.twitter.com/moJC4hgR7P— Mario Diaz-Balart (@MarioDB) May 10, 2017
The statement is a convenient way to dance around the fact that Trump fired the guy in charge of finding out whether the president has illegal ties to a foreign power. There is a swelling group of GOP congresspeople who say the Comey firing represents a breach of public trust and warrants the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump Administration.
News reports today also show it's not quite accurate to blame Comey's firing on the Clinton email scandal or Comey's October letter. The New York Times and Politico today reported that Trump literally just got angry at Comey for confirming that the FBI's investigation into Trump's alleged Russian ties, and asked Attorney Jeff Sessions to figure out how to axe Comey legally. So Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein laughably tried to pin this on Comey's handling of the Clinton investigation.
"The office of the FBI Director should be above controversy, and I look forward to having an FBI Director that will have the full trust of the American people," Diaz-Balart said. (It bears noting that virtually all Democrats and a sizable portion of Republicans aren't going to "trust" whomever Trump appoints to run the FBI next.)
Even Diaz-Balart's own South Florida congressional compatriots aren't siding with him. Fellow Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo has gone on the offensive, demanding a special Russia prosecutor and calling Comey's dismissal highly questionable.
"Today’s extraordinary decision raises many questions all of which must be answered," Curbelo said. "Congress and the American people need a transparent explanation as to how this decision was reached and why it was executed at this time. It is critical that the FBI can continue all of its pending work with independence and integrity – especially the investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to influence our last election and undermine American democracy. Today I reiterate the need for Congress to establish a Select Committee with full investigatory powers to thoroughly examine this matter.”
Of course, Curbelo is also fighting for his job right now after both he and Diaz-Balart voted to repeal Obamacare in April. Both congressmen refused to divulge their choices until after the vote went down. Curbelo, who'd previously said the American Health Care Act cut too many people off from insurance to be viable, flipped this time and voted for the measure.
But his district is more left-leaning than Diaz-Balart's, and with a midterm election coming in 2018, Curbelo appears genuinely worried he's going to lose his job. So sure, he gets some credit for taking a stand, but had he not, it's possible his own voters might have egged his house. (He's also voted for 92 percent of Trump's agenda. Diaz-Balart has fallen in line 100 percent so far.)
(Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Miami's other GOP congresswoman, hasn't released a statement on Comey's firing yet, but — judging by her vocal displeasure with the Trump administration and the fact that she's retiring in 2018 — she's likely opposed.)
This brings us back to Diaz-Balart, who has done little but expose himself as a pure political mercenary since Trump has assumed office. In the lead-up to the original AHCA vote in March, Diaz-Balart was accused of trying to trade his AHCA vote for assurances that Trump would crack back down on the Castro regime in Cuba. (Diaz-Balart is Fidel Castro's nephew.)
Both the New York Times and Miami Herald reported that Diaz-Balart was angling for some sort of trade, wherein he'd bargain away health-care access for 24 million people in order to get leverage on his biggest issue. One Cuban-American political insider in Miami told New Times called Diaz-Balart's actions a "blatant example of political prostitution."
Diaz-Balart's district only voted for Trump by five points, and could possibly swing left in 2018. His statement today isn't likely to endear him to many Miami voters.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.