The Washington Post just released a startling transcript from top Republicans – including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) – asserting that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Vladimir Putin.
In the private conversation between the Republicans, recorded on June 15, 2016 and verified by The Washington Post, McCarthy said:
“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to God.”
Ryan then stepped in to swear all parties involved to secrecy.
“No leaks,” said Ryan. “This is how we know we’re a real family here.”
Rohrabacher has stood out among Republicans for his support of Russia and Putin. A spokesman for the lawmaker said that he has long advocated “working closer with the Russians to combat radical Islamism.”
Per The Washington Post:
The conversation provides a glimpse at the internal views of GOP leaders who now find themselves under mounting pressure over the conduct of President Trump. The exchange shows that the Republican leadership in the House privately discussed Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and Trump’s relationship to Putin, but wanted to keep their concerns secret.
Before WaPo announced possession of the recording, they asked Brendan Buck, Paul Ryan’s spokesman, to comment:
“That never happened. The idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false.”
When told that they would cite audio from the exchange, Buck immediately reversed course:
“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. What’s more, the speaker and leadership team have repeatedly spoken out against Russia’s interference in our election, and the House continues to investigate that activity.”
This is not the first time that top Republicans have cited “humor” as a defense for having misspoken. During a campaign rally, Trump said:
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
While the comment was immediately condemned as a “national security issue,” Trump’s take was, “Of course I’m being sarcastic.”
The fact that top Republicans had engaged in this private conversation before any major news of Russia’s meddling in the US election came out is a testament to just how ingrained the Kremlin was in Trump’s campaign. As Trump’s dealings with Putin continue to get exposed on a daily basis, top Republicans are only implicating themselves further with this scandal unprecedented in US history.
Read the entire transcript below:
(UI: Unidentified individual)
UI: Kevin had the Ukrainian prime minister this morning.
Ryan: Oh, so did I. I just left him in the health care… [unintelligible].
Ryan: This guy’s a good guy.[Crosstalk]
Ryan: This guy’s a pretty good guy.
Rodgers: Is this the guy who’s been there a while?
Ryan: No, he’s new. He was the speaker of the [unintelligible].
Rodgers: Their other prime minister got kicked out, right?
Ryan: Right. This guy’s like the anti-corruption guy. This guy’s there because he’s the anti-corruption guy. He was the speaker…
Ryan: And he’s the one who was working on the amendments to the constitution [unintelligible]…independent judiciary.
Ryan: They got that in now…[unintelligible]…and he’s passing…and he’s passing all these anti-corruption laws.
Rodgers: How are things going in Ukraine?
Ryan: What’s that?
Rodgers: How are things going in Ukraine?
Ryan: Well, the Russians are bombing them 30-40…um, um…shells a day and the people. Crimea is gone. And, they’re trying to clean up their government to show that they want to be western. So they’re trying to prove to the western world that they want to be western, or westernizing, so they can get support to get their country back. They’re [unintelligible]. Everybody talks a good game on what they’re doing, but he’s passed all these anti-corruption laws. The question is are they, like, executing…[unintelligible]…I think by the summer they’ll have it all done.
Rodgers: Did he talk about their economy?
Ryan: Yeah, this is about getting actual growth and not graft growth, so…no, it’s not good, but…
Rodgers: I went there a year ago. It was like wow. These people are living…they’re on the front lines. They’re fighting for their freedom…it’s, uh…their independence.
Ryan: He basically…He has this really interesting riff about… people have said that they have Ukraine fatigue, and it’s really Russian fatigue because what Russia is doing is doing to us, financing our populists, financing people in our governments to undo our governments, you know, messing with our oil and gas energy, all the things Russia does to basically blow up our country, they’re just going to roll right through us and go to the Baltics and everyone else.
Ryan: So we should not have Ukraine fatigue, we should have Russian fatigue.
Rodgers: Yes! The propaganda…my big takeaway from that trip was just how sophisticated the propaganda…
Ryan: It’s very sophisticated.
Rodgers: …coming out of Russia and Putin.
Ryan: Very sophisticated.[Crosstalk]
Rodgers: Not just in Ukraine. They were once funding the NGOs in Europe. They attacked fracking.
Rodgers: Russia TV. I was not…you know…I hadn’t tuned into Russia TV until that trip. It’s, it’s frightening.
Ryan: So he’s saying they’re doing this throughout Europe. So, uh…[Unintelligible]
Ryan: This is, this isn’t just about Ukraine.
Rodgers: So, yeah, it is a, um…[unintelligible]…a way…it’s really a messaging…you know… they are…it’s a propaganda war.
Ryan: Russia is trying to turn Ukraine against itself.
Rodgers: Yes. And that’s…it’s sophisticated and it’s, uh…
Ryan: And guess…guess who’s the only one taking a strong stand up against it? We are.
Rodgers: We’re not…we’re not…but, we’re not…
McCarthy: [unintelligible]…I’ll GUARANTEE you that’s what it is.[Unintelligible]
McCarthy: The Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp research that they had on Trump.
Ryan: The Russian’s hacked the DNC…
McHenry: …to get oppo…
Ryan: …on Trump and like delivered it to…to who?[Unintelligible]
McCarthy: There’s…there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and
Trump…[laughter]…swear to God.
Brian Tyler Cohen is a political writer, actor, and comedy sketch director. He graduated from Lehigh University with a dual degree in English and Business. He currently lives in Los Angeles.