WASHINGTON – Michael R. Caputo and his family met Wednesday with President Trump in the White House, where the East Aurora political consultant found the commander-in-chief in great spirits even as the two men groused about the special prosecutor's investigation that ensnared them both.
Caputo said afterward that Trump called him on Monday to invite him and his family to Washington, where they enjoyed a 35-minute meeting with the president in the Oval Office followed by a tour.
"I get the impression that ... he's trying to reconnect with the people that he lost during the Russia hoax," said Caputo, who worked as a Trump campaign aide in Trump Tower in late 2015 and early 2016.
The meeting came six days after special counsel Robert Mueller issued a report saying that Trump did not collude with Russia during the 2016 election, although there were 10 episodes where the president may have tried to obstruct justice. Caputo merited a brief mention in the report, as prosecutors detailed his inconclusive meeting with a Russian who promised to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic rival in the 2016 election.
"I thought it was remarkable how he's been tracking what's been happening to my family, and many other families caught up in this just as witnesses," Caputo said.
Trump seemed especially concerned with and astonished by the death threats that Caputo said he's gotten since the start of the special prosecutor's probe, Caputo said.
"Then we spoke about next steps following the investigation, and you know, he's got a lot in store," said Caputo, who declined to mention what those next steps would be.
But Caputo said the next steps they discussed didn't include the possibility of him working for Trump again.
Instead, the meeting served as a review of the special counsel's investigation, as well as the Trump presidency.
"I'm deeply concerned for what I believe are very obvious abuses that led to and included this investigation," said Caputo, who has maintained that the Russian who reached out to him was an FBI informant trying to set him up. "And it is very clear to me that he (Trump) is also truly concerned."
At the same time, Trump basked in the accomplishments of his administration.
"We talked about his record of success and how that's impacted our family and families like ours," Caputo said.
For example, the two men discussed a Buffalo News report from last week indicating that Western New York could benefit from Trump's new trade deal with Canada and Mexico.
Monday's call and Wednesday's meeting were Caputo's first contacts with the president since Trump's inauguration. Caputo said he deliberately did not want to talk to Trump during the Mueller probe, thinking it would only prompt more questions from the investigators.
Wednesday's meeting, though, was a happy reunion. First Lady Melania Trump sat in on the session, as did Trump aides Kellyanne Conway and Dan Scavino. Caputo brought along his wife Maryna and his mother-in-law, Nina Ponomarenko. Caputo's daughters Ana, 6, and Lia, 4, attended, too – and got autographed "Make America Great Again" hats from Trump.
"He was in tremendous spirits," Caputo said of the president. "To me, it reminded me of every day at Trump Tower. He did not seem the least bit beleaguered or concerned about all the chatter going on in Washington."