Tonight, another story that would be a bombshell if it wasn't the alternate universe we now live in: A Washington Post piece about a secretly recorded conversation with House GOP leadership in which they discussed Donald Trump being "beholden" to Vladimir Putin.
When the story broke, a Ryan spokesman said it was "an attempt at humor." (The Republicans first denied the conversation ever happened, until Post reporter Adam Entous informed them he had an audio recording.)
So now we're just kidding!
Entous told Eugene Robinson on Hardball that it didn't sound that way.
"Adam, what was the reaction when you asked about this tape from Speaker Ryan, from Kevin McCarthy during your reporting?" Robinson said.
"Yeah, well, we first went to them. we said we wanted to seek your comment about this -- these statements that were made. We didn't tell them that we had listened to a tape," the reporter said.
"They said that it was 100% untrue. there was no conversation like this. Then we told them that there was a transcript, and they told us that the transcript was made up. and then we told them that we actually -- we were going to be citing an audio of this, and that's when they basically said that it was intended as a joke.
"So they basically changed the story over the course of the last 48 hours before we published the story," he said.
Chris Matthews asked Entous for his take."That this was a serious accusation?"
"The way you set up the transaction, if ... the Russians are, if nothing else, transactional. why would they pay Trump to help Trump? That doesn't make any sense. The guy you're helping is the beneficiary. why would you pay him, or any kind of muckety muck going on behind the scene, any kind of hacking or fake news operation, RT operation-- why would you pay Trump?"
"I think what he's trying to say, whether he means it literally or not, is he's basically saying that basically Trump is beholden to Putin. That's what he's trying to get across. And when Ryan hears that statement and the "swear to God," that's when Ryan shuts it down, and he basically tells everybody no leaks," Entous said.
"Then there's a series of statements that culminates with 'what's said in the family stays in the family.' And, you know, the nature of the conversation was very serious until that moment when McCarthy takes it in this direction."
Matthews replied that he would follow up on the story. "Everybody is, I think. I'm sure that Kevin McCarthy is going to say it was a joke, and everything is a joke if it's not important."
"What's said in the family, stays in the family." It sounds so familiar, somehow.