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'Putin's favorite congressman' received a Kremlin code name

When the Kremlin gives a Republican member of Congress a code name, perceiving him as an intelligence source, that's not a good sign.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who's been described as "Putin's favorite congressman," has earned quite a reputation. In a closed-door event last year, for example, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told GOP lawmakers, "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump."

The House GOP leadership later said McCarthy was kidding. Of course, if it didn't reflect Republicans' thinking, officials in the room wouldn't have laughed.

Keep this anecdote in mind when reading the New York Times' latest reporting on the California congressman.

For two decades, Representative Dana Rohrabacher has been of value to the Kremlin, so valuable in recent years that the F.B.I. warned him in 2012 that Russia regarded him as an intelligence source worthy of a Kremlin code name.The following year, the California Republican became even more valuable, assuming the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee that oversees Russia policy. [...]Mr. Rohrabacher has laughed off suggestions that he is a Russian asset, and said in an interview that he did not remember being briefed that the Russians viewed him as a source. The F.B.I. and the senior members of the House Intelligence Committee sat Mr. Rohrabacher down in the Capitol in 2012 to warn him that Russian spies were trying to recruit him, according to two former intelligence officials.

"I remember them telling me, 'You have been targeted to be recruited as an agent,'" Rohrabacher told the Times. "How stupid is that?"

I don't know, big guy. You're the one with a Kremlin code name, so maybe you should tell us.

It's worth keeping an eye on how Republicans deal with this increasingly awkward situation. On the one hand, Rohrabacher remains a GOP lawmaker in good standing, as evidenced by Vice President Mike Pence headlining a fundraiser on Rohrabacher's behalf as recently as last month.

On the other hand, the New York Times' report added that the Republican leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has already ousted Rohrabacher's top committee aide over his "ties to pro-Russian lobbyists," which was soon followed by the panel's chairman, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), taking "a more hands-on approach to managing Mr. Rohrabacher's subcommittee."

That reportedly includes careful "scrutiny" of Rohrabacher's requests. Rohrabacher conceded that his activities on the committee have been curtailed.

Democrats at the state and national level have made the GOP lawmaker one of their top 2018 targets.