Rubio defends Trump’s claim of presidential immunity as raising a ‘legitimate issue’

Written by on March 24, 2024

ABC News

Florida’s Marco Rubio, a top Senate Republican, on Sunday largely defended Donald Trump’s claims of immunity against prosecution as the former president faces multiple criminal trials heading into the 2024 election.

Rubio, who is reported to be one of the people under consideration to be Trump’s running mate this year, seemed to walk a narrow tightrope in addressing Trump and several other issues in an interview with “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

Pressed about the former president’s argument that he deserves total legal immunity for conduct while in office, Rubio conceded that Trump couldn’t “go out and basically kill one of the members of the staff overnight inside the White House” — which the senator called an “absurd” hypothetical.

But he contended that many of the prosecutions against Trump are unjust and other presidents could face similar problems.

“I do think there’s a legitimate issue here that we need to talk about writ large,” Rubio told Karl.

Trump faces 88 total charges across four criminal cases and denies all wrongdoing.

The question of his immunity will be argued before the Supreme Court in late April; federal prosecutors have challenged Trump’s sweeping claim to protection from prosecution for his actions while he was president, including his push to overturn the 2020 election results.

Rubio framed the matter differently on Sunday.

“Do we want to live in a country where basically the opponents of a president can extort them, can have leverage over them during their entire presidency and say, ‘Don’t worry, once you’re out of office, we’re going to prosecute you, we’re going to come after you, we’re gonna charge you for this crime’?” he said on “This Week.”

“We’re living in a country now where basically, if you’re president, now you have to think to yourself, I’ve got to be careful what I do as president, not even legal or illegal, even on policy,” Rubio continued.

Karl noted that “you should be careful not to break the law as president,” but Rubio pivoted by arguing that partisanship is motivating some of the cases against Trump, which prosecutors deny.

Rubio also tried to balance his remarks on the Jan. 6, 2021, riot, criticizing those who assaulted law enforcement while also suggesting that some people were being “egregiously charged” for merely entering the complex — though doing so required joining a chaotic mob scene involving police lines, broken windows and the battering of the Capitol building.

Karl asked Rubio on “This Week” about his opinion of the Jan. 6 rioters in light of Trump praising them as “patriots,” even indicating he will pardon those who have been convicted if he is elected again.

“What I do think is that people that went into the Capitol and committed crimes of violence or had zip ties and all that are different from someone who walked into an open door — I think they should have prioritized and only prosecuted the people who committed acts of violence,” Rubio said.

Pressed by Karl on reports that he is being considered for Trump’s No. 2, Rubio demurred, saying he hasn’t talked with the former president about that but would be “honored” to join him on the ticket this year.

When Karl raised the falling out between Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, over Pence’s refusal to reject their election loss — and the fact that Pence was singled out by some participants on Jan. 6 — Rubio deflected by touting Trump’s overall record as president.

Rubio said he felt the country “was safer” and “more prosperous” compared to what he called numerous crises under President Joe Biden.

Rubio, who is the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also sounded the alarm about the recent attack in Moscow, which has been blamed on an affiliate of the Islamic State group known as ISIS-K or Islamic State Khorasan.

ISIS-K could pose a danger in America, Rubio said, in part because of what he called Biden’s policy failures with the high number of migrants at the border.

Rubio warned, specifically, about human traffickers at the border whom federal officials have said have ties to the Islamic State group.

“They [ISIS-K] would love to do what they did in Moscow here inside the United States. And it’s something we have to be very vigilant about,” Rubio said.

The Florida lawmaker also reiterated his support for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza: “You cannot have a country in which this threat continues to exist. They have to finish this job.”

“No one is calling for Hamas to surrender and lay down their arms. That would end the conflict,” he said.

He knocked the Biden administration for supporting Israel while increasingly criticizing how Israel fights its war amid the high death toll in Gaza.

He also hedged on Trump’s recent comments, however, that any Jew who votes for Democrats “hates their religion.”

“Your religion and being pro-Israel can be two separate things,” Rubio said. “And then there’s people that are pro-Israel but maybe don’t like [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu or what have you.”

“This is an existential battle. And anyone who doesn’t understand that is, frankly, whether they know it or not, an enemy of Israel,” he said.

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