BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A familiar name to those in the Western New York political scene came up as Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, questioned the heads of the National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"His name is Michael Caputo," Speier said. "He's a PR professional who served (as a) radio talk show host."
The congresswoman laid out the East Aurora resident Caputo's ties to Russia. He lived and worked there in the 90s.
"And then in 2000, he worked with Gazprom-Media to improve Putin's image in the United States," Speier said. "So I guess my question is, what possible reason is there for the Trump campaign to hire Putin's image consultant?"
Both directors declined to comment about the political consultant, who worked for Donald Trump's presidential campaign last year before resigning in June.
"Congresswoman Jackie Speier has it all wrong. There's no substance whatsoever to her politically motivated insinuations about me," Caputo said in a statement
Reached by text message, Caputo elaborated on why he says Speier's claims are false. He said he did have a contract with Gazprom Media, a subsidiary of the Russian energy company Gazprom, for about two months around 2001. While the company is closely associated with the Kremlin, he said his job was to connect the chief executive wtih Washington media and politicians and did not have duties related to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While hosting a Conservative talk show on WBEN in 2014 Caputo said he had met Putin twice, first when they were on a panel together in 1994 in Saint Petersburg, Russia and again later at a party in Caputo's home.
"I didn't know he was there until I saw the photographs a year later and he was there leaning against the wall in my living room sipping from ice water which I think runs in his veins."
Caputo said then, his interactions with Putin were very brief and he did not trust him.
He has been clear he believes Democrats are trying to make a story about Trump's ties to Russia when there's nothing there.