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Paul Ryan: “What’s said in the family stays in the family.”

May 18, 2017
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Paul Ryan: “This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on a conversation that took place last July 15 among House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Republican Conference Chairperson Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and others. (The complete transcript provided by the Post is here.) The headline from the meeting (which happened the day after it was revealed that the Russians had hacked into the Democratic National Committee) has been McCarthy’s assertion that Putin was paying Trump. But to me, what came before is equally, if not more, interesting.

The group were talking quite seriously about Russian efforts to subvert Ukraine and the extension of such efforts throughout Europe.

Ryan: This is, this isn’t just about Ukraine.

Rodgers: So yeah, it is a, um…a way…it’s really a messaging…you know…they are…it’s a propaganda war.

Ryan: Russia is trying to turn Ukraine against itself.

Rodgers: Yes, and that’s…it’s sophisticated and it’s, uh…

Ryan: Maniacal.

Rodgers: Yes.

Ryan: And guess…guess who’s the only one taking a strong stand against it? We are.

Rodgers: We’re not..we’re not…but we’re not…

Okay, let’s stop here for a minute. What we seem to have here are expressions of considerable concern about the seriousness of Russia’s attempts to undermine Ukraine and the rest of Europe. Nobody is laughing. Ryan even calls it “maniacal”. There is some question about who the “we” is in Ryan’s remark about taking a “strong stand”–he could mean the US government (then still the Obama administration) or the Republican party. Rodger’s rejoinder of “we’re not” makes more sense if it’s the latter, as this conversation occurred during the run-up to the Republican convention when Trump had the nomination sewed up and the leaders of Trump’s campaign under Paul Manafort were working, successfully, to gut the Republican anti-Russian plank in the party platform.

Then it all becomes a little funny as McCarthy chimes in:

McCarthy: I’ll GUARANTEE you that’s what it is….The Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp[osition] research they had on Trump. [laughs]

Ryan: The Russians hacked the DNC…

McHenry [sic]: …to get oppo…

Ryan: …on Trump…and like delivered it to…to who?

McCarthy: There’s…there’s two people, I think, Putin pays…[CA Republican congressman Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump…[laughter]…Swear to God!

[laughter]

Ryan: This is an off the record…[laughter]…NO LEAKS…[laughter]…alright?!

Obviously, this can be looked at different ways. But the one undeniable thing that emerges out of this conversation is that the Republican congressional leadership, speaking frankly among colleagues, would spontaneously express the idea that Trump was in Putin’s pocket. And furthermore, no one denied it! Even as a joke, that says a lot.

Of course, the participants in this session initially denied that it ever took place. Only when confronted with the news that there is a recording of it did they change their tune, and say that it was all just a joke. That in itself, tells you quite a bit about their credibility.

My takeaway from this, is that Ryan and McCarthy and the rest of the Republican congressional leadership know full well that there is substance to RussiaGate, but they are so cynically bent on realizing their legislative agenda, that they absolutely don’t care.

And so they will continue to run interference for Trump as long as they can.

As Steve Scalise said:  “That’s how you know we’re tight.”

 

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