When politicians put party before country, it has a tendency to backfire upon them. Other than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, there are few people, even in Washington, more willing to sell their souls for their party than House Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan, according to a bombshell Washington Post report, knew that Donald Trump was being paid by Russia during the election and he instructed his colleagues to keep it mum.
It all started with Ryan’s second in command, House Majority Leader Kevin MCCarthy, who said on June 16th, 2016, “there’s two people I think Putin pays: (California GOP Rep. Dana) Rohrabacher and Trump.”
When Ryan heard the conversation, he put an immediate stop to it and swore all the attendees to secrecy.
Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks 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.
News had just broken the day before in The Washington Post that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, prompting McCarthy to shift the conversation from Russian meddling in Europe to events closer to home.
Source: Washington Post
Not surprisingly, the reaction from Republicans, who, as a party, seem to have forgotten their oath to uphold the Constitution and the fact that they work for the American people, was laughter. To that, McCarthy said, “Swear to God.”
Then Ryan, like a scene from The Godfather, ordered, “No leaks…This is how we know we’re a real family here.” If that doesn’t give you chills, nothing will.
Even beyond partisan politics, this could explain Ryan’s refusal to denounce anything related to Trump. On Wednesday, Ryan’s GOP colleagues blocked even a vote on creating an independent commission to investigate Russia’e election interference.
If you were around at the time or are a student of history, you might recall that one of the most famous lines to come out of the Watergate investigation was James Baker’s “What did the president know, and when did he know it.” While this will surely be one of the questions asked of Trump during the investigations, it’s now clear that we have to extend that question to House leadership. In many cases, the cover-up is worse than the crime, and the cover-up around the Trump/Russia scandal appears more massive by the day.
Ryan, of course, was asked to comment on the report and not surprisingly, it was denial, denial, denial.
When initially asked to comment on the exchange, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan, said: “That never happened,” and Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, said: “The idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false.”
The denial very quickly fell apart when the Washington Post said that they had a recording of the conversation. Then Buck said it was a joke.
After being told that The Post would cite a recording of the exchange, Buck, speaking for the GOP House leadership, 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. What’s more, the speaker and leadership team have repeatedly spoken out against Russia’s interference in our election, and the House continues to investigate that activity.”
At the very least, Ryan, McCarthy, Rohrabacher and everyone involved in that conversation should recuse themselves. At the very worst, they will find themselves paying the price for a cover-up. Hey, maybe Trump will drain the swamp.
Featured image via Alex Wong/Getty Images.