you can't make this up
Russian spies tried to recruit the GOP congressman who House GOP leaders 'joked' was on Putin's payroll
Late Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that back in June 2016, House Republicans were discussing the hack of the Democratic National Committee (WikiLeaks had not yet begun to publish the stolen emails), and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that "the Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp [opposition] research that they had on Trump," and when House Speaker Paul Ryan asked who they "delivered" that information to, McCarthy replied: "There's two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to God."
After the House GOP leaders denied that the conversation ever took place, The Washington Post said there was audio of the conversation, and McCarthy called the comments a "bad attempt at a joke," pointing to laughter in the room. But it turns out that Russian spies actually did try to recruit Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), one of Moscow's staunchest defenders and President Trump's loyalist allies in Washington, The New York Times reported Friday.
In a secure room, with Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) present, FBI agents told Rohrabacher in 2012 that Russian agents were trying to recruit him as an "agent of influence," someone Moscow could use to steer policy, wittingly or not, former officials tell the Times, adding that the FBI did not think Rohrabacher was actively working with or accepting money from Russia. Rohrabacher said the FBI agents specifically warned him that a Russian Foreign Ministry official he met with in Moscow "had something to do with some kind of Russian intelligence" and "looked at me as someone who could be influenced." Ruppersberger recalls: "Mike and I reminded Dana that Russia is our adversary."
The meeting shows that "the FBI has taken seriously the possibility that Russian spies would target American politicians," The New York Times says. But while the FBI is trying to figure out any connections between Moscow and Trump's inner circle, House Republican leaders are poring over the Washington Post article to figure out who leaked their private conversation, worried that there are more leaks to come, reports Jonathan Swan at Axios. "The most widespread theory in House leadership is that the secret recorder and the leaker was Evan McMullin, who as a former leadership aide participated in the June 15 conversation and confirmed the private conversation to The Washington Post." There's no evidence that McMullin, who ran as an independent conservative presidential candidate in 2016, is the leaker.