Speaker of the House Paul Ryan took the political world by surprise when he announced in April that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection to the congressional seat he’s held since 1999. At the time, Ryan said he was leaving Congress to spend more time with his family, but no one really believed that was the reason.
Some suggested the real reason was because Ryan was sick and tired of having to support Donald Trump and his agenda. Others said it was because Ryan wanted to prepare for a presidential run in 2020 or 2024.
But it now appears the real reason Ryan so abruptly withdrew from the midterm election may have more than a little to do with his involvement in the expanding Russia investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The arrest of Maria Butina, a Russian operative who opened a channel between the Kremlin and the National Rifle Association (NRA), has a lot of Republicans worried, if only because they’re starting to wonder whether campaign funds they took from the NRA might have originated in Russia, making them illegal and therefore subject to prosecution.
But the matter for Ryan is even more serious because he’s the Speaker of the House and supposed to have some sort of “control” over its members. And yet Ryan himself once took part in a conversation with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in which McCarthy remarked:
“There’s two people I think Putin pays: [Rep. Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to God.”
Ryan laughed at McCarthy’s remark, and that too could be a problem. How so? Well, if there was even a suggestion that a sitting member of Congress — in this case California Republican Dana Rohrabacher, who has been referred to as “Putin’s favorite congressman” — was on the payroll of a foreign nation, Ryan had a duty to confront Rohrabacher and also to report any suspected illegal activity to the FBI.
And if Ryan merely laughed instead of alerting the authorities, he could be guilty of misprision of a felony, which means you know something illegal is taking place and don’t tell law enforcement.
Also, Ryan — much like the vast majority of the GOP — has probably taken tens of thousands of dollars in money that came from Russia via the NRA, opening him up to endless campaign finance violations. If he knew the money was coming from Russia and still accepted it, he’d be potentially guilty of money laundering and other serious federal crimes.
So, while Paul Ryan may be leaving Congress to get away from the cesspool he helped to create, rest assured he can’t run from the evidence.
Lock them all up!