By now we all know the widely reported story about Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy joking about Donald Trump and Dana Rohrabacher being on Vladimir Putin’s payroll, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan shushing McCarthy and then swearing the entire room of GOP Congressmen to secrecy. Was Ryan just being paranoid, or did he know something? We’ve been waiting a long time for that answer. Now Ryan suddenly has a problem.
This week’s arrest and indictment of Russian political operative Maria Butina alleges that she met with a Republican Congressman during the 2016 election cycle. Once everyone figured out that it was Dana Rohrabacher, he admitted that he did indeed meet with Butina during the election. Every Republican in Congress takes NRA money, and every one of them knew that Butina was repping the NRA. If any of them knew that Butina was also repping Russia, and that the money they were getting from the NRA was being funneled from the Kremlin, then they’re going to prison.
So yeah, Rohrabacher is toast – and we all saw that one coming a mile down the road. But now that a federal indictment basically accuses Rohrabacher of having knowingly been on Putin’s payroll via the NRA, it puts Paul Ryan’s actions in a whole new light. Kevin McCarthy is a doofus best known for trying to gain favor with Donald Trump by giving him Skittles. If he made a joke about Rohrabacher being on Putin’s payroll, it’s probably because he didn’t know Rohrabacher really was. On the other hand, Ryan’s strange response – now placed within the context of Rohrabacher actually being on Putin’s payroll – makes Ryan look like he really did know something.
Paul Ryan is not going to be indicted because he shushed a joke. But now it sure looks like Ryan knew about Dana Rohrabacher, the NRA and the Kremlin. If Ryan did know, Robert Mueller is going to find the evidence trail to prove it. That would make Ryan guilty of failure to report a felony, which is itself a felony, and possibly worse. This may also provide new context with regard to Paul Ryan’s decision not to seek reelection in November.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report