A published report says House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said last year that he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin was paying Donald Trump. A spokesman for the California Republican is calling the remarks "a failed attempt at humor."
The Washington Post says it listened to a recording of a conversation among House leaders last June 16. That was a month before Trump received his party's presidential nomination.
The Post reports that after some lawmakers laughed, House Speaker Paul Ryan told the leaders to keep the conversation private.
McCarthy was a Trump backer last year. Trump stated his admiration for Putin during the presidential campaign.
McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks says McCarthy's remark was a failed joke. He says it is "absurd and false" to think McCarthy would make the assertion.