Last week on “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,” Republican Rep. Ted Yoho said it was understandable that the president’s eldest child, Donald Trump Jr., met with a Russian lawyer for information about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Sarah Walters, a 44-year-old UF psychology alumna, said she wasn’t at all surprised by Yoho’s remarks.
Walters, a Gainesville resident who has attended recent town halls hosted by Yoho, said she believes the congressman’s statements chip away at democracy.
“Every time we have elected officials who make behavior that is clearly wrong, they make it seem OK, I think that that weakens our democracy,” Walters said.
As a guest on CNN, Yoho — who represents Clay, Bradford, Union, Alachua, Putnam and parts of Marion County in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District — said he “probably would have done the same thing.”
On July 11, Trump Jr. tweeted a statement with photos of a conversation he had with Rob Goldstone, a publicist for Russian pop star Emin Agalarov.
In the June 2016 emails, Goldstone told Trump Jr. that he had “information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
In response, Trump Jr. wrote “if it’s what you say I love it.”
According to The New York Times, on June 9, 2016, Trump Jr. eventually met with Goldstone at Trump Tower, as well as a Russian real estate mogul, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and a Russian-American lobbyist.
During the interview, Yoho said that because Veselnitskaya was a lawyer and not a Russian government official, the interaction was not inappropriate.
“I don’t think it was inappropriate for what he did,” Yoho said in the interview. “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?”
Alejandro Levy, a member of the UF College Democrats, said he’s never been a big fan of Yoho.
“I don’t think he does a good job representing, particularly college students, on a lot of different issues,” the 20-year-old history junior said. “It’s unfortunate that we have a congressperson that doesn’t quite respond to all the different parts of his constituency as he should.”
While some might not approve of Yoho or his approaches, Andrew Jamison, a 19-year-old UF finance sophomore, said he thinks Yoho has properly reflected the beliefs of some UF students.
“Yoho has been a good representation of standing up for one’s beliefs through his work in Congress, and I think that reflects the development of character through UF in a positive light,” he said.
Jamison, a member of the UF College Republicans, said he agrees with Yoho that Trump Jr.’s actions were appropriate.
“There is no hard proof of direct ties, emphasis on direct, between the Russian lawyer and the Kremlin,” Jamison said. “At this point, it is fairly obvious there is no real evidence that there was any sort of collusion between Donald Trump and the Russian government.”