Kevin McCarthy does not want anyone to bring up that time he said Donald Trump is on Vladimir Putin's payroll.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy lashed out at a journalist on Thursday for asking him about comments he made in 2016 about Donald Trump's relationship with Vladimir Putin.
In May 2017, the Washington Post published a secretly recorded audio in which Rep. McCarthy (R-CA) told colleagues, "There's two people I think Putin pays: [then-California Republican Rep. Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to God." The comments came after a meeting with the Ukrainian prime minister, where the Kremlin's frequent attempts to meddle in other countries' elections was a topic of discussion. Then-Speaker Paul Ryan quickly interjected to demand the other Republicans present keep McCarthy's comment secret.
McCarthy's office denied the conversation existed before being confronted with the existence of the audio recording. Then McCarthy's spokesperson tried to explain it away as a "failed attempt at humor."
On Thursday, reporter Andrew Feinberg asked McCarthy whether he still believes Trump is paid by Putin. The GOP leader scolded him, saying, "I said it was a joke. And you took it to the extent that's not, and that's really embarrassing that you'd even ask that."
JUST NOW: I asked @GOPLeader Kevin McCarthy if he still believed what he said in 2016 when he told @HouseGOP colleagues that @realDonaldTrump was one of two prominent Republicans (along w/ @DanaRohrabacher) who "Putin pays."
He claimed that he was joking at the time (He wasn't). pic.twitter.com/IBGQ6CBlu5
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) December 5, 2019
Despite any private reservations about Trump, McCarthy signed up in May 2016 to be a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention. McCarthy has been a fierce Trump defender, though not always an effective one.
His recent ad opposing impeachment accidentally featured Russian stock footage. In a September television interview, he appeared unfamiliar with the accurate text of the partial transcript of Trump's infamous July phone call with Ukraine's president, incorrectly accusing a reporter of adding a word.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.