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On Russia's Team Trump connections, Rubio draws a curious conclusion

Marco Rubio declared with pride and "without any hesitation" that the Trump campaign didn't "collude" with Russia. Did he not read his own report?
Image: Elliot Abrams Testifies Before Senate Foreign Relations Committee On Venezuela
Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl., questions witnesses during a hearing about Venezuela in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on Aug. 04, 2020.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

In an era of bitter partisanship, the Senate Intelligence Committee's multi-volume report on the Russia scandal was oddly reassuring. By all appearances, the panel's Republican and Democratic leaders worked constructively and diligently on a comprehensive investigation, which produced important revelations -- some of which were even more enlightening than those found in Robert Mueller's report.

But as encouraging as it was to see the bipartisan findings this week, the news was tempered by the fact that the panels' leaders couldn't quite agree on the meaning of their own discoveries. The committee's Democratic members examined the evidence and wrote for the public, "This is what collusion looks like." Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) chose to draw the opposite conclusion for reasons that weren't altogether clear.

Indeed, as the Washington Post noted, the Florida Republican "sought to downplay, if not directly contradict," the findings of his own panel.

Rubio joined in a statement with five other committee Republicans in asserting something the report does not -- that "the Committee found no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government." Rubio added in his personal statement that he could say this "without any hesitation."

I'm mindful of the fact that "collusion" has become a political term with competing definitions, none of which are written in statute.

But I'm nevertheless curious whether Rubio read his own report. As we discussed yesterday, the public now knows -- because the committee Rubio leads has told us -- that Vladimir Putin's government targeted U.S. elections for the express purpose of helping elevate Trump to power. We also know the Republican's political operation sought Russian assistance, embraced Russian assistance, capitalized on Russian assistance, lied about Russian assistance, and took steps to obstruct the investigation into Russian assistance.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump's campaign chairman was in direct, frequent, and secret communication with a Russian intelligence officer, tasked by the Kremlin with helping run Moscow's influence operations abroad. Trump's operation shared internal information with the Russian operative during its attack on our elections.

The same Senate Intelligence Committee report documented the Trump campaign's willingness to assist the Russian attack on our election, amplifying the leaks of Democratic materials stolen by Kremlin-linked operatives, and highlighted "coordination" between Team Trump and Wikileaks, which was responsible for releasing the documents stolen by Russia.

The report at one point literally describes a "direct tie between senior Trump Campaign officials and the Russian intelligence services."

That's not the assessment of news organizations or Democratic lawmakers exclusively; it's a quote from the report issued by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee.

And yet, there was Marco Rubio, declaring with pride and "without any hesitation," that there's simply no evidence of the Trump campaign having "colluded" with Russia.

Or as a Washington Post analysis put it, the Florida senator who leads the Intelligence panel is "aligning with the GOP's and Trump's long-held talking points on this, despite the new evidence."

Perhaps Rubio can explain why?