GOP Rep. Dave Brat: We’ve Gotten ‘A Little Hysterical’ About Russia

Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va.,  a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, explains his position to a TV interviewer before his group meets with President Donald Trump as the GOP's long-promised legislation to repeal and replace "Obamacare" moves to a showdown vote, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 23, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

A Republican congressman said Friday that Democrats are taking Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer a little too seriously.

“I’m an economist, not a lawyer, but what you got to do is just name the statute that’s been violated. We’re a nation under laws, not under men,” Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) said in an appearance on CNN. “So if there’s proof that a statute’s been violated, then there is an issue. If there’s not, I think a couple of issues have gotten conflated.”

In June 2016, Trump Jr. — along with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort — met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya amid promises that she would provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aid Trump’s presidential campaign. On Friday, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer confirmed to the Associated Press that he was also at the meeting.

Brat said he doesn’t think any of his Republican or Democratic colleagues are denying that Russia was “messing around in our election,” but he said the main problem is that Democrats are “upset President Trump won the election.”

“So they’ve been saying ‘impeach, impeach’ since day one. That’s obviously more political. … If you find a statute that’s been violated then you got it, but my senators in Virginia are getting apoplectic. Mark Warner’s seeing smoke everywhere he goes, like he’s in a ‘Cheech and Chong’ movie. Kaine now thinks the son is worse than Benedict Arnold,” he said. Warner is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of several congressional panels investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“We’ve gotten a little hysterical and we should just get grounded and remember we’re a country under the law,” Brat said.

He went on to say that “there’s collusion everywhere” and accused some media outlets of colluding.

“I don’t complain about that. It is not illegal. I think it is unethical, but it is not illegal,” he said. “This has been going on for a year. … It’s always some new meeting, we’ll all get excited for a day and will it stick? I don’t know.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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