Rubio on Russia meddling: If I were president I would welcome the investigation

Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said Sunday -- amid a flurry of tweets from President Trump denouncing what he calls a "witch hunt" -- that it is in the president's best interest to have a full investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

"My advice to the president is what I communicated publicly. The way I've tried to communicate to everyone on this issue. And that is this. It is in the best interest of the president and the country to have a full investigation," Rubio said in an interview with "Face the Nation." 

Rubio added, "If I were the president, I would be welcoming this investigation. I would ask that it be thorough and completed expeditiously and be very cooperative with it. That's what ultimately I anticipate they will do."

The Florida Republican's comments come amid Mr. Trump's repeated use of the term "witch hunt." He tweeted early Sunday morning that his agenda continues to do "very well" despite the "distraction."

On Friday, Mr. Trump tweeted, "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director! Witch hunt." It appeared to confirm a Washington Post report that Robert Mueller is investigating Mr. Trump for possible obstruction of justice.

While investigations continue, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have taken steps in sending a message to Russia in response to its efforts to interfere in the U.S. election, by signing a sanctions bill against the Russian government.

The Senate overwhelmingly adopted an amendment in a 97-2 vote into the measure that maintains and expands sanctions against the Russian government. It would require a congressional review for any lifting, suspension or termination of U.S. sanctions on Russia, impose mandatory sanctions on entities engage in Russian energy projects and require sanctions to be imposed on people undermining cybersecurity and secondary sanctions on people who contribute to malicious cyber activity. That congressional review is meant to make it far more difficult for the Trump administration to unilaterally lift the Russia sanctions.

Marco Rubio weighs in on Russia probe, Cuba, and health care

"It's important to send that message, that this is -- as I said, that this is not acceptable," said Rubio. 

"We can simply not allow foreign governments to be meddling and interfering in our elections that way, but they're going to keep doing it," Rubio said. "They're doing it now. They'll keep doing it in the future."

When asked if the administration appears reluctant to punish the Russians for their efforts, and if the bill comes as a check on the Trump White House, Rubio says it is a check, but not for the reasons people might suspect.

"It has nothing to do with the investigation per se. It's more along the lines of the secretary of state believes that he wants to explore the opportunity to get Russia to be more cooperative on a number of issues," Rubio said

Rubio added, "It's a foreign policy view that they have. And so they think that these sanctions may undermine that effort. And while I respect that point of view and have considered it, ultimately I think it's incredibly important for us to make clear that there are consequences for doing what they did during the 2016 election."

Rubio also noted the importance of Mr. Trump's moves to roll back Obama-era policies that eased restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba.

"I think this is an effort to strengthen individual Cubans. Understand what this does. This basically says that American travelers to Cuba, they'll continue to fly on commercial airlines or get there in a cruise. But when they get there, they have to spend their money primarily with individual Cubans who own private businesses," Rubio said.

Rubio added that "American travelers to Cuba will have to spend their money with them instead of the Cuban military. That was the goal of this, is to empower individual Cubans to be economically independent of the Castro military and of the Castro regime."

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital