A former consultant to the Trump campaign is warning other surrogates away from talking to the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors as it probes Russian influence in the 2016 elections, and is demanding that the panel publicize the transcript of his own testimony after one member suggested that he might have lied under oath.
Michael Caputo’s complaint stems from an interview that committee Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier (Calif.) gave to CNN on Tuesday, in which she suggested that Caputo “may have actually lied” during the briefing.
It’s not the first time that Caputo and Speier have locked horns as the House Intelligence Committee probes evidence of links between the Trump team and Russian officials. Speier has referred to Caputo in an open hearing in March as “Putin’s image consultant,” referring to the years Caputo spent in Russia during the 1990s and 2000s working for the U.S. government and then as an employee of oil and energy company Gazprom’s media arm, a conglomerate controlled by the Russian state. Caputo has denied the characterization.
This latest spat, however, could have implications for the investigation if Caputo’s warnings are heeded by other Trump surrogates who have yet to be interviewed by the panel.
“I caution everyone against participating in closed hearings into this matter, because it’s starting to feel like a rigged game,” Caputo said in an interview Wednesday.
Caputo, who left the Trump campaign in June 2016, has denied allegations that there were contacts between the campaign and Russian officials.
He says he left the Friday interview with House Intelligence Committee lawmakers “with a positive impression” that the panel was being “fair and thorough” in how they were doing their work.
But he has taken particular umbrage at Speier’s comments, made even though Speier acknowledged during the interview that she had not actually been present during Caputo’s testimony.
In a July 19 letter to Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), who is running the committee’s Russia probe, and panel ranking member Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Caputo’s lawyer Dennis C. Vacco argued that “for raw partisan political gain and without any regard to the work of HPSCI, Rep. Speier again made irresponsible and un-vetted allegations against Mr. Caputo in public that are likely to unfairly tarnish Mr. Caputo’s reputation.”
They requested the committee release the transcript publicly to set the record straight.
“Rep. Speier’s careless remarks make full transparency absolutely necessary,” Caputo said during an interview, charging that her comments displayed “typical smear-first, ask-questions-later tactics.”
A spokeswoman for Speier declined to comment for this article.
Spokesmen for Conaway and Schiff did not immediately return a request for comment on whether they think Caputo’s warning would upset their investigation, or whether they were concerned about him lying to the committee.
Caputo stressed that his ire is primarily directed toward the House Intelligence Committee, noting that he has “yet to see this kind of scurrilous activity at the Senate,” and was thus “not ready to make this kind of judgment on the Senate.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee panel has requested documents from him, Caputo said, adding that he looks “forward to being responsive to their inquiry.”
Caputo added that he has not yet been contacted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team.