Congressman Ted Yoho more than holds his own in the belly of the beast on CNN
Below is a full transcript of the interview.
Blitzer: Joining us now Republican congressman Ted Yoho. He’s a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, thanks for joining us.
Rep. Yoho: Thanks for having me on Wolf.
Blitzer: Based on what you’ve learned about this airport stabbing in Flint Michigan do you believe this was an act of terrorism?
Rep Yoho: I think it’s pretty, pretty evident that it was. You know the guy yelling Allah Akbar and our thoughts and prayers go out to officer Neville. We hope that everything turns out well there, but I think this is something that you’re seeing a ramp up of this. We’re seeing this around the world and you know it’s, it’s a point in time where we all have to come together to bring this under control.
Blitzer: Well we were waiting to hear how the United States Supreme Court is you know will rule on the president’s proposed travel ban but that travel ban would not have prevented today’s attack. This individual was a Canadian who crossed into the United States from through Lake Champlain and then apparently drove over to Flint Michigan.
Rep. Yoho: Alright, but where did he come from? Was he born in Canada? Is he a Canadian citizen that was born there? Or did he immigrate from a country that would be on that list? You know that information needs to come out yet, so I don’t want to speculate too much and I think you’ll see this travel ban, I think you’ll see a decision come out on this real soon.
Blitzer: But irrespective of where he was born, if he was a Canadian citizen the president’s travel ban would not have affected him. The president’s travel ban deals with six Muslim-majority countries.
Rep. Yoho: Right. Good point there, but if that person had immigrated from one of those areas that would be on that ban and they’re in the United States, you know they hopefully we’d prevent those kind of attacks.
Blitzer: What policies do you believe that Trump administration is now putting forth to try to address attacks like this one, an individual gets a knife, doesn’t have a gun let’s say, but gets a knife and stabs a police officer at an airport?
Rep. Yoho: You know I don’t know how you’re going to stop those. Those things are always going to happen unfortunately. I hope they’re far and few in between and that relies on us too, the American people. If you see something say something and the DHS the Department Homeland Security has got a good program informing people. We’re at a point in time in this country. These are not Republican or Democratic issues. These are national security issues that we as Americans all need to have a part in this. So people if you’re out there and if you see something suspicious, report it to the authorities.
Blitzer: It hasn’t gone unnoticed, and I’m sure you’re, you’re aware of this congressman, especially within the Muslim-American community that the president has not been outspoken in condemning attacks where Muslims have been the victims. Do you believe that hurts his counterterrorism effort?
Rep. Yoho: No I don’t think so. I think we all speak out against that. You know I have to go back over and see what he said, but I think there was enough people speaking out against this. We had a Earl Blumenaur from Oregon led a session on the floor speaking it out against terror and hate crimes against anybody and again we as the leaders up here of our communities, we need to speak out about that, but we also need to have the community raise up and say we’re not going to tolerate this.
Blitzer: Let’s turn to the developments of the Russia investigation that we’re watching. Congressman, it’s now been reported that Michael Flynn was fired as the president National Security Adviser. He actually sat in with the CIA director Pompeo’s intelligence briefings for more than two weeks even after the White House was repeatedly warned about Flynn’s Russian contacts and potentially was subject to, to Russian blackmail. Do you believe with hindsight now looking back that was appropriate?
Rep. Yoho: I think looking back, I think anybody that gets relieved of their duty they should lose their security clearance and you know whether that was an oversight or they had a reason to leave them with that, I think that’s something that in the future if you lose your job for certain reasons, especially one like that, you need to lose your security clearance for sure.
Blitzer: But the White House was warned by the Justice Department among others and in the law enforcement and intelligence community that Michael Flynn potentially represented a threat that he could have been blackmailed that he wasn’t telling the vice president, wasn’t telling other officials the truth about his contacts with Russian officials, yet he was allowed to participate in those top-secret briefings for what, 18 days. How did that happen?
Rep. Yoho: You know I don’t know. I don’t know why they allowed that, but there might have been some information that they wanted him to share with them on the Intelligence Committee, and that’s why they had him in there. And so I would let that investigation go forward, so that they can decipher and go through all that information and figure out why he was there, but more importantly the information that he might have lent to this investigation.
Blitzer: Do you believe the CIA director Mike Pompeo he’s a former Republican congressman I assume you know him, he served together with you do you think he should have prevented that from happening in the first place because there are now these reports that that officials at the CIA were deeply concerned?
Rep. Yoho: Wolf, I have to go back to see why Mike decided to do that. Mike the very upfront guy, his credibility, his ethics are, you know, unchallenged. And if he allowed that, there had to be a reason for him to do that. And again I don’t know if he was looking for specific information on this investigation that they can use, you know with Secretary Mueller.
Blitzer: Special counsel Mueller?
Rep. Yoho: Special counsel Mueller.
Blitzer: Let’s talk a little bit about the other development today, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings. He writes this in a letter and I’ll read it: “In any case, it is unclear why Mr. Kushner (Jared Kushner the president’s senior advisor and son-in-law) continues to have access to classified information while these allegations are being investigated.” Here’s the question: Should Jared Kushner’s security clearance as Elijah Cummings as it is suggesting be suspended until a complete investigation can, can be, could be done into his calls and meetings with Russian officials?
Rep. Yoho: No I don’t think so there are allegations. We are country of laws and let’s go through the due process, and if that comes that’s where they need to be suspended, then absolutely. And the president’s the one that has the ultimate authority on, on taking his security clearance away. But I would do the investigation and follow through what they’re doing right now.
Blitzer: The former Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, he testified today before the House Intelligence Committee and he called Russia’s interference in the 2016 president a fact. I’m quoting him now, a fact plain and simple. Do you believe that?
Rep. Yoho: I think it’s pretty evident that they were involved in that, you know and if we go back to when you and I talked right after the election and the beginning of the year, I wanted this to play out, and so as the information comes out we’re seeing more of that, and again there’s going to be more information that comes out and I think he spoke real loud and clear that he went to the DNC, and wanted to know why he wanted to help them prevent any leaks and give them more cyber security and they refused to do that. And I’m a little bit concerned about that and I want to plug a bill that we’re putting in, it’s a cyber security bill to prevent these things, but more importantly to define when they do attack and then what we can do to counter that.
Blitzer: Have you ever asked the president of his opinion whether or not the Russians interfered in the presidential election because as you know Sean Spicer, the press secretary, yesterday said he’s, he’s never asked the president this question.
Rep. Yoho: You know I’ve never had the opportunity to ask him that, we’ve talked about that in different committees, but never directly to the president or vice president Pence.
Blitzer: Alright, stand by congressman. We have a lot more to discuss, about to take a quick break. We’ll resume this conversation right after that. We’re back with House Republican Ted Yoho, we’re talking about the Russia investigation other stories breaking right now. Congressman, I need you to stand by. Later tonight the president is going to be getting away from the nation’s capital and the drip, drip, drip of the Russia investigation. He’s heading to Iowa to surround himself with some very very friendly faces, and to celebrate an important political victory for his party. Our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny is joining us from Cedar Rapids Iowa right now. Jeff, what are you learning about preparations for the unveiling of the Senate Republican health care bill first of all?
Zeleny: So wolf, even as the president flies here to Iowa tonight, we’re told that his top aides are going to be briefed by Senate Republicans at the White House about the details of this health care plan. It is going to be announced tomorrow morning on Capitol Hill. They are trying to win the
president’s support. The president not involved in those briefings at this point Wolf. He’s coming back here Iowa, his first visit since taking office, to bask in the glow of his adoring supporters.
Video is shown:
President Trump has a new reason to smile tonight with Republicans seizing victory in a hotly contested special congressional election. Tonight, he’s headlining at campaign rally in Iowa for his 2020 re-election, his first visit west of the Mississippi River since taking office five months ago. Republicans won the most expensive house race in US history on Tuesday denying Democrats their first triumph of the Trump era.
Rep. Elect Karen Handel (in video): Special thanks to the President of the United States of America.
Karen Handel didn’t mention Mr. Trump by name after keeping him at an arm’s length in a reliably Republican Georgia district. Yet Democrats failed in their multi-million dollar effort of tying Handle to Trump. The president said the win held a lesson for his critics. Democrats would do much better as a party if they got together with Republicans on health care, tax cuts, security. Obstruction doesn’t work. Since winning the White House, Republicans are now 4 and 0 over Democrats in contested special congressional elections. Yet that record does not guarantee that GOP victories will continue in next year’s critical midterm elections where control of Congress is at stake. In President Obama’s early months in office Democrats ran up a seven to nothing streak over Republicans in special elections, but lost their house majority in 2010. In the wake of the Georgia contest, Democratic leaders conceded today, voters are more concerned with pocketbook issues like health care and the economy.
Rep. Joe Crowley (in video): And as much as I think people in Washington tend to focus on the issues of Russia and the president and the Republicans inability to get much of anything accomplished we need to focus on the local issues. That’s what gets Democrats elected.
The White House is also eager to change the subject back to one of the president’s top priorities, rewriting the health care law. But Republican leaders are making clear that they’d prefer Mr. Trump keep his distance for now. The White House has been super hands-off which feels just about right. One top Republican aide told CNN. Senators are still waiting to see the fine print of the health-care legislation. Republican leaders plan to unveil details of the bill on Thursday, still hoping to take a vote before the July 4th legislative recess.
Sen. John Cornyn: A working draft will be released tomorrow. I think all the concerns people have had about the process will evaporate, because I think they’ll be unlimited opportunity for people to read it, understand what’s in it and then debate it.
Zeleney: Now President Trump is arriving here with a bounce in his step. He’ll be talking to a rally here in downtown Cedar Rapids to thousands of supporters, but he’s also arriving to a piece of advice from the local newspaper the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Wolfe, it says this: Dear Mr. President in a front-page editorial. It says now is not the time to rally, now is not the time to campaign. It says now is the time to govern. That is one of the challenges facing president Trump. It will start tomorrow morning on that health care bill. It’s one of the key issues of concern here in Iowa, a
state that he won last fall, but will so many voters here have so many questions about what’s in the bill and, if it will ultimately be reconciled with the House version and if he will actually sign it?
Blitzer: I’ll release that draft tomorrow. We’ll watch it closely. Jeff Zeleney in Iowa for us thanks very much. We’re back with congressman Ted Yoho of Florida. Congressman, uh, you celebrated the bill’s passage in the house with President Trump in the White House rose garden, were you surprised the other day to hear the president call the House version mean?
Rep. Yoho: Yeah we were a little surprised about that you know and again, you know we’ll see what this new bill comes out, and we’ll go from there, and you know like we talked about before, the president has a certain style and we’ll see how it works out.
Blitzer: Because he undermines what you were doing, he really sort of pulled out the rug from the House version uh, slighting it as mean.
Rep. Yoho: Yeah, well again we’ll see. It passed and we’re at phase two now we’ll see how it works out, and I’m going to hold any more comments that we see the bill and we read it before we vote on it.
Blitzer: Yeah, he also says he wants more heart, heart in the Senate bill and what you guys in the House gave him. What do you think he means by that?
Rep. Yoho: I don’t know, I think it’s you know heart you know you if you want more heart, you’re going to have to pay more and we’ll have to, again see what recommendations that the Senate gives us and what they want us to do, and then we’ll it’ll go to conference and we’ll decide which way to go with that, but I think your reporter before this brought out a very good point. You know those elections in Georgia and South Carolina or North Carolina. The American people want stuff done and they don’t want to get bogged down in all these other peripheral things, not that they’re not important but, we need to govern and we need to focus on that, and the president out you know, rallying the troops, I’m okay with that because I know we’ve got tax reform coming up and we’re going to finish up this health care bill.
Blitzer: Congressman Yoho, thanks as usual for joining us.
Rep. Yoho: Thanks Wolf, appreciate it, have a great day.
Blitzer: You too, thanks very much. Just ahead we’re going to tell you what we’re learning about the possibility of US military action…