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House Majority Leader in 2016: ‘I Think Putin Pays’ Trump

One month before Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed in private that Trump was likely receiving payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin. “There’s two people I think Putin pays: [Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump,” the Republican leader said in audio of a June 15, 2016 exchange, listened to, verified, and reported Wednesday by The Washington Post. House Speaker Paul Ryan interrupted, stopping McCarthy mid-assertion, but when other lawmakers laughed, the majority leader added: “Swear to God.” Ryan asked those in the room to keep the conversation quiet, telling them, “No leaks... This is how we know we’re a real family here.” In response to the report, a Ryan spokesperson 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.” California GOP Rep. Rohrabacher himself told The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak that McCarthy“was just joking” He added: “He misspoke, my gosh. Like I’ve never misspoke? I've been here 30 years. You’ve got to be very careful when you’re using humor”