WASHINGTON – Michael R. Caputo's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee ought to be released publicly, as should the testimony of all the other witnesses who have spoken to the panel in its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the committee's top Democrat said Wednesday.
Asked about the East Aurora political consultant's testimony before the House panel last summer, Rep. Adam Schiff of California said he couldn't get into the details of what Caputo had to say.
Nor was Schiff willing to give the Senate Intelligence Committee or the Senate Judiciary Committee – which recently asked to speak with Caputo – any public advice about what those panels should ask him.
"In the interest of being complete, anyone that was either in a position to shed light on the Trump campaign and its relation to Russians during the campaign is of interest in terms of their testimony," Schiff said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "And I wouldn't infer or imply too much from that except they may have relevant information that may be useful in our investigation."
Schiff also made clear that Caputo's testimony and that of other witnesses should be made a part of the public record.
"We obviously know there's deep public interest in being able to witness what's going on and what these individuals have to say," Schiff said. "And so I think that's still an issue we're try to resolve – how much should be done in open and closed, what transcripts should be released and what shouldn't."
Asked about Schiff's comments, Caputo stressed that he wants the transcript of his testimony released, too. He said he met with committee staffers last week to ask them to release it.
"If Senate committee leaders were able to read my testimony, they would drop the invitations they extended to me for interviews and save a great deal of time and expense," Caputo said.
Caputo also suggested that Schiff actually wants to withhold the transcript in an effort to protect Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat who, in an interview with CNN last summer, said Caputo "may have actually lied" during his testimony.
"Speier knows when it's released she will have to admit she lied," because it will show that he told the truth, Caputo said.
While he has been contacted by three congressional committees, Caputo said Wednesday he has not been contacted by Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating issues tied to Russia's meddling in the 2016 campaign.
Caputo, who worked for the Trump campaign between November 2015 and late June 2016, spoke to the House panel last July and released his prepared remarks.
"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. "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 full transcript of Caputo's testimony could answer a question that his prepared remarks couldn't answer: why was the panel interested enough in him to question him for three hours?
Asked about that last August, Caputo said: "There was a lot of redundancy in the questions."
Caputo worked in Russia as a political consultant in the 1990s and continues to run a public relations firm with a Russian partner and an office in Moscow.
A well-known Republican figure and occasional radio host on WBEN-AM, Caputo has complained about the personal and financial strain the multiple Russia investigations have had on his family. He is considering setting up a legal defense fund to help pay his expenses.
For his part, Schiff said he wished Congress were conducting one Russia investigation instead of three.
"That would prevent the committees from being either in competition or in conflict with each other and make sure the investigation is done in a more orderly way," he said. "That wasn't possible for a number of reasons, so we have to make the best of a difficult situation."