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Key Democrat: Trump advisers 'lied through their teeth' when testifying about Russia contacts

Chief Investigative Correspondent
Yahoo News
Michael Caputo, Roger Stone and Rep. Eric Swalwell. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters, Joe Raedle/Getty Images, Gibson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — A top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says he believes longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone and an associate “lied through their teeth” when they testified before his panel and they both should be investigated for perjury.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., made the comments about Stone and another one-time Trump adviser, Michael Caputo, during an interview for the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery.”

Swalwell focused on recent revelations that, at Caputo’s instigation, Stone met during the 2016 campaign in Florida with a Russian immigrant and sometime FBI informant named Henry Greenberg who offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

Neither Stone nor Caputo mentioned the meeting when they testified last year before the House Intelligence Committee about their contacts with Russians — a failure that both men have attributed to the fact that they had forgotten about it.

“And so to say that there was ‘failure of memory’ by both individuals to recall this meeting, I just don’t buy it,” Swalwell told Yahoo News’ chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff and editor in chief Daniel Klaidman.

“I think they just lied through their teeth to protect the fact that they were willing and eager to take a meeting with Russians who were offering dirt,” he added.

Swalwell added that he and other committee Democrats, led by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member on the panel, have pushed to have transcripts of closed door testimony of Stone and Caputo sent to special counsel Robert Mueller, but they have been blocked from doing so by the committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

Stone and Caputo have been “shielded  by Republicans who will not allow Mueller’s team to see the transcripts,” Swalwell said.

“The Nunes team has refused to cooperate with us on that and at least send [the transcripts] over to Mueller,” he added. “And so yes, I do believe that both Caputo and Stone, that special counsel should be able to look at that for perjury.”

The Washington Post first reported this week that in May 2016, Stone — at Caputo’s suggestion — had met with Greenberg in South Florida and that the Russian immigrant said he could provide Trump with damaging information about Clinton for a sum of $2 million.

Stone says he rejected the offer on the spot. “You don’t understand Donald Trump,” Stone said he told Greenberg, according to the Post account. “He doesn’t pay for anything.”

The precise context for the meeting remains unclear — including where Greenberg might have gotten the “dirt” he claimed to have. Both Stone and Caputo have said nothing came of it and they now believe they were being set up by the FBI.

Yet neither Stone nor Caputo mentioned the meeting when they testified last year behind closed doors before the intelligence panel and were specifically grilled about their election season contacts with Russians. Both men had adamantly denied any contact at all with Russians during the campaign. “I didn’t talk to anybody who was identifiably Russian during the two-year run-up to this campaign,” Stone told the Post in April 2017.

Download or subscribe on iTunes: “Skullduggery” by Yahoo News

More recently, Caputo was questioned about the Greenberg meeting by special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors, prompting him to notify the committee that he wanted to amend his testimony. He also tipped off Stone to the questions about the Greenberg meeting, prompting Stone to amend his testimony as well.

Swalwell suggested Stone’s contacts with Russians are of particular significance because the committee has “good reason to believe” he was in regular contact with Trump during the campaign.

“Stone is a self-proclaimed dirty trickster,” Swalwell said. “He was close with Donald Trump. He was communicating with individuals associated with the Russian hacks. It would be very hard for me to believe that if he was in contact with Donald Trump regularly throughout the summer of 2016 and the fall, that he would not be passing along to Mr. Trump his efforts to obtain Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails — or efforts that were passed along to him that others were taking to obtain the emails.”

In this 2017 photo, Roger Stone arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Stone, for his part, has denied any wrongdoing and, during his prepared statement to the committee last year (which he released to the press), the veteran GOP consultant specifically accused Swalwell of misrepresenting his “innocuous” Twitter messages with a Russian online persona in order to imply there was “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Both men have accused congressional Democrats of spreading what Stone called “bogus charges” about Russian collusion – with no evidence to back them up — in an effort to sully their reputations. “God damn you to hell,” Caputo said last month after testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying legal costs associated with the ongoing Russian investigation had “forced” his family from its home and “crushed” his children.

Swalwell emphasized that, despite a public report released by the House Intel Committee’s GOP majority, the overall committee’s investigation is not over and that the panel is expecting to receive new documents from Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie and hear testimony from another witness whose identity has not yet been released. When asked if, based on the testimony to date, he believes there are grounds to bring articles of impeachment against Trump, Swalwell paused for a moment — and then suggested that a lot would depend on the outcome of the November congressional election and whether Democrats retake control of the House, giving investigators like Swalwell subpoena power for the first time.

He said that “because impeachment is the harshest remedy, I think you want to present to the American people and our colleagues an impenetrable case. And the best way to do that would be to have subpoena power — to look at communication logs, to look at bank records, to look at travel records and be able to show and really tighten up the case — to prove it beyond any reasonable doubt that people would have.”

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