Longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone had vehemently denied it. “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 told the Washington Post last year. “I very definitely can’t think of anybody who might have been a Russian without my knowledge. It’s a canard.” Stone, an infamous political operator who was key to Trump’s decision to run for president, also pushed the same message in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Turns out, those denials weren’t quite accurate.
Stone did in fact meet with a Russian in late May 2016. The man, who went by the name Henry Greenberg, offered Stone damaging information about Hillary Clinton in exchange for $2 million, he told the Washington Post. Stone says he flat out rejected the offer. “You don’t understand Donald Trump,” Stone claims he said. “He doesn’t pay for anything.” The meeting had been arranged by Michael Caputo, an official in Trump’s communications team. The two exchanged some text messages after the meeting. “How crazy is the Russian?” Caputo wrote. Stone wrote that Greenberg wanted “big” money for information, “waste of time,” he added.
Both Caputo and Stone claim they simply forgot about the meeting because it was so inconsequential. But it has reemerged as an apparent point of interest in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. This latest known contact means at least 11 Trump associates had contact with a Russian during the campaign or transition. Rather than admit any wrongdoing though, both Caputo and Stone now say it is clear to them that Greenberg had been part of an elaborate FBI sting operation by agents who wanted to stop Trump from becoming president.
In court documents, Greenberg said he worked as an FBI informant for 17 years. But there is no evidence that he was actually working for the FBI at the time of his meeting with Stone and a separate court filing claims he stopped his gigs with the feds after 2013. Greenberg also denied he was working for the FBI at the time of the meeting.
Trump allies quickly moved to downplay the story. In an interview Sunday, Rudy Giuliani said he doubts Trump knew about the meeting between Stone and the Russian national. “I doubt it. I certainly didn’t know about it. It’s news to me,” Giuliani said on CNN. “It seems to me, however, whatever the differing recollections about this, it sort of gets resolved with the fact that Stone did nothing about it.”