Local political operative Michael Caputo, who previously worked in Russia and also spent time working on Donald Trump's presidential campaign, sharply denied any Russian collusion in testimony he later described as a "fishing expedition."
Caputo, in a telephone interview late Friday with WBFO, said what was supposed to be a two-hour meeting stretched to three and a half hours as lawmakers began asking similar questions about allegations the Trump campaign interacted with Russian operatives to influence the 2016 election.
"It's a fishing expedition. They were looking at each other, asking questions more than once and they had notebooks full of questions but they weren't getting the answers they were looking for," Caputo said to WBFO. "They got a lot of no, no, no and no."
He added that "no" is the answer lawmakers will continue to get for what he called the "Russian collusion delusion."
Caputo lived and worked in Russia from 1994 to 2000 and, years later, worked briefly on Trump's campaign. But he denied that Russia was ever discussed at length during the time he worked with the latter.
The only time Trump ever mentioned Russia to Caputo, he insisted, was in 2013 when Trump asked him what it was like to live in Russia.
"We talked about it for maybe 30 seconds and then we changed the topic to the Buffalo Bills, something we both could relate to," said Caputo. "I haven't talked with Donald Trump about Russia since then. And then in the campaign, whether it was the New York State primary, the headquarters in New York City or the (Republican National) Convention, I don't recall anyone saying the word 'Russia' to me or around me."
Caputo said lawmakers, when they realized he had not been in Russia nor involved with the Trump campaign at the time of alleged collusion, began focusing their questions about other individuals. He did verify that questions were asked about Donald Trump, Jr., who has come under increasing scrutiny following revelations about his own dealings with Russian interests.
"What really matters to the Democrats is that I know Donald Trump," he said. "The Democrats are going to destroy Donald Trump. They're going to destroy his businesses. They're going to destroy his family. They're going to destroy his friends. Because they can't have anything less of Donald Trump than a smoking crater. No one had better dare to challenge the establishment in Washington again."
Caputo, when asked if he had invoked Fifth Amendment protection in response to any questions, said he did not.