But interviews and records show that in the months before the meeting, Ms. Veselnitskaya had discussed the allegations with one of Russia’s most powerful officials, the prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika. And the memo she brought with her closely followed a document that Mr. Chaika’s office had given to an American congressman two months earlier, incorporating some paragraphs verbatim.
.. It also suggests that emails from an intermediary to the younger Mr. Trump promising that Ms. Veselnitskaya would arrive with information from Russian prosecutors were rooted at least partly in fact — not mere “puffery,”as the president’s son later said.
.. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia repeated her charges at length last week at an annual conference of Western academics. A state-run television network recently made them the subject of two special reports, featuring interviews with Ms. Veselnitskaya and Mr. Chaika.
The matching messages point to a synchronized information campaign.
.. The memo that Ms. Veselnitskaya brought to the Trump Tower meeting alleged that Ziff Brothers Investments, an American firm, had illegally purchased shares in a Russian company and evaded tens of millions of dollars of Russian taxes. The company was the financial vehicle of three billionaire brothers, two of them major donors to Democratic candidates including Mrs. Clinton. By implication, Ms. Veselnitskaya, said, those political contributions were tainted by “stolen” money.
.. The Ziff brothers had invested in funds managed by William F. Browder, an American-born financier and fierce Kremlin foe. Mr. Browder was the driving force behind a 2012 law passed by Congress imposing sanctions on Russian officials for human rights abuses.
.. Mr. Putin said that American authorities had ignored the allegations against Mr. Browder and his investors because the Ziff brothers were major political donors. “They protect themselves in this way,” he said.
.. In April 2016, Ms. Veselnitskaya teamed with Mr. Chaika’s office to pass the accusations to an American congressional delegation visiting Moscow. An official with the Russian prosecutor general’s office gave a memo detailing the charges — stamped “confidential”— to Representative Dana Rohrabacher
.. Ms. Veselnitskaya handed a nearly identical memo to Representative French Hill, Republican of Arkansas.
.. She asked Aras Agalarov, a well-connected Russian oligarch who knows the Trump family, to help her share her allegations with the Trump campaign, according to Mr. Agalarov’s attorney, Scott Balber.
.. By all accounts, the Trump campaign officials were unimpressed — even baffled — by her 20-minute presentation. “Some D.N.C. donors may have done something in Russia and they didn’t pay taxes,” Donald Trump Jr. said later. “I was, like, ‘What does this have to do with anything?’”
.. by last weekend, she was describing herself as a kind of whistle-blower who was trying to expose American political corruption.
.. Mr. Chaika charged that Mr. Browder and the Ziffs had illegally used “Russian money” to lobby for the sanctions law.
“I think, since that moment, I have realized that I was fighting communism all that time, but I wasn’t fighting Russians,” Rohrabacher said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office.
The Soviet Union would soon break apart, and Rohrabacher grew to respect his onetime enemies and champion their attempt at democracy. Two decades ago, he got to know Vladimir Putin while drunkenly arm-wrestling the then-deputy-mayor of St. Petersburg over who actually won the Cold War. (Putin won the matchup, and quickly, Rohrabacher notes.).. After playing a role in the Soviet Union’s collapse, Rohrabacher decided his job in Congress was to ease the way for Russia to embrace democracy. He has spent the nearly three decades since meeting with Russian politicians, carrying Russian-related legislation and advocating for the country and against U.S. sanctions, moves that earned him the favorite congressman nickname from Politico... He sees a kindred spirit in Trump, who since the early days of his campaign has said he wants to have a friendly relationship with Putin, and believes Russia could be a strategic ally for fighting Islamic State. Rohrabacher was even briefly floated as a candidate for secretary of State... During a committee hearing just last week, Rohrabacher dismissed concerns about Russian aggression from the former president of Estonia, and compared Putin to the late Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.Daley “beat demonstrators up and did not represent anything what America was all about, but he was not some vicious dictator,” Rohrabacher said.
A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.
.. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.
Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.
.. Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”
Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”
.. Evan McMullin, who in his role as policy director to the House Republican Conference participated in the June 15 conversation, said: “It’s true that Majority Leader McCarthy said that he thought candidate Trump was on the Kremlin’s payroll. Speaker Ryan was concerned about that leaking.”
.. After being told that The Post would cite a recording of the exchange, Buck, speaking for the GOP House leadership, said: “This entire year-old exchange was clearly an attempt at humor.
.. Among GOP leaders in the House, McCarthy stood out as a Putin critic who in 2015 called for the imposition of “more severe” sanctions for its actions in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.