These are the relevant facts as pertains to last Thursday's spectacle on the Hill:
-The former director of the FBI testified under oath before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the president of the United States demanded his loyalty.
-Later, the president expressed his "hope" that the FBI director would make an investigation into the president's associate go away.
-Then the president complained to the FBI director that the FBI's investigation was creating a "cloud" over his administration that he wanted lifted; specifically, he wanted the FBI director to announce that the president was not personally under investigation.
-The FBI director declined to drop either the investigation into the president's associate or announce that the president was not under investigation – the former because the associate likely committed a crime, the latter because, while the president was not under investigation at the time, his campaign was, so he could be in the future.
-The president fired the FBI director, blaming the FBI director's handling of the Hillary Clinton email case.
-The president then reportedly boasted to the Russians in the Oval Office the next day that a great weight had been lifted, and admitted to NBC News that – contrary to the White House's earlier position – he'd been thinking about Russia when he fired the FBI director.
-While the FBI wasn't investigating the president, the FBI director's testimony indicates that recently appointed special counsel is very likely exploring whether the president attempted to obstruct justice.
These are the relevant facts in the mind of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.:
-The president only asked the FBI director to let the investigation of the president's associate go once, but did not ask him to let go of the broader Russia investigation.
-The FBI director did not tell the president to his face that his request was inappropriate.
-The FBI director never leaked that the president was not personally under investigation.
If you've watched Marco Rubio for any length of time, as I have, you've learned not to expect much from the man – certainly not much that requires him to display a spine.
A year and a half ago, Rubio was on the campaign trail, barking that Donald Trump was a "con man." Now, after a private dinner with that con man a few days before the committee hearing, he acts like Trump's defense attorney, parsing words to minimize the potential damage and worrying more about what information wasn't leaked than whether the president tried to deep-six a criminal investigation like a goddamn mob boss.
The worst part is this isn't at all out of character. He does this weathervane shit all the time. Shortly after the 2012 election, you'll recall, when Marco first started posturing to run for president, he became an outspoken advocate of immigration reform; it was all the rage among conservative intellectuals, who saw the Republicans losing ground among Hispanics. But then Marco got a bunch of blowback from his party's xenophobic base, and just like that, he voted against his own bill.
During the 2016 presidential primary, he postured as a Never Trumper before tethering himself to Mango Mussolini's leg and begging for a convention speaking spot. He unequivocally promised time and time again not to run for re-election to the Senate if the president thing didn't work out, then did just that, knifing some Republican pals along the way. In January, he railed against secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, then voted for him. And so on.
That's just who Marco Rubio is, who he's always been: spineless, self-interested, shortsighted.
He has the intellect to understand that Donald Trump is a menace to the republic, that the president is mentally and morally unfit for the job, that he almost certainly comported himself with James Comey in a manner that was at best unethical and at worst felonious. And yet here's what Lil Marco had to say after the hearing: "It was not a good idea to do what he did on the Oval Office on the 14th," Rubio said, referring to a private meeting Trump had with Comey to ask him to back off the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
"The fundamental question is, is that the act of someone who is just really angry and upset and because he's not a politician ... and doesn't realize or no one's told him that presidents can't do that, or was that an effort to, in fact, impede an investigation? ... Whether it rises to criminality, you know, I think there's significant doubts about whether it rises to that level."
In other words, the president was pissed off and too naive to realize that ordering the FBI director to drop an investigation was a bad idea, so that makes it OK.
To get an idea of how asinine this line of thinking is, let's have a thought exercise. Let's say that, around this time last year, Barack Obama pulled James Comey into a private Oval Office meeting, where he told Comey he "hoped" Comey could drop the email investigation into Hillary Clinton. And let's say Comey refused, and Obama fired him, offering some thin reed of an excuse that was quickly dissected and discredited by Obama himself.
How long do you think it would have taken House Republicans to draft articles of impeachment? How long do you think it would have taken Marco Rubio to demand Obama's resignation?
They would have been right to do so. Why is this any different?
The problem isn't just Marco, but what he's part of: a party that has anchored itself to a dumpster fire of a leader in hopes of gutting health care and cutting taxes for rich people, willing to look the other way – even at a foreign regime compromising American elections – to achieve those goals. And as long as Republicans are willing to tolerate Trump, the president, and the metastasizing cancer he represents, will infect the body politic.