Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Sunday claimed he’s not sweating the backlash he and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) are facing after both GOP senators live-tweeted screenshots of a video call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, despite being asked not to post pictures of the meeting while it was happening.
In tweets posted Saturday morning, Rubio and Daines shared pictures of Zelensky, saying they were on a call with him. Zelensky spoke with more than 300 lawmakers during the virtual meeting, which was his first addressing members of Congress since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. He reportedly urged them to ban the importation of Russian oil and to send more jets to his country.
Members were reportedly explicitly asked to not post pictures of the call while it was in progress. Reps. Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Jason Crow (D-CO) swiftly criticized Rubio and Daines for posting pictures of Zelensky on Twitter during the Zoom meeting.
Rubio brushed off the criticism during an appearance on CNN on Sunday.
Rubio claimed that Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., advised members of Congress against posting online about the virtual meeting with Zelensky “30 minutes into the call.”
The GOP senator then argued that Markarova was “under the impression that no one knew that call was happening.”
“That call had been widely reported. Actually, the specific time had been reported,” Rubio said. “There were over 300 people on it. All the call details had been e-mailed. So, there was nothing secure about that call.”
Rubio added that his tweet contained a “nondescript picture.”
“It looks just like any of the other ones that you have seen out there publicly. So, there’s no risk posed,” Rubio said, before accusing Democrats of trying to publicize themselves by calling him out for his tweet.
“You’re always going to have a couple of people that want their name in an article somewhere and mentioned in the press,” Rubio said.
Zelensky’s virtual meeting with members of Congress was held more than a week after Russia launched its unprovoked war on Ukraine. Zelensky has been hiding out in various underground bunkers in Kyiv, and has reportedly survived at least three precision assassination attempts by elite hit squads.
Last week, Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said in remarks aired on Ukrainian TV channels that a unit of elite Chechen special forces was en route to kill Zelensky. But the alleged assassination plot against Zelensky was reportedly foiled last weekend after Chechen special forces were killed on the outskirts of Kyiv.
Ukrainian officials claimed that Zelensky’s survival can be attributed to tip-offs from Russian spies.
Amid mounting concerns for Zelensky’s safety, a bipartisan group of lawmakers urged the International Criminal Court last week to immediately prosecute Russian President Vladimir Putin “should anything happen” to Zelensky. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Sunday also said that Ukraine has “plans in place” for continuity of government in the event Zelensky is killed during Russia’s invasion.
Watch Rubio’s remarks below: