April 19, 2017

Longtime Rubio spokesman leaving for tech gig

via @learyreports

Alex Burgos, a key member of Marco Rubio’s core team, is leaving for a position with TechNet, a bipartisan network of “innovation economy” CEOs and senior executives.

Burgos will be vice president of federal policy, government relations and communications and begins next Tuesday, according to a release. His departure follows that of Alberto Martinez.

“As a seasoned veteran of Capitol Hill and federal campaigns at all levels, Alex brings a wealth of policy experience, deep relationships, and strategic vision to TechNet.  We are excited to welcome Alex to the TechNet team and believe his wide range of skills, experience, and insights will take our federal advocacy programs to new levels of success.”

TechNet’s network of 71 members includes Apple, Facebook, Oracle, Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Lyft, Uber and Airbnb.

Burgos concludes eight years with Rubio, serving as his chief spokesman and deputy chief of staff. He’s a Miami native and Florida Gator.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 17, 2017

Rubio records robocall for Republican in Georgia special election

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio has recorded a robocall to gin up support for Republican Judson Hill in Georgia’s much-watched special election Tuesday.

“He can provide the leadership we need to defeat radical terror and repeal and replace Obamacare,” Rubio says. “Judson is the only trusted conservative in the race.”

Hill is a contender in the 6th Congressional District, which had been held by Rep. Tom Price, now President Trump’s health secretary. There are numerous candidates, including Democrat Jon Ossoff, who has been flooded with millions of dollars in donations from across the country as the race is pitched as a test of Trump.

A June 20 runoff is likely.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has more here.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 10, 2017

Rubio says Trump's Syria hit 'had a clear, strategic objective'

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio said Sunday he opposed strikes in Syria in 2013 -- after first advocating for action -- because the Obama administration "had no clear objective."

"If we had armed non-jihadist elements on the ground, they could have overthrown (Assad)," Rubio said on ABC This Week. "That’s what I thought was the better approach at the time. The second is that the [Obama] administration, what they were proposing had no clear objective. They wanted to blow up some things to send a message. I don’t think you use the U.S. military simply to send a message. This strike was limited but it had a clear, strategic objective, which was the destruction or the degrading of a key air base installation that is used in these chemical attacks."

At the same time, Rubio criticized mixed signals coming from the Trump administration.

"There seems to be a difference between what Ambassador Haley is saying, as she said last night that Assad really has no future, and what I heard this morning from Secretary Tillerson. But look, I don’t mean to pick a fight with anyone here. What I’m telling you is, I think that the strategy he seems to be outlining is based on assumptions that aren't going to work. There is no such thing as 'Assad yes, but ISIS no.' This focus that you can defeat ISIS as long as Assad is there is not true."

Rubio also declared, "Mexico's not going to pay for the wall."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 06, 2017

Senate uses 'nuclear' option as Bill Nelson joins filibuster


via @learyreports

The United States Senate just went nuclear.

With Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson this morning joining a filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, Republlicans just approved a rule change to allow confirmation with a simple majority.

Sen. Marco Rubio joined the GOP to invoke the "nuclear option."

"The filibuster has always forced the political extremes to come of the middle to build consensus,” Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times in February, adding that it was a “mistake” for former Democratic leader Harry Reid to lower the threshold on other nominees that were stymied by Republicans.

Democrats will point to the GOP's refusal to take up Merrick Garland, President Obama's choice to replace the late Antonin Scalia. And Republicans will blame Democrats for changing rules that have been considered sacrosanct.

Gorsuch is expected to be confirmed Friday.

April 05, 2017

Behind the scenes, Rubio and others try to push Trump White House on Cuba

via @ngameztorres

Two months after the Trump administration announced a total review of U.S. policy toward Cuba, several controversial proposals are being circulated at the White House with no clear front-runner on the issue.

But Sen. Marco Rubio says he has spoken with President Donald Trump three times about Cuba.

“We’ve been walking through all these issues with the president and his team, figuring out the right steps to take and when,” Rubio told el Nuevo Herald.

“I am confident that President Trump will treat Cuba like the dictatorship it is and that our policy going forward will reflect the fact that it is not in the national interest of the United States for us to be doing business with the Cuban military,” he added.

The Miami Republican of Cuban descent declined to say whether the president had made any commitments to him on Cuba policies. But a Rubio spokesman told el Nuevo Herald that the senator and his staff “have been working behind the scenes” on Cuba policy.

The Cuban government has taken notice of Rubio's rising voice in U.S. policy toward Latin America, and the state-run Granma newspaper recently criticized his efforts to have the Organization of American States condemn Venezuela's human rights record.

But the Granma article carefully avoided insulting Trump. And the Raúl Castro government, in a rare show of restraint, has said little about the Trump administration as it waits for the ongoing review of overall U.S. policies toward the island.

Spokespersons for the White House and the State Department have said that the National Security Council (NSC) has the lead in the multi-agency review. Several knowledgeable sources have said that Jill St. John, a low-level NSC staffer, is coordinating the work. The White House did not immediately reply to el Nuevo Herald questions about St. John.

More here.

Photo credit: Rainier Ehrhardt, Associated Press

Rubio criticizes Trump administration's Syria stance

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio suggested Wednesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s hands-off posture toward Syria contributed to the reported chemical weapons attack.

"It's concerning that the secretary of state, 72 hours ago or a week ago, this last Friday, said that the future's up to the people in Syria on what happens with Assad. In essence, almost nodding to the idea that Assad was going to get to stay in some capacity," Rubio said the Tampa Bay radio station 970 WFLA. 

"I don't think it's a coincidence that a few days later we see this,” Rubio said. “I hate to say this, but I think he’s going to get away with it again.”

Rubio appeared at a news conference later in Washington with Sen. Ben Cardin and both called for Trump to take a harder line.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 31, 2017

Rubio: I've spoken to Trump three times about Cuba


Sen. Marco Rubio has kept mostly tight-lipped about what he's discussed with President Donald Trump on the occasions the two Republicans have met -- including over dinner with their wives at the White House.

But Rubio disclosed in a Spanish-language interview this week that he's used those conversations with Trump to bring up Cuba.

"I've spoken to the president of the United States personally on three occasions," Rubio told Mega TV host Oscar Haza after Haza asked about the future of U.S.-Cuba policy. "I think without a doubt there will be changes in U.S.-Cuba policy."

Rubio said he and his staff are dealing "very closely" with the White House on the issue, which he expects Trump to address "strategically."

"If the Cuban government is going to behave like a dictatorship, well, then we're going to deal with them like a dictatorship," Rubio said, without going into specifics. "We're not going to pretend it's changing. There haven't been any changes -- on the contrary, we've seen more repression." 

The topic of Cuba came up last week during White House health care discussions with Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

Photo credit: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

March 30, 2017

Russian hackers tried to get into email of Rubio presidential campaign aides

Trump Russia Probe

Sen. Marco Rubio revealed Thursday that unknown Russian hackers tried unsuccessfully to access the email accounts of some of the top aides to his 2016 presidential campaign.

Rubio acknowledged the attempted breach in Senate Intelligence Committee meeting, after an expert in Russian influence operations testified that Rubio "anecdotally suffered" from Russian efforts to discredit him during the Republican primary. A similar campaign was under way on social media over the past week against House Speaker Paul Ryan, added Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. 

Watts later said Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham were also Russian targets.

Later in the hearing, Rubio said his aides' emails were targeted by Russian IP addresses in July 2016, shortly after he announced he'd seek reelection to the Senate.

"Within the last 24 hours -- at 10:45 a.m. yesterday -- a second attempt was made again against former members of my presidential campaign team who had access to our internal campaign information," Rubio said. "That effort was also unsuccessful." 


Photo credit: Susan Walsh, Associated Press

March 28, 2017

Rubio slams Democrats' plan to filibuster Gorsuch

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday blasted the growing possibility of a Democratic filibuster against Neil Gorsuch, a preview of the next round of fighting to reach Capitol Hill.

On Monday, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said he'd join a filibuster, which would force Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to change the rules for a simple majority. Nelson in 2006 opposed a filibuster of Sameul Alito, though voted against him.

Democrats counter GOP criticism with two words: Merrick Garland.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 27, 2017

Rubio to Latin America: U.S. could cut aid to countries that side with Venezuela in OAS vote

Trump Secretary of State Rubio
via @DelgadoAntonioM

Sen. Marco Rubio sent a strong warning Monday to the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Haiti, saying that it would be difficult to protect them from possible cuts in U.S. aid if they fail to defend democracy when the Venezuelan government comes up for a possible sanctions vote at the Organization of American States (OAS).

The Florida Republican, one of the harshest critics of the Venezuelan government in Washington, told the Nuevo Herald that the OAS vote set for Tuesday is exceptionally important for the future of democracy in the region, and of the hemispheric organization itself.

The vote would even affect the assistance that Washington provides to El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, he added.

"This is not a threat, but it is the reality," said Rubio, one of the architects of U.S. laws that already sanction Venezuela's chavista government because of the corruption and human rights violations in the oil-producing country.

"We have a very difficult situation in Washington, where massive cuts in foreign aid are under consideration," the senator said. "And it will be very difficult for us to justify assistance to those countries if they, at the end of the day, are countries that do not cooperate in the defense of democracy in the region."

More here.

Photo credit: Steve Helber, Associated Press