Rubio claims he wasn’t defending Trump at the Comey hearing. He clearly was.

He wants to have it both ways.

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

After dining at the White House earlier in the week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was one of the Republicans Senators who used his time questioning former FBI director James Comey on Thursday to try to exonerate President Trump. But he doesn’t see it that way.

On Thursday afternoon, Rubio tweeted that he was doing nothing to defend Trump:

On Friday morning, he added this cryptic thought:

The problem for Rubio is that the quotes of him defending Trump do exist — and they’re plentiful.

Rubio’s line of questioning downplayed what was problematic about the things Trump asked of Comey — like his demand for “loyalty,” his pressuring Comey to drop investigations into Former National Advisor Michael Flynn, and his requests to be publicly exonerated. Instead, Rubio almost seemed to implicate Comey as either an enemy of Trump’s or as someone responsible for his own demise.

After the hearings, Rubio again tried to downplay the severity of what Trump had done, insisting that his actions were “not criminal, but probably a bad idea.” In fact, he suggested that Comey himself should have “explained to him why he can’t do that.”

Rubio then toed House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) line that Trump is just an amateur politician, who is forgivable because he doesn’t know better.

“And I think it boils down to this,” Rubio said after the hearing. “Is this the actions [sic] of someone who was putting together a plan to impede an investigation, or is this a nonpolitician, unconventional figure, who simply operates in ways that are different from previous presidents and no one has either informed him — or he’s been unwilling to be informed — about why the sort of request like the one he made would be inappropriate?”

Rubio told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt that he doesn’t think Trump’s ignorance excuses his actions — but if Rubio still doesn’t think the actions were criminal, it doesn’t really matter.

The Miami Herald’s Fabiola Santiago described Rubio’s performance at the hearing as if he “was acting as Trump’s defense attorney instead of as member of a bipartisan committee investigating crucial national security issues.” Santiago further speculated that the senator may have made a trade with Trump: defending his actions in the hearing in exchange for Trump reversing former President Obama’s Cuba policies. Rubio responded to the allegation by rebuking Santiago for having previously claimed that his conservative beliefs betrayed his Cuban ancestry, but he didn’t say anything to alleviate the suspicion.