Speaker Paul Ryan is trying out the Trump regime's favorite defense against damning news—focus on the leaker rather than on the content. In this case, it's the release of a transcript with a slip of the tongue from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy about Donald Trump being on Vladimir Putin's payroll, a "joke" that Ryan immediately threatened all of those present to forget ever happened. Ryan is in full deflection mode trying to cover up what he and others in Republican leadership—we're looking at you, Mitch McConnell—knew about Russia's interference in the election on behalf of Trump and when they knew it.
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.”
He's never seen anything like this? How about watching the Russians hacking the DNC, getting a briefing from the Ukrainian prime minister which detailed the attacks and the sophisticated propaganda Russia was conducting against it and other European nations, and then brushing off the suggestion that Putin was controlling the possible Republican presidential nominee? That's pretty bizarre and unimaginable. And that's exactly what happened.
But let's not let Ryan and McConnell off that easy, because that private June meeting the transcript is from isn't the first time Ryan heard about any of this stuff.
- A full year before this meeting, in the summer of 2015, congressional leaders including McConnell and Ryan's predecessor John Boehner were briefed on Russian hacking attempts on the DNC. It strains credulity to believe Ryan wasn't read into these details when he took over as speaker.
On June 15, 2016, the news broke in the Washington Post and the whole world found out what leadership already knew—that the Russians had hacked the DNC.
On June 16, 2016, McCarthy makes his "joke." A "joke" Ryan responded to immediately by telling the group "No leaks … This is how we know we're a real family here."
- In August 2016 Ryan and McConnell got a series of "urgent, individual" briefings from CIA Director John Brennan, informing them that Russia was working to help elect Donald Trump.
- In September 2016 the "Gang of 12"—Senate, House, and congressional intelligence committee leaders—were briefed by the intelligence community about Russian interference in the election. This is when McConnell jumped in to voice doubts about the intelligence presented and to squelch it. With no objection from Ryan.
He’s never seen anything like a meeting being secretly recorded? How about a hostile foreign power hijacking and American election?
Ryan and McConnell knew full well going into the election process—including the primaries—that Russia was getting involved in this election. They knew when Trump received the nomination that Russia was working to get him elected. Ryan oversaw the Republican National Convention where the one thing the Trump campaign insisted on being in the platform was a softening of the party's stance on helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia.
None of this is a joke, and since that Ryan's deflection trying to push this off on the leaker? That's bullshit. He's up to his eyeballs in this.