WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) delivered a blistering denunciation of President Barack Obama's Justice Department Wednesday, slamming investigators for secretly issuing subpoenas against the Associated Press.
Rubio, though, cast the AP subpoenas as another damning point in a pattern of behavior by the Obama White House, saying they fit in with the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of tea party groups and other alleged acts of intimidation.
"It's not just one scandal at the IRS," Rubio said in a Senate floor tirade, adding the looming enforcement of Obamacare regulations as evidence. "It's about a culture of hardball politics."
From there, he focused on the Justice Department probe of the AP, in which two months of phone records for numerous reporters and editors were scooped up without warning.
"You think about some of our most precious freedoms, the First Amendment right to free speech. Think about if you're a reporter at the Associated Press," Rubio said. "Think about if you are a source unrelated to national security to the Associated Press."
He argued that such sources, including whistle-blowers, will be much less likely to come forward now that they know the lengths to which federal investigators are willing to go to find leakers.
"Now all of a sudden, what are you afraid of? 'I'm not calling that reporter back because their phone might be tapped. My number may show up on their records because the Justice Department has just shown that they're willing to do that.' Think about the chilling effect that that sends up and down the government," Rubio said. "If there is wrongdoing somewhere in the government right now, people are probably afraid to blow the whistle because they're afraid that they are being surveilled by the Justice Department or that the person they're talking to is being surveilled."
"That's how outrageous this is," Rubio added.
The senator had earlier been critical of reporters for paying more attention to the AP subpoenas than to other scandals, such as the IRS targeting.
Attorney General Eric Holder, who said he recused himself from the AP investigation, has defended the wide-ranging phone records grab as necessary to protect national security.
Watch Rubio's tirade above.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.