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When a top Republican says Russian propaganda has infected the GOP

During
the
first
impeachment
inquiry
into
President
Donald
Trump
in
2019,
former
Trump
national
security
aide
Fiona
Hill
made
an
extraordinary
plea.
Seated
in
front
of
congressional
Republicans,
she
implored
them

not
to
spread
Russian
propaganda
.

“In
the
course
of
this
investigation,
I
would
ask
that
you
please
not
promote
politically
driven
falsehoods
that
so
clearly
advance
Russian
interests,”
she

told
them
.
She
was
referring
to
comments
they
had
made
during
her
earlier
deposition
breathing
life
into
a
baseless,
Trump-backed
suggestion
that
Ukraine,
rather
than
Russia,
interfered
in
the
2016
U.S.
election.

“These
fictions
are
harmful
even
if
they’re
deployed
for
purely
domestic
political
purposes,”
she
added.

Republicans
on
the
committee
blanched
at
the
suggestion
that
they
had
served
as
conduits
for
Russian
misinformation,
but
Hill
refused
to
back
down.

Five
years
later,
Republicans
are
starting
to
grapple
more
publicly
with
the
idea
that
this
kind
of
thing
is
happening
in
their
ranks.

The
most
striking
example
came
this
week.
In
an
interview
with
Puck
News’s
Julia
Ioffe,
Rep.
Michael
McCaul
(R-Tex.)

none
other
than
the
GOP
chairman
of
the
House
Foreign
Affairs
Committee

flat-out
said
that
Russian
propaganda
had
infected
a
good
chunk
of
my
party’s
base
.”

McCaul
suggested
conservative
media
was
to
blame.

“There
are
some
more
nighttime
entertainment
shows
that
seem
to
spin,
like,
I
see
the
Russian
propaganda
in
some
of
it

and
it’s
almost
identical
[to
what
they’re
saying
on
Russian
state
television]

on
our
airwaves,”
McCaul
said.

He
also
cited
“these
people
that
read
various
conspiracy-theory
outlets
that
are
just
not
accurate,
and
they
actually
model
Russian
propaganda.”

Asked
which
Republicans
specifically
he
was
talking
about,
McCaul
said
it
was
“obvious,”
before
staff
intervened
and
asked
that
the
conversation
go
off
the
record.

These
comments
are
the
most
significant
to
date,
but
they’re
not
the
only
ones.

A
GOP
impasse
over
additional
funding
for
Ukraine’s
defense
against
Russia

combined
recently
with

Tucker
Carlson’s
deeply
weird
promotion

of
Russia
and
Trump’s
comments
about
not
defending
NATO
allies
from
Moscow

has
apparently
occasioned
some
self-reflection
among
Republicans
about
their
colleagues
and
allies:

Around
the
same
time,
former
congresswoman
Liz
Cheney
(R-Wyo.)
said
there
is
now
a
Putin
wing
of
the
Republican
Party
.”

In
2022,
Sen.
Mitt
Romney
(R-Utah)
called
the
pro-Putin
sentiments
in
some
corners
of
his
party
almost
treasonous
,”
while
allowing
that
perhaps
his
fellow
Republicans
were
just
attention-seekers.

“It’s
unthinkable
to
me,
it’s
almost
treasonous
and
it
just
makes
me
ill
to
see
some
of
these
people
do
that,”
Romney
said.
“But,
of
course,
they
do
it
because
if
they
get
shock
value
and
it’s
good
to
get
more
eyeballs
and
maybe
make
a
little
more
money
for
them
or
their
network.
It’s
disgusting.”

And
then
there
is
what
may
be
the
most
famous
example:
when
House
GOP
leaders
in
2016
privately

joked
about
Trump
being
compromised
by
Russia
,
as
later
reported
by
The
Washington
Post.

The
day
after
The
Post
broke
the
news
that
the
Russians
had
hacked
the
Democratic
National
Committee,
then-House
Majority
Leader
Kevin
McCarthy
(R-Calif.)
quipped
that
perhaps
Russia
had
gotten
Democrats’
opposition
research
about
Trump.

“There’s
two
people,
I
think,
Putin
pays,”
McCarthy
added,
“[Rep.
Dana]
Rohrabacher
and
Trump.”
(Rohrabacher
was
an

openly
pro-Russian
Republican

from
California.)

Then-House
Speaker
Paul
D.
Ryan
(R-Wis.)
quickly
tried
to
steer
the
conversation
in
another
direction
and
urged
people
to
be
discreet.

It
appeared
to
be
a
joke,
but
perhaps
a
joke
born
of
real
concerns
about
Trump’s
commentary
on
Russia.

Eight
years
later,
such
concerns
clearly
remain
for
some
prominent
Republicans
about
their
colleagues
and
allies.

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