House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in 2016 Said He Thinks Putin Pays Trump. Paul Ryan Swore Group to Secrecy.


'No leaks...This Is How We Know We're a Real Family Here'

Last summer, just one month before Donald Trump officially became the Republican Party's nominee for president, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (photo, right), and other Republicans were speaking about Russia and the Ukraine. Rep. McCarthy told the group, "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump," referring to California GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and Donald Trump. Rohrabacher is a far right wing extremist.

The Washington Post first reported the exchange, after listening to audio of the conversation. The Post, which describes Rohrabacher as "a fervent defender of Putin and Russia," published the transcript of the disturbing conversation.

Speaker Ryan "immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy's assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy," the Post reports.

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 Post calls it "difficult to tell from the recording the extent to which the remarks were meant to be taken literally." 

But former House Republican Conference policy director Evan McMullin, who ran form president last year, confirmed the conversation took place.

"It's true that Majority Leader McCarthy said that he thought candidate Trump was on the Kremlin's payroll," McMullin told the Post. "Speaker Ryan was concerned about that leaking."

The Post did not publish the audio.

McCarthy's spokesperson Matt Sparks initially flatly denied the exchange ever took place. "The idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false," he said.

Speaker Ryan's spokesperson Brendan Buck told the Post: "That never happened," but apparently when confronted with evidence, Buck 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."

Sparks called it "a failed attempt at humor."

McCarthy has since posted his denial to Twitter:

Some responses via Twitter:

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