Dana Rohrabacher Pretty Much Agrees He is Congressman in Russian Spy Indictment

Danyet Rohrabacher. Photo (except for Russian hat) by Jack Gould

UPDATE, JULY 17, 4:36 P.M.: This just in …

HARLEY ROUDA STATEMENT ON THE REVELATION THAT ROHRABACHER IS PART OF RUSSIAN SPY INVESTIGATION

NEWPORT BEACH, CA — Today, Harley Rouda – Democratic nominee for Congress in California’s 48th District – released the following statement in light of the news that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher met with an ally of Vladimir Putin in Russia in August 2015. This revelation matches an account given in an affidavit released by the FBI on Monday against accused Russian spy Maria Butina.

“The news that Dana Rohrabacher is now entwined in an FBI investigation of an accused ‘Russian NRA spy’ is deeply disturbing. The full truth about the connection between Dana’s pro-Russian politics, his 2015 trip to Russia, and Moscow’s relationship with the National Rifle Association must be known – that’s what every CA-48 family, what every American family, deserves.

“What’s already fully known is that Dana Rohrabacher told the Showtime Network he thinks arming children is a good idea. He also has never met a common sense gun reform he liked or an NRA donation that he didn’t want to take. This last quarter alone, Dana accepted $1,000 in NRA money. My campaign is not up for sale to the NRA. I will never take a contribution from the NRA and as a member of Congress I will seek to work with Republicans and Democrats to finally make common sense gun safety reform a reality.”

ORIGINAL POST, JULY 17, 4:03 P.M.: Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Putin’s legal briefs) confirmed today that he may or may not be the U.S. congressman referenced in Monday’s blockbuster FBI affidavit against accused Russian spy Mariia “Maria” Butina.

The 30-year incumbent, who is embroiled in a hotly contested race to keep his 48th congressional district seat, is sure of one thing, however:  The U.S. Justice Department’s case against Butina is “bogus.”

Hey, “bogus” is also how Rohrabacher described his much-mocked cable TV interview concerning arming toddlers to combat school shootings.

The Mouth That Rohrabachered’s thoughts about the Butina case do not come from Sacha Baron Cohen but Politico’s Kyle Cheney.

The feds’ Butina indictment notes that the 29-year-old had discussions with a prominent Russian official—believed to be her banker boss Alexander Torshin—about his plans to “meet with a U.S. Congressman during a Congressional Delegation trip to Moscow in August 2015.”

“I know I had dinner with [Butina] along with another member [of Congress], along with a visiting delegation to Russia,” Rohrabacher told Cheney before reportedly asking, “Is that something we should be worried about?”

The other congressman is believed to be New York Democrat Gregory Meeks, who along with Rohrabacher was the only American member of Congress in Russia at the time of the meeting, reports The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich and Spencer Ackerman.

But The Daily Beast reporters add that Rohrabacher was the only congressman who met alone with Torshin, an influential former Russian politician from President Vladimir Putin’s party who established trans-continental ties to the National Rifle Association.

Rohrabacher Press Secretary Ken Grubbs confirmed that meeting, telling The Daily Beast, “All he could recall about Ms. Butina is that she was an aide to Torshin who arranged a [breakfast] meeting and was of no consequence other than that. His CODEL [congressional delegation] as well as his meeting with Torshin all came under the normal, fact-finding auspices of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.” Grubbs’ boss chairs that panel.

Politico and The Daily Beast relied on congressional travel documents that Fullerton-based investigative reporter Scott Stedman first referenced on Twitter Monday.

The federal indictment alleges Butina, who is accused of unlawfully failing to register as a foreign agent, was setting up a back channel between Russian and American political leaders, using the National Rifle Association as a conduit.

Butina attended many events for the NRA and Trump on American soil, claiming she headed an organization seeking looser gun rights in Russia, which is far more restrictive than the U.S. when it comes to legally possessing firearms. After Trump was elected, Butina’s group disbanded in Russia, however.

Rohrabacher told Politico the federal case against her is “ridiculous” and “stupid.”

“She’s the assistant of some guy who is the head of the bank and is a member of their Parliament,” he added. “That’s what we call a spy? That shows you how bogus this whole thing is.”

There’s that word again. Speaking of repeating himself–which is common for someone age eleventy–Rohrabacher called the Butina case “an attempt to undermine the president’s ability to have better relationships with Russia.” He would use much the same language to defend Trump against the huge backlash that came after the president sided with Putin Monday over the U.S. intelligence community when it came to Russian meddling in U.S. elections.

That sparked this reaction from Harley Rouda, the Democrat who is seeking to replace Rohrabacher in Congress this November: “Dana Rohrabacher has once again proven that he’s unfit to lead. In interviews today, he has apologized for Vladimir Putin’s attack on our democracy during the 2016 Presidential election. He has insulted the patriotic, diligent men and women of the U.S. intelligence community by impugning their work. And finally, he has gone to the radical extreme to suggest that the U.S. has committed crimes far worse than Russia’s despicable attack on our election.

“Dana’s actions today may play well in Moscow, but they aren’t befitting a member of Congress who swears to serve the Constitution and to defend our nation against all adversaries. California’s 48th district, our nation as a whole, deserves much better than Dana Rohrabacher. That’s why I’m running for Congress.”

It’s worth interjecting here that Rohrabacher was warned by the FBI in 2012 that Russian spies were trying to groom him as an asset, that he has been dubbed “Putin’s favorite congressman” and that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) told GOP leaders, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” (Hey, Harley, if Vladdy’s that into Dana, you’d better hire a taste tester.)

Rohrabacher’s travel companion on the Russian trip is also worth noting: his then-aide Paul Behrends, who turned out to be a critical congressional contact for Kremlin-aligned figures Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin before their now-infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., who was led to believe he’d be receiving damaging information against Hillary Clinton.

The Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats that Grubbs spoke of is under the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Chaired by Representative Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), that committee last year restricted Rohrabacher’s travel on behalf of the Europe subcommittee and fired Behrends as its staff director due to their coziness with Russian lobbyists.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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