Fabiola Santiago

On his worst week in office, Trump gets a boost from Cuban-American pals in Congress

White House photo of President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Marco Rubio meeting with Lillian Tintori, wife of political prisoner and opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.
White House photo of President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Marco Rubio meeting with Lillian Tintori, wife of political prisoner and opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Hear the silence?

Not a peep from the Cuban-American congressional contingent about President Donald Trump’s Russiagate.

Odd enough, considering this: For decades after the Soviet bloc’s collapse, the lawmakers have denounced any sign of Russia’s presence in Cuba as proof that the Castro brothers’ regime will never change or substantially reform. Russia’s presence, they argue, continues to be a threat to U.S. security.

Well, the Russians are operating right here in the United States, threatening the very integrity of the U.S. presidency.

It’s no longer just a suspicion. There’s mounting evidence that Russia tampered with the American election — and according to international reports, Vladimir Putin’s intelligence agents also are actively doing the same in Europe.

The bombshell developments: A New York Times story about intercepted communications by U.S. intelligence officials between Trump’s campaign workers and Russian intelligence agents. A Wall Street Journal report that U.S. intelligence officers have withheld sensitive information from the president in fear that he could leak and compromise it. A Washington Post report that national security adviser Michael Flynn, forced to resign on Valentine’s Day, had spoken to the Russian ambassador about the U.S. sanctions imposed by then-President Barack Obama before Flynn was in office. Trump might have known for weeks and let Flynn deceive even his vice president.

All points to serious trouble for Trump, who made a blustering comment on the campaign trail in Doral, egging on the Russians to continue to hack the Democrats. After he was chastised for it, Trump said it was a joke, but seen in this new light, it sounds more like veiled truth slipping out of his uncontainable mouth.

Some condemnation is in order, certainly calls for a congressional investigation, but with the White House and Congress in Republican hands, the Cuban Americans are mum. They weren’t even impressed with a Russian spy ship lurking 30 miles off the coast of Connecticut near a U.S. naval submarine base. Right outside their D.C. doors, practically, but hey, it wasn’t in Havana.

Where’s the Cuban-American outrage? Focused on safe subjects like Venezuela’s corrupt and despotic government, sure to command front-page headlines in Miami and sympathy for Trump, who tweeted a photo of himself, the vice president and Sen. Marco Rubio with the wife of political prisoner and opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Another attention grabber: the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions against Venezuelan Vice President Tarek El Aissami for playing “a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.” It was as if the narco vice president — with ties to radical Islamic groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and whose assets included three Miami luxury condos — had fallen from the sky in the nick of time.

“Your days in freedom are numbered,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen tweeted to the narco chavista VP. And that was only the beginning of her swift condemnation.

Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo both “commended” Trump several times on their Twitter feeds for the sanctions and for asking for Lopez’s freedom. The lawmakers also chastised Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for taking CNN off the air, but Trump spent the entire week undermining and intimidating the American media with the power of his office — and I didn’t hear them stand up for our democracy.

None of the lawmakers said a word about the Russian ship off Connecticut, nor about what concerned many of their colleagues Thursday, a day of protests against Trump’s harsh immigration policies. Some businesses, including Washington’s top restaurants, closed in support of immigrants and the hashtag #ADayWithoutImmigrants trended all day.

But Venezuela’s highly profiled troubles distracted Miamians from the White House crisis. It distracted them, too, from the Trump administration’s ICE raids targeting immigrants all over the nation, something you might expect a Hispanic member of Congress to be tweeting about, given the consternation among their constituents.

If Trump had remained a Democrat and won the election, the Cuban-American contingent in Washington would’ve been up in arms voicing absolute outrage at his Russia ties, as they often did at Obama’s policies.

But the Cuban Americans are party faithful.

On Thursday, Trump rewarded their support and got himself out of a pickle with Hispanics by naming a Cuban American from Miami to his Cabinet. Former U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta, dean of the Florida International University Law School, was nominated to the post of Secretary of Labor from which businessman Andrew Puzder withdrew after allegations of domestic abuse and of having hired an undocumented immigrant as household help came to light.

Finally, if by default, something to celebrate: a Hispanic in Trump’s largely white-male inner circle.

As for Rubio, he was corralled in a Capitol corner by media asking if there will be a Senate investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The senator did a little verbal tap dance — and dined with Trump and the First Lady on Wednesday night.

They allegedly talked Cuba, but Russia is what’s on everyone’s mind.

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