While making the rounds of political shows today, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said the FBI was right to investigate President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign’s connections to Russia and that a news conference held by the president with Vladimir Putin was “not a good moment.”
But the Republican senator also stressed he has not seen a reason yet to believe Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia.
“The only plot here is the plot to interfere in our elections by the Russians,” he said.
Carter Page investigation
Rubio appeared this morning as a guest on CNN’s State of the Union shortly after Trump tweeted that new documents prove FBI scrutiny of campaign adviser Carter Page reveal the investigation is an “illegal scam.”
Looking more & more like the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC. Ask her how that worked out – she did better with Crazy Bernie. Republicans must get tough now. An illegal Scam!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2018
Rubio pushed back on that and defended the FBI. “I have a different view on it,” Rubio told CNN moderator Jake Tapper. While he said Page was no “James Bond,” the adviser had connections to the Kremlin that predated his involvement with Trump.
“He’s a guy who went bragging around the world about his connections to Russia, so they [the FBI] knew who he was before the campaign,” Rubio said. “Then you see they guy kind of gravitating around a leading campaign, and then other things came up on their screen, and they said we’ve got to look at this guy.”
— CNN (@CNN) July 22, 2018
Rubio also noted Trump’s campaign had downplayed Page’s role, so connections between Page and Russia don’t indicate collusion in and of themselves. “Carter Page is one of these guys; we never would have heard of him before all this,” Rubio said.
FBI officials appropriately sought out approvals from FISA courts to conduct surveillance of Page, says Rubio, a member of the Senate’s foreign relations and intelligence committees.
Helsinki walk back
Rubio also visited CBS’ Face The Nation, where he said Trump had no choice but to take back comments made at a widely criticized news conference with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
“It was important that he [Trump] do that,” Rubio told moderator Margaret Brennan.
The comments came up in a discussion of Trump’s controversial appearance with Putin after a summit in Helsinki. There, Trump said Putin had strongly denied Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. “He just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said, according to transcripts. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
But the next day, Trump pulled back his comments, saying he meant to say “wouldn’t” instead of “would.”
Brennan asked if the senator was “really satisfied with what has been characterized as walk back.”
Rubio, a Republican who has been critical of Putin’s tactics for years, said the president had no choice but to rescind his comments after the Helsinki news conference played out poorly.
“It left the impression we were siding with Putin versus our intelligence agencies, so it was important that he do that,” Rubio said.
The Helsinki conference did not go well for the U.S., by Rubio’s assessment. “It was not a good moment, but it was what it was,” he said. “We need to move forward from that with good public policy, and part of that is, I think, standing with our intelligence community.”
@marcorubio on the Helsinki Summit: It was not a good moment, but it was what it was. We need to move forward from that with good public policy. And- and part of that is, I think, standing with our intelligence community. pic.twitter.com/3R5PH9dG6Q
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) July 22, 2018
The senator also stressed in his CBS appearance that FBI surveillance of Page was not the same as spying on the Trump operation. “I have a different view on this issue than the president and the White House,” Rubio said. “”They did not spy on the campaign from anything and everything that I have seen.”
Rubio, who ran against Trump in the Republican presidential primary in 2016 but exited after losing the Florida primary, said he would never stand with Putin. But he said election meddling should not be tolerated from any country.
“No matter what you are, Democrat or Republican, we wouldn’t want any country in the world involved in trying to influence the outcome of our elections or the direction of our elections,” Rubio said.
“We should never be tolerant of any country in the world coming into our own country and trying to pit us against each other. We wouldn’t tolerate that of France. We wouldn’t tolerate it of Luxembourg. Why would we tolerate that of Russia?”