And yet Ryan and McCarthy covered up for him every step of the way
Remember this? It was also revealed right after the FBI opened their investigation — May 17, 2017:
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.
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 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.
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. It is difficult to tell from the recording the extent to which the remarks were meant to be taken literally.
The House leadership has so far stood by the White House as it has lurched from one crisis to another, much of the turmoil fueled by contacts between Trump or his associates with Russia.
Think about this in light of what we know now:
[Ukrainian Prime Minister ] Groysman, on an official visit to Washington, met separately with Ryan and McCarthy on June 15 at the Capitol.
He told them how the Russians meddled in European politics and called for “unity” in addressing the threat, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials. Ryan issued a statement after the meeting saying, “the United States stands with Ukraine as it works to rebuild its economy and confront Russian aggression.”
Later, Ryan spoke privately with McCarthy, Rodgers, Scalise and Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), the deputy whip, among others.
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Ryan mentioned his meeting with Groysman, prompting Rodgers to ask: “How are things going in Ukraine?” according to the recording.
The situation was difficult, Ryan said. Groysman, he said, had told him that Russian-backed forces were firing 30 to 40 artillery shells into Ukrainian territory every day. And the prime minister described Russian tactics that include “financing our populists, financing people in our governments to undo our governments.”
Ryan said Russia’s goal was to “turn Ukraine against itself.” Groysman underlined Russia’s intentions, saying, “They’re just going to roll right through us and go to the Baltics and everyone else,” according to Ryan’s summary of the prime minister’s remarks in the recording.
“Yes,” Rodgers said in agreement, noting that the Russians were funding nongovernmental organizations across Europe as part of a wider “propaganda war.”
“Maniacal,” Ryan said. “And guess, guess who’s the only one taking a strong stand up against it? We are.”
Rodgers disagreed. “We’re not . . . we’re not . . . but, we’re not,” she said.
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.