Republican Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida defended Donald Trump Jr. July 10 for choosing to meet with a Russian lawyer regarding damaging information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election (video below).
The New York Times reported that Trump Jr. met June 9, 2016 with the lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in a meeting including Trump's then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner at Trump Tower.
Yoho told CNN that Trump Jr.'s meeting was "opposition research," which he himself would do:
Do I think it's appropriate? I think I probably would have done the same thing. I mean, it's opposite research. Anybody that's been in an election [knows] you’re always trying to get the upper hand.
Keep in mind she wasn't an official for the Russian government. The way I understand it, she's a 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.
According to The New York Times, Veselnitskaya's clients have included include businesses owned by the Russian government and a senior Russian government official’s son.
A former senior law enforcement official told the newspaper that Veselnitskaya's associations and activities caught the attention of the FBI.
Veselnitskaya told The New York Times that "nothing at all about the presidential campaign" was spoken about during the meeting, and that she "never acted on behalf of the Russian government" and "never discussed any of these matters with any representative of the Russian government."
Trump Jr. originally told the newspaper that the meeting was about U.S. adoption laws and did not include mention Clinton, but he changed that version with a statement:
After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton.
Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.
Meanwhile, Trump Jr. has hired New York lawyer Alan Futerfas to represent him in investigations related to Russia, reports Reuters.
According to AlterNet, Futerfas' experience includes defending members of infamous criminal families, including Colombo, Gambino, and Genovese.
In 2012, Futerfas defended Michael "Roc" Roccaforte (Gambino), who pleaded guilty to numerous crimes including drug dealing, gambling, loan sharking and racketeering.