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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., walks through Capitol on Dec. 15, 2022.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., walks through the Capitol on Dec. 15, 2022.Graeme Sloan / Sipa USA via AP

Rubio was right about Trump in ways he doesn’t want to talk about

Seven years ago this week, Marco Rubio said Donald Trump couldn’t be trusted with nuclear secrets. He was right, but he doesn't want to talk about it.


There’s no shortage of incredible revelations in Donald Trump’s federal criminal indictment, but one word lingers in my mind: “nuclear.”

Prosecutors have alleged that the former president kept highly sensitive documents that included information “regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack.”

There were reports months ago that Trump took literal nuclear secrets to his glorified country club, but the Republican insisted those reports weren’t true. It now appears those denials, like most of his claims, were lies. It’s also one of the reasons so many current and former national security officials consider the indictment “devastating.”

And though the connection might not seem immediately obvious, all of this reminded me of Sen. Marco Rubio.

In 2016, the Florida Republican was, of course, one of Trump’s principal rivals for the GOP’s presidential nomination. In fact, it was exactly seven years ago this week that Rubio told Americans that Trump was so “dangerous” that he couldn’t be trusted with nuclear secrets.

It’s difficult to think of an issue on which the Florida Republican was more correct. Rubio’s rhetoric has never been more prescient: He warned us that Trump was likely to be irresponsible with nuclear secrets, and there’s now documented evidence that Trump was irresponsible with nuclear secrets.

The problem, however, is that Rubio doesn’t want to be right — he wants to be partisan. Roll Call reported:

In an interview Monday on CBS, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., focused instead on special counsel John L. “Jack” Smith’s decision to bring the case because it would bring criticism on the judge, court system, Justice Department and prosecutor. Rubio said that regardless of the merit of the allegations, Smith should have weighed a prosecution against the “deeply divisive” nature of indicting a former president.

In the same CBS appearance, Rubio also downplayed the seriousness of the criminal allegations, joining a larger group of Republicans who suggested Trump’s suspected crimes aren’t that bad because the former president apparently wasn’t a literal spy.

Let’s make this plain: The Florida lawmaker is the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. In the recent past, he chaired the panel. Rubio, as much as anyone on Capitol Hill, knows just how dangerous Trump’s alleged misconduct was. What’s more, the senator practically predicted the former president’s apparent recklessness.

But there was Rubio on national television anyway, doing his part to support the man who labeled him “Little Marco,” adding a pitiful coda to an embarrassing transformation.