The Washington Post is out tonight with another bombshell “exclusive”:

Wow. This sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? More from WaPo:

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.

Here’s the thing, though: The transcript tells a somewhat different story:

That’s a lot of “laughter” for such a serious conversation …

Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck, who was quoted in the article as saying that the conversation “never happened,” took to Twitter to clarify:

Seems reasonable.

The transcript certainly suggests it was just a joke.

Rep. Rohrbacher has reportedly confirmed that they weren’t being serious:

Rep. McCarthy has chimed in as well:

Now, this argument could be made:

And assuming Trump gets wind of this article, he may very well fail to see the humor in the conversation:

And maybe this wasn’t McCarthy’s finest moment:

But still. Do better, WaPo.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with additional tweets.