The ‘Entrapment’ of Michael Caputo and Roger Stone

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post does a more than adequate job of giving you the nuts and bolts of the latest Roger Stone blowup, so I won’t waste time here repeating his work. The short version is Roger Stone and his longtime partner in shenanigans Michael Caputo both very clearly and indisputably perjured themselves during testimony before Congress. Specifically, they both denied in the most emphatic terms that they had ever met with any Russians during the campaign who were peddling information purported to be damaging to Hillary Clinton.

Prosecutors from the special counsel’s inquiry questioned Caputo last month and confronted him with a meeting he set up between a Russian and Stone. At that point, Caputo knew he and Stone were in trouble and they’ve been working ever since to concoct a defense. The defense won’t clear them of lying to Congress, but it appears that the Russian in question had worked as an FBI informant in the past. So, supposedly, this is a case of entrapment.

Caputo is unique among the suspects in the Russia inquiry in that he’s the only one I know of who has persistently bragged over the years about having worked for the Kremlin. He got his start working to help Boris Yeltsin beat the odds and win reelection. Later on, he had a job burnishing the image of Vladimir Putin in the United States as an employee of Gazprom Media. Along the way, he never seems to have strayed too far from Roger Stone’s side, working with him on a variety of trollish New York state campaigns, including the long-shot gubernatorial bids of Carl Paladino and Tom Golisano, and the takedown of attorney general Eliot Spitzer. It’s probably through Stone that Caputo made the acquaintance of Donald Trump and landed a job working as a senior communications adviser for his campaign.

While serving in that capacity, Caputo contacted Stone and told him to meet with a man variously known as Henry Greenberg, Henry Oknyansky, and Gennadiy Vasilievich Vostretsov.

One day in late May 2016, Roger Stone — the political dark sorcerer and longtime confidant of Donald Trump — slipped into his Jaguar and headed out to meet a man with a “Make America Great Again” hat and a viscous Russian accent.

The man, who called himself Henry Greenberg, offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Trump’s presumptive Democratic opponent in the upcoming presidential election, according to Stone, who spoke about the previously unreported incident in interviews with The Washington Post. Greenberg, who did not reveal the information he claimed to possess, wanted Trump to pay $2 million for the political dirt, Stone said.

Stone is only telling us this version of the story now because he knows that Mueller is aware of the meeting and the fact that he’s denied under oath having any meetings of this type. But he does have some text messages that back up at least part of his account. After the meeting, Caputo texted Stone to find out how the meeting with “the crazy Russian” went, and Stone said that he had wanted a lot of money to tell his story and did not provide anything of interest.

There’s a whole lot to unpack in this mess, and I’ll probably get to that later. For now, I just want to focus on one thing. While he has changed his LinkedIn page, I noted in May 2017 that Caputo listed himself there as a “Senior Advisor” to the Trump campaign from April 2016 to June 2016. Today, he says he served as “New York GOP Primary Director, Senior Adviser” to the Donald J. Trump campaign between November 2015 and April 2016. In other words, he’s made it look like he wan’t employed by the campaign in May 2016 when he asked Stone to take a meeting with Mr. Greenberg/Oknyansky/Vostretsov. In fact, as I also noted in May 2017, Caputo resigned from the Trump campaign the same day (June 20th) that Corey Lewandowski was forced out as the campaign manager in favor of Paul Manafort. In fact, he wrote an apology to Manafort to mark the occasion:

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.

No matter how you look at it, when Michael Caputo asked Roger Stone to get in his Jaguar and go meet with a Russian who claimed to have to dirt on Hillary Clinton, Caputo was serving in an official capacity for the Trump campaign.

And it’s instructive that he tasked Roger Stone with taking the meeting. There may be legal reasons to not consider Roger Stone a member of the Trump campaign, like the fact that he wasn’t drawing a salary. But he was integrated into the campaign from start to finish.

In this case, the source wanted two million dollars and Stone says he told him that Trump doesn’t pay for anything and would not be ponying up such a large sum. We don’t know if someone else stepped in to foot the bill. We don’t know a lot of things. In part, we don’t know them because Stone and Caputo lied to Congress.

And there’s no version of these events where they were entrapped into committing perjury.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.