The nation’s capital is reeling after the Washington Post released transcripts Wednesday of a private conversation among top Republican officials on Capitol Hill that occurred last June. In the conversation, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) accuses then-candidate Donald Trump and Representative Dana Rohrbacher (R-Calif.) of receiving payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” said McCarthy in the exchange.
The conversation occurred in the context of Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee, news of which broke just the day before the meeting occurred on June 15, 2016. Present are other members of the Republican leadership including Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and Steve Scalise (R-Lou.).
Ken Grubbs is a spokesman for Rep. Rohrabacher and denied such allegations. “[He’s] working closer with the Russians to combat radical Islamism,” Grubbs told the Post. “The congressman doesn’t need to be paid to come to such a necessary conclusion.”
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Paul Ryan called this a failed attempt at humor. It’s worth noting that according to the Post, that McCarthy’s comment initially drew laughs to which he added, “Swear to God.”
Rep. Rohrabacher bills himself in his district and in Washington as the “surfing congressman,” and represents California’s 48th district which includes Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach. In 2011, Politico ran a profile on Rohrabacher citing the irregularity of surfboards hanging from the wall and tequila posters around his office. “Some people think of themselves as cowboys. Some think of themselves as policemen or sportsmen or something like that… I’m a surfer. And I identify with the surf culture.”
Whether the allegations are factual or in jest, Rohrabacher represents the second surfer to be accused of dubious links to Russia, the first being Trump’s former national security advisor, General Michael Flynn.