Photo: Getty

Thanks to the ubiquity of recording devices and the duplicitousness of members of the GOP, we now know that top Republican congressmen were discussing potential collusion between Trump and Putin before he was even nominated. They didn’t care then and they don’t care now.

The Washington Post has obtained a recording from a private meeting between House GOP leaders that happened on Capitol Hill on June 15th, 2016. The Post was able to listen to, verify and transcribe the recording and let’s just say, it looks pretty bad.

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Four people are identified in the transcript: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rogers. Ryan and McCarthy discuss their meetings with the Prime Minister of Ukraine that day. They talk about Russia funding populist politicians to destabilize Europe’s democracies, and then they shift to how it could be happening here. They mention the incredibly sophisticated propaganda machine that Russia is using, and then talk turns to the DNC hacking that was reported the day before. McCarthy says that he thinks two people in politics are on Putin’s payroll: Californian Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher, who is known for defending Putin, and Donald Trump. He laughs, but then says, “swear to god.” Ryan then insists that this is just between them, right?

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From the report:

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.”

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.”

Hahahahahaha. It was just a joke. And we know that Ryan has been tireless in supporting Devin Nunes as the head of the House Intelligence Committee. He continually insisted Nunes shouldn’t recuse himself from the Russia investigation even though Nunes very obviously colluded with the White House to muddy the waters of the inquiry.

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Does this recording show that they wouldn’t mind if Trump was working with Russia? Not at all. It mostly shows that they understood the gravity of Russia’s political operations, and that once Trump was president, they decided to ignore it and drag their feet on the investigation. Check out this exchange:

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 up against it? We are.”

Rodgers: “We’re not…we’re not…but, we’re not.”

McCarthy [referring to DNC hacking]:“I’ll guarantee you that’s what it is...The Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp [opposition] research that they had on Trump.”

Ryan: “The Russians hacked the DNC...

McHenry: “...to get oppo...”

Ryan: “On Trump and like delivered it to...to who?”

McCarthy: “There’s... there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump...[laughter]...Swear to God.”

Ryan: “This is an off the record...[laughter]...No leaks...[laughter]...alright?!. This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

Scalise: “That’s how you know that we’re tight.”

[laughter]

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

Tight.

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Yeah, there’s a lot of laughter in there. It’s totally believable that they aren’t fully convinced that Trump coordinated with Russia. But, really, that’s not what this whole drama has been about. If Trump really did coordinate with Russia, that would be insane. What we do know is that Russia used many tactics to meddle in our election, a review needs to take place, and Republicans have insisted there’s nothing to see here because they don’t want to jeopardize their power. This recording makes it clear—top Republicans know exactly what they’re doing: putting party before country.

Luckily, Trump pissed off the Deputy Attorney General in charge of the investigation, who proceeded to appoint a special counsel to handle the investigation independently today. Maybe he’ll have some questions for these chuckleheads.

[The Washington Post, Transcript]