Ex-Trump adviser denies any campaign contact with Russians

Michael Caputo, a former top Trump campaign adviser with strong ties to Russia, told CNN in an exclusive interview that he "never once" discussed nor heard anyone else mention Russian involvement in the race to defeat Hillary Clinton.

Michael Caputo, a former top adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign with strong ties to Russia, firmly denied having knowledge of any alleged contacts between the campaign and Russia after testifying privately to the House intelligence committee Friday.

“I spent my time in front of the committee detailing the fact that I had no contact with Russians, that I never heard of anyone with the Trump campaign talking with Russians, that I was never asked questions about my time in Russia, that I never even spoke to anyone about Russia, that I never heard the word ‘Russia,’ and we did not use Russian dressing,” Caputo told reporters in a press conference after the closed-door testimony. “There was absolutely no discussion of Russia on the Trump campaign ’til the day I left.”

Caputo resigned from the campaign on June 20, 2016 after celebrating the dismissal of then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski with a tweet that said, “Ding Dong the witch is dead.” Paul Manafort, who brought Caputo into the national campaign in April 2016 after his success with the New York primary, replaced Lewandowski as chairman.

The session before the House intelligence committee on Friday lasted three and a half hours — an hour and a half longer than expected, Caputo’s lawyer told reporters at the start of the press briefing, citing repetitive questions from lawmakers as the reason for the length.

Caputo was strongly critical of California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier, who in March said he was part of a “tarantula web” of links to Russia and called him Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “image consultant.”

“There was no way I was Vladimir Putin’s image consultant,” Caputo said. “You have to be very naive and uninformed or have a team of really bad interns to come up with that analysis.”

Sounding emotional, he also said his family received threats in the aftermath of Speier’s comments and said he expects an apology from Speier.

Caputo said he has distanced himself from Trump because his name has been brought up in regard to the federal investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence last year’s election and any potential collusion by the Trump campaign.

“Nobody in the administration or the White House needs my telephone number on their call list, needs me on their visitor logs, or needs emails from me,” he said.

Caputo said he would like to get back in touch with the White House down the road.

Florida Republican Tom Rooney, California Democrat Adam Schiff, California Democrat Eric Swalwell, and Washington Democrat Denny Heck attended, Caputo’s lawyer, Dennis Vacco, said.

Heck told CNN’s Jim Acosta shortly after the hearing that it was “probably the most fascinating three hours of time I’ve spent in my nearly five years in the United States House of Representatives.”

“I’m not going to comment on the content of that exchange because the truth of the matter is that could conceivably compromise this investigation,” Heck said. “And if there is anything I think we can conclude about this entire matter, it is that at the end of it, the American public needs to have confidence that it was conducted with integrity.”

Caputo posted his opening and closing statements on Twitter.

By Peter Greive