McCarthy: Trump-Putin comment a ‘bad attempt at a joke’

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) says that unearthed footage of him accusing President Trump of being paid by Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a bad attempt at a joke.”

“If you listen to it, everybody laughs,” he told reporters Wednesday in Washington. “So you know that it’s a bad attempt at a joke, and that’s all there is to it.” 

“No one believes it to be true,” McCarthy added, noting he has “100 percent” confidence in Trump.

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McCarthy doubled down on his claim that the statement was made in jest, tweeting that it "was an attempt at humor gone wrong." He also said in the tweet that The Washington Post "tried to contort" his words.

The Washington Post earlier Wednesday shared a private conversation between McCarthy and other Republicans that took place in 2016. In it, McCarthy says he thinks Russia pays Trump.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: [Rep. Dana] Rohrabacher [R-Calif.] and Trump,” he said, according to the report.

The Post reports that Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP leaders launch internal review into leak Opinion | Michael Steele: Gianforte better put his ‘big boy’ pants on Washington needs high-level science and technology expertise – now! MORE (R-Wis.) stopped the conversation immediately, making the members present swear to secrecy.

“No leaks,” he said. “This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

Ryan counselor Brendan Buck on Wednesday criticized the Post’s account, tweeting that McCarthy “was just kidding.”

“What was presented to me originally was far different than what they ultimately presented: an obvious joke,” he said.

The Post’s report comes amid the FBI’s ongoing probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including possible ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign.