Dana Rohrabacher, who has been in Congress since 1989, was considered a potential Secretary of State candidate in the Donald Trump Administration. The role went to Rex Tillerson instead, but that’s not stopping Rohrbacher from making comments seen as pro-Russian.
The Washington Post reports that Rohrbacher said on January 4 that he plans to go to Russia in February to talk with the Russian legislature. “We’re going to look at certain goals we can set with our Congress and the Duma. What could we actually set in the legislature of Russia and in Congress? Could we work together, for example, and cooperate on space activities?” Rohrbacher said.
The 69-year-old Republican from California is known for his pro-Russia stance, despite working for Ronald Reagan at the height of the Cold War. He also has doubts about humanity’s role in global warming and has pushed for the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan.
He’s married to Rhonda Carmony, who has worked as his campaign manager, since 1997. The couple have triplets, Annika, Christian and Tristen, who were born in 2004.
He sits on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. He is also a member of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
Here’s a look at Rohrabacher’s career and where he stands on Russia.
1. Rohrabacher Sided With Russia in the Crimea Crisis & Thinks ‘Putin Is not Satan’
Considering that his work with Ronald Reagan during the height of the Cold War launched his political career, Rohrabacher’s pro-Putin stance seems like a curious about-face. Rohrabacher even played a role in shaping the Reagan Doctrine, under which the U.S. tried to stop growing communist influence around the world during the 1980s. Rohrabacher rose through the Reagan White House ranks to become one of his top speech writers.
But in recent years, Rohrabacher has been a staunch defender of the Kremlin.
“There have been dramatic reforms in Russia that are not being recognized by my colleagues,” he told the New York Times in 2014. “The churches are full. There are opposition papers being distributed on every newsstand in Russia. You’ve got people demonstrating in the parks. You’ve got a much different Russia than it was under Communism, but you’ve got a lot of people who still can’t get over that Communism has fallen.”
In March 2014, when Congress considered granting loan guarantees to the new Ukraine government, Rohrabacker voted against the measure. When the House voted to condemn Russia’s actions in Crimea, he only voted “present.”
Rohrabacher believes that since the people in Crimea voted to leave Ukraine, they decided to join Russia themselves. However, the vote’s legitimacy was called into question by most of the world. The vote showed 95.5 percent of people in Crimea wanted to join Russia.
“The Cold War is over. Putin is not Satan,” Rohrabacher told the Los Angeles Times.
Rohrbacher has been such a defender of Russia that he told Yahoo News that he would rather see the U.S. work with Russia and stop being so close to China.
“If it’s right for us to join in and cooperate and have a better relationship with Russia in order to defeat radical Islam and to pull China back a bit, well that’s a good thing, and that’s what this is all about. Russia is no longer the Soviet Union,” the Congressman told Yahoo News. “There’s a bunch of people here who want to treat it like it’s still the Soviet Union and get in the Cold War. That’s not what Donald Trump wants, it’s not good for America, and it’s better to cooperate with them to actually take on real enemies.”
2. Rohrabacher Claims He Arm-Wrestled Putin in 1990 or 1991 at a Washington, DC Pub
In September 2013, KPCC asked Rohrabacher if he ever met Putin. Rather than just say “Yes,” Rohrabacher delivered an epic story about meeting Putin in 1990 or 1991, after the Soviet Union fell, in Washington D.C. The story involved playing football, a trip to an Irish pub and a drunken arm-wrestling match.
The Congressman explained:
We all ended up going to this Irish Times Pub afterwards. And we were having a little bit too much to drink, I guess. Anyway, we started arguing about who won the Cold War, etc. And so we decided to settle it like men do when they’ve had too much to drink in the pub. So we got to these arm wrestling matches, and I ended up being paired off with Putin. He’s a little guy, but boy, I’ll tell yea. He put me down in a millisecond! He is tough. His muscles are just unbelievable.
Rohrabacher said that this was an example of Putin’s toughness.
“You know, he’s a tough guy,” Rohrabacher said. “And he’s supposed to be a tough guy, that’s what the Russian people want. But that’s no reason why we shouldn’t try to work with him.”
In 2014, Rohrabacher told the New York Times that he wasn’t hearing much back from Russia, thanking him for his support. But that’s changed recently.
As Politico reported in November 2016, this past summer, Rohrabacher was given information to stop the Magnitsky Act, which has only passed the Senate. The bill would ban Russian officials believed to be involved in the murder of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
In April, Politico reports that Rohrabacher went to Moscow with four other Congress members and spoke with Putin confidant Vladimir Yakunin, who has been blacklisted by the Treasury Department since 2014. Rohrabacher and his senior aide were the only members of that trip to meet with Yakunin and Rohrabacher said they discussed the Magnitsky affair.
“I get pushback whenever I’m asking for an honest assessment of a situation in which Russia is being vilified,” Rohrabacher told Politico. “I don’t know where this is all coming from but there’s clearly a herculean effort to push us back into a cold war.”
3. Rohrabacher Says He Fought Alongside the Mujahideen During the Soviet War in Afghanistan
Although Rohrabacher does not have any military experience as a member of the U.S. military, he does claim to have been in Afghanistan in 1988, just before he began serving his first term in Congress. He says he fought alongside the Mujahideen and provided Mother Jones with a photo of himself wearing a thick beard and a traditional Afghan outfit. His Capitol Hill office was filled with mementos from his time in Afghanistan.
“Let’s put it this way. I didn’t carry a gun – most of the time,” he told Mother Jones of his time in Afghanistan.
In recent years, Rohrabacher has pushed for American withdrawal from Afghanistan. He was one of six Republicans to vote for Jim McGovern’s amendment calling for the Pentagon to outline an exit plan. He was even against President Obama’s gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan. He was also critical of Hamid Karzai’s government.
His critiques of Karzai led to him being denied entry to Afghanistan in 2012.
“Apparently, [Afghanistan President Hamid] Karzai just goes bananas every time he hears that I might be, in some way, coming into his country,” Rohrabacher told Politico at the time. His spokesman later added, “Absolutely he believes his denial is based on his vocal opposition to [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai and Dana’s relationship with the former Northern Alliance leaders.”
4. Rohrabacher Doesn’t Think Global Warming Is Caused By Humans & Once Suggested ‘Dinosaur Flatulence’ Caused it
Rohrabacher does not believe humans are responsible for climate change. He once suggested that “dinosaur flatulence” was a possible cause for past periods of warm temperatures around the globe. When President Obama mentioned that in a joke in a 2014 commencement address at the University of California Irvine, Rohrabacher blasted Obama for not understanding that he was joking in the first place.
Still, Rohrabacher believes that that global warming alarmists have come up with a “crony-capitalist concoction.” Rohrabacher wrote in 2014:
The continuing misrepresentation of my humor underscores my observation that global-warming alarmists misrepresent what they portray as facts. One of the traits of a fanatic is the willingness to conduct personal attacks, to limit debate, to use questionable facts and to seek government to impose policy on others.
Sir, my congressional colleagues and I cannot ignore costs when making decisions. Simply put, no matter how apocalyptic the theory behind it, we cannot make this crony-capitalist concoction of yours into a policy priority.
During a speech in 2013, Rohrabacher called global warming a “total fraud” designed by liberals who want to “create global government to control our lives.”
5. Rohrabacher Says He Is ‘Very Willing’ to be Donald Trump’s Secretary of State
On December 3, The Washington Examiner reported that Rohrabacher was on the rise as a potential Secretary of State, citing insiders. He would have been part of a “consensus package,” with John Bolton as his chief deputy.
Rohrabacher was asked if he’s interested in the job. He told Breitbart on November 30 that he’s “very willing to take that job.”
“What I believe is that I’m excited about what Donald Trump stands for, and how he’s going to take American policy and make it … aimed at not some globalist theory of making the whole world better, but, instead, based on something that’s going to be good for the security of the people of the United States and what’s going to be good for the prosperity of the United States,” Rohrabacher told the site.
He told Breitbart back on November 23 that he’d take the job if offered.
Rohrabacher has already defended one of Trump’s most controversial moves. In another Breitbart interview, he praised Trump’s call with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan on December 2. “The Chinese are now being alerted that they should not think of the United States as a pushover anymore,” he said.
“Presidents of the United States have been too worried about offending Beijing and this telephone call made it clear that they no longer are going to have Americans shaking in their boots, because the Chinese are now upset with something they said to Taiwan,” Rohrabacher added.