GOP lawmaker dined with alleged Russian agent in DC: report

GOP lawmaker dined with alleged Russian agent in DC: report
© Greg Nash

Rep. Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone Rohrabacher'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection Former Rep. Rohrabacher says he took part in Jan. 6 march to Capitol but did not storm building On The Trail: The political losers of 2020 MORE (R-Calif.) once dined with the Russian woman who was indicted earlier this month on charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Moscow, according to ABC News.

The network reported on Thursday that Rohrabacher’s office confirmed he met with the then-28-year-old Russian at French eatery Bistro Bis in Washington, D.C., in February 2017. 

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In addition, federal officials told ABC that Butina had arranged a meeting two years earlier in St. Petersburg that Rohrabacher attended. 

The report comes about a week after Rohrabacher first admitted he met with Butina while visiting Russia with a congressional delegation in August 2015. Rohrabacher pushed back against its potential significance, though, saying he was joined by another U.S. lawmaker, along with other Americans.

Rohrabacher has also defended Butina, telling Politico that the charges against her are "bogus."

The Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges that Butina was being directed by a "high-level" Russian official as she forged relationships with the NRA and conservative politicians from 2015 to 2017. 

Rohrabacher's office confirmed to ABC that the lawmaker is is the unnamed congressman who met with her in the DOJ's indictment. 

ABC also notes that the meeting with Butina — as well as the references to Rohrabacher in an FBI affidavit — add to a growing list of his interactions with figures involved in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's probe.

The New York Times reported in May that the FBI warned Rohrabacher in 2012 that Russian spies were trying to recruit him as an “agent of influence.”

Rohrabacher's office is claiming that, as the chairman of the committee overseeing U.S. relations in Eastern Europe, it was necessary for him to meet with contacts from Russia.  

“Given any level of Russian activity or interest in relations with the United States, it is not surprising their agents or even their transplanted citizens would be magnetized toward the business of the subcommittee overseeing Russia and its chairman,” Rohrabacher’s spokesman, Kenneth Grubbs, told ABC News.. “It is also proper that Chairman Rohrabacher would be guardedly open to their communications.”

Speaking about Rohrabacher's contacts with Butina, Grubbs said the talks “all came under the normal, fact-finding auspices of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.”

Rohrabacher has also traveled to London to meet with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which released emails during the 2016 election that the intelligence community believes were hacked by the Russians. 

"He's a very honorable man," said Rohrabacher, who has reportedly floated a pardon deal for Assange.