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Rubio dodges question on RNC censure of Cheney, Kinzinger but blasts Jan. 6 panel as 'partisan scam'

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Florida Senator Marco Rubio avoided weighing in on whether he supported the Republican National Committee’s censure of Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger despite being pressed on the matter multiple times during a tense TV interview exchange on Sunday.

The GOP lawmaker instead directed his fury at the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot, calling the Democrat-led panel a ‘partisan scam.’ 

Cheney and Kinzinger, both longtime Republicans who voted with Donald Trump’s policies more than 90 percent of the time when he was in office, were formally rebuked by the RNC on Friday for their work on the January 6 committee. They’re the only two GOP lawmakers on the panel assembled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

During an appearance on CBS News’ Face The Nation, Rubio was asked whether he shared the RNC’s majority sentiment.

He began by declaring that ‘anybody who committed crimes on January 6th should be prosecuted.’

‘If you entered the Capitol and you committed acts of violence and you were there to hurt people, you should be prosecuted and they are being prosecuted. But the January 6th commission is not the place to do this,’ Rubio said. 

‘This commission is a partisan scam. They’re going after- they’re- the purpose of that commission is to try to embarrass and smear and- and harass as many Republicans as they can get their hands on.’

Host Margaret Brennan asked more directly: ‘That’s what you believe your two Republican colleagues are doing? Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger?’

Rubio, unlike many national Republican figures over the weekend, resisted taking a side on whether to support or oppose the censure against Reps. Cheney and Kinzinger

Rubio, unlike many national Republican figures over the weekend, resisted taking a side on whether to support or oppose the censure against Reps. Cheney and Kinzinger

Rubio resisted referring to them by name throughout the duration of the interview.

‘That’s what the commission is doing,’ he insisted. ‘Well, let me tell you, I know that’s what the commission is doing because they’re focused well beyond January 6th.’

The Florida Republican recalled an account of a recently widowed RNC member who supposedly is ‘being harassed by this commission’ despite not being in Washington, DC on January 6.

‘But that’s not what the censure said,’ Brennan insisted.

Rubio pressed ahead.

‘This commission is nothing but a partisan tool designed to go out and smear and attack and get their hands on as many people as they can, including people that weren’t in Washington on January 6th,’ he claimed.

The CBS anchor attempted to settle the matter before moving on to a different topic, telling him: ‘OK, sounds like you say they do speak for you.’

Rubio interrupted again, seemingly attempting to correct her without suggesting support for two of House GOP’s most vocal Trump critics.

‘Well, no I told you where I stand on that commission. I think that commission is a scam. I think it’s a complete partisan scam. And I think anyone who committed a crime on January 6th should be prosecuted and if convicted, put in jail,’ he maintained.

The Republican National Committee passed a resolution Friday to censure GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for their involvement in the January 6 select committee

GOP reaction to the move has been split, with more moderate Republicans condemning their rebuke

 The Republican National Committee passed a resolution Friday to censure GOP Reps. Liz Cheney (left) and Adam Kinzinger (right) for their involvement in the January 6 select committee.

‘I do not believe that we need a congressional committee to harass Americans that weren’t even in Washington on January 6th, that were not in favor of what happened on that day, have condemned what happened on that day, but they want to smear them anyway. I’m against that, yes.’

The RNC passed a resolution to censure GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for their involvement in the January 6 select committee during the group’s winter meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday.  

Other national Republican figures aside from Rubio took firmer stances. 

Trump released a statement on Saturday night praising the RNC for censuring ‘horrible RINOs’ Cheney and Kinzinger. 

Senators Mitt Romney, Bill Cassidy and Lisa Murkowski — three of the seven GOP senators who voted to convict Trump following his second impeachment — were among those critical of the RNC’s rebuke.  

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel sparked outrage that day for claiming the violent Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 last year were taking part in ‘legitimate political discourse.’

McDaniel said in a statement after the vote: ‘Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger crossed a line. They chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol.’

‘That’s why Republican National Committee members and myself overwhelmingly support this resolution.’ 

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was torched for depicting the violent events of January 6, 2021 as'legitimate political discourse'

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was torched for depicting the violent events of January 6, 2021 as ‘legitimate political discourse’ 

Senator Rob Portman is pictured surrounded by fellow Republican lawmakers. The Republican Party's formal rebuke of two conservative House officials is unprecedented

Senator Rob Portman is pictured surrounded by fellow Republican lawmakers. The Republican Party’s formal rebuke of two conservative House officials is unprecedented

Cheney took aim at McDaniel’s statement shortly afterwards. 

‘This was January 6th. This is not “legitimate political discourse,”‘ she said on Twitter, sharing video of members of the MAGA mob attacking the U.S. Capitol. 

Kinzinger wrote in a statement responding to the censure, ‘Rather than focus their efforts on how to help the American people, my fellow Republicans have chosen to censure two lifelong Members of their party for simply upholding their oaths of office.’

‘They’ve allowed conspiracies and toxic tribalism hinder their ability to see clear-eyed.’ 

Republicans accused Cheney and Kinzinger of helping the Democrats maintain their Congressional majority in their formal rebuke.

It said the RNC will ‘immediately cease any and all support’ of the two conservatives, and that the party condemns ‘those who deliberately jeopardize victory in November.’ 

Kinzinger isn’t running for re-election, but Cheney has attracted a pro-Trump challenger in the form of former ally Harriet Hageman. 

Wyoming’s lone House representative was also ousted from her own state’s GOP for her work as vice chair of the Capitol riot committee.

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