Trump campaign official Michael Caputo has said that he “never once” spoke to anyone about the possibility of receiving help from the Russian government to get Donald Trump elected.
Mr Caputo, who served as one of Mr Trump’s communications advisers during the campaign, wrote in his opening statement to a congressional committee that he “never spoke about his campaign with anyone remotely associated with the Russian government".
“At no time did I ever talk about Russian contacts with any member of the campaign. I certainly did not hear talk of collusion with Russia or any foreign nation,” he wrote to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is conducting an investigation into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russian officials.
Mr Caputo testified before the committee for more than three hours on Friday behind closed doors. He said he told the panel that when he worked for the campaign “there was absolutely no discussion of Russia”.
“The only time I spoke about Russia with Donald Trump was in passing, during a dinner conversation in 2013, long before he decided to run for President,” Mr Caputo said in his written statement. “He simply asked: 'What was it like to live in Russia.' Our exchange may have lasted 30 seconds.”
Following his appearance before the committee, Mr Caputo told reporters that the panel had requested a broad and expansive number of documents and that they were negotiating limits on those.
In a prior interview with CNN, Mr Caputo also said he did not overhear anybody from the campaign talking about getting help from the Russians.
“In fact, we were so busy just trying to keep up with the sun rising and setting on that campaign, that I can’t imagine anyone had the time nor the wherewithal to go out there and even do something like this,” Mr Caputo said.
Mr Caputo, who spent six months with the Trump campaign, came to know Russian government officials when he worked in Russia during the 1990s. In the early 2000s, he did work for Gazprom Media, a Russian conglomerate that has supported Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A Democratic member of the House's intelligence committee, Representative Jackie Speier, raised Mr Caputo’s name at a hearing in March, suggesting that he was part of a “tarantula web” of links to Russia. She noted that he met his second wife, who is Ukrainian, while working in 2007 on a parliamentary election in Kiev. She also said he worked for "Gazprom-Media to improve Putin's image in the United States".
“Contrary to Rep Jackie Speier’s comments in your March 20 public hearing, I was never President Vladimir Putin’s ‘image consultant',” Mr Caputo said in his opening statement to the committee. “To the contrary, a simple Google search would have revealed a great deal,” he said, including a 2004 op-ed he wrote in which he criticised the Kremlin.
Mr Caputo said he was offended by Ms Speier’s comments and that she should be ashamed of herself.
The White House and Trump campaign have repeatedly denied that there were any contacts between officials and Russians.
However, this past week, it was revealed that Mr Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, had a meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer during the presidential campaign. According to emails released by Mr Trump Jr, he met with the lawyer after being told she would provide him with damaging information to his father’s campaign opponent, Hillary Clinton.
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