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Rubio: Need for ‘access to cash’ led me to pull out some retirement savings

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio. (Molly Riley/AP)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) explained for the first time in an interview broadcast Sunday why he cashed out retirement savings funds, saying he wanted "access to cash" to address personal expenses and because he is running for president.

The comments shed new light on why Rubio, 43, made the move, which is considered unorthodox because people are typically subject to penalties for claiming their retirement savings prematurely. Rubio said he maintains at least two other active retirement savings accounts.

"It was just one specific account that we wanted to have access to cash in the coming year," Rubio said on "Fox News Sunday." "Both because I'm running for president, but also, you know, my refrigerator broke down. That was 3,000 dollars. I had to replace the air-conditioning unit in our home. My kids all go to school and they are getting closer to college and school's getting more expensive."

Rubio added that "when you are running for president, we just wanted access to some of that cash."

He filed a personal financial disclosure with the Federal Election Commission on Friday showing that he cashed out retirement account funds worth $60,000 to $195,000. Candidates for president were required to disclose their financial status or file for an extension to do so.

His campaign initially declined to say why Rubio claimed the retirement money. In the Fox interview, he appeared to try to play down the significance of the decision, pointing to other retirement accounts; he said he continues to regularly put money into at least one of them.

Rubio mentioned a Thrift Savings Plan account he has access to as a U.S. senator as well as a retirement account from his days in the Florida legislature. He did not say how much money was in either account. Rubio said he contributes to the TSP account "every week."

"That's just one retirement account from an ABA that I had years ago — the American Bar Association — the one [from when] I worked with an old law firm years ago," Rubio said of the account he cashed out.

The senator concluded: "I'm not poor, but I'm not rich, either."

Rubio and his wife hold at least $450,000 in home mortgage debt, his disclosure showed. His assets are worth between $361,018 and $1,035,000.

In the Fox News interview, Rubio also discussed his position on the Iraq war, which has come under scrutiny in the past week. In a tense exchange with host Chris Wallace, Rubio insisted that his stance on whether the 2003 invasion was justified had not changed.

On Wednesday, Rubio said he would not have ordered the invasion knowing what the country knows now: that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"Not only would I not have been in favor of it, President [George W.] Bush would not have been in favor of it," said Rubio at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

But in late March, when asked by Fox News whether it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq, Rubio responded: "I don't believe it was. The world is a better place because Saddam Hussein doesn't run Iraq."

On Sunday, he argued that the two positions were not incompatible because the questions were different.

"That was not the same question," Rubio said. "The question was whether it was a mistake, and my answer was, 'It's not a mistake.' I still say it's not a mistake because the president was presented with intelligence that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction."

Matea Gold, Rosalind S. Helderman and Anne Gearan contributed