President Donald Trump fawned praise on a former presidential rival on Wednesday, saying he “respects” the foreign policy guidance he’s received from Sen. Marco Rubio.
In a far reaching Oval Office interview on topics from his 2020 reelection prospects to the California wildfires, Trump said he appreciates and gets valuable feedback from the Republican Senator from Florida about the crisis in Venezuela.
“I do listen a lot to Senator Rubio on Venezuela, it’s close to his heart,” Trump told a small group of reporters representing regional news outlets, including McClatchy.
Since early in the Trump administration, Rubio has been one of Trump’s go-to sources for guidance on Western Hemisphere issues, particularly those involving Venezuela and Cuba.
In some ways the Cuban-American politician has served as an auxiliary Secretary of State for Trump on Latin American issues. Rubio knows many heads of state in the region personally. And they knew Rubio has Trump’s ear.
When Trump cancelled plans to last Spring attend the Latin American leaders summit to deal with the crisis in Syria, it opened the door for Rubio “to rise up and be a preeminent voice at the summit,” said José Cárdenas, who served in the National Security Council under George W. Bush.
Some critics of the Cuban American politician have asserted that Rubio exaggerates his influence, but Trump’s comments Wednesday about his former presidential rival in the 2016 elections reflect a closeness that he shares with only a handful of members of Congress, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
“People I respect, I listen to,” Trump said.
Rubio has been one of the most outspoken leaders in Washington calling on Trump to take more action against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, which Trump has done repeatedly including recognizing an opposition leader as the only legitimate president of the South American country.
Rubio has also pressured Trump to roll back some of Barack Obama’s policies toward Cuba, which Trump’s team at the National Security Council is actively pursuing.
“Clearly, it results from Senator Rubio’s passion for the issues of freedom and democracy in the Americas. It has nothing to do with self-interest or personal gain. It reflects well on ideals near and dear to the American heart,” Cárdenas said.