I’m so old that I remember when Michael Caputo resigned from the Trump campaign. It was the same day that Corey Lewandowski was forced out as the campaign manager in favor of Paul Manafort. Caputo was a little too exuberant about Lewandowski’s departure, which you can tell by what he tweeted.
— #SBDart (@MichaelRCaputo) June 20, 2016
Caputo promptly fell on his sword, sending Manafort the following as his resignation letter.
I regret sending out a tweet today alluding to the firing of Corey Lewandowski. In hindsight, that was too exuberant a reaction to this personnel move. I know this is a distraction from the kind of campaign you want to run, so I’m resigning my position as director of communications for caucus operations at the 2016 Republican Convention. Let’s make this immediate.
At his LinkedIn page, Caputo lists himself as a “Senior Advisor” to the Trump campaign from April 2016 to June 2016. He also lists himself as President of The Florence Group from November 1994 to November 1999, an organization that he says “played a pivotal role in electing Boris Yeltsin to his second term as President of the Russian Federation.”
Back on October 23rd, 2012, before Caputo knew that he’d one day serve on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign or be called to testify about collusion with the Russians, he tweeted about visiting Lefortovo Prison during his time working “for” the Kremlin:
@eric_ervin I worked for the Kremlin at the time. The visit was not obligatory.
— That Michael Caputo (@MichaelRCaputo) October 24, 2012
He freely referred to working for the Kremlin on a few other occasions, too.
— That Michael Caputo (@MichaelRCaputo) December 23, 2011
@mikewren Deadhead 1st, operative 2nd. J-school grad, Army PAO. Never reporter but worked with all Congress, White House & Kremlin greats.
— That Michael Caputo (@MichaelRCaputo) August 19, 2011
— That Michael Caputo (@MichaelRCaputo) November 6, 2011
It appears that he worked “for” the Kremlin during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin and returned home to the United States around the time that Vladimir Putin took over. So, we need to keep that in mind. Yet, how many Americans have worked “for” the Kremlin and then gone on to be “senior advisors” to an American presidential candidate from one of our two major parties?
Now, before we go any further, let’s fill in some blanks by going to the New York Times report:
Michael Caputo, who served as a communications adviser to the Trump campaign, has been asked by the House committee investigating Russian election meddling to submit to a voluntary interview and to provide any documents he may have that are related to the inquiry.
The House Intelligence Committee, which is examining possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, made its request in a letter on May 9. Mr. Caputo, who lives near Buffalo and spent six months on the Trump team, worked in Russia during the 1990s and came to know Kremlin officials. He also did work in the early 2000s for Gazprom Media, a Russian conglomerate that supported President Vladimir V. Putin.
At the top, I have him referring to himself as a “Senior Adviser” and a “director of communications for caucus operations at the 2016 Republican Convention.” Directing the caucus operations was the job Manafort initially took (with no pay) for the Trump campaign. But the New York Times describes him more vaguely as “communications adviser.” They also say that he spent six months on the campaign, while his LinkedIn page pegs his time served at only three months. As for Lewandowski, when he was asked on MSNBC about Caputo’s Wizard of Oz tweet, he said “I don’t know Michael Caputo, and he was never paid by the campaign. He was a volunteer, and so he’s welcome to tweet anything he wants.” Finally, the New York Times reveals that Caputo worked for “Gazprom Media, a Russian conglomerate that supported President Vladimir V. Putin” in the early 2000’s.
Let’s talk about that last part.
Caputo’s LinkedIn page says that he worked at Allegiance Telecom as a vice-president from June 2001 to June 2003. It doesn’t list any other employment for him until he shows up as the publisher of PoliticsNY.net in January of 2013. He apparently spent all the intervening time as the president of his own public relations firm, aptly named Caputo Public Relations with clients like Sergio’s Restaurants, Princeton Strategic Communications, the Job Creators Network, Carl Paladino for Governor, and Bloc Lytvyn.
What is Bloc Lytvyn, you ask? Let’s see. It must have something to do with this guy Volodymyr Lytvyn who received the Russian Order of Friendship Award back in 2011. Or, if you prefer, you can go here to see a picture of Lytvyn shaking hands with Vladimir Putin in 2002. There are Ukrainian politicians, and then there are Ukrainian politicians who win Russian friendship awards. Michael Caputo worked on behalf of the latter.
This got me thinking that maybe Caputo’s interest in Ukraine might have been related to his former work “for” the Kremlin.
But what do I know?
A Democratic member of the [House Intelligence] panel, Representative Jackie Speier of California, raised Mr. Caputo’s name during the March 20 hearing where James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, testified on Russia’s interference in the election. She noted Mr. Caputo’s work for Gazprom, and the fact that he met his second wife, who is Ukrainian, while working in 2007 on a parliamentary election in Kiev.
Presumably, he took time off from doing public relations for the Job Creators Network in order to go to Kiev and lobby on behalf of Mr. Lytvyn’s bloc. Congratulations on finding a second wife on the trip! How he got this contract when he was just a self-employed publicist from Buffalo is an interesting question to ask. I am sure many Ukrainians were able to find him on Google and figured he was as good as any other guy who used to work “for” the Kremlin.
Somehow he wound up being chummy with Donald Trump. I know this because he says “The only time the president and I talked about Russia was in 2013, when he simply asked me in passing what it was like to live there in the context of a dinner conversation.” Why was Donald Trump having dinner in 2013 with this obscure publicist who worked for Sergio’s Restaurants?
I don’t know. I know he worked for Russian-friendly Ukrainian politicians just like Paul Manafort. I know that he worked for Gazprom, a major supporter of Vladimir Putin’s political career. I know that he used to work “for” the Kremlin.
What I don’t know is why any of this would particularly interest Donald Trump in 2013.
Maybe the House Intelligence Committee can get me the answer.