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McCarthy claims he was joking when he reportedly said, 'Putin pays ... Trump'

FILE - Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., waves after speaking at during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Tuesday, July 19, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - The Washington Post on Wednesday reported on a 2016 conversation in which Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy allegedly said, possibly jokingly, that then-candidate Donald Trump was on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s payroll.

The newspaper cited a recording of the conversation. McCarthy said, according to the Post:

"There’s there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump swear to God."

There was reportedly laughter during the conversation, and McCarthy tweeted Wednesday in response to the Post, "This was an attempt at humor gone wrong."

The other person McCarthy referred to in that June 2016 conversation was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. The Post calls Rohrabacher a known "fervent defender of Putin and Russia."

News of this old conversation broke on the same day the Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the federal investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

The 2016 conversation took place in private among GOP leaders. Along with McCarthy, who is the majority leader in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., were reportedly part of the conversation.

Ryan reportedly interjected quickly and urged his colleagues to not leak the conversation.

The newspaper posted a full transcript of the conversation but not the original recording. The Post didn't say where it got the recording from.

Eyewitness News has contacted McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks for reaction to the Post story. He has yet to respond.

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Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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