Rohrabacher also met last August with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and has defended WikiLeaks against allegations the group disseminated Russia-hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
NBC News has previously reported that Mueller’s investigators are interested in a meeting between Rohrabacher and Mike Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with Mueller’s Russia probe.
Rohrabacher acknowledged meeting with Flynn, whom he calls “an American patriot,” but said it was about nuclear power plants, not Russia.
Rohrabacher told NBC News he has met with both the House and Senate Intelligence committees as part of their investigations into Russia, but said he has not been contacted by Mueller’s team. He dismissed the probe — and questions about his relationship to Russia — as a politically motivated stunt.
“The Democrats are so committed to creating a fraudulent image in order to steal this election, not just from me but from Republicans in general, that they will make things that sound sinister which are everyday business,” Rohrabacher said.
By “everyday business,” Rohrabacher points to his responsibilities as chairman of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee overseeing Russia.
“I am an advocate for cooperation with Russia in trying to defeat radical Islamic terrorism, terrorists who actually kill Russians, terrorists who kill Americans. It makes all the sense in the world for us to cooperate with the Russians to defeat radical Islamic terrorism,” Rohrabacher said.
For now, he is leaning hard into issues that could motivate Republican voters in the primary and beyond.
He has focused on California’s sanctuary law, which was designed to limit the involvement of local police in federal immigration enforcement. The law provoked a backlash across Orange County, with many communities there joining a Trump administration lawsuit against the measure.
The president himself has spoken out repeatedly against the state’s sanctuary protections.
There is a Revolution going on in California. Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept. Jerry Brown is trying to back out of the National Guard at the Border, but the people of the State are not happy. Want Security & Safety NOW!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
“There is a Revolution going on in California. Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept,” Trump tweeted in April.
Just 37 percent of Orange County residents approve of Trump’s job performance, according to an April Chapman University poll. But Republicans say their private polling has shown a spike in the president’s popularity in the county in recent weeks, which they attribute to the strengthening economy.
Rohrabacher has attended numerous city council meetings where the sanctuary issue has been debated, often in heated tones. He’s gone so far as to offer to pay for one city’s effort to join the federal lawsuit.
“My constituents say they are grateful that someone is finally standing up for them,” Rohrabacher said, adding that the sanctuary law is “preventing our own law enforcement from cooperating with the federal government to get control of criminal illegal immigrants.”
The law, in fact, does not protect anyone charged with a serious crime.
Rohrabacher has also sparked controversy recently over his contention that those with strongly held religious views should not be forced to sell their homes to gay people — a form of discrimination specifically outlawed in California housing law.
The comment cost him the endorsement of the National Association of Realtors, but Rohrabacher remains unapologetic.
“I should be doing what I think is right. What is not right is to force someone who is religious, who has religious convictions against certain lifestyles, to have to do business and sell his or her home to people who are engaged in a lifestyle they think is immoral,” Rohrabacher told NBC News.
Rohrabacher said he is largely looking past next week’s primary and focusing on the November general election, where he hopes to squash the notion that Democrats are poised for big gains in the House.
“There’s going to be no blue wave, I will tell you right now,” Rohrabacher said. “I’m a surfer, I can tell you when there is a wave to ride, and the wave is going in the other direction in this election.”