Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) may be a friend to marijuana legalization, but that’s where his liberal leanings stop. The Congressman is a major backer of Donald Trump and has been implicated in Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Though his name has not been mentioned so far in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the election, it’s now known that Rohrabacher attended a 2013 meeting with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who’s been indicted by the special counsel.
Rohrabacher, Manafort and former Rep. Vin Weber, a Minnesota Republican who’s now a lobbyist with Mercury, were at the meeting on Mar. 19, 2013, which was disclosed in retroactive filings with the Justice Department last year that detailed Manafort and Rick Gates’ work for the European Center for a Modern Ukraine. Gates, a former Trump campaign aide and Manafort associate, pled guilty on Feb. 23 to felony charges of conspiracy and making false statements in a plea bargain with Mueller.
Gates lied about the 2013 meeting and his Ukraine-related work with Manafort. He’s charged with “admitting to take part in a conspiracy to hide tens of millions of dollars that he and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort obtained from their consulting work related to Ukraine.” Gates later helped Manafort prepare “a report that memorialized for Ukrainian leadership the pertinent Ukraine discussions that Manafort represented had taken place at the meeting.”
Rohrabacher said the meeting had taken place at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington. “In retrospect, I don’t remember [Manafort] talking about specifically who it was who had given him a contact,” he said. “Frankly, I don’t remember if it was the Russians or the Ukraines… He certainly wasn’t trying to twist my arm on any policy issue.”
Described as “one of Russia’s most reliable defenders in Congress,” Rohrabacher told Politico on June 28, 2017 that Manafort was “an old friend” of his. “After the dinner I think he gave me a very modest campaign contribution,” the Congressman recalled. Manafort subsequently donated $1,000 to the “Committee to Re-Elect Congressman Rohrabacher,” according to campaign finance records. Rohrabacher said they talked about Manafort’s work in Ukraine, “but it wasn’t the main focus of the dinner.”
While the 2013 contribution has been reported, a second one in the same amount from Manafort to Rohrabacher in 1997 has not. According to campaign finance records researched by Freedom Leaf, “Paul J. Manafort Jr. of Alexandria, Va.” gave $1,000 to the similarly named “Comm. to ReElect Congressman Dana Rohrabacher” on July 28, 1997. Manafort was listed as a partner at Davis Manafort & Freedman.
That makes a total of two contributions of $1,000 each from Manafort to Rohrabacher between 1997 and 2013.
Rohrabacher’s Meetings with Michael Flynn and Julian Assange
On Sept. 20, 2016, Rohrabacher met with another now disgraced Trump associate, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who’s been indicted by the special counsel. “All I remember about that meeting is that they were promoting some kind of idea about having Gulf State countries invest in building nuclear power plants of some kind, I think,” Rohrabacher stated.
According to The Daily Caller, “The special counsel is also reviewing emails traded between Flynn associates and the Congressman’s staff.”
On Aug. 16, 2017, Rohrabacher met Julian Assange (along with conservative journalist Charles C. Johnson) at the Ecuadorean embassy in London for three hours. Assange released the hacked Democratic Party emails via WikiLeaks, which bolstered Trump’s campaign against Hillary Clinton. Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador in 2012. Sweden had hoped to extradite him over rape and sexual assault allegations dating back to 2010.
Rohrabacher believes Assange is a hero and should be released. “If he’s going to give us a big favor, he would obviously have to be pardoned to leave the Ecuadorean embassy,” the Congressman told TheDC the next day. “He has information that will be of dramatic importance to the United States and the people of our country as well as the government. Thus, if he comes up with that, you know he’s going to expect something in return. He can’t even leave the embassy to get out to Washington to talk to anybody if he doesn’t have a pardon. Obviously, there’s an issue that needs to be dealt with, but we haven’t come to any conclusion yet.
“I can’t remember if I have spoken to anyone in the White House about this. If I had to bet on it, I would bet that we’re going to get the information that will be mind-boggling and of major historical significance. And there already has been some indications that the president will be very anxious to hear what I have to say if that’s the determination that I make.”
Rohrabacher added: “They can’t fool the American people all the time, especially if there’s some monstrous fraud that’s been perpetuated on the American people and thus undermining an elected president and his ability to take responsibility given to him by the voters.”
Assange denies the contention by U.S. intelligence agencies that he acted on behalf of Russian operatives seeking to release the hacked Democratic emails.
The Conservative Marijuana Advocate
Rohrabacher was born on June 21, 1947 in Coronado, Calif. After campaigning for Ronald Reagan in 1980, he worked as a White House speechwriter and special assistant to Reagan from 1981-1988. He was elected to Congress in 1989. He chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
In marijuana circles, Rohrabacher is known for his sponsorship of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which prohibits the federal government from using funds to target cannabis patients and businesses in legal medical-marijuana states. It passed in 2014. (The amendment is now named for Rohrabacher and Rep. Earl Blumenauer.) Last year, he, Blumenauer (D-Ore.) Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) formed the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. He’s spoken at a number of marijuana events, including Seattle Hempfest and the International Cannabis Business Conference.
But when it comes to most issues, Rohrabacher follows the Republican party line. He calls concerns about global warming and climate change “liberal claptrap,” voted to repeal Obamacare and opposes same-sex marriage. “The attacks on my conservative positions are unrelenting, nefarious and underhanded,” he’s said.
Rohrabacher is being challenged for his House seat in November by Democrat Harley Rouda, who was leading the Congressman in a July Monmouth University poll, 46%-43%.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said about Rohrabacher in 2017, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to God.”
Echoing Trump, Rohrabacher stated last November, “My constituents are not concerned about Russia. They’re concerned about the taxes on their home. They’re concerned about illegal immigrants coming into their neighborhood and raping people.”
Update: In yet another connection to Russia, Rohrabacher and Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY-D) met with Alexander Torshin in Moscow in August 2015. The meeting was arranged and also attended by Maria Butina, who’s been indicted by the special counsel for spying for Russia in order “to penetrate the US national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation.” Rohrabacher has called the indictment “bogus” and “stupid.” Torshin is a deputy governor of the Russian central bank.
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