MIAMI -- In late May 2016, Roger Stone -- the 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 viscous Russian accent.
The man, who called himself Henry Greenberg, offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Trump's presumptive Democratic opponent in that fall's 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 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 meeting in Florida has resurfaced as part of special counsel Robert 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.
"WITCH HUNT!" Trump tweeted on Sunday, insisting: "There was no Russian Collusion. Oh, I see, there was no Russian Collusion, so now they look for obstruction on the no Russian Collusion. The phony Russian Collusion was a made up Hoax. Too bad they didn't look at Crooked Hillary like this. Double Standard!"
As part of their campaign, Trump and his loyalists have tried to convince the public that the FBI violated its usual operating procedures, including installing "spies" inside Trump's campaign, though there's no evidence that's the case.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a member of Trump's legal team, on Sunday dismissed the significance of the Stone meeting.
"So, yes, sure, there was contact, as there was in that meeting. But that meeting led to nothing. This led to nothing. So, if anything, it's proof there was no collusion," he said in an interview with CBS' Face the Nation, adding that Mueller's team "can investigate from here to, you know, to Timbuktu, and they're not going to find a darn thing."
Both Stone and Caputo failed to disclose the Greenberg meeting in their interviews with the House Intelligence Committee -- an omission their lawyers said was accidental, but that Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on House Intelligence Committee, said was part of a pattern of deception.
"In multiple respects now, the testimony of Roger Stone appears inaccurate or deliberately misleading. Similarly, Michael Caputo's testimony omitted mention of this interaction with a Russian offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, something which could not plausibly have escaped his recollection," Schiff said in a statement. He pressed Republicans on the committee to make the interview transcripts available to Mueller's team "for a determination whether any witnesses committed perjury before our committee."
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.
Greenberg, in text messages with The Post, denied that he had been acting on the FBI's behalf when he met with Stone.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Mueller's office.
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.
It came in the same time period as other episodes in which Russian interests approached the Trump campaign. A few weeks earlier, Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos was told in London that the Russians had dirt on Clinton. And it was two weeks before the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who he had been told could offer information that would hurt Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father.
Trump and his allies have said the meetings were inconsequential, and there was no collusion.
Stone and Caputo's interactions with Greenberg mean that at least 11 Trump associates or campaign officials have acknowledged interactions with a Russian during the election season or presidential transition. Those interactions have become public in the year and a half since a Trump spokesman said that no one associated with the campaign had communications with Russians or other foreign entities.
It is not clear how serious investigators are taking the Florida meeting. Caputo said that prosecutors during his interview seemed to have intense interest in the interaction as well as the role of Greenberg.
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. A Clinton Foundation spokesman said the foundation 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.
Trump and his allies previously accused the FBI of unfairly targeting his campaign following revelations that another FBI informant, Cambridge University professor Stefan Halper, approached Papadopoulos and two other campaign advisers starting in July 2016 to gather information about their possible ties to Russia.
"If you believe that [Greenberg] took time off from his long career as an FBI informant to reach out to us in his spare time, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you," Caputo said in an interview.
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."
The Florida meeting adds another layer of complexity to Stone's involvement in the Russia probe. For months, as several of Stone's employees and associates have been subpoenaed or have appeared before the Mueller grand jury, it has been clear that the special counsel has been scrutinizing repeated claims by Stone that he communicated with WikiLeaks via a back-channel source before the group's 2016 release of hacked Democratic Party emails.
Stone has said it's possible he will be indicted, speculating that Mueller might charge him with a crime unrelated to the election in order to silence him. He said he anticipates that his meeting with Greenberg could be used in an attempt to pressure him to testify against Trump -- something he says he would never do.
Last year, in a videotaped interview with The Post, Stone denied having any contacts with Russians during the campaign.
"I've never been to Russia. I didn't talk to anybody who was identifiably Russian during the two-year run-up to this campaign," he said. "I very definitely can't think of anybody who might have been a Russian without my knowledge. It's a canard."
Stone and Caputo said in separate interviews that they also did not disclose the Greenberg meeting during testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence because they had forgotten about an incident that Stone calls unimportant "due diligence" that would have been "political malpractice" not to explore.
Caputo said that he was asked during a session with the committee in July whether he'd ever been offered information about the Clinton campaign by a Russian, and he either answered "no" or that he could not recall.
However, Stone and Caputo said their memories were refreshed by text messages that Caputo said he no longer has in his possession but was shown during a May 2 interview.
Caputo's attorney on Friday sent a letter amending his House testimony, and he plans to present Caputo's account of the Greenberg incident to the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Justice, which has announced it is examining the FBI's use of informants during the Russia probe. Stone said his attorney has done the same.
Information for this article was contributed by Manuel Roig-Franzia, Rosalind S. Helderman, Alice Crites, Devlin Barrett and Natasha Abbakumova of The Washington Post and by Jill Colvin of The Associated Press.
A Section on 06/18/2018
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