A recorded conversation involving the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, on June 15, 2016:
McCarthy: . . . there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: [Dana] Rohrabacher [another pro-Russia California Republican] and Trump. Swear to God.
Ryan: This is an off-the-record . . . NO LEAKS . . . alright?
Ryan: This is how we know we’re a real family here. . . . What’s said in the family stays in the family. (www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/house-majority-leader-to-colleagues-in-2016-i-think-putin-pays-trump/2017/05/17/)
The conversation took place just after reports circulated about Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee, and following a visit by a Ukraine official who warned about Russian efforts to destabilize Western institutions. By then, Paul Manafort, who would later serve briefly as Trump’s campaign manager, was on the payroll of the pro-Russian president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort’s ties to Yanukovych, who would be overthrown in a US-supported uprising, are now the subject of an FBI investigation.
Thus does the plot thicken.
McCarthy, by the way, says the conversation was meant to be humorous.