House Speaker Paul Ryan seems spooked by a recording that reveals he asked Republican lawmakers not to discuss concerns that then-candidate Donald Trump might have been paid off by Vladimir Putin.
A Washington Post report transcribed the recording of a June 15 meeting at the Capitol, where Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the House Majority Leader, raised concerns that Trump and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) might have accepted payment from the Russian president.
Ryan, who had finally endorsed Trump 13 days earlier, can be heard on the recording asking Republicans who were present not to “leak” details of the conversation.
Now that the tape has been made public — although its origins are unclear — Ryan is worried others might surface.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Ryan told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt. “There was somebody who taped a meeting a year ago where our majority leader cracked a joke and then they released the tape of that joke out just a few days ago and that’s a pretty bizarre thing to happen. So obviously that’s a cause of concern of ours.”
Hewitt asked Ryan if he believed the leaker was Evan McMullin, a Utah Republican and former CIA officer who ran an independent “never Trump” campaign for president.
“I’m not going to speculate on who it is,” Ryan said. “That’s the name that most people, you know, you hear about.”
McMullin was a staffer for GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who is also heard on the recording, and was present for many leadership meetings in Ryan’s office.
“Suspect public comments like these led one senior Republican leader to dolefully inform his peers that he thought Mr. Trump was on the Kremlin’s payroll, suggesting that Mr. Trump had been compromised by Russian intelligence,” McMullin wrote.
“Other leaders were surprised by their colleague’s frank assessment, but did not dispute it.”