Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks to the media on June 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

Republicans change their tune on the mishandling of classified info

— Updated
On July 5, 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey said Hillary Clinton wouldn't be indicted over her email server protocols, but Comey nevertheless said the former secretary of state had been "extremely careless" in the way in which she handled classified information. For Republicans, that criticism was a launching pad.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 05/16/17 09:40PM
Republicans not moved to action on Trump
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for example, almost immediately said Clinton's "mishandling of classified information was disgraceful and unbecoming of someone who aspires to the presidency. There is simply no excuse.... Her actions were grossly negligent, damaged national security and put lives at risk."

Asked today about Donald Trump sharing highly sensitive secrets with Russia, Rubio said the president's careless is "less than ideal," but the Florida Republican added, "It is what it is."

Hmm. It's almost as if Rubio has two entirely different standards. [Update: See below]

Two days after Rubio's Clinton condemnation, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called for intelligence agencies to deny Clinton intelligence briefings for the rest of the campaign season. The message was straightforward:

"It's simple: Individuals who are ‘extremely careless’ [with] classified info should be denied further access to it."
The day before Ryan's declaration, 14 Republican senators introduced legislation to revoke Clinton's security clearance and demand that anyone in the executive branch who shows "extreme carelessness" in their handling of classified information be denied access to that information.

The same day, then-RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said those who've mishandled classified information "have had their security clearances revoked, lost their jobs, faced fines, and even been sent to prison." Soon after, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked, "What do I say to the marines in my district when Hillary Clinton handles classified information in a careless way yet has no ramifications?"

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) argued in the fall that even the possibility of exposing sensitive intelligence to foreign adversaries is "treason."

And then, of course, there's Donald J. Trump.

MSNBC has aired some amazing clip collections of Trump on the campaign trail in 2016, insisting that anyone who's mishandled classified information should obviously be disqualified from positions of authority.

And yet, here we are, six months after the election, learning about a Republican president sharing classified information with a foreign adversary -- for reasons that are still unclear -- generating widespread yawns from many GOP lawmakers.

The American electorate just endured more than a year in which it was told repeatedly that putting sensitive information at risk was the single most important issue in the presidential election -- it was the one thing Republicans pretended to care the most about -- to the point that it could literally be the basis for impeachment.

I don't want to alarm anyone, but I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, the GOP's apoplexy wasn't on the level.

Update: Rubio's office contacted me to say the senator's office was asked about whether developments at the White House and the impact on legislating. The Florida Republican, according to his office, responded, “I’m not sure. I don’t think it has to. Obviously, distractions are what you allow to distract you. So from our perspective, I mean my office showed up on time, and we kept working on our VA bill tomorrow and the other priorities that we have. But certainly it’s less than ideal, but it is what it is.”

That said, Rubio has not, as best as I can tell, condemned Trump's alleged mishandling of classified information.