The Washington Post has released the transcript of an audio recording from June 15, 2016, in which Republicans, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, are heard discussing Trump.
McCarthy is heard saying during the private conversation: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”
Ryan then interjects, The Washington Post reports, to stop the conversation and maintain secrecy, saying: “No leaks…This is how we know we’re a real family here.”
The Washington Post further notes: “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. It is difficult to tell from the recording the extent to which the remarks were meant to be taken literally.”
The plot thickens, as Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan, commented: “That never happened,” with Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, noting: “The idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false.”
Buck later backtracked when The Post said it would cite a recording of the conversation, saying: “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.”
Sparks also noted: “This was a failed attempt at humor.”
Failed. That’s the truth.
You can read the entire transcript at The Washington Post site, which in part reads:
“That’s when McCarthy brought the conversation about Russian meddling around to the DNC hack, Trump and Rohrabacher.
‘I’ll guarantee you that’s what it is. . . . The Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp [opposition] research that they had on Trump,’ McCarthy said with a laugh.
Ryan asked who the Russians ‘delivered’ the opposition research to.
‘There’s . . . there’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,’ McCarthy said, drawing some laughter. ‘Swear to God,’ McCarthy added.
‘This is an off the record,’ Ryan said.
Some lawmakers laughed at that.
‘No leaks, all right?,’ Ryan said, adding: ‘This is how we know we’re a real family here.’
‘That’s how you know that we’re tight,’ Scalise said.
‘What’s said in the family stays in the family,’ Ryan added.”
The comments section of The Washington Post piece has lit up with people weighing in, including this assessment: “If it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now that Paul Ryan is ‘Party before Country’ and ‘Party before the American people.’ And apparently at any cost?”
Another noted: “Yes, we often gather for staff meetings and tell a few knee-slappers about the boss being bribed by a hostile foreign nation. Always brings down the house…or in this case, brings down the House.”
One commenter pointed out: “Never heard any of my friends say ‘no leaks, all right?’ after we joked around. Unless, of course, they weren’t exactly joke jokes.”