WASHINGTON, U.S. - Gripped with an unending string of controversies, now, the Republicans have invited another troublesome chapter after a recording from a private session from 2016 was leaked.
According to a report in The Washington Post, two highest-ranking members of the party were at the center of this new controversy and are brushing it aside by calling it a joke.
The report noted that in the unearthed footage, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) claims that Trump could be receiving payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The following month, Trump, who was a GOP presidential candidate then, formally received his party’s nomination.
Meanwhile, following the comments, Speaker Paul D Ryan of Wisconsin immediately intervened and brought the conversation to a halt.
The Post said it had reviewed the recording in which Ryan swore his colleagues to secrecy amid laughter.
Reacting to the recording, McCarthy said on Wednesday that he was just kidding.
McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol, “It’s a bad attempt at a joke.”
The report noted that in the same month last year, troubles began with a meeting of Republican leaders on Capitol Hill.
According to The Post, it was then that McCarthy delivered his assessment, playful or otherwise.
McCarthy said in the video, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”
As laughter broke out, it prompting him to add, “Swear to God.”
Republican of California, Representative Dana Rohrabacher has been known as the most unapologetically pro-Russian lawmaker.
Following the outburst, Ryan instructed other members present at the session not to share the conversation.
He said, according to the report, “No leaks. This is how we know we’re a real family here.”
At first, The Post claimed that spokesmen for Ryan and McCarthy had initially denied the exchange, but were told that The Post would cite a recording.
Then, on Wednesday, McCarthy and aides to Ryan repeatedly sought to frame the episode as a joke.
McCarthy said the accusations he made in the footage were “a bad attempt at a joke.”
He told reporters in Washington, “If you listen to it, everybody laughs. So you know that it’s a bad attempt at a joke, and that’s all there is to it. No one believes it to be true.”
McCarthy even replied to a question of whether he still has confidence in Trump, saying, “100 percent.”
He also tweeted that it "was an attempt at humor gone wrong."
He also said in the tweet the Washington Post "tried to contort" his words.
Meanwhile, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan, said the remarks were “clearly an attempt at humor.”
Buck reportedly added, “No one believed the majority leader was seriously asserting that Donald Trump or any of our members were being paid by the Russians.”
Buck also tweeted, “What was presented to me originally was far different than what they ultimately presented: an obvious joke.”
On Wednesday, Rohrabacher too made comments on the issue, claiming he had not taken offense at McCarthy’s remark and had interpreted them as a joke.
Rohrabacher was quoted as saying, “He sort of makes jokes like that,” adding that McCarthy had reminded him of the exchange on Wednesday and he told him, “You mean you misspoke? My gosh! Like I’ve never misspoke. I’ve been here 30 years.”