House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday that he’s “never seen anything like” the leaked recording on which House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy can be heard saying, supposedly jokingly, that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was paying then-GOP candidate Donald Trump and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.
In a story datelined from Kiev, Ukraine, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that McCarthy could be heard on a recording of a meeting from last summer saying “there’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump” and punctuating his remark amid laughter from his GOP colleagues by adding “swear to God.”
Ryan quickly interjected in an effort to keep the conversation private, telling the Republicans in the meeting “No leaks. … This is how we know we’re a real family here.” Spokesmen for both the speaker and majority leader initially denied that the conversation had ever occurred until the Post informed them it had a recording of it, at which point Ryan’s spokesman changed tack and said McCarthy had been joking.
Friday morning, Ryan told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the recording was “a cause of concern” for him and other Republicans.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” the speaker said. “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.”
Asked by Hewitt if he believed the leaker to be Evan McMullin, who mounted an independent presidential campaign last year as a conservative alternative to Trump, Ryan declined to offer a guess. McMullin, who before joining the 2016 race was the House Republican Conference’s policy director, was in attendance at the meeting where the recording was made and has been critical of Republicans who have not stood up forcefully to Trump.
“I’m not going to speculate on who it is,” Ryan said of the notion that McMullin might be the leaker. “That’s the name that most people, you know, you hear about.”