During the 2016 presidential campaign, Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy was caught on a secret tape recording telling his GOP colleagues, including then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin “pays” Donald Trump, as The Washington Post reported in May of 2017 when the tape was leaked.
Ryan and McCarthy later dismissed the remark as a “joke,” as Politico reported, even though Ryan is heard on the tape swearing the other Republicans to secrecy.
“No leaks…. This is how we know we’re a real family here.”
Now, a similar situation has arisen in Italy, where an explosive, secretly recorded tape obtained and published Wednesday by BuzzFeed News reveals a group of Russian agents in a covert meeting with top members of Italy’s far-right-wing Lega, or League, party. In the meeting the Russians offer to funnel $65 million in covert finds to the party, which is led by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini — dubbed by the Russians “the European Trump.”
“He is Italian, not Italian, but the European Trump, because he has now become the head of all the ultra right,” one of the unnamed Russians is heard saying, according to a BuzzFeed transcript of the leaked recording, on which the Russians discuss how to transfer $65 million of money from an oil deal to the League party to use in the European parliamentary election campaign.
The parallels with McCarthy’s comment during the 2016 campaign were noted on Twitter by Brian Beutler, editor at the podcast publisher Crooked Media, producers of the popular Pod Save America podcast.
The current House Republican leader and the former Republican House Speaker were secretly recorded with their full leadership team acknowledging the likelihood that the Kremlin paid off Trump, and then swearing each other to secrecy because the arrangement benefitted their party. https://t.co/WnUNW0T3be
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) July 10, 2019
The Russian plan revealed in the tape to fund the “ultra-right” League through an oil deal appears reminiscent of an episode outlined in the report of his investigative findings by special counsel Robert Mueller, which is accessible online via The New York Times.
As The Inquisitr has also covered, during the campaign, the Trump Organization was secretly engaged in negotiations for a deal to build a Trump Tower Moscow, a deal that according to Mueller’s report would have proven “highly lucrative” for Trump.
While the Trump Tower Moscow deal was never brought to fruition, it also remains unclear whether the $65 million oil deal to fund the “European Trump” was ever completed, according to a Newsweek summary of the BuzzFeed report.
Salvini and his party have long denied taking any funds from Russia. Italian media have repeatedly noted suspicions of a financial link between the far-right League and the Kremlin, according to a Moscow Times report.