Caputo Rattles His Saber

Ex-Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo threatens legal action against ThinkProgress for reporting that he helped improve Vladimir Putin’s image in the United States

Earlier today, the progressive news website reported that Donald Trump’s campaign is to create a legal defence fund for all staffers involved in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of possible collusion between the campaign and the Russian government.

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The report by ThinkProgress associate editor Melanie Schmitz stated that “Former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo – who was previously responsible for improving Russian President Vladimir Putin’s image in the United States, and who is currently facing his own set of legal woes in relation to the Mueller investigation – believes that it’s the RNC’s duty to cover legal fees for the president.”

Caputo subsequently messaged Schmitz publicly on Twitter threatening to take legal action against ThinkProgress, Schmitz, and her senior editor Emily Hazzard unless Schmitz changed her article to say that he “never worked for Putin,” and that he’d “never been contacted by Mueller’s team.”

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While it’s true Caputo never actually worked for Putin, his former PR firm Rainmaker Interactive once represented Alfred Kokh, chief executive of Russian state-owned media company Gazprom Media, and helped burnish the company’s reputation with U.S. media and policymakers.

Via “Ex-Trump Aide Scrambles to Scrub Russia From Bio” by Lachlan Markay, The Daily Beast, November 6, 2017:

At the time, Gazprom had just acquired NTV, one of Russia’s few major opposition media outlets, sparking an internal revolt among staff. Gazprom dispatched security services to seize NTV’s headquarters in a move that was widely condemned as an assault on independent Russian media. According to Kokh, Putin personally sanctioned the crackdown.

In an interview last year, The Buffalo News characterized Caputo’s subsequent PR work for Gazprom Media as “help[ing] President Vladimir Putin weather U.S. government criticism for taking over an independent TV station.” Caputo says that characterization is inaccurate, though he told the paper at the time, as Petkanas noted, that he is “not proud of the work today,” adding the caveat that at “at the time, Putin wasn’t such a bad guy.”

As the title of that article suggests, Caputo recently paid an employee at his current PR firm, Zeppelin Communications, to scrub Wikipedia of all language linking him to Putin.

Caputo: Caught in the Web

Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo paid his own PR firm to purge Wikipedia of his long-standing political ties to Russia

Michael Caputo (source)

According to Wikipedia editing records, Caputo recently paid Zeppelin Communications, a PR firm he co-founded in 2015 with Russian club owner Sergey George Petrushin, to delete evidence that he helped promote Russian President Vladimir Putin in the United States.

The edits were made two weeks after Caputo testified privately to the House Intelligence Committee about Donald Trump’s “tarantula web” of ties to Russia.

Caputo was brought onto Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign as communications adviser by his close associate, political strategist Paul Manafort.

Paul Manafort (source)

On Monday, Manafort was indicted on 12 charges including “conspiracy against the United States” as part of an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining allegations of possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.

In July, Caputo’s firm launched a disruptive editing campaign to delete “disputed information” about his personal life and political career from Wikipedia, including his previous admission to The Buffalo News that in 2000 he was hired by pro-Russian news network Gazprom Media “to burnish Putin’s image in the United States.

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The firm also sought to add its own “properly sourced information” about Caputo, including that he “denies ever working for Putin, and scoffs at…accusations that he was ‘Putin’s image maker.’”

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Other noteworthy additions to Caputo’s life and career include that “he lived aboard a tugboat with a parrot,” and that his “work on high-profile campaigns drew attention because of his trademark use of volunteers in chicken suits and deploying strippers outside a debate.”

In August, an investigation by Wikipedia administrators determined that the edits were made by one person using multiple sockpuppet accounts.

The culprit, using the pseudonym “Baldassn,” subsequently admitted that they had been “paid by Zeppelin Communications on behalf of Michael R. Caputo” to make the edits.

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Zeppelin Communications PR account executive Sean Dwyer, who shares his last name with the main sock account, “DwyerSP,” and whose Twitter handle is “@DwyerSP,” appears to be the person behind the accounts.

Manafort Indictment: A Big Nothing Burger Emoji?

Did Fox News fail to report former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s indictment in favour of a story about cheeseburger emojis?

Today saw the first charges in the investigation led by former FBI director Robert Mueller, who is examining allegations of collusion between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government.

Yet while CNN and other news networks reported about the imminent indictment of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Fox News was reporting a story about…cheeseburger emojis?

That’s according to photos and screenshots that were circulating on Twitter this morning.

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And it wasn’t just Twitter users helping spread the story.

Here’s The New York Daily News reporting that “The big story at @FoxNews today isn’t Paul Manafort’s indictment – it’s the ‘emoji cheeseburger crisis’”:

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But did the famously Trump-friendly news network really fail to report Manafort’s indictment in favour of Google’s apparent emoji cheeseburger crisis?

The answer, unfortunately for Hannity-haters everywhere, is no.

As this clip from this morning’s Fox & Friends shows, the bulk of airtime was spent in anticipation of the indictment, with the emoji story briefly appearing to pad out the show between updates:

The story later made an appearance as part of a brief news round-up that aired immediately before a commercial break. That’s when this screenshot started making the rounds on Twitter:

However, the show then returned a few minutes later with a breaking news alert about Manafort.

Fair and Balanced? Perhaps not. But this nothing burger appears to be a whopper.

Sekulow Attacks!

After Politico profile about “amateur sleuths” highlightscount `emthree Shooting the Messenger Trump scoops, Donald J. Trump-affiliated lawyer Jordan Sekulow tells Fox News that I and other independent researchers are “wasting all of their time”

This week I was featured in a Politico profile about “self-assigned Bob Muellers” who are doing independent research into Donald Trump’s Russia and business connections.

The article, by Darren Samuelsohn, highlighted three stories first published on this blog. One of them, that Donald J. Trump’s former business partner Tevfik Arif tried to scrub details of his arrest (and later acquittal) for human trafficking from the Internet, was picked up by The Daily Beast last month.

The article also mentioned that I’d “documented Wikipedia editing records that show how Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer and Trump business partner, may have used a pseudonym to delete information about his criminal history from Trump’s Wikipedia page,” and that I’d “identified about a dozen posts written under Trump’s name on his now-defunct Trump University blog that appeared to plagiarize content from news outlets including CNN, USA Today and The New York Times.”

Shortly after Politico’s article, Jordan Sekulow, director of the American Center for Law and Justice and the son of Jay Sekulow, Trump’s legal adviser during the Mueller investigation, appeared on Fox News to denounce me and the other featured researchers—including Brooke Binkowski, managing editor of highly respected fact-checking website Snopes—without disclosing his ties to Trump.

Here’s the clip, plus excerpt:

Sekulow: I think it’s wonderful that these people who are – who want to bring down the president – are wasting all of their time and money to do so. I don’t even think the special counsel is going to be able to find anything on the president, so good luck to these sleuths who are, again, spending all they’ve got to try and bring this president down. It does underscore, though, just how much hatred there is out there for this President of the United States, who was elected so overwhelmingly by the American people.

To which I say: If a part-time blogger like me with zero resources can locate and publish the kind of damning info I have on Trump, I can only imagine what the Mueller investigation is turning up!

For the record—savvy cat that I am—I found my scoops without spending a single penny.