NORMAL — U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood praised President Donald Trump's policies while continuing to question his behavior and legal issues at a Normal campaign stop Tuesday.

"I don't necessarily think the president is a role model for my three sons in a lot of ways, and my job is not to opine on every tweet. My job is to represent my district," LaHood told reporters after addressing about 30 people at a McLean County Republican Party event at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites.

"The president's policies are working in the country: His policies as it relates to the economy, his policies as it relates to national security and rebuilding our military ... the two judges (nominated for) the Supreme Court," he said.

Of last week's felony proceedings involving two Trump associates — Michael Cohen, the president's former attorney, pleaded guilty to tax evasion and campaign-finance violations the same day a jury found Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, guilty of tax and bank fraud — LaHood said he's concerned about the path of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

"(Deputy Attorney General) Rod Rosenstein said, 'We want you to determine, was there collusion between Trump and the Russians? We haven't gotten a conclusion," he said. "I'm a former federal prosecutor, so I'm willing to give (Mueller) that discretion, but it's not unending."

LaHood, a Dunlap Republican, told attendees the Republican president's economic policy is succeeding, and that he's prepared to give Trump the benefit of the doubt in a trade war with China that's already proved costly for Central Illinois farmers. He praised an emerging pact with Mexico.

"Most farmers I've talked to are wiling to give the president a little bit of flexibility to get a better trade deal in the end. ... A year from now, if we're in a trade war, that's not good," he said. "Most farmers I've talked to don't want aid or subsidies. They want trade."

LaHood also defended work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, in a debate with an attendee who questioned what residents who work full time and still get food stamps should do. LaHood said the strong economy has increased chances for workers to get better jobs, and that he supports employers paying more, which he said is happening due to competition for labor.

LaHood said the House and Senate are "85 percent" agreed on a new farm bill, which includes food stamps and the two chambers disagree on crop insurance, but he's optimistic it will pass before the Sept. 30 deadline.

LaHood said he's also optimistic about the possibility of an infrastructure bill, including a possible gas tax increase, after the midterm election. He praised Indiana and Iowa's gas tax increases for road costs.

Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh


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