House Republican leader quipped Putin was paying Trump
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House Republican leader quipped Putin was paying Trump

Kevin McCarthy also implied fellow GOP representative on Russian payroll; spokesman says it was a 'failed attempt at humor'

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., shuttles between the chamber and House Speaker Paul Ryan's Capitol Hill office, Friday, March 24, 2017, during the debate on the Republican health care bill. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., shuttles between the chamber and House Speaker Paul Ryan's Capitol Hill office, Friday, March 24, 2017, during the debate on the Republican health care bill. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — US House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested last year to fellow top Republicans that Russian President Vladimir Putin was paying Donald Trump, according to a published report. A spokesman for McCarthy says the remark was a bad joke.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that it heard a recording of the conversation, which occurred last June 15.

Trump, at the time a GOP presidential candidate, formally received his party’s nomination the following month. McCarthy backed his candidacy.

The McCarthy quip came during a campaign when Trump frequently praised Putin as a strong leader.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” said McCarthy (Republican-California), according to the report.

US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up after arriving at the White House on May 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/Olivier Douliery)
US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up after arriving at the White House on May 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/Olivier Douliery)

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) has said policymakers in Washington have been too harsh on Russia and should work more closely with Moscow to fight extremist groups.

McCarthy’s comment prompted laughter from some Republicans in the room.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican of Wisconsin, told his colleagues to not share the remarks, the Post reported.

“No leaks, all right? This is how we know we’re a real family here,” Ryan reportedly said.

US Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) speaks as House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (L) looks on during a news briefing at the headquarters of Republican National Committee May 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)
US Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) speaks as House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (L) looks on during a news briefing at the headquarters of Republican National Committee May 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks called the leader’s comments “a failed attempt at humor,” adding, “The idea McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false.”

Brendan Buck, spokesman for Ryan, 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.”

Rohrabacher spokesman Ken Grubbs told the Post that the lawmaker was an advocate of “working closer with the Russians to combat radical Islamism. The congressman doesn’t need to be paid to come to such a necessary conclusion.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press

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