Sen. Marco Rubio on Sunday defended former President Donald Trump's campaign rally comments about the NATO alliance, saying that he did not construe Trump's words as suggesting that he would not defend countries that were delinquent on their payments.
"Donald Trump was president and he didn't pull us out of NATO," the Florida Republican said on CNN's "State of the Union," adding that while Trump was in office, American troops remained stationed throughout NATO countries.
During his rally in Conway, South Carolina, on Saturday, Trump retold a story about an unidentified NATO member who he said confronted him over his threat not to defend members who don't meet the alliance's spending targets.
His comments drew fire from the White House, which said he was encouraging invasions from hostile nations.
"Frankly, look, Donald Trump is not a member of the Council of Foreign Relations," Rubio said. "He doesn't talk like a traditional politician. … If you see the comments, he said NATO was broke or busted until he took over because people weren't paying their dues and then he told the story about how he used leverage to get people to step up to the plate and become more active in NATO."
Trump is also not the first president to complain about other countries not doing enough to support the alliance, Rubio added.
"I'm zero concerned," he said. "He's been president before. I know exactly what he's done and will do with the NATO alliance. It has to be an alliance, not America's defense with small junior partners."
Meanwhile, the Senate will hold a procedural vote later Sunday to provide aid to Israel and Ukraine, and Rubio said he opposes the measure because funding to Israel is "being held hostage" so money can be gotten to Ukraine.
"I think if we secure our own border here in the United States, I've said we should help Ukraine," said Rubio. "Half the money going to Ukraine is not going to Ukraine. It's to buy back our own weapons to restock our own shelves and Taiwan is included there as well. My problem is this. Before we do these things, we have to make America and Americans a priority again."
Rubio also Sunday commented on Trump's criticism of rival GOP candidate Nikki Haley, including demanding to know where her husband is.
Michael Haley, a major with the South Carolina National Guard, is on voluntary deployment in Africa.
Rubio said he thinks such remarks from Trump are "part of the increasing nastiness of this campaign and every campaign in American politics."
"They're calling [Trump] a grumpy old man," he said. "I remember when Melania Trump was not visible for some period of time. You had people in the media and others snickering she was no longer with Donald Trump. We find out she was caring for her ailing mother who was in the last weeks and days of her life."
Trump "gives as good as he gets," Rubio said. "It's just part of these campaign cycles. People don't like it. They're turned off by it."
Rubio added, though, that he still supports Trump "because Joe Biden is a disaster who has done tremendous damage to this country. America is less prosperous and less safe because Joe Biden became president."
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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