February 22, 2017

What's Rubio doing in Europe?

Trump Secretary of State(2)
via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- As lawmakers are home facing often hostile crowds at town halls, Sen. Marco Rubio is somewhere overseas right now on what his office calls an “official oversight trip” whose mission includes discussing “Russian aggression in Europe.”

On Monday, Rubio’s office said he would “attend multiple bilateral meetings with heads of state and senior government officials in Germany and France, two countries with upcoming elections who are facing concerns about Russian interference.”

A member of the Foreign Relations, Intel and Appropriations committees, Rubio was also to discuss “U.S./E.U. relationship, NATO operations, counter-ISIS activities, foreign assistance programs.”

But beyond that broad outline, Rubio’s office has not provided any detail about the visit, including specifically where his he’ll be, who he’ll meet with and who he is traveling with, besides his wife, Jeanette.

Several request for additional information have gone unanswered. “As soon as I have additional details I will be happy to share them with you,” a spokesman told the Tampa Bay Times in an email Tuesday morning.

Rubio left on Sunday. His has not used Twitter of Facebook since then.

Could Rubio be traveling with Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Intelligence Committee?

Burr’s office won’t say either when we contacted. Burr is not in North Carolina, according to news reports, which do not say where he is other than out of state.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Alex Brandon, Associated Press

February 20, 2017

Rubio heads to Europe this week

Trump Education Secretary
@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will travel with a delegation of other senators to Europe this week while Congress is in recess, his office said Monday.

Due to Senate business Friday, Rubio was unable to go over the weekend to the Munich Security Conference attended by Vice President Mike Pence. He's traveling, like the other senators on the trip, with his wife, Jeanette.

Indivisible Miami, one of the groups recently formed to oppose President Donald Trump's presidency, plans to hold a Rubio "constituents town hall" on Thursday even though the senator won't be present.

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

February 16, 2017

Trump says his Cuba views are 'very similar' to Rubio's

RUBIO Y TRUMP
via @ngameztorres

President Donald Trump said during a press conference Thursday that he shares Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s views on Cuba.

“We had dinner with Senator Rubio and his wife, who was by the way, lovely, and we had a very good discussion about Cuba, because we have very similar views on Cuba,” Trump told journalists.

“Cuba has been very good to me, in the Florida elections, you know, the Cuban people, Americans,” he added in reference to the support of Cuban American voters.

Former rival Rubio and his wife had dinner with Trump and First Lady Melania on Wednesday night, after the president received Lilian Tintori, the wife of the Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López in the White House. A smiling Rubio posed for a photo with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Tintori.

The comment suggests a possible change in Cuba policy since Rubio was one of the staunchest critics of former President Barack Obama’s engagement with Cuba, especially in the area of human rights.

More here.

Photo credit: Rainier Ehrhardt, Associated Press

February 15, 2017

Trump meets with wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader

@PatriciaMazzei

President Donald Trump met unexpectedly Wednesday night at the White House with the wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, and called for his release.

The president tweeted a photograph of himself, Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in the Oval Office with Lilian Tintori, who was making the rounds in Washington to keep up U.S. attention on her husband's case.

Venezuela should allow Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner & husband of @liliantintori (just met w/ @marcorubio) out of prison immediately. pic.twitter.com/bt8Xhdo7al

Trump's schedule didn't list a meeting with Tintori -- but it did include dinner with Rubio, one of the most vocal critics in Congress against the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Trump told a Gannett reporter Wednesday that the dinner -- which included his wife, Jeanette, and First Lady Melania Trump -- was a "social invitation."

"Whatever we discuss, I'm not going to tell you," Rubio told Gannett's Ledyard King.

Earlier Wednesday, Tintori and Mitzy Ledezma, the wife of jailed Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, went to Capitol Hill, where they sat down with several lawmakers, including Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Weston Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- all of whom, like Rubio, represent a growing number of Venezuelan Americans. López has been detained since 2014 and Ledezma since 2015.

On Monday, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions against Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, accusing him of being a drug lord. On Wednesday, Maduro called those allegations a "grotesque lie."

Separately, the Maduro administration on Wednesday suspended CNN en Español from the South American country's airwaves, following an investigative report into fake passports issued by the Venezuelan government.

February 14, 2017

Rubio and wife to dine with Trumps at White House

GOP 2016 Rubio
@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and his wife, Jeanette, will dine privately Wednesday night with President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

The Rubios will join the Trumps at 6:30 p.m. in the Blue Room, according to the White House. Trump has met with a number of lawmakers in Washington, but none has had a one-on-one dinner, wives included, on the schedule.

Trump and Rubio put aside the colorful exchanges they had during the Republican presidential primary (think "Little Marco" and...hands) once Rubio sought reelection to the U.S. Senate and received Trump's endorsement. Rubio also backed Trump's candidacy, even after a slew of controversies, though he didn't publicly campaign with him.

Rubio harshly questioned Rex Tillerson when Trump nominated him for secretary of state but ultimately voted for his confirmation.

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

Rubio backs broad investigation into Russian meddling

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio says questions into Michael Flynn’s dealings with the Russians are best handled as part of a broader investigation into Russia’s involvement in U.S. affairs.

“There’s an ongoing, bipartisan investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee,” Rubio, a member of the committee, said Tuesday at the Capitol. “I believe the scope of that would cover anything that has to do with Russia and its involvement in before, during and after the election. …

“I have full confidence that the intelligence committee is going to do a good job. If they don’t, I’ll let everyone know that we didn’t, but I believe that we can and I believe that we will.”

Yesterday, Rubio made similar remarks. “We are going to go wherever the truth leads us,” he said.

Rubio did not directly comment on the Flynn situation.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 10, 2017

Those hot congressional town halls? Don't expect many in South Florida

@PatriciaMazzei

Over the past week, a string of town-hall meetings held across the country by Republican members of Congress have drawn hordes of constituents angry about repealing the Affordable Care Act and the GOP's embrace of President Donald Trump

But if South Floridians want a similar forum to vent to their Republican lawmakers, they're out of luck.

The only local member of Congress who plans to hold open meetings soon is U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, who's got two scheduled -- in Wilton Manors and Pompano Beach -- Saturday. Democrats just haven't been getting the same sort of protests as Republicans at their public events.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has no town hall planned, a spokesman said, noting that the Senate is still in session. (Progressive activists say they will nevertheless stump outside his Doral office Tuesday to ask him for one.) Neither does Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. No in-person town halls are scheduled either for Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, though he hopes to let constituents call into a "tele-town hall" in late March, a spokeswoman said. 

A spokeswoman for Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart refused to admit the congressman isn't holding town halls.

"The Congressman is constantly traveling the district and meeting with constituents, but we do not publicize his schedule," Katrina Valdés said in an email.

When pressed if that means no public events without pre-screened attendees, she added: "He has countless meetings with constituents and constituent groups while traveling the district. Our office is in touch with those who he will be meeting with."

More than 200 pro-Obamacare protesters showed up last Saturday at a town hall for Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis in Palm Harbor, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

February 08, 2017

Rubio calls for civility after McConnell rebukes Warren

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio joined Republicans in voting last night to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was speaking out against Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Sen. Bill Nelson joined Democrats in objecting to the move.

The rebuke came as Warren was reading a 1986 letter Coretta Scott King wrote as Sessions was being considered for a federal judgeship. The letter said Sessions, as a U.S. attorney in Alabama, “had used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens."

Amid the debate, Rubio gave a lengthy speech. "We have become a society incapable of having debates anymore," he said, adding figures in both parties, himself included, have engaged in heated rhetoric.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 03, 2017

Fact-checking Rubio's claim about visa overstays in Florida

RubiooutsidehisofficeAP

@amysherman1

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio supports President Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall at the Mexican border but says it won’t address the main path that undocumented immigrants use to arrive in Florida.

“In Florida, 70 percent of the people here illegally came on an airplane,” Rubio, a Florida Republican, told reporters while visiting growers in Immokalee Jan. 27. “They overstayed a visa — the wall isn't going to address that.”

Rubio, who along with Trump advocated for implementing a system to track visa overstays, is one of many politicians to raise concerns about immigrants overstaying their visas — in 2015 he said that nationally 40 percent of illegal immigrants had overstayed a visa, a claim we rated Mostly True. But in Florida, is the rate really 70 percent?

 

February 01, 2017

Senators Rubio and Nelson weigh in on Trump SCOTUS pick Neil Gorsuch

@amysherman1

Florida's U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have weighed in on Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's pick for the U.S. Spreme Court.

Here is Nelson's statement:

“The confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is an awesome responsibility that I gladly accept. I will base my decision on a full examination of Judge Gorsuch’s judicial record and his responses to senators’ questions.”

Here is Rubio's statement:

“Judge Gorsuch is a highly qualified, mainstream jurist, which is why he was unanimously confirmed to the circuit court by the Senate in 2006. By all accounts he has the right temperament and experience for the job, and I’m pleased to see him nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Most importantly, he is committed to the principles of original intent and judicial restraint. This is critical, because too many in the federal judiciary today believe it is appropriate for judges to invent new policies and rights instead of interpreting and defending the Constitution as it is written.

“Unfortunately, Senate Democrats already announced they would oppose any Supreme Court nominee no matter who it is. This obstruction is neither principled nor reasonable, considering we just had an election where the future of the Supreme Court was a central issue not only at the presidential level but in every Senate contest. On the issue of this Supreme Court nomination specifically, the American people gave the president and the Republican-controlled Senate a mandate to choose a successor to Antonin Scalia. Senate Democrats should accept the results of the election and allow the process to move forward with a vote. I look forward to a fair and thorough confirmation process, and I am confident Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed by the Senate once again, this time to serve on the Supreme Court.”