GOP leadership in the House are looking into how private audio of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy joking that then-candidate Donald Trump was on a Russian payroll leaked to the press.
Lawmakers are hoping the internal review will reveal whether the leaker sent the off-the-record audio to foreign governments or officials, The Hill first reported.
“I believe it is important that these questions get answered,” a GOP lawmaker familiar with the proceedings told the publication. “I suspect this is only going to become more and more common.”
According to The Hill, leadership is exploring whether they can hold the leaker accountable though House rules or federal statutes.
Shortly after the story broke, House Speaker Paul Ryan told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt the situation is troubling.
“There was somebody who taped a meeting a year ago where our majority leader cracked a joke, and then they released the tape of that joke out just a few days ago,” he said. “And that’s a pretty bizarre thing to happen, so obviously, that’s a cause of concern of ours.”
Several GOP staffers said they suspect Evan McMullin, the former policy director for the House Republican Conference and independent 2016 presidential candidate — could be the culprit, noting only leadership and a handful of their staff were present at the closed-door gathering.
McMullin has been highly critical of Trump, repeatedly blasting the president since he took office.
With leaks becoming more frequent, lawmakers say they have become more guarded about the information they share in what are supposed to be off-the-record meetings.
“When someone deliberately and maliciously records someone to undermine them out of context, then I think that person should be ostracized and socially rejected,” Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks told The Hill.
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