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Evan Vucci / AP

House Republican leadership is agitated after the Washington Post published a transcript from a secret recording of one of the inner-sanctum conversations in the office of Speaker Paul Ryan.

The transcript shows House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy joking with his colleagues that then-candidate Trump and California Republican Dana Rohrabacher were both on the payroll of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The unknown is frustrating," said one senior GOP aide, referring to the possibility that this wasn't the only private leadership conversation that was secretly recorded.

Behind-the-scenes: House leadership sources have pored over the article and are privately discussing theories about where the leak came from:

  • One theory — bolstered by the article's dateline ("Kiev, Ukraine") — is that the Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, or one of his associates, left behind a recording device after meeting earlier that day with Ryan.
  • But of the five senior House GOP sources I've spoken to since the leak, none of them really believe that this leak came from the Ukrainians. Capitol security teams do regular sweeps of leadership offices and my sources aren't aware of recording devices being found.
  • The most widespread theory in House leadership is that the secret recorder and the leaker was Evan McMullin, who as a former leadership aide participated in the June 15 conversation and confirmed the private conversation to the Washington Post. (I am told that the Post, in their back-and-forth with leadership over the story, privately said that the source wasn't McMullin. There's no evidence that he was the leaker and I've reached out to him for comment.)
  • Evidence or not, leadership sources are privately worried that McMullin had a tape on while he sat silently through all of their confidential meetings. They're concerned about what leaks could come next.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

The bomb cyclone and atmospheric river seen via satellite on Sunday. The center of the storm is at the middle of the comma shape, due west of Washington State. (CIRA/RAMMB)

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.

Manchin, Schumer huddle with Biden in Delaware to discuss spending bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (left) and Sen. Joe Manchin at the U.S. Capitol in 2014. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will meet with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday morning in Delaware as Democrats look to reach an agreement on the massive spending measure.

Driving the news: Democrats are still negotiating what to keep in the bill and how to pay for it, with Biden saying on Thursday that the party does not have the votes to raise the corporate tax rate.