Why So Secret? After Weeks of Stonewalling, Rubio Claims He Read Obamatrade — But Hides Proof

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s office claims—while refusing to answer questions—that the senator read Obamatrade before voting for cloture on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) the second time in the Senate.

It is also continuing to refuse to answer questions about whether the Senator read Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before voting for TPA the first time, in late May. The lack of a direct answer leaves the impression that he didn’t.

During the post-Obamacare world, a lawmaker’s claim to the public—to the voters one represents in Congress—that he’s read a bill is a solemn vow that he did his job as an elected official.

During the course of the fight on the “Gang of Eight” amnesty bill, Rubio and his office repeatedly got into trouble, making claims to conservative outlets and media figures that were then proven false. National Review even published a cover story entitled “Rubio’s Folly” that highlighted false claims about the bill that he made to them and others.

Now Rubio’s political reputation may hinge on whether he actually read the full Obamatrade bill before voting to give the president vast powers. But the Florida senator currently refuses to answer detailed questions, answers to which could prove one way or the other if he actually did his homework—or if he just voted for the talking points rather than the bill itself.

Rubio says he made the decision to be the 60th and crucial-to-passage yes vote for Obamatrade because he supports expanding free trade, but his team consistently refuses to answer detailed questions that would verify whether Rubio in fact read the bill.

On Tuesday afternoon, Breitbart News reported that Rubio did not read the text of the TPP before he supported the cloture measure on TPA.

That story developed over weeks, as Rubio’s office has consistently and repeatedly refused to answer the simple question of whether he had visited the secretive room inside the Capitol where lawmakers are allowed to read the TPP text.

The first time Breitbart News asked Rubio’s office about this was back in early May for a story published May 7, in which only two GOP senators—Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Mike Lee (R-UT)—said they went to the room to read TPP. Rubio and his team ended up giving off the public impression at that time that the senator had not read the TPP text.

Then, again in the first week of June, Breitbart News asked Rubio’s office, Ted Cruz’s office, Lindsey Graham’s office, and Rand Paul’s office if they had read it. Paul and Cruz both had before voting on TPA the first time, but Rubio and Graham both again chose to give off the public impression they voted for something they hadn’t read.

Over the course of this timeframe, Breitbart News asked Rubio and his team time and time again whether he read TPP. Multiple reporters—not just this one—from Breitbart News asked the question. Rubio’s team refuses to answer.

Staff members are not allowed to go in unless they have high enough security clearances and enter the room with a member of Congress. There’s a similar room on both the House and Senate side of the Capitol.

Having failed to visit the room would mean that Rubio definitely did not read the text of the TPP. But, just because he went to the room doesn’t mean he read the full text.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who visited the room to read the text before he voted time and again against Obamatrade, told Breitbart News in several interviews about it. The text of the TPP deal is about 800 pages long. It would have taken at least a full business day, probably more like two or three, to read the entire deal. Rubio, to have read the full TPP deal before voting for it, would have had to spend that full timeframe in the room.

After Tuesday’s Breitbart News story, Rubio’s office called Breitbart News to provide comment.

“I can confirm Senator Rubio read the TPP text weeks ago,” Rubio spokeswoman Brooke Sammon said in an email.

In addition, Sammon provided a quote from Rubio himself supporting Obamatrade:

Trade Promotion Authority is a key component to advancing U.S. international trade goals, opening new markets to American goods and services, and ensuring continued American leadership in Asia and Europe. Renewing TPA will allow the U.S. to compete in the global marketplace, thus helping to grow our economy and create new opportunities for American workers and businesses.

In response to those quotes, Breitbart News sent Sammon seven follow-up questions, most of which Breitbart News has been asking Rubio’s office for weeks.

First, Breitbart News asked Sammon when Rubio went to the room to read the text of the TPP. Sammon had said “weeks ago,” but that could mean after the first TPA vote in the Senate—cloture for which, the vote that matters, was on May 21—or it could mean before it.

Sammon’s statement is vague enough that it could mean in mid June—since Rubio’s second vote for TPA was not until June 23—or she could mean mid-May or late May. But even before that, Rubio offered public support for trade deals. It’s unclear—but certainly relevant—when Rubio went to the room.

In late April, Rubio wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal offering his public support for TPA and TPP. Rubio wrote of his belief in “three pillars to an Asia policy for a new American century.”

“To this end, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), discussed between President Obama and Prime Minister Abe this week, will further our strategic goals in Asia and increase prosperity at home,” Rubio wrote on April 29.

He continued:

It will advance economic liberty and unleash free-market forces in the world’s most dynamic region. It will create the opportunity for emerging economies to become the next “tigers” of Asia and enhance linkages between nations in the Western Hemisphere and East Asia. Concluding TPP will require the passage of Trade Promotion Authority by the Congress. Our foreign trading partners like Japan need to have confidence that American presidents can deliver on free trade. Once we pass Trade Promotion Authority we can finish negotiating a pact that will help build a network of Pacific economies based on competition, the rule of law and free markets.

We don’t know whether he read the deal before writing that piece, or before May 13, when he made TPA, TPP, and T-TIP centerpieces of his foreign policy and his 2016 presidential campaign in a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) event.

At that time, Rubio endorsed TPA, TPP, and T-TIP—even though here’s no legal way Rubio could have even seen T-TIP to know what it would mean.

“Millions of the best jobs in this new century will depend on international trade,” Rubio said in remarks at CFR while being interviewed by CBS News’ Charlie Rose.“It is more important than ever that Congress give the president trade promotion authority so that he can finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.”

The second question Breitbart News followed up to Sammon with—and it’s perhaps more important than the first one—is how long exactly Rubio spent in the room reading the text of the TPP deal.

At an estimate of a minute per page, that would be between 13 and 14 hours. That may be a generous estimate, since the text is what Sen. Paul told Breitbart News is “government speak.”

That means a candidate for the presidency of the United States would have had to suspend his campaign for at least a couple days to go read a secret trade deal text. It’s up to Rubio and his team to come up with evidence to prove he did his job as a senator.

The third question Sammon refuses to answer is whether Rubio brought any staff with him and, if so, which staffers. The only way a staffer could brief the senator on the deal would be if the staffer had been in the room with him reading the text.

The fourth question Sammon refuses to answer focused on why Rubio’s office—if he did in fact go read the TPP text “weeks ago”—has consistently and repeatedly refused to answer Breitbart News’ questions on this matter.

The fifth question Sammon refuses to answer is whether Rubio took notes in the room. Of course, if he did, they would have been destroyed before he left the room because he wouldn’t—or his staff who may have been with him wouldn’t—have been allowed to to take them out.

The sixth question Sammon refuses to answer is whether Rubio wants the secret log that keeps track of which members of Congress—and any staffers who accompanied them—visited the secret room to read the text of the TPP deal before voting for TPA to become available to the public so Americans nationwide can know which of their members of Congress knew what they were talking about when they voted for or against Obamatrade.

Breitbart News can confirm such a log is kept on the Senate side and there probably is an identical one on the House side—though the sergeant-at-arms in the House refused to confirm it.

The seventh and final question Sammon refuses to answer is whether he read the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) text before voting for TPA.

With regard to those other two trade deals, TPA would fast-track and make likely their final passage, even though the text of those is currently being withheld entirely from Congress. Not even lawmakers are allowed to read either of them, and they are entirely secretive at this time.

That’s a major concern, because a WikiLeaks document dump of TiSA documents uncovered several serious concerns with Obamatrade, specifically the question of how these trade deals would handle immigration policy and healthcare policy and how such matters among others would be handled on the world stage in the new global governance structure that these deals would create.

One senator who’s read as much of the trade deals as it’s possible to read is Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). The Alabama Republican is a proponent of free trade, so he’s been leading a charge inside Congress to expose Obamatrade’s shortcomings.

In several critical alerts he’s issued to the public and to his colleagues over recent weeks, he noted how this structure would create a global governance that includes 90 percent of the entire planet’s gross domestic product. Sessions explains that a vote for TPA is a vote for TPP, for TiSA, and for T-TIP.

No trade deal has ever been stopped once it started on a fast track—although Nancy Pelosi did take a bill at the end of the George W. Bush administration off fast-track, and then pass it, just to spite Bush—so voting for TPA is voting for TPP, along with related legislation that is sure to follow. So while Rubio may claim he can vote against those deals later, by voting to support TPA, he made it almost certain those deals will be enacted as well.

“It is essential that there be no misunderstanding: fast-track preapproves the formation of not only the unprecedentedly large Trans-Pacific Partnership, but an unlimited number of such agreements over the next six years,” Sessions said before the House vote last week in one such statement.

Those pacts include three of the most ambitious ever contemplated. After TPP comes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union, followed by the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), seeking as one its goals labor mobility among more than 50 nations. Together, these three international compacts encompass three-fourths of the world’s GDP. Including the nations whose membership is being courted for after enactment, the countries involved would encompass nearly 90 percent of global GDP. Yet, through fast-track, Congress will have authorized the President to ink these deals before a page of them has been made public. Then, the Executive sends Congress ‘implementing’ legislation to change U.S. law—legislation which cannot be amended, cannot be filibustered, and will not be subjected to the Constitutional requirement for a two-thirds treaty vote.

After refusing to answer the follow-up questions from Breitbart News, Rubio literally ducked reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday. According to Politico, Rubio snuck into Congress and then ran away from a reporter who found him.

“Marco Rubio entered the first floor of the Senate, sneaking up a back stairwell to cast his biggest vote of the year: advancing President Barack Obama’s trade agenda,” Politico’s Manu Raju wrote on Tuesday evening. “The Florida Republican stayed on the Senate floor for a minute, then darted down a staircase, ignoring questions about conservative criticism of a bill some on the right have derisively dubbed ‘Obamatrade.'”

“Not today,” Rubio replied as Raju wrote “he rushed out of the Senate.”

Marco Rubio has worked to rebuild credibility with conservatives over the two years since he partnered with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)—the lead Democrat messenger in the Senate—on the Gang of Eight amnesty, but by and large he has failed.

“I continue to believe our system needs to be reformed and I’ve learned in the last year that because of such an incredible distrust of the federal government no matter who’s in charge, the only way you’re going to be able to deal with this issue is by first securing the border and ensuring that illegal immigration is under control,” Rubio said in an interview with this reporter back in August last year. In that interview, Rubio also attacked Obama’s executive amnesty. But he now says he won’t undo it on day one as president—effectively undercutting himself again.

That’s not the only place where Rubio’s showing he’s rattled. National Review printed Team Rubio’s statements that they tried to get published in Breitbart News without answers to these critical questions verbatim, and without pressing him for follow-up.

Rubio himself tweeted the National Review article from his personal Twitter account at least twice on Wednesday, claiming again that he did in fact read the text of the TPP — without answering key questions about when he visited the room, for how long he was in there, and how he managed to take at least a couple days off from his U.S. Senate work and campaigning to spend reading the text of TPP.


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