- The Washington Times
Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday warned against underestimating Russian President Vladimir Putin, which he said is a mistake made by previous administrations.

The Florida Republican explained during an interview on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” that whoever won the 2016 presidential election would have fallen into years of Russian spy controversy.

“I don’t think Vladimir Putin interfered with our election — I know he did,” he said. “And I think his primary objective was not one candidate over another. His primary objective was to weaken the next president of the United States by thrusting them into controversy.”

Mr. Rubio said President Trump was right in saying U.S. policymakers made mistakes in dealing with Russia, but that those mistakes were “not fully understanding who Vladimir Putin really was.”

He warned that the Trump administration could be continuing in that direction if the president believes he can befriend Mr. Putin.

“Bottom line is that he is not interested in a win-win with the U.S.,” Mr. Rubio said. “Vladimir Putin believes that the only way to make Russia stronger is to make America weaker.”

Mr. Rubio touted the Deter Act, which would issue “specific and significant sanctions,” as a solution to potential meddling by Russian agents.

The senator said he wished Mr. Trump defended the intelligence community at the press conference like he did at Tuesday’s hearing where the president issued a correction to his Helsinki comments.

However, Mr. Rubio defended the Trump administration, saying that despite the president’s rhetoric there has been “strong” action taken regarding Russia, such as sanctions and giving weapons to Ukraine.

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