Ex-Trump aide tells lawmakers he didn't hear talk of Russian collusion

Ex-Trump aide tells lawmakers he didn't hear talk of Russian collusion
© Greg Nash

A former Trump campaign communications adviser with deep ties to Russia testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee on Friday afternoon, telling lawmakers that the campaign "did not [even] use Russian dressing."

Michael Caputo, who resigned from the campaign in June 2016 after celebrating the dismissal of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on Twitter, claims to have worked for the Kremlin and continues to operate in Russia.

A long-time ally of informal Trump adviser Roger Stone, Caputo insists that he witnessed no whiff of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the election — and that his communication with the national campaign was at times “frustratingly rare and momentary.”

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“From the day President Trump announced his candidacy until Inauguration Day, to my knowledge I never spoke about his campaign with anyone remotely associated with the Russian government,” Caputo said in a statement released at the beginning of the meeting.

“At no time did I ever talk about Russian contacts with any member of the campaign. I certainly did not hear talk of collusion with Russia or any foreign nation.”

The only time Caputo spoke with the president about Russia, he said, was “in passing” during a dinner conversation in 2013.

“He simply asked: ‘What was it like to live in Russia,’” Caputo recalled. “Our exchange may have lasted 30 seconds.”

Caputo told reporters after the meeting that he spoke to four House investigators and staff in a closed-door session that lasted just over three hours: Reps. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), ranking member Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Tempers flare at tense Judiciary hearing on impeachment Overnight Defense: Bombshell report reveals officials misled public over progress in Afghanistan | Amazon accuses Trump of 'improper pressure' in Pentagon contract decision | House Judiciary holds final impeachment hearing MORE (D-Calif.) and Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Denny HeckDennis (Denny) Lynn HeckExclusive: Guccifer 2.0 hacked memos expand on Pennsylvania House races Heck enjoys second political wind Incoming lawmaker feeling a bit overwhelmed MORE (D-Wash.). A lawyer for Caputo, Dennis Vacco, blamed the lengthy meeting on “repetitive questioning” from investigators, calling the probe “at some level… a fishing expedition.”

“I spent 20 years as a prosecutor and I know a fishing expedition when I see one,” said Vacco, who is a former New York attorney general.

Caputo said he has not been contacted by federal investigators — now working under the authority of special counsel Robert Mueller — but Vacco is in contact with Senate Intelligence Committee staff to respond to document requests from that panel.

Caputo lived in Russia in the 1990s, working first as an adviser to Russian President Boris Yeltsin and later for Gazprom Media, a subsidiary of the state-owned energy company that took over a TV station in 2001. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who sits on the committee, has characterized his work for Gazprom as “Putin’s image consultant,” a charge Caputo denies.

Speier also raised the fact that Caputo met his second wife, who is Ukrainian, while working in 2007 on a parliamentary election in Kiev.

Caputo said that he and his wife were "buried in threats" following Speier’s comments, which she made during a March 20 public hearing.

“One person twice called me and told me he was going to burn my house down with my wife and children inside,” a visibly agitated Caputo told reporters after the meeting.

Caputo ripped into Speier, who was not present Friday.

“Loose, irresponsible rhetoric is getting people killed. I don’t want my family to be the next one that gets shot,” he said, a possible reference to the recent shooting at a GOP baseball practice that left Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) seriously wounded.

“Rep. Jackie Speier should be absolutely ashamed of herself,” he said. “I expect an apology, but I don’t believe she’ll ever give me one.”