Sen. Marco Rubio may be avoiding the spotlight during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial — refusing to answer questions even as Republican colleagues including fellow Florida Sen. Rick Scott take turns in front of the cameras — but he didn’t miss an opportunity Tuesday to use the trial for political gain.
As the president’s defense team ended its opening arguments, Rubio’s campaign sent an email to supporters with the subject line “Take notes like Marco!” The email promises to send supporters who donate at least $35 a quill pen with the senator’s name on it, a reference to the first day of the impeachment trial when Rubio made ripples on social media by pulling a quill pen out of his desk on the Senate floor. The donation link in the email goes to WinRed, a newly launched Republican small-dollar fundraising effort that promotes Republicans running for office.
A spokesperson for Rubio said he isn’t commenting on trial developments, pointing to a December tweet where Rubio said his decision on Trump’s conduct would be based on whether he thinks Trump “committed treason, bribery & or a high crime or misdemeanor as meant by the Constitution AND...if so, does it rise to a level warranting removal or is it best left for voters to decide in just 11 months.”
Rubio’s Twitter account is devoid of impeachment-related reaction, with just one daily process update on his feed each morning. Inside the chamber, Rubio takes frequent notes and, unlike some senators from both parties, he has not left the floor for long breaks during proceedings.
Last Friday, he walked past reporters into a closed-door Republican lunch, ignoring shouted questions. “I’m not taking questions on impeachment until after the trial,” Rubio said.
And he continued to stay silent Monday and Tuesday amid demands from Democrats to allow former National Security Advisor John Bolton to testify. Media reports have said that Bolton states in an upcoming book that Trump told him he did not wish to release military aid to Ukraine until that country helped with investigations that could be damaging to Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden.
In contrast, Scott, who is also sending fundraising pitches related to the impeachment trial, has publicly defended the president and complained about arguments made by Democrats.
He’s even going on offense on Trump’s behalf in Iowa, running a TV ad there from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 titled “Biden Got Away With It.” The Iowa caucuses, the first 2020 presidential contest for Democrats, are on Monday.
“I’m Rick Scott, one of the jurors in the U.S. Senate,” he says in the ad. “I’d like to thank the Democrats for badly botching this impeachment charade and for spending so much time on a cover-up for Joe Biden.”
In media interviews, Scott repeatedly called Democrats’ arguments “boring.” In one interview, he even claimed to long for the fate of a protester who burst into the Senate chamber last week. After barging in and yelling “dismiss the trial of impeachment” and “[Chuck] Schumer is the devil” the protester was tackled by police and removed.
“I’ve heard the same testimony time and time again,” Scott said. “We saw that protester yell something bad about Chuck Schumer. I’m thinking about possibly doing the same thing so the sergeant-at-arms will take me out also.”
But Scott didn’t go before TV cameras on Monday or Tuesday, once Bolton’s revelations were made public.
Democrats have argued that Bolton should be called as a witness and a handful of Republican senators have expressed a desire to hear from him. But the majority of Republicans, Rubio and Scott included, have steered clear.
“Senator Scott has said all along that the Senate will make a decision about witnesses after the White House finishes their presentation,” Scott spokesperson Chris Hartline said in an email. “But if the Senate does open the trial up to new witnesses, it won’t just be the ones Democrats want. Senator Scott would want to hear from Hunter and Joe Biden, [House Intelligence chairman] Adam Schiff and the whistleblower.”
On Tuesday, Rubio did register one impeachment-related reaction: He changed his Twitter profile picture to Alexander Hamilton, after the founding father was frequently quoted by both sides during the trial. And his header photo on the social media account was changed to a painting of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, where the rules of impeachment were enshrined into law.
Trump’s defense team ended its opening arguments on Tuesday, and senators will have the opportunity to ask questions on Wednesday and Thursday. A vote on whether to allow witnesses is likely on Friday.