Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
As the FBI has continue to make arrests of those who stormed the US Capitol on January 6, amateur internet sleuths who have helped identify the insurrectionists spotted a familiar face in the crowd: former California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.
“I marched to protest, and I thought the election was fraudulent and it should be investigated, and I wanted to express that and be supportive of that demand,” Rohrabacher told the Portland Press Herald of Maine on Monday. “But I was not there to make a scene and do things that were unacceptable for anyone to do.”
Rohrabacher insisted to the Press Herald that he had not entered the US Capitol and criticized those who did. “By going into the building, they gave the left the ability to direct the discussion of what was going on in a way that was harmful to the things we believe in,” Rohrabacher said. He also insisted, falsely, that “leftist provocateurs” were responsible for urging the crowd to breach the building.
A look back at Rohrabacher’s time in Congress suggests that no one should be surprised that he decided to travel from Maine, where he now lives, to Washington to attend the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6.
Rohrabacher had long been known as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “favorite congressman” during his 15(!) terms in office representing an Orange County-based seat. Here’s what The New York Times wrote about him back in 2017:
“For two decades, Representative Dana Rohrabacher has been of value to the Kremlin, so valuable in recent years that the F.B.I. warned him in 2012 that Russia regarded him as an intelligence source worthy of a Kremlin code name.”
A Kremlin code name!
And then there’s this from The Washington Post circa 2018: “The longtime Republican lawmaker has said that Putin beat him in a drunken arm-wrestling match in the early 1990s to decide who won the Cold War.”
Drunken arm wrestling!
Perhaps not surprisingly given how close Rohrabacher was to the Russians, his name repeatedly came up during the various investigations — congressional and otherwise — into Russia’s active interference in the 2016 election to help Donald trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. As The New York Times reported in 2018, Rohrabacher admitted to meeting in 2015 with Maria Butina, who was later convicted of conspiring to act as a foreign agent.
Because, at least in part, all of the negative attention from his close ties to Russia (as well as the changing political landscape of the OC), Rohrabacher narrowly lost to Democrat Harley Rouda in 2018. (Rouda lost the seat to Republican Rep. Michelle Steel in 2020.)
In late 2019, Rohrabacher moved across the country — writing on Facebook: “We feel blessed to have spent most of our lives in OC immersed in SoCal surf culture, but now we are feeling very much at home here in southern coastal Maine.”