First on CNN: House panel to interview former Trump adviser in Russia probe

House panel probes Trump campaign adviser
House panel probes Trump campaign adviser

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    House panel probes Trump campaign adviser

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House panel probes Trump campaign adviser 01:20

Story highlights

  • Michael Caputo is a former Donald Trump adviser and long-time ally of Roger Stone
  • Caputo and Stone plans to interview before the House intelligence committee

(CNN)The House intelligence committee, moving rapidly to interview a series of major witnesses in July, plans to bring forward another former Trump adviser to question as its investigation into Russia meddling reaches a new phase.

Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign communications adviser, has agreed to come before the committee next month, his lawyer told CNN on Friday. Caputo, who once worked in Moscow and has connections to Russia, has strongly denied he was involved in any collusion with Russian officials.
Dennis Vacco, Caputo's attorney, said the former Trump adviser will appear before the House committee and that he has provided records in response to the panel's request for information.
    "We have agreed to appear voluntarily, without subpoeana, before the committee in closed session on Friday, July 14," Vacco, a former New York attorney general, told CNN.
    Caputo is a long-time ally of Trump adviser Roger Stone, who also plans to voluntarily be interviewed by the House panel about communications Stone acknowledged having with WikiLeaks and the Russian hacking operation that went under the name Guciffer 2.0. Stone, who will talk to the committee on July 24, has denied any wrongdoing, and has called for his testimony to be held in a public setting.
    Stone has since denied speaking with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange directly or colluding with the Russians.
    But the leaders of the investigation -- Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Texas and Adam Schiff, D-California -- have denied that request, with Schiff saying that all "percipient witnesses" will be interviewed in a classified setting.
    A Conaway spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment, and a Schiff spokesman declined to comment on Caputo's appearance before the panel.
    The panel also plans next month to interview Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser under former President Barack Obama and will meet with House investigators in a closed-door setting. Rice has come under scrutiny from Republicans on the panel who accuse her of improperly "unmasking" the names of Trump associates in classified intelligence reports. She has denied that she acted improperly.
    In April, CNN reported, according to multiple sources in both parties, that Republican and Democratic lawmakers who reviewed the intelligence reports found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal.
    The move comes as the once-stalled committee tries to move into a new phase of questioning, after privately interviewing this week former Obama Pentagon official Evelyn Farkas and Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign chairman, John Podesta, whose hacked emails became the centerpiece of the Russian meddling campaign. An interview scheduled for earlier this week with JD Gordon, former Trump campaign national security adviser, was postponed because of a scheduling conflict.
    On the Senate side, investigators have spoken with more than 40 witnesses so far, Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr told CNN this week. But it's unclear when other big names who have been tied to the investigation, including President Donald Trump's son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner and Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, will appear before both the House and Senate panels.
    Caputo, one of several Trump associates with connections to Russia, has said he would cooperate with Capitol Hill inquiries and the investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Caputo moved to Russia a few years after the Soviet Union collapsed and he worked for USAID, the US government agency that administers foreign aid. He says he helped the fledgling Russian government craft more open election laws and advised the successful re-election campaign of then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
    After moving back to the United States, Caputo worked as a consultant for Gazprom Media, a subsidiary of state-owned Gazprom, the massive Russia energy conglomerate.
    But Caputo's outlook on current Russian President Vladimir Putin changed over time, and he has since levied criticism against the Russian leader. "I'm not proud of the work today, but at the time, Putin wasn't such a bad guy," he told the Buffalo News last year.
    Unlike many other Trump associates, Caputo has clearly affirmed his belief that Russia meddled in the election. He blamed Russia for leaking the Democratic National Committee's emails in July 2016, months before the US government publicly made the same conclusion. But Caputo is adamant that there was no collusion.
    "I have no documents where I spoke to Russians, or anyone else, about hacking or collusion," Caputo told Fox News Radio earlier this month. "This is a witch hunt."
    Caputo maintains that he only had one conversation with Trump about Russia, and that it was innocuous. It was during a meeting 2013 in New York, he has said, when Trump asked him how he liked living in Russia.
    CNN reported earlier this month that the FBI had contacted Caputo as part of its Russia investigation.