Dana Watch: Is ‘Russia’s Favorite Congressman’ Named in Rick Gates’ Plea Document?

Illustration by Bob Aul

The ears of Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Putin’s Pump House) must have been burning on Feb. 23.

That’s the day the Washington Examiner, the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg news service and various national political sites put two and дBa together before disclosing that Rohrabacher was the unnamed congressman in Rick Gates’ plea document.

Gates and Paul Manafort worked for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign—as an aide and the chairman, respectively—in 2016. Before that, the pair worked together lobbying Washington, D.C., politicians on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych, the Russia-based president of Ukraine.

On March 19, 2013, Gates, Manafort and Vin Weber—who became a lobbyist after retiring from Congress in 1992—had dinner with an unnamed congressman, according to the plea document that’s part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Gates originally told government investigators that Ukraine was not discussed during the dinner, but as part of a plea deal that had him copping to conspiracy and making false statements, he admitted that the former Soviet republic did come up.

Foreign Agents Registration Act documents for Weber released early last year show that he and Manafort met with Rohrabacher on March 19, 2013. Gates’ guilty plea emboldened mainstream news outlets to report what more aggressive sources had been reporting for a year: That “Russia’s favorite congressman” was the unnamed House representative referred to in the plea document.

Rohrabacher’s spokesman issued this statement: “As the congressman has acknowledged before, the meeting was a dinner with two longtime acquaintances—Manafort and Weber—from back in his White House and early congressional days.

“The three reminisced and talked mostly about politics. The subject of Ukraine came up in passing. It is no secret that Manafort represented Viktor Yanukovych’s interests, but as chairman of the relevant European subcommittee, the congressman has listened to all points of view on Ukraine.”

That does not satisfy Rohrabacher’s top political opponent.

“The people of Orange County are sick of the headlines, and they are tired of having a congressman who isn’t putting them first,” says Hans Keirstead, who over the weekend won the California Democratic Party’s endorsement for the 48th Congressional District seat that Rohrabacher currently fills.

“We’ve known that the congressman has his priorities set outside of Southern California,” Keirstead continues, “but as our elected representative, he has the responsibility to come clean to the people of Orange County and tell the truth about his role in Russia’s meddling in our government and elections.”

Got Dana Watch fodder? Email mcoker@ocweekly.com.

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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