In 2012, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher received a warning from the FBI that Russian spies were attempting to recruit him as an “agent of influence,” the New York Times reported Friday.
Although the California Republican has long been among the Kremlin’s most outspoken defenders on Capitol Hill, officials told the Times that Rohrabacher was not believed to have been paid by Russia, nor is he considered to be actively working with Moscow’s intelligence officials. Rather, he was unwittingly being targeted as someone who could guide U.S. policy in Russia’s favor.
In an interview with the Times, Rohrabacher confirmed the 2012 meeting in which, he said, an FBI agent notified him that Moscow had “looked at me as someone who could be influenced.”
Rohrabacher recalled that the meeting had focused specifically on the congressman’s interactions with a member of the Russian Foreign Ministry, whom he’d met on a prior visit to Moscow. “They were telling me he had something to do with some kind of Russian intelligence,” Rohrabacher told the Times.
This newest detail comes amid a rapidly unfolding investigation into possible collusion between members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It also offers new insight into the extent of Russia’s attempts to infiltrate Washington well before Trump’s electoral victory.
This week, the Washington Post revealed a recorded conversation between House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and fellow top Republicans last June, in which McCarthy told colleagues, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” Both McCarthy and Rohrabacher have been among Trump’s most loyal supporters in Congress.
Though McCarthy quickly dismissed the comment as a joke, Friday’s report in the Times reveals that the FBI had made clear its concerns about Rohrabacher’s Russian ties years before.
Still, the warning doesn’t seem to have deterred Rohrabacher from continuing to sing Russia’s praises in Washington, even earning him the reputation of “Putin’s favorite congressman” before Trump entered office.
Last December, amid rumors that he was in the running for secretary of state under Trump, Rohrabacher made an impassioned plea for improved U.S.-Russia relations in a heated exchange with Yahoo News and Finance Anchor Bianna Golodryga.
“Russia is no longer the Soviet Union,” he told Golodryga, a U.S. citizen who emigrated from the former Soviet Union as a political refugee. “There’s a bunch of people here who want to treat it like it’s still the Soviet Union and get in the Cold War. That’s not what Donald Trump wants. It’s not good for America, and it’s better to cooperate with them to actually take on real enemies.”
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