The relationship between Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) and Russia has combusted as the congressman faces a tough and unlikely reelection.
The Orange County representative is renowned for his pro-Russia ideology. He has long been considered one of Congress’ most pro-Russia members. Recent developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election have put Rohrabacher into a tough position.
Richard Gates, a former campaign aide to President Trump, pleaded guilty in late February to lying about a 2013 meeting. The meeting included Rohrabacher, former chairman Paul Manafort, and a lobbyist on Ukraine.
Polling clearly reflects that a majority of American voters are concerned about the election interference that occurred during the 2016 presidential elections. Rohrabacher is the only member of Congress to be pulled in by voter backlash.
Democratic opposition has taken advantage of the situation to capitalize on campaigns against Rohrabacher. One of the leading Democratic candidates in the race, Harley Rouda, even told The Hill that the Russia issue is “red meat” for Democrats but acknowledged Republicans and independents are less interested.
“He’s always been the odd man out. Now people have a reason to care [about Russia] and they have a direct way to tie Rohrabacher to it,” Fred Brown, a former Republican National Committee (RNC) official, told The Hill.
“I think this is the one area people will care about Russia in the midterms,” Brown continued.
All of this compounds previous allegations of Rohrabacher’s warm relations with Russia. In May, The New York Times reported that the FBI warned Rohrabacher in 2012 that Russian spies were attempting to recruit him as an “agent of influence.” In November, NBC News reported that Mueller was investigating a meeting that allegedly took place two months before the 2016 election between Rohrabacher and Michael Flynn, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with Mueller.
Rohrabacher’s spokesman told HuffPost that Mueller has not interviewed the congressman. In a response to the 2013 meeting that surfaced during the Gates investigation, the spokesman stated that the meeting had taken place, but it was merely a dinner between “two longtime acquaintances.”
“The three reminisced and talked mostly about politics. The subject of Ukraine came up in passing,” spokesman Ken Grubbs told HuffPost. “It is no secret that Manafort represented [pro-Putin Ukrainian President] Viktor Yanukovych’s interests, but as chairman of the relevant European subcommittee, the congressman has listened to all points of view on Ukraine. We may only speculate that Manafort needed to report back to his client that Ukraine was discussed.”
H/T: The Hill