Last year, after a meeting with the Ukranian prime minister, the #2 Republican in the House turned to Paul Ryan and said, "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump." That's from Rep. Kevin McCarthy, and it's apparently what he thought back in June after Trump had won the Republican nomination. Ryan quickly shushed him, but the Washington Post found out about it today:
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.”
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.”
Good on Adam Entous of the Post for getting a response from both men before they knew he had a recording. It's good for the public to understand how shamelessly and effortlessly they'll flatly lie about anything they think they can get away with.
Anyway, the current explanation is that this was all just a big joke.1 That's also the latest excuse making the rounds for Trump asking James Comey to kill the Russia investigation.2 There sure are a lot of jokers in the Republican Party these days.
UPDATE: The transcript is here. McCarthy says, "There's...there's two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump...[laughter]...swear to God." Then there's more laughter. So yeah, it sounds like it was just a joke, though probably in a "funny cuz it's true" sort of sense.
1Actually, I can buy this. McCarthy's comment really does sound like dark humor. Still, even if he didn't mean it literally, it shows just what he thought about Trump and the Russians. In humor, veritas.
2This is pretty ridiculous in the case of Trump, since as near as I can tell he has no sense of humor and never laughs about anything. That's probably because he's too busy obsessing about how badly everyone treats him.