Republican Rep. Ted Yoho said it was appropriate for President Donald Trump’s son to meet with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign — and added that he probably would have taken the meeting under the same circumstances.
“Do I think it’s appropriate? I think I probably would have done the same thing,” the Florida Freedom Caucus member said on “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.” “I mean, it’s opposition research and, you know, anybody that’s been in an election — you’re always looking to get the upper hand.”
Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged in a statement Sunday that he met with a Russian lawyer who he had been told “might have information helpful to the campaign.” Trump Jr. issued the statement in response to The New York Times’ reporting that he “was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton” before agreeing to meet with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Veselnitskaya is a Russian lawyer who represents Russians who want to see an end to US sanctions against them — sanctions that Russian President Vladimir Putin has also strongly opposed. She says she doesn’t represent the Russian government and the Kremlin echoes that characterization.
Yoho argued that the meeting was not out of the ordinary.
“Keep in mind, she wasn’t an official for the Russian government, the way I understand it. She’s a lawyer — a Russian lawyer — and if somebody comes to us and says, ‘Hey, we’ve got information on an opponent,’ yeah I think that’s an appropriate thing to do,” Yoho said.”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? And you can’t do that if you don’t have the initial meeting.”
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting with Veselnitskaya, according to Trump Jr., but he said he told them “nothing of the substance” prior to the meeting.
Trump Jr. said it quickly became clear during the meeting that Veselnitskaya had no information he deemed meaningful, and that Veselnitskaya primarily wanted to secure the meeting to talk about a law pertaining to adoptions.