Rohrabacher was drawn into the maelstrom this week when The Washington Post reported on an audio recording of Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority leader, saying previous year, "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump".
VIDEO: The Washington Post's Adam Entous discusses a 2016 conversation of GOP leaders in which House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made the explosive claim. For the next five months, they would swallow whatever suspicions they might have had in the name of electing a GOP president. At this very early juncture in the Russian Federation drama, they were already making apparent jokes about collusion between Russian Federation and Trump. Rohrabacher is a Republican who's been more than a little pro-Russia and Vladimir Putin.
"There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump", McCarthy said, referring to California Republican Dana Rohrabacher, who has repeatedly advocated for closer relations with Russian Federation.
The transcript does denote group laughter; Ryan went on to say the talk was off the record and, "What's said in the family stays in the family". "The trouble is, when you ever try to be amusing, it is really taken seriously by a third party, and that's what's happened here", Rohrabacher said.
Ryan: The Russian's [sic] hacked the DNC... Numerous reporters have found that, after Trump's bankruptcies and other risky behavior made him untouchable for most standard lenders, he became dependent on Russian Federation for capital.
And they certainly need to do everything necessary to make sure that these issues are thoroughly investigated and resolved.
The Trump campaign is now being investigated over its alleged ties to Russian Federation.
According to the Post story, McCarthy and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin had met separately earlier that day with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman who had told them that the Russian government employed a tactic of funding populist candidates in Eastern Europe to undermine democratic institutions.
Spokesmen for McCarthy and Ryan initially denied the exchange, then said it was clearly a joke when told there was a recording.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was reportedly caught on tape saying: "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump", on June 15, 2016.
The remarks, however, show that even as a quip, Republican leaders were aware of possible connections between Trump and Russia six months before election day, before numerous revelations about meetings between Trump's campaign associates and Russian officials were public, and before WikiLeaks began to published the hacked DNC emails.
And Sparks said, "This was a failed attempt at humor".
It wasn't particularly amusing then.
"Congressman Rohrabacher has been labeled "Putin's favorite congressman" for some deadly serious reasons", said Tyler Law, a spokesman for the DCCC.