A month before Donald Trump became the 2016 Republican presidential nominee, his ally House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said privately among GOP peers on Capitol Hill that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin makes payments to Trump.
“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording verified and reported by The Washington Post.
Shortly after the story broke tonight, McCarthy took to Twitter to deny.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican sometimes referred to as 'The Gentleman from Moscow,' for his odd history as a staunch defender of Putin and Russia.
Adam Entous of the Washington Post says his source for the audio recording that proves this happened won't approve its public release. But the audio is real, and after denying that it could have existed, Paul Ryan's rep says it was all a joke, don't take everything so seriously.
After McCarthy said ‘I think Putin pays’ Trump...
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.
Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the U.S. 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.
And after a year, whoever had that audio decided that now was the time to release them to a news reporter.
VIDEO: The Washington Post’s Adam Entous discusses a 2016 conversation of GOP leaders in which House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made the explosive claim.