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.To sum: A month before Trump became their party's nominee, House Republican leadership had a conversation about the possibility that Trump was compromised by a foreign adversary. The Speaker of the House then told everyone to keep their mouths shut about it.
"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.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy's assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.
...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."
Naturally, the WaPo reached out to Ryan's office for comment. The comment was, "That never happened," until they were informed that the WaPo had a recording of the conversation, a transcript of which they have also published. Then, like magic, it turned out the conversation had happened, but it was all a big goof OBVIOUSLY.
When initially asked to comment on the exchange, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan, said: "That never happened," and Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, said: "The idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false."Yeah, the argument that it couldn't have been real because Ryan et. al. have been vigorously condemning and investigating Russian interference might be more convincing if they'd actually been vigorously condemning and investigating Russian interference.
After being told that The Post would cite a recording of the exchange, Buck, speaking for the GOP House leadership, said: "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 was a failed attempt at humor," Sparks said.
But they haven't.
In fact, it was just earlier today that Speaker Ryan said he doesn't believe a dangerously incompetent, reckless, possibly compromised, and seemingly lawbreaking president is a "problem" for the people of this country, and further that said problem is outside of his control, despite the fact it is his job to provide checks and balances on the executive branch.
I'm also wondering why it is, exactly, that Ryan would need to say "No leaks" and "What's said in the family stays in the family" if they all understood it to be a joke.
Just because they were all laughing doesn't mean it was a joke.
And then there is this: It was long before this point in time that people started raising questions about Trump's ties to Russia. If this conversation took place a month before Trump clinched the nomination, that means it was in June 2016. In July, I detailed some of the concerns that had been raised: In that piece, you'll see the Clinton campaign had already started raising flags about the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.
So, even if this were a joke, there is a serious fucking problem with the Republican leadership standing around "joking" about Trump being paid by Putin, as he cruises his way to being their party's nominee.
If their best defense is that they were "joking," they are admitting they were not taking seriously the possibility that Trump was (and is) compromised by Russia.
Which isn't much of a defense at all.
To the absolute contrary, it's just another way of saying that they didn't care. And they still don't.