Audio Tape Makes Ryan, McCarthy Virtually Complicit In Russian Hacking
In an earlier post, I noted that the current narrative is that Russia intervened in our election to elect Donald Trump. That is actually misleading. There is more than ample evidence that the Russians intervened in our election to help Republicans, not just Trump, get elected.
If the Russians were focused simply on electing Trump, there was no reason for them to hack the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). But, if they wanted to ensure as many Republicans got elected to Congress, then hacking the DCCC made sense. And, assuming the Russians believed that Hillary would win the election as did virtually everyone else, that would also make strategic sense.
As I wrote, “House races in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina were targeted by hackers with much of the attacks being based on data stolen from the DCCC. These attacks were hardly random as they targeted some of the races that were supposed to be the most competitive in the fall election. The details released contained the DCCC’s blunt assessment of the Democratic candidates’ weaknesses and also revealed their election strategies.”
The fact that hackers were able to target specific House races points to some kind of in-depth knowledge of local American politics. Whether that speaks to Russian attention to detail or some kind of coordination with sources inside the US is an open question.
What is now not in question is that the top Republican House leadership was well aware that the Russians had hacked the election for their benefit all the way back in June of 2016. Yet, they not only willingly used that stolen material in their campaigns but they also refused to condemn Trump when he floated the idea that the Russians were not necessarily behind the hack. And, in addition, the very same leadership had suspicions that Trump was being funded by the Russians.
The Washington Post has released a transcript of an audio recording where House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump…Swear to God.” McCarthy now claims it was all a joke. But the entire transcript and the lies that the Paul Ryan and McCarthy told the Post about these conversations belie that excuse.
Here is the relevant part of the transcript:
McCarthy: The Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp research that they had on Trump.
Ryan: The Russian’s 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?!
Ryan: This is how we know we’re a real family here.
Scalise: That’s how you know that we’re tight.
Ryan: What’s said in the family stays in the family.
Whether or not you believe McCarthy was joking, as @mattyglesias notes, the transcript makes clear that McCarthy and Ryan both understood that the DNC was hacked by the Russians for Trump’s benefit. Yet, throughout the campaign, those leaders refused to strongly push back against Trump when he refused to acknowledge the Russian link to the hacking, claiming it could be anybody, even a 14 year old sitting on the couch.
In addition, when the Post contacted Ryan and McCarthy without telling him they had an audiotape, both Ryan and McCarthy denied the conversation took place. Upon being told that the Post had an audiotape, both Ryan and McCarthy then took the tack that it was all a joke. Kind of like the claim that Trump was only joking when he asked Comey to “let it go” when it came to the Flynn investigation.
Lastly, Democratic leaders asked Ryan and the GOP leader of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) to not use any information gleaned from the hack of the DNC and DCCC. Those pleas were ignored and the information was used not only in the Presidential campaign but also in the most competitive House races in the country.
Let’s be clear, the Russians hacked the election to benefit Republicans, not just Trump. And the House Republican leadership knew that was happening and was quite happy to let it redound to their benefit. They were silently complicit with the Russians in subverting our democracy. The rot in the Republican party runs to its core.