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Senate Intelligence panel grills Caputo on Trump campaign

Staff members from the Senate Intelligence Committee questioned East Aurora Republican consultant Michael R. Caputo for three hours Tuesday, probing his connections in Russia and with Donald Trump's presidential campaign as they continued their investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Caputo, who worked for the Trump campaign in late 2015 and early 2016, said the staffers questioned him about 20 or so people associated with the campaign. He said the investigators asked him if he aware if any of those people had any contacts with Russia during the campaign.

"My answer for each of them was the same," Caputo said. "There was none."

The people the staffers asked about included former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort; informal adviser Roger Stone; Donald Trump Jr.; and the president's son in law, Jared Kushner

Caputo's appearance before the Senate panel came 10 months after he spoke to the House Intelligence Committee. He said the Senate staffers seemed much less political than those on the House side, asking him nonpartisan questions about his past and his contacts.

"They were kind and well-informed," Caputo said.

In addition to asking him what he saw during his time in the Trump campaign, the staffers asked Caputo about his past and present activities in Russia. Caputo worked in Russia as a political consultant in the 1990s and is also a partner in a public relations firm that until recently had an office in Moscow.

Caputo's lawyer, former state attorney general Dennis C. Vacco, offered a similar description of the questioning.

"It seemed that they were extremely prepared," Vacco said. "That may be why the questions were less partisan in nature."

Vacco said both he and Caputo were disappointed that the Senate panel could not simply get access to the transcript from Caputo's July 2017 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, rather than having to submit to a round of similar questions from the Senate panel 10 months later.

In addition to the two congressional investigations, a Justice Department special counsel -- former FBI director Robert Mueller -- has been probing whether there may have been collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Manafort, who had professional ties with Caputo in the past, already faces several charges in connection with his business dealings in Ukraine.

As for Caputo's Senate interview, it pretty much proceeded as Vacco expected.

"There were no surprises," he said.

Caputo said he also made clear to the staffers that he sees the investigation as a "witch hunt."

"I thought they were trying to be very civil, but I made it very clear at the end that I think the investigators need to be investigated," Caputo added.

 

 

 

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