U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is under fire for running interference for Donald Trump while attacking the U.S. Dept. of Justice, rather than admit the former president's reported removal and refusal to return highly classified documents – including at least one of a foreign government's nuclear secrets – is a threat to democracy, the nation's defense, and worldwide security.
Senator Rubio, who is being challenged by Democratic Rep. Val Demings in a tight re-election race, serves as the vice chair of the Intelligence Committee, and sits on the Gang of Eight. That is making his remarks over the past few days even more problematic to legal and national security experts and journalists.
Just days ago, before The Washington Post's report that the FBI found a document on nuclear capabilities so secret it could be legally viewed only by some Cabinet-level or near-Cabinet level officials and the President, Rubio claimed the government's apparent case was merely one about "storage."
He called Trump's apparent theft of countless thousands of items belonging to the federal government, including hundreds of classified documents, "just a storage issue," telling a local Florida reporter, “I don’t think a fight over storage of documents is worthy of what they’ve done.”
Wednesday morning, after the revelation of the top secret classified nuclear document, Rubio went on "Fox & Friends" to attack the DOJ for the leak of the existence of the document.
Even Fox News is not protecting Trump this time, with host Steve Doocy declaring the nuclear document "doesn’t seem like something you should have in your post-presidential drawer."
Rubio hit back, saying: "First of all, we really don't know," as he tried to dispute the credibility of the Post's reporting.
"All this information is coming from one side and one place, and that is, 'sources with knowledge of the investigation.' Well, who are the sources with knowledge of the investigation? The FBI and Justice Department!"
"These people every single day are strategically leaking information – that can't be rebutted by the way, or in any way analyzed – for a reason, and that's politics, to influence the narrative."
"And so I'm first of all very skeptical of that," Rubio declared.
He also claimed Trump was not asked to return the thousands of documents and other items, ignoring the grand jury subpoena sent to Trump demanding he return them.
The Florida Republican Senator is being excoriated.
"Rubio," attorney and writer Luppe B. Luppen observes, "potentially the next chairman of the Senate Intel Committee, is indistinguishable from Trump’s defense attorney in this clip. And he gets facts wrong: after receiving a certification everything had been returned, DOJ asked for the room where the docs had been to be secured."
"To be clear: a Republican Senator is saying that we can't trust the FBI or DOJ," attorney Amee Vanderpool notes.
Mark Hertling, the former Commanding General of United States Army Europe and the Seventh Army, pointed to the Washington Post's report Tuesday night, warning, "this is just the beginning…and it’s gonna get much, much worse. Special Access Programs (SAP), TS/SCI, NOFORN…some of our most closely guarded secrets. Yeah, this is more than a 'storage problem,' @marcorubio."
Journalist Jim Swift, who has been a staffer to Republican members of the House and Senate, points to Rubio's remarks on "Fox & Friends" and says, "This from the guy who said we couldn't trust Trump with the nuclear codes. What a phony."
Condé Nast Legal Affairs Editor Luke Zaleski, also pointing to the Rubio interview, adds: "The republican party’s willingness to straight up lie en masse in total lockstep about literally anything is the gravest threat we face."
Kelly McClanahan, Executive Director of National Security Counselors, disputed Rubio's claim that "that's not the way classification works," writing, "That's EXACTLY the way classification works."
David Corn, the popular MSNBC analyst and D.C. bureau chief for Mother Jones, says Marco Rubio "is the top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee. And he doesn’t give a damn about protecting classified information. Now that’s a national security threat."