A few weeks ago Donald Trump and his GOPropagandists at FAUX News aka Trump TV, in particular Trump’s Minister of Propaganda Sean Hannity, were pushing the “Spygate” conspiracy theory, asserting than an FBI informant was embedded as a “spy” in the Trump campaign.
This manufactured conspiracy theory quickly fell apart when Rep. Trey Gowdy, himself the purveyor of the “Benghazi!” conspiracy theory, went on Trump TV and dismissed President Trump’s ridiculous claim that his campaign was spied on by the FBI in 2016. Trey Gowdy rejects Trump’s Spygate theory. “I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got,” Gowdy told Trump TV.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said later that House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy was “accurate” when he argued the FBI has acted appropriately in its ongoing probe of potential Russian links to the Trump campaign. House Speaker Paul Ryan sides with Trey Gowdy over Trump on ‘Spygate’.
Cue longtime Trump adviser and GOP ratfucker Roger Stone who suddenly remembers that he had a previously undisclosed meeting with a Russian offering dirt on Hillary Clinton so that he can assert a revised conspiracy theory, i.e., that an FBI informant tried to “setup” the Trump campaign (months before the FBI investigation even began).
The Washington Post reported over the weekend, Trump associate Roger Stone reveals new contact with Russian national during 2016 campaign:
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 vicious 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.
“You don’t understand Donald Trump,” Stone recalled saying before rejecting the offer at a restaurant in the Russian-expat magnet of Sunny Isles, Fla. “He doesn’t pay for anything.”
Later, Stone got a text message from Michael Caputo, a Trump campaign communications official who’d arranged the meeting after Greenberg had approached Caputo’s Russian-immigrant business partner.
“How crazy is the Russian?” Caputo wrote, according to a text message reviewed by The Post. Noting that Greenberg wanted “big” money, Stone replied, “waste of time.”
Two years later, the brief sit-down in Florida has resurfaced as part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s sprawling investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to Caputo. Caputo said he was asked about the meeting by prosecutors during a sometimes-heated questioning session last month.
Stone and Caputo, who did not previously disclose the meeting to congressional investigators, now say they believe they were the targets of a setup by U.S. law enforcement officials hostile to Trump.
They cite records — independently examined by The Post — showing that the man who approached Stone is actually a Russian national who has claimed to work as an FBI informant.
Interviews and additional documents show that Greenberg has at times used the name Henry Oknyansky. Under that name, he claimed in a 2015 court filing related to his immigration status that he had provided information to the FBI for 17 years. He attached records showing that the government had granted him special permission to enter the United States because his presence represented a “significant public benefit.”
There is no evidence that Greenberg was working with the FBI in his interactions with Stone, and in his court filing, Greenberg said he had stopped his FBI cooperation sometime after 2013.
Michael Caputo has set up a web site called Democrat Dossier — a wordplay on the Steele Dossier — purportedly “investigating the Democrat deception” of the Russia investigation using this Henry Greenberg story. See where this is going? Trump TV and the conservative media entertainment complex are all over it.
UPDATE: Martin Longman at the Political Animal Blog reminds us that “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.
Remember the first rule of Roger Stone: Literally everything this GOP ratfucker says is a lie unless you can establish incontrovertible evidence to the contrary which can be confirmed.
This new conspiracy theory falls apart pretty quickly under examination. As The Post reports, “The meeting took place two months earlier than federal officials have said a counterintelligence operation was officially opened and before WikiLeaks began releasing hacked Democratic emails.”
So how could this be a FBI “setup”? Simply because this Greenberg at one time allegedly worked as an informant for the FBI? This is not evidence. It is a logical fallacy, correlation does not prove causation.
Reached by phone, Greenberg, 59, initially denied Stone’s account of a meeting.
“This is wrong information,” Greenberg said.
Later, in text messages to a Post reporter, Greenberg changed his story, acknowledging that he’d met with Stone and providing a skeletal account of the encounter that matched Stone’s in some ways. Unprompted, Greenberg used essentially the same language as Stone to describe Stone’s reaction: “Trump will never pay for anything.”
Stone said Greenberg was alone at the meeting. But Greenberg said he was accompanied by a Ukrainian friend he identified only as Alexei, who he said had been fired from a job with the Clinton Foundation, a global charitable organization founded by Hillary Clinton’s husband, former president Bill Clinton. Greenberg provided no evidence the man had worked for the Clinton Foundation, and a foundation spokesman said the group has never employed a man with the first name of Alexei.
“He was very upset, and he wants to tell his story,” Greenberg said in a text. “He told Mr. Stone what he knew and what he want.”
Greenberg denied that he asked for money, saying that it was his friend who spoke with Stone.
In a separate interview, Stone said, “I didn’t realize it was an FBI sting operation at the time, but it sure looks like one now.”
Then what about hs text messages to Michael Caputo referring to the “Russian”? Yeah, never let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.
Aaron Blake of The Post gets it right. Roger Stone’s and Michael Caputo’s damningly false denials of contact with Russians:
If Roger Stone and Michael Caputo told investigators what they said publicly, they could have real problems.
The Washington Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia and Rosalind S. Helderman broke a significant story Sunday that added to the list of undisclosed meetings between Russians and President Trump’s confidants.
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But unlike other previously undisclosed meetings, this one was very, veryclearly denied — and repeatedly — by both parties. It was also apparently denied in or at least omitted from their testimonies to congressional investigators. Although someone like Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have a credible argument that his denials of contact with Russians were the results of misunderstandings, Stone’s and Caputo’s denials were ironclad.
“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. “I very definitely can’t think of anybody who might have been a Russian without my knowledge. It’s a canard.”
Stone reasserted this in a March interview with Chuck Todd. “I never had any contact with any Russians,” he said.
While Stone denied such a contact publicly, Caputo went a step further, saying in emphatic and unmistakable terms that he told the House Intelligence Committee that he had no contact with Russians.
“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,” he said in July.
These denials so contradict what we just found out, in fact, that neither man is trying to parse them to square them with the new information. Instead both — rather remarkably — contend that they simply forgot about the Greenberg proffer until special counsel Robert S. Mueller III reminded them last month. And now both are amending their testimony.
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It’s impossible to get inside either man’s head, but the idea that both forgot about this meeting warrants skepticism. Both men interviewed with the House Intelligence Committee about Russia, under penalty of perjury, and they didn’t even do an inventory of their contacts with Russians? Greenberg was apparently a colorful enough character for Caputo to remark, “How crazy is the Russian?” and to refer to him as “Russian” twice, but he then forgot about the whole thing?
Whether either man actually lied under oath and whether they might be held accountable are two very significant questions — and ones that could have different answers. The testimony at issue here was delivered to the House Intelligence Committee, which has been conducting the friendliest investigation to Trump. Ranking member Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) is trying to get its transcripts sent to Mueller.
Caputo also maintained on CNN that he thought the man was “an American citizen of Russian descent.” He added: “I had no reason to believe that; I just assumed it.” But that doesn’t change the fact that their denials have been obliterated — more so than perhaps any previous denials of Russian contacts by Trump confidants. The men didn’t just deny contact with Russians; they excluded the possibility that one might have happened that they weren’t fully conscious of. Their public denials weren’t “I don’t recall”; they were “It didn’t happen.”
And it’s pretty clear what’s happening here. This is something that, judging by their conversations with Mueller, they knew was going to come out eventually. And now they have a narrative into which they can insert it, thanks to Trump’s baseless claims about the FBI “spying” on his campaign via an informant. Stone and Caputo are pitching this as a potential setup featuring a man who appears to have worked as an FBI informant in the past (though he denies it in this case).
So, politically speaking, this is now serving a purpose for Stone and Caputo in a way it wouldn’t have even a month ago. It furthers the idea that this was a “witch hunt.” But whatever transpired before or during that apparently strange meeting with Greenberg and whatever legal accountability there may or may not be, it doesn’t change that it looks significantly more like there was a coverup than it did 24 hours ago.
The Washington Post editorializes, Yet another Russia contact with the Trump campaign team. What are they hiding? (excerpt):
Mr. Caputo and Mr. Stone now claim Mr. Greenberg might have been part of an FBI sting operation. Even if that were so, it could not excuse what we now know about their behavior. First, they agreed to meet with a Russian offering dirt on their political opponents. As with the Trump Tower meeting between a Russian-government-connected lawyer and senior Trump campaign officials, the very willingness to solicit campaign dirt from foreign sources is its own indictment. They should have called the FBI instead.
Second, Mr. Stone, Mr. Caputo and the Trump team all now are revealed to have spoken falsely about the matter. A Trump spokeswoman insisted a year and a half ago that no one on the campaign had contact with Russians.
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Mr. Caputo and Mr. Stone claim they forgot their interactions with Mr. Greenberg, which is hard to credit given how they would likely have prepared for their congressional testimony. Which raises a more concerning question: Why would they conceal this meeting?
Hopefully this pair of asshats will be charged with lying to Congress or perjury over this latest failure to disclose that they are trying to spin into a conspiracy theory.