Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) said Monday evening that he would have done the same as Donald Trump Jr. in meeting with a Russian lawyer offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
“Do I think it’s appropriate? I think I probably would have done the same thing,” Yoho told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I mean, it’s opposition research. Anybody that’s been in an election, you’re always looking to get the upper hand.”
Yoho added separately, referring to the Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer with whom Trump admitted to meeting on June 9, 2016 after being promised dirt on Hillary Clinton: “As a Russian lawyer, does that mean the country of Russia was the one behind this? I don’t think so. So, again, I stand on the side of the president 100 percent on this.”
However, shortly after Yoho’s interview with Blitzer, the New York Times reported — citing three unnamed people familiar with an email setting up Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya — that Trump was informed beforehand “that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy.”
Asked by Blitzer if Trump should have notified the FBI about the meeting at the time, Yoho said, “I think probably going forward that may be what happens, especially in this case where Donald Trump’s the President now. But going back, you have to put yourself back at that time frame. At that time frame, I think it’s perfectly appropriate for what he did.”
He added: “We have sat down with some meetings I kind of wished I would have done more vetting in the future, and we have, and it’s a learning process. But no, again, I don’t think it was inappropriate for what he did. If you’ve got information about an opponent running against you, wouldn’t you want that information to vet it? To see if it’s real information and to use it accordingly?”
Yoho appeared unconcerned about possible Russian government interference in the election.
“The Russia thing will play itself out,” he said. “Russia, if you go back the last 50 to 100 years, they’ve always interfered and meddled, as other countries have, in elections and things like that to throw people off.”
The congressman said that as Trump “matures” as President, “you’re going to see Donald Trump probably be one of the most effective presidents we’ve ever had in this country.”