Yet another Russia contact with the Trump campaign

Published on Tuesday, 19 June 2018 18:56
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By: The Washington Post

Hardly a day goes by in which President Donald Trump fails to call the Russia probe a “witch hunt.” Yet barely less frequent are the reminders of his damaged credibility on the subject.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is conducting an essential inquiry into a foreign effort to influence U.S. elections, amid increasingly worrying signs of Trump team contacts with Russians.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Roger Stone, a longtime Trump confidant, met in May 2016 with a Russian national identified as Henry Greenberg who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Stone was not a formal member of the Trump campaign, but Michael Caputo, who arranged the meeting, was Caputo and Stone did not mistake Greenberg’s nationality: After the meeting, Caputo asked Stone in a text, “How crazy is the Russian?” Stone responded that Greenberg wanted “big” money.

Caputo and Stone now claim Greenberg might have been part of an FBI sting operation. Even if that were so, it could not excuse what we now know about their behavior. First, they agreed to meet with a Russian offering dirt on their political opponents. As with the Trump Tower meeting between a Russian-government-connected lawyer and senior Trump campaign officials, the very willingness to solicit campaign dirt from foreign sources is its own indictment. They should have called the FBI instead.

Second, Stone, Caputo and the Trump team all now are revealed to have spoken falsely about the matter. A Trump spokeswoman insisted a year and a half ago that no one on the campaign had contact with Russians. In a Post interview last year, Stone said: “I didn’t talk to anybody who was identifiably Russian during the two-year run-up to this campaign. I very definitely can’t think of anybody who might have been a Russian without my knowledge. It’s a canard.”

And Caputo said last July: “I spent my time in front of the [House Intelligence] Committee detailing the fact that I had no contact with Russians, that I never heard of anyone with the Trump campaign talking with Russians, that I was never asked questions about my time in Russia, that I never even spoke to anyone about Russia, that I never heard the word ‘Russia,’ and we did not use Russian dressing.”

Given the updated record, this comment suggests he may have lied under oath to Congress.

Caputo and Stone claim they forgot their interactions with Greenberg, which is hard to credit given how they would likely have prepared for their congressional testimony. Which raises a more concerning question: Why would they conceal this meeting?

Posted in New Britain Herald, Columns on Tuesday, 19 June 2018 18:56. Updated: Tuesday, 19 June 2018 18:59.