Through his lawyer, Republican operative Michael R. Caputo of East Aurora has told a House committee that he wants to add to the testimony he gave a year ago as the congressional panel investigated Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Caputo now wants the committee to know that in May 2016 he helped connect a Russian who was offering "dirt" on Hillary Clinton with Roger Stone, a friend who, like Caputo, was helping Donald Trump's campaign.
Nothing came of the meeting, attorney Dennis C. Vacco said in a letter to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Stone sized up the Russian, who wanted $2 million, as a nut and told Caputo as much in a text message, Vacco wrote.
But Vacco's letter, dated Friday, also tells the House committee that Caputo later had the man checked out and learned he spent years as an FBI informant. Caputo came away convinced the Russian was continuing to work for the FBI when he offered the information on Clinton.
Caputo believes federal agents were trying to snare aides to the Trump campaign.
"I'm telling you, this was an FBI sting," Caputo told The Buffalo News on Sunday.
The Washington Post was the first to report Caputo's and Stone's interaction with the Russian, who had been living in the United States as Henry Greenberg. On its website Sunday, The Post reported that Greenberg at times used the name Henry Oknyansky.
Under that name, he claimed in a 2015 court filing related to his immigration status that over 17 years, and during various travels around the globe, he provided the FBI with information that led to arrests for human trafficking, money laundering and insurance fraud. He attached records showing the government had granted him special permission to enter the United States because his presence represented a “significant public benefit.”
However, The Post reported that there is no evidence Greenberg was working with the FBI when he met with Stone in Miami in May 2016. In his court filing, Greenberg/Oknyansky said he had stopped his FBI cooperation sometime after 2013. While the FBI refused to comment for the Post, Greenberg told the newspaper in a text message he was not acting on the bureau's behalf when he met with Stone.
Still, Caputo is adamant.
"It's dubious to think he would take time off from his long career as an FBI informant to come meet with us of his own accord," Caputo said.
According to Vacco's letter, Caputo, who works as a public relations and political consultant, was contacted in late May 2016 by his business partner, Sergey Petrushin, a Russian national living in Miami Beach. The business partner told Caputo about Greenberg, who also was residing in South Florida and trying to start up a restaurant.
Over the phone, Greenberg offered Caputo information about Hillary Clinton that reportedly came from a friend recently fired from the Clinton Foundation.
Caputo referred him to Stone, and the two met in Miami. Greenberg wore a "Make America Great Again" hat, according to a letter Stone's lawyer sent to the House Intelligence panel to amend his client's testimony.
On May 29, 2016, Caputo checked back with Stone via text message, The Post reported.
"How crazy is the Russian?" Caputo asked.
Stone responded that Greenberg had wanted "big" money and summed up the meeting as a "waste of time."
Caputo told The News on Sunday that he simply forgot about the matter as the months went by. In July 2017, he assured the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors that he had never been contacted by any Russian offering information on Clinton, he said Sunday.
But as he prepared to testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in May of this year, and with special prosecutor Robert Mueller's team the next day, Caputo vaguely remembered the conversation with Greenberg. He told Vacco this, and Vacco told him to go about refreshing his memory and to prepare to discuss Greenberg in the upcoming interviews. Vacco also told him they would have to amend the testimony given to the House.
The Senate panel did not ask the same question about offers from Russians, Caputo said. But Mueller's team did.
To Caputo, it seemed the Mueller team already knew about Greenberg. He said the federal lawyer interviewing him expected him to give the same answer he gave the House Intelligence Committee in July 2017 – that no Russian had ever offered him dirt on Clinton.
"His face fell like a cake," Caputo said about the moment when he offered up his brief contact with Greenberg. "Like he'd gotten four numbers right on his scratch-off, and the fifth one wrong."
After that, Caputo said he spent money from his legal defense fund for an investigation. Vacco summed up the findings in his letter to the House committee. Greenberg had used other aliases, and had a criminal conviction, with time spent in a U.S. prison, Vacco wrote.
"He has lived in the U.S. intermittently since 1997 and worked for many of those years as an FBI informant." In return, he has received a series of waivers allowing him to remain in the country, Vacco said.
Caputo said Sunday he has received interview requests from more than 20 cable shows and expects to spend much of the day Monday on television. He said he will stress his belief that the man he spoke to as Henry Greenberg was working for the FBI.
He told The News he almost stumbled into a perjury charge.
"If it weren't for Dennis Vacco," he said, "I don't know where I'd be spending Father's Day."