Better late than never? Months after Roger Stone and Michael Caputo now say that they recall a meeting with a Russian national that offered to sell them dirt on Hillary Clinton for $2 million, a meeting that they failed to disclose earlier. Stone told NBC News that the offer was “so ludicrous” that he didn’t give it more than a few minutes’ consideration in the meeting:
Two longtime associates of Donald Trump are now acknowledging a previously undisclosed contact in May 2016 with a Russian who they say offered dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Roger Stone and Michael Caputo say they forgot to tell investigators about their contact with a Russian national who goes by the name Henry Greenberg — even though they say Greenberg offered to sell incriminating information to the Trump campaign for $2 million.
“I flatly rejected his proposal in what was a 20-minute meeting and never mentioned it to Trump or the Trump campaign because the idea was so ludicrous,” Stone told NBC News in an email.
Fair enough, but how did that escape Stone’s notice when asked by investigators about contacts with Russians during the campaign? Stone says he submitted an addendum to his congressional testimony on Friday after Michael Caputo reminded him of the meeting, but a $2 million ask from a Russian national for explosive material on the opposing candidate seems pretty memorable. It will definitely seem that way to the congressional committees who asked Stone specific questions about meetings precisely of this type, and who are going to wonder — rightly — what else might have escaped the recollections of Stone and Caputo.
According to text messages discovered by Robert Mueller’s investigators, both Stone and Caputo knew full well of Greenberg’s Russian connections at the time. However, the contemporaneous exchange also corroborates Stone’s newfound recollection that it didn’t amount to much, and Stone recalls telling Greenberg that he was definitely trying to shake down the wrong tree:
“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.”
Stone and Caputo have also alleged that this incident might have been entrapment. According to records verified by the Washington Post, “Henry Greenberg” may actually be Henry Oknyansky, who claimed in a 2015 court petition related to his immigration status that he worked as an informant for the FBI for 17 years. Greenberg/Oknyansky denied working as an informant in his contacts with Stone and Caputo when asked by the Post, saying that his cooperation with the bureau ended in 2013.
However, this seems awfully coincidental. How exactly did Greenberg come across the information he supposedly wanted to sell Stone? Why would he work for Russian intelligence, assuming that’s what happened, after being an FBI informant for almost two decades? Russians don’t exactly treat double agents kindly, as Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are fortunately able to attest after nearly getting assassinated in March. We already have some indication that the FBI was willing to use an intelligence asset, Stefan Halper, to make contact with other Trump campaign advisers. Greenberg/Oknyansky’s efforts to contact Stone and Caputo sound like a more brazen attempt to do what Halper did with Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, only so clumsily that the potential targets laughed it off rather than bit. That would also explain why Mueller’s team knew what to look for in those text messages, too.
Still, it’s the second time that Trump-connected advisers have now admitted that they met with purported Russian sources in an attempt to score dirt on Hillary Clinton. The lateness of this revelation makes it seem suspicious in all directions. The relevant congressional committees should bring Stone and Caputo back for more explanations, but they should also ask the FBI for a more complete explanation of Greenberg/Oknyansky, too.