|Oh damn, did I say something stupid again?|
A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.
Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.
News had just broken the day before in The Washington Post that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, prompting McCarthy to shift the conversation from Russian meddling in Europe to events closer to home.
Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”
Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”
The remarks remained secret for nearly a year.
I saw an interview with one of the reporters who wrote this story and he said that when they notified the House Republicans that they were writing this article, the Republicans claimed that it was "fake news."
When they then told them they had a transcript, they were told that it was falsified.
And that point they told them they had heard the actual tape of the conversation, and the House Republicans are now saying that McCarthy was only joking.
Here's the response from Ryan's attorney.
Yes, this is dumb. He was just kidding. No one took it seriously. https://t.co/CguAAzid66— Brendan Buck (@BrendanBuck) May 17, 2017
So first you call it fake news, then you claim the evidence is manufactured, and then you say it was all just a joke.Goodness, I don’t lie. Period. What was presented to me originally was far different than what they ultimately presented: an obvious joke.— Brendan Buck (@BrendanBuck) May 17, 2017
Nice to see the GOP playbook exposed to the light of day.