House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of Bakersfield, privately told his fellow party leaders last year that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump could be being paid by Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Washington Post reported Wednesday in a story that's gone viral.
“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” The Post reported McCarthy said on June 15, 2016. It was caught on a recording.
Rohrabacher is U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa.
McCarthy dismissed the seriousness of the Post story on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
"This was an attempt at humor gone wrong," he tweeted. "No surprise @WashingtonPost tried to contort this into breaking news."
Still, according to The Post, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., immediately stopped the conversation McCarthy was having last year and implored those present to keep it secret.
The Post said McCarthy's comments came after he and Ryan had left separate conversations at the U.S. Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, "who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions."
They also came just a day after The Post broke the news that Russians had hacked the computer network of the Democratic National Committee.
When some of the GOP colleagues McCarthy was conversing with laughed at his comment, the Bakersfield congressman followed up with: "Swear to God," The Post reported.
It said Ryan told those involved not to spread the word, saying: “No leaks. ... This is how we know we’re a real family here.”
You can read the full story online at The Washington Post and in tomorrow's print edition of The Californian.