Marco Rubio: The Russia probe is not a ‘witch hunt’

Michael Walsh
Reporter
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., departs after a full-Senate briefing by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on May 18, 2017. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Trump denounced the federal investigation into Russia’s interference with last year’s presidential election as a massive “witch hunt,” but former rival Marco Rubio disagrees with that assessment.

In an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning, Sen. Rubio, R-Fla., said the “cloud” of the Russia investigation is “affecting everything else” in Washington politics. He said it’s in the best interests of the U.S. for the Senate Intelligence Committee to produce a report based on fact that’s above reproach so that the country can finally move on.

“Well, I wouldn’t use the term ‘witch hunt.’ Look, these issues are being raised in the press. OK — people are going to the press who appear to be in the know, or at least pretend to be in the know. They leak information. The press reports on it. These questions need to be answered,” Rubio said.

The show’s host, journalist Jake Tapper, asked Rubio whether the “growing body of evidence” reported in the press over the past week is enough to convince him that the president tried to obstruct justice.

“We don’t know yet. No. 1: I haven’t seen those notes. No. 2: We have yet to take the testimony from Director Comey,” Rubio said.

Former FBI Director James Comey, abruptly fired by Trump this month, has agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in an open session after Memorial Day. Congress and the FBI have launched investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election.

Rubio acknowledged the gravity of media reports alleging unethical conduct by Trump, but said he does not want to prejudge the situation before getting all the facts. He said the credibility of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation is predicated on of every single one of its members pursuing the truth without any preconceived notions.

“I’ve told everybody: I want to know the truth. I want to know the entire truth. I want us to put it in a report. And I want it to share it with you and the whole country, so people can reach their own conclusion,” Rubio said.

Rubio, who ran against Trump in the 2016 GOP primary and works on the foreign relations and intelligence committees, said he plans to ask Comey about the memo he reportedly wrote after a meeting with Trump. According to memo, as reported by the New York Times, Trump had urged Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who the president fired for misleading the administration about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. (Yahoo News reported last week that Trump urged Flynn to “stay strong” after firing him.)

“Did he keep these memos? What did those memos say? And why did he write it? And how did he feel? Did he ever feel like he was being put in a position where he couldn’t do his job?” Rubio said. “There’s no doubt that those are the questions that are going to be asked, and asked repeatedly. And the American people deserve to have an answer to that.”

On Wednesday, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The following morning, Trump — who has a taste for hyperbole — tweeted, “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” He also said that the media treats him more unfairly than any other politician in history.

Rubio said that if any president tries to impede a federal investigation, it wouldn’t simply be problematic, but could amount to an “obstruction of justice.”

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