Amidst the non-stop reports of alleged Russian collusion Donald Trump’s presidential campaign which has left the White House scrambling for damage control, another report has surfaced from the Washington Post saying a secret meeting took place between top Republican officials in which concerns were expressed about Trump taking bribes from Russia.
The conversation, verified by the WaPo, had House Majority Leader and outspoken Putin critic Kevin McCarthy stating: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” The report explains that California Representative Dana Rohrabacher is known around Congress as a staunch defender of Russia and Vladimir Putin.
McCarthy’s incendiary remarks, which were uttered a month before Trump locked up the Republican nomination, was immediately sworn to secrecy by Paul Ryan, while some of his GOP contemporaries laughed the claim off. McCarthy’s rebuttal was concrete: “Swear to God.” In the months before this exchange, Trump and McCarthy grew close as the House Majority Leader became one of Trump’s delegates on the campaign trail. Trump even used to refer to McCarthy as, “My Kevin.”
Despite McCarthy’s claims, Ryan continued on as a good GOP soldier and insisted on the importance of keeping this between those in the know. “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan, called the Washington Post‘s story false, saying “that never happened,” until the Washington Post said they could produce audio of the conversation. Buck then said, “This was a failed attempt at humor.”
Evan McMullin, the former policy director to the House Republican Conference, corroborated what was said as he took part in the conversation: “It’s true that Majority Leader McCarthy said that he thought candidate Trump was on the Kremlin’s payroll. Speaker Ryan was concerned about that leaking.”
To paint a picture, at this point in time, U.S. intelligence knew of Russia’s hacking of the democratic party’s email servers, although most damaging contents had yet to be distributed through WikiLeaks. Months later in December, the CIA and FBI would conclude that Russia interfered with the election in order to help Trump win the presidency.
The Daily Beast followed up on this report with remarks from both Ryan’s spokesperson and Rohrabacher, who both claim that this entire conversation was a poor attempt at humor. The Ryan rep asserted, “This entire year-old exchange was clearly an attempt at humor. No one believed the majority leader was seriously asserting that Donald Trump or any of our members were being paid by the Russians.” As for Rohrabacher, he believes McCarthy was “joking” as well: “He misspoke, my gosh. Like I’ve never misspoke? I’ve been here 30 years. You’ve got to be very careful when you’re using humor.”
See, nothing to see here, folks. Nothing at all.