Every day, it seems, Russia and that government’s connections to the White House, the president, to members of his staff, campaign, and now his oldest son who knowingly took a meeting with an attorney representing the Kremlin to gather damaging information on Hillary Clinton, are in the news.
Within months of his inauguration a Special Prosecutor was appointed to investigate the Russia Connection, and the investigation is gaining steam. From news reports, the investigative web is spreading. Republicans and Democrats alike support and praise the independence of Robert Mueller, the Special Prosecutor appointed by Rob Rosenstein, then Acting Director of the FBI. But Rosenstein and Mueller both serve at the pleasure of the president. If the investigation gets too close, will the president fire Mueller? For now, that is an unfinished book.
The idiom, “Death by (or of) a thousand cuts” in common usage has been defined by UsingEnglish.com as
If something [or someone] is suffering the death of a thousand cuts, or death by a thousand cuts, lots of small bad things are happening, none of which are fatal in themselves, but which add up to a slow and painful demise.
Wikipedia gives us a full (and gruesome) description of the torture process known as lingchi wherein criminals were slowly executed by having small pieces of their flesh cut off over a period of time.
In common usage, the graphic is not as gruesome, but the end result is the same.
Will the president and/or members of his administration suffer the same fate? Columnist Steven Harper posted a piece on July 11, 2017, on BillMoyers.com laying out a timeline for the Trump-Russia Connection–that is, if you were having a difficult time keeping up with it. It is reposted, with permission, in its entirety, below.
In case you were wondering . . .
A Timeline: Russia and President Trump
July 11, 2017 by Steven Harper
This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.
This timeline was originally published on Feb. 15, 2017 and was last updated on July 11, 2017 at 5:15 p.m. ET. We update the timeline each Monday afternoon.
- 1979: Roger Stone is introduced to Donald Trump by notorious attorney Roy Cohn. [Added March 27, 2017]
- 1980: Roger Stone founds a lobbying practice with Paul Manafort; Trump becomes one of Stone’s first clients. In the 1980s, Trump hires Manafort as his lawyer on gambling and real estate issues. By 1988, Stone is one of Trump’s closest advisers. [Added March 27, 2017]
- Trump’s efforts to develop business in Russia date to 1987. In 1996, he applies for his trademark in that country. Discussing ambitions for a Trump hotel in 2007, he declares, “We will be in Moscow at some point.”
- August 1998: Russia defaults on its debt and its stock market collapses. As the value of the ruble plummets, Russian millionaires scramble to get money out of their country and into New York City, where real estate provides a safe haven for overseas investors. [Added March 20, 2017]
- October 1998: Demolition of a vacant office building near the United Nations headquarters is making way for Trump World Tower. Donald Trump begins selling units in the skyscraper, which is scheduled to open in 2001 and becomes a prominent depository of Russian money. By 2004, one-third of the units sold on the 76th through 83rd floors of Trump World Tower involve people or limited liability companies connected to Russia or neighboring states. Assisting Trump’s sales effort is Ukrainian immigrant Semyon “Sam” Kislin, who issues mortgages to buyers of multimillion-dollar Trump World Tower apartments. In the late 1970s, Kislin had co-owned an appliance store with Georgian immigrant Tamir Sapir, and they had sold 200 television sets to Donald Trump on credit. By the early 1990s, Kislin had become a wealthy commodities trader and campaign fundraiser for Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who in 1996 appoints him to the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Meanwhile, Sapir makes a fortune as a New York City real estate developer. [Added March 20, 2017]
- 2000: Roger Stone serves as chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential exploratory advisory committee. [Added March 27, 2017]
- 2002: Russian-born Felix Sater and his company, Bayrock Group — a Trump Tower tenant — begin working with Trump on a series of real estate development deals, one of which becomes Trump SoHo. Another development partner in Trump SoHo is the Sapir Organization, founded by Tamir Sapir. After a 1991 barroom fight in which Sater stabbed a man in the face with the broken stem of a large margarita glass, he received a prison sentence. In 1993, Sater became part of a stock scheme that allegedly relied on four Mafia crime families for protection. He pled guilty and, in return for a reduced sentence, entered into a 1998 cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors pursuing members of organized crime. Reportedly, he also helped the CIA track down and purchase stinger missiles on the black market in Central Asia, thereby keeping them out of terrorists’ hands. Sater is still cooperating with the Justice Department in April 2002, when the US attorney for the eastern district of New York requests a postponement of Sater’s sentencing to September. [Revised July 3, 2017]
- Also in 2002: Efforts to sell Russians apartments in Trump World Tower, Trump’s West Side condominiums, and Trump’s building on Columbus Circle expand with presentations in Moscow involving Sotheby’s International Realty and a Russian realty firm. In addition to buying units in Trump World Tower, Russians and Russian-Americans flood into another Trump-backed project in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. In South Florida alone, members of the Russian elite invest more than $98 million in seven Trump-branded luxury towers. [Added March 20, 2017]
- 2005: In a sworn deposition in 2008, Sater testifies that Trump gave Bayrock Group an exclusive deal to develop a project in Russia. “I’d come back, pop my head into Mr. Trump’s office and tell him, you know, ‘Moving forward on the Moscow deal.’ And he would say ‘All right… I showed him photos, I showed him the site, showed him the view from the site. It’s pretty spectacular.” But that early effort to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow fails. [Added March 3, 2017]
- June 2005: Paul Manafort proposes that he undertake a consulting assignment for one of President Vladimir Putin’s billionaire oligarchs. Manafort suggests a strategy for influencing politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit Putin’s government. [Added March 27, 2017]
- February 2006: Two of Trump’s children, Don Jr. and Ivanka, travel to Moscow. According to Sater, Donald Trump Sr. asked him to show them around: “He asked if I wouldn’t mind joining them and looking after them while they were in Moscow.” He summarizes the attitude of Trump’s children as “nice, big city, great. Let’s do a deal here.” Ten years later — October 2016 — Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten tells Forbes that the presence of Sater and Trump’s adult children in Moscow at the same time had been a coincidence. [Added March 3, 2017]</li
- Sept. 19, 2007: As Trump speaks at the launch party for Trump SoHo, Sater and his Bayrock partner, Kazakhstan native Tevfik Arif, stand next to him. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Oct. 15, 2007: In an interview with Larry King, Trump says: “Look at Putin — what he’s doing with Russia — I mean, you know, what’s going on over there. I mean this guy has done — whether you like him or don’t like him — he’s doing a great job.”
- November 2007: Paul Manafort’s firm receives a $455,000 wire transfer from Ukraine Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Manafort had been hired to improve the image of Putin-backed Yanukovych, who was portraying himself falsely as an anti-corruption reformer seeking to move Ukraine closer to the West. “The West has not been willing to move beyond the Cold War mentality and to see this man and the outreach that he has extended,” Manafort says about Yanukovych at the time. Ukraine’s richest man — a billionaire industrialist — had introduced Manafort to Yanukovych. [Added April 17, 2017]
- Dec. 19-20, 2007: Two days after a Dec. 17, 2007 article in The New York Times about Felix Sater’s criminal past, a lawyer deposing Trump in his libel suit against journalist Timothy O’Brien — author of TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald — asks, “[W]hat kind of interaction did you have with Mr. Sater prior to the article appearing?” Trump answers, “Not that much, not very much….I would say that my interaction with Felix Sater was, you know, not — was very little.” Discussing Bayrock’s unsuccessful development efforts for Trump in Russia, Trump says, “This was going to be a hotel in Moscow. And I really can say the same things for all of the sites…a hotel in Moscow, a hotel in Kiev, a hotel in Poland, et cetera,…. Bayrock knew the people, knew the investors, and in some cases I believe they were friends of Mr. Arif. And this was going to be Trump International Hotel and Tower in Moscow, Kiev, Istanbul, et cetera, Poland, Warsaw.” Trump is referring to the Bayrock Principal, Tevfik Arif. A few minutes later, Trump says Arif “did bring people up from Russia… I believe he brought the people from Moscow up to meet me.” [Added July 3, 2017]
- July 2008: As the Florida real estate market began to crash, Trump sells a Florida residence to a Russian oligarch for $95 million, believed to be the biggest single-family home sale in US history. The Russian oligarch never lived in the house and, since then, it has been demolished. Three years earlier, Trump had bought the home at auction for $41 million. [Added March 3, 2017]
- September 2008: Donald Trump Jr. tells a real estate conference: “In terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia. There’s indeed a lot of money coming for new-builds and resale reflecting a trend in the Russian economy and, of course, the weak dollar versus the ruble.” [Revised May 30, 2017]
- Oct. 14, 2009: Paul Manafort’s firm receives a $750,000 wire transfer from Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. The Russian-leaning Yanukovych was running for president and, in February 2010, he won. [Added April 17, 2017]
- January 2010—January 2011: After leaving Bayrock, Sater becomes “senior adviser to Donald Trump,” according to his Trump Organization business card. He also has a Trump Organization email address and office. The phone number listed on the card had belonged previously to a lawyer in Trump’s general counsel’s office. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Sometime in 2010: At a key moment in the financially troubled Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto, the Russian-Canadian developer of the project receives $850 million from the sale of his share in a Ukrainian steel mill. A “Ukrainian industrial group” purchased the mill through five offshore companies, but the money came ultimately from Russia’s state-owned bank (VEB), whose supervisory board Vladimir Putin chaired. The developer thereafter put $15 million into Trump Toronto. [Added May 22, 2017]
- Nov. 16, 2011: Answering deposition questions in a case involving a Fort Lauderdale project, Trump says he has only “limited involvement” with Bayrock Group, which was a Trump tenant “for a period of time.” (pp. 10-11) Trump testifies that he spoke with Felix Sater “for a period of time” when he was an executive with Bayrock. (p.18) [Added July 3, 2017]
- April 8, 2013: Three Russians whom the FBI later accused of spying on the United States discuss efforts to recruit American businessman Carter Page. According to The Washington Post, “[T]he government’s application for the surveillance order targeting Page included a lengthy declaration that laid out investigators’ basis for believing that Page was an agent of the Russian government and knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow, officials said.” [Added April 17, 2017]
- June 18, 2013: Trump announces that the 2013 Miss Universe beauty pageant, which he owns, will take place in Moscow. The next day, he tweets:
Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2013
While preparing for the pageant, Trump says, “I have plans for the establishment of business in Russia. Now, I am in talks with several Russian companies to establish this skyscraper.”
- July 8, 2013: After a BBC reporter questions Trump about Felix Sater’s alleged prior connections to organized crime, Trump ends the interview. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Oct. 17, 2013: On The Late Show, David Letterman asks Trump, “Have you had any dealings with the Russians?” Trump answers, “Well I’ve done a lot of business with the Russians…” Letterman continues, “Vladmir Putin, have you ever met the guy?” Trump says, “He’s a tough guy. I met him once.”
- Nov. 5, 2013: In a deposition, an attorney asks Trump about Felix Sater. “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like,” Trump answers. When asked how many times he had ever spoken with Sater, Trump says, “Not many.” When asked about his July 2013 BBC interview during which he was questioned about Sater’s alleged connections to organized crime, Trump says he didn’t remember it. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Nov. 11, 2013: Trump tweets:
@AgalarovAras I had a great weekend with you and your family. You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next. EMIN was WOW!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) Nov. 11, 2013
- November 2013: At the Miss Universe pageant, Trump says: “I do have a relationship [with Putin] and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today… I do have a relationship with him… He’s done a very brilliant job in terms of what he represents and who he’s represented.” While Trump is in Moscow for the pageant, he and Alex Sapir (whose family’s company was one of the co-developers of Trump SoHo with Trump and Felix Sater) meet with the Russian real estate developer who had facilitated Trump’s $20 million deal to host the Miss Universe contest in Moscow. They discuss plans for a new Trump project in Russia. “The Russian market is attracted to me,” Trump tells Real Estate Weekly upon his return. “I have a great relationship with many Russians, and almost all of the oligarchs were in the room.” [Added March 3, 2017]
- Feb. 22, 2014: Popular uprisings lead the Ukraine Parliament to oust President Viktor Yanukovych from office for gross human rights violations and dereliction of duty. With the help of Putin’s security forces, Yanukovych flees the country. But he leaves behind a handwritten ledger — the “Black Ledger” — with 22 entries for 2007 to 2012 purporting to show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Paul Manafort or his firm from Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. [Added April 17, 2017]
- March 6, 2014: At the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump says: “You know, I was in Moscow a couple of months ago. I own the Miss Universe Pageant and they treated me so great. Putin even sent me a present, a beautiful present.” On the same day, President Obama signs an executive order imposing sanctions on Russia for its unlawful annexation of Crimea.
- Sometime in 2014: Golf writer and co-author of Arnold Palmer’s memoir James Dodson plays golf with Donald and Eric Trump at Trump National Charlotte in North Carolina. In an interview airing May 5, 2017 on Boston’s public radio station, Dodson describes the episode, beginning with a question he asks Donald Trump before the round: “‘What are you using to pay for these courses?’ And he just sort of tossed off that he had access to $100 million. So when I got in the cart with Eric, as we were setting off, I said, ‘Eric, who’s funding? I know no banks — because of the recession, the Great Recession — have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s dead in the water the last four or five years.’ And this is what he said. He said, ‘Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.’ I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Oh, yeah. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time. Now that was three years ago, so it was pretty interesting.’” On May 7, 2017, Eric Trump calls Dodson’s claim “categorically untrue” and “complete garbage.” [Added May 8, 2017]
- June 16, 2015: Trump announces he is running for president.
- Aug. 6, 2015: The Trump campaign says it has fired Roger Stone; Stone claims he’d quit. Either way, Stone remains a prominent Trump surrogate for the rest of the campaign. [Added March 27, 2017]
- Aug. 21, 2015: Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions makes a surprise appearance at a Donald Trump rally and dons a “Make America Great Again Cap.”
- Late summer 2015: A member of Trump’s campaign staff calls Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn to ask if he’s willing to meet with Trump. Flynn agrees. Later, Flynn says four other Republican presidential candidates also reached out to him: Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Fall 2015: As Felix Sater works on a plan for a Trump Tower in Moscow, Trump’s bid for the presidency brings the project to a halt, according to a Feb. 19, 2017 article in The New York Times citing Sater. [Added July 11, 2017]
- September 2015: An FBI special agent contacts the Democratic National Committee to report that at least one DNC computer system had been hacked by an espionage team linked to the Russian government. The agent is transferred to a tech-support contractor at the help desk, who did a cursory check of DNC server logs and didn’t reply to follow-up calls from the FBI agent. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Sept. 21, 2015: On Hugh Hewitt’s radio program, Trump says, “The oligarchs are under [Putin’s] control, to a large extent. I mean, he can destroy them, and he has destroyed some of them… Two years ago, I was in Moscow… I was with the top-level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top-of-the-government people. I can’t go further than that, but I will tell you that I met the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary.” [Added March 3, 2017]
- Sept. 29, 2015: Trump tells Bill O’Reilly: “I will tell you in terms of leadership he [Putin] is getting an ‘A,’ and our president is not doing so well.”
- Nov. 10, 2015: At a Republican primary debate, Trump says: “I got to know [Putin] very well because we were both on 60 Minutes. We were stablemates, and we did very well that night.”
- Nov. 30, 2015: When an Associated Press reporter asks Trump about Felix Sater, he answers, “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it. I’m not that familiar with him.” Trump refers questions about Sater to his staff. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Dec. 10, 2015: Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who would become Trump’s national security adviser, sits at Putin’s table for the 10th anniversary gala of Russia’s state-owned television propaganda network, RT. Flynn had made a paid appearance on the network. For his December speech, he nets $33,500 of the $45,000 paid to his speakers’ bureau. For all of 2015, Flynn receives more than $65,000 from companies linked to Russia. [Revised March 20, 2017]
- Late 2015: Late 2015: Britain’s spy agency GCHQ became aware of suspicious “interactions” between members of Trump’s campaign and Russian intelligence operatives. Over the next six months, a number of western agencies from Germany, Estonia and Poland share more information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians. [Added May 22, 2017] [Added May 22, 2017]
- Mid-January 2016: Flynn applies for a five-year renewal of his security clearance. [Added May 25, 2017]
- Feb. 11, 2016: According to a May 22, 2017 letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), investigators meet with Flynn to discuss his security clearance application. When asked about his Moscow appearance, Flynn reportedly says, “I didn’t take any money from Russia, if that’s what you’re asking me.” [Added May 25, 2017]
- Feb. 17, 2016: As questions about Russia swirls around Trump, he changes his story: “I have no relationship with [Putin], other than he called me a genius.”
- Feb. 28, 2016: Jeff Sessions formally endorses Donald Trump’s candidacy for president. Three days later, Trump names Sessions chairman of his campaign’s national security advisory committee. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Feb. 29, 2016: Paul Manafort submits a five-page, single-spaced, proposal to Trump. In it, he outlines his qualifications for helping Trump secure enough convention delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination. Manafort describes how he had assisted rich and powerful business and political leaders, including oligarchs and dictators in Russia and Ukraine: “I have managed presidential campaigns around the world.” [Added April 10, 2017]
- March 14, 2016: Investigators issue a report on Flynn’s security clearance application. According to the summary in Rep. Cummings’ May 22 letter, Flynn told investigators that he was paid by “US companies” when he traveled to Moscow in December 2015. The report also says that Flynn told investigators he had not received any benefit from a foreign country. [Added May 25, 2017]
- March 17, 2016: Jeff Sessions discusses Trump’s foreign policy positions, saying, “I think an argument can be made there is no reason for the US and Russia to be at this loggerheads. Somehow, someway we ought to be able to break that logjam. Strategically it’s not justified for either country.” [Added March 3, 2017]
- March 21, 2016: In a Washington Post interview, Trump identifies Carter Page as one of his foreign policy advisers. Page had helped open the Moscow office of investment banking firm Merrill Lynch and had advised Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom, in which Page is an investor. He blames 2014 US sanctions relating to Russia’s annexation of Crimea for driving down Gazprom’s stock price. Earlier in March 2016, Iowa tea party activist Sam Clovis had recommended Page to the Trump campaign. [Supplemented April 24, 2017]
- March 29, 2016: On Roger Stone’s recommendation, Paul Manafort joins the Trump campaign as convention manager, tasked with lining up delegates. [Added March 27, 2017]
- April through November 2016: Mike Flynn and other advisers to the Trump campaign have at least 18 phone calls and emails with Russian officials, including six contacts involving Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. According to a later report by Reuters, Jared Kushner has at least two phone calls with Kislyak. [Revised May 30, 2017]
- April to December 2016: Russia’s patent office grants 10-year extensions for six unused Trump trademarks that are set to expire in 2016. Trump had originally acquired the trademarks for hotel and branding deals that never materialized — including “Trump Tower” in 1996 and four more hotel-related trademarks in 2007, when Felix Sater and Bayrock Group were scouting potential deals in Russia. [Added June 19, 2017]
- April 20, 2016: Paul Manafort becomes Trump’s campaign manager. Reports surface about his 2007 to 2012 ties to Ukraine’s pro-Putin former president, whom Manafort had helped to elect.
- Late April 2016: The Democratic National Committee’s IT department notices suspicious computer activity, contacts the FBI, and hires a private security firm, CrowdStrike, to investigate. [Added March 13, 2017]
- May 2016: CrowdStrike determines that highly sophisticated Russian intelligence-affiliated adversaries — denominated Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear — had been responsible for the DNC hack. Fancy Bear, in particular, had indicators of affiliation with Russia’s Main Intelligence Department (also know as the GRU). [Added March 13, 2017]
- May 19, 2016: Paul Manafort becomes Trump’s campaign chairman and chief strategist. [Added March 27, 2017]
- Early June 2016: At a closed-door gathering of high-powered foreign policy experts visiting with the prime minister of India, Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page hails Vladimir Putin as stronger and more reliable than President Obama and touts the positive effect that a Trump presidency would have on US-Russia relations. [Added March 6, 2017]
- June 3, 2016: Rob Goldstone, a music publicist, sends Donald Trump Jr. an email stating that one of his clients, Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, had “something very interesting” he wanted to pass along to Donald Jr.: “The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin.” (Aras Agalarov — a Putin ally and wealthy real estate developer sometimes referred to as the “Trump of Russia” — had helped sponsor the Trump-owned 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. In a later interview with Forbes in March 2017, Emin Agalarov says he and his father had previously signed a letter of intent with their Trump counterparts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. “He ran for president, so we dropped the idea,” Agalarov said of Trump and the project. “But if he hadn’t run we would probably be in the construction phase today.”) [Added July 11, 2017]
- Also on June 3, 3016: Responding to Goldstone’s email, Donald Jr. says, “[I]f it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” Donald Jr. suggests they talk early during the week of June 6, when he’s back from the road. [Added July 11, 2017]
- June 7, 2016: Rob Goldstone sends Donald Jr. a follow-up email: “Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and the Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow this Thursday. I believe you are aware of the meeting — and so wondered if 3 p.m. or later on Thursday works for you? I assume it would be at your office.” Confirming the date and time, Donald Jr. says that then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner will also attend. The following day, they move the meeting to 4 p.m. because “the Russian attorney is in court until 3….” [Added July 11, 2017]
- Also on June 7, 2016: After winning the New Jersey Primary as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for president, Trump includes this line in his victory speech: “I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week [June 13] and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons.” [Added July 11, 2017]
- June 9, 2016: Natalia Veselnitskaya, the “Russian government attorney” referenced in Goldstone’s earlier emails to Donald Jr., meets at Trump Tower with Donald Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner. The lawyer was formerly married to a former deputy transportation minister of the Moscow region. Her clients include state-owned businesses and a senior government official’s son, whose company is under investigation in the United States at the time. [Added July 11, 2017]
- Also on June 9, 2016: Trump tweets:
How long did it take your staff of 823 people to think that up–and where are your 33,000 emails that you deleted? https://t.co/gECLNtQizQ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2016
[Added July 11, 2017]
- June 15, 2016: A hacker with the online persona “Guccifer 2.0” claims credit for the DNC hack and begins posting internal DNC documents on the Guccifer 2.0 website. CrowdStrike reiterates its conclusion that the hack had been a Russian intelligence operation. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on June 15, 2016: After the Ukrainian prime minister visits Capitol Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and other Republican leaders meet privately. During the session, McCarthy says, “I’ll guarantee you that’s what it is… The Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp [opposition] research they had on Trump.” Moments later he says, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” referring to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) who is known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia. Some of the lawmakers laugh, but McCarthy continues, “Swear to God.” According to a transcript prepared from a tape of the discussion, Ryan immediately interrupts the conversation, saying, “This is an off the record… [laughter] …NO LEAKS… [laughter] …alright? This is how we know we are a real family here… What’s said in the family, stays in the family.” When The Washington Post obtains the transcript in May 2017, it seeks comment from Ryan and McCarthy. Ryan’s spokesperson says, “That never happened. The idea that McCarthy would assert this is false and absurd.” As detailed in the Post video accompanying its eventual story, the Post reporter then says that he has a transcript of the discussion. Ryan and McCarthy respond that the transcript is false, maybe even made up, and certainly inaccurate. When the reporter says he has listened to an audio recording of the conversation, Ryan’s spokesperson says it was a failed attempt at humor. [Added May 18, 2017]
- June 2016: Jared Kushner assumes control of all data-driven Trump campaign efforts, turning a nondescript building outside San Antonio, Texas into a 100-person data hub. Among the firms he retains is Cambridge Analytica, which reportedly has created “profiles” consisting of several thousand data points for 220 million Americans. Cambridge Analytica’s financial backers include hedge fund tycoon Robert Mercer, who also has a $10 million investment in Breitbart News, which, at the time, is run by Steve Bannon. [Revised May 30, 2017]
- July 2016: According to Politico, Felix Sater visits Trump Tower on business that he described as “confidential.” Sater declines to answer whether he’s had recent contact with the Trump Organization or Trump’s children. “I don’t see the relevance of that,” Sater says. When Politico asks the Trump campaign about Sater, Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks says, “We are not aware of a contribution or visit to Trump Tower.” Trump Organization General Counsel Alan Garten tells Politico that he has no knowledge of Sater’s visit to Trump Tower, that Sater was not advising the Trump Organization, and that the Trump Organization was not seeking business in Russia. [Added July 3, 2017]
- July 5, 2016: FBI Director James Comey holds a press conference announcing that the bureau has closed its yearlong investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Comey says Clinton had been “extremely careless” in handling “very sensitive, highly classified information,” but does not recommend prosecution. Typically, when the FBI recommends closing a case, the Justice Department agrees and no public statement follows. One possible reason for Comey’s unusual announcement in the Clinton case could be the contents of a document that the FBI knew Russians had stolen when they hacked the DNC. In it, a Democratic operative suggested that Attorney General Lynch would not let the Clinton email investigation go too far. Comey may have worried that if Lynch announced an end of the investigation, and Russia later leaked the document, voters would doubt the investigation’s independence. [Added April 24, 2017]
- July 6, 2016: Another batch of hacked DNC documents appears on the Guccifer 2.0 website. [Added March 13, 2017]
- July 7, 2016: In a lecture at the New Economic School in Moscow, Carter Page criticizes American foreign policy. He says that many of the mistakes spoiling relations between the US and Russia “originated in my own country.” Page says he had sought and received permission from the Trump campaign to make the trip. [Revised March 20, 2017]
- July 14, 2016: Another batch of hacked DNC documents appear on the Guccifer 2.0 website. [Added March 13, 2017]
- July 15, 2016: Trump tweets:
I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate. News conference tomorrow at 11:00 A.M.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2016
[Added May 25, 2017]
- July 18, 2016: The Washington Post reports that the Trump campaign worked behind the scenes ahead of the Republican Convention on a plank of the 2016 party platform that gutted the GOP’s longstanding support for Ukrainians’ popular resistance to Russia’s 2014 intervention.
- Also on July 18, 2016: At a Heritage Foundation event during the Republican Convention, Jeff Sessions speaks individually with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. [Added March 3, 2017]
- July 19, 2016: Bloomberg reports that over the past year, Trump’s debt load has almost doubled from $350 million to $630 million. [Added May 8, 2017]
- Also during the July 2016 Republican Convention: Carter Page and J.D. Gordon, national security advisers to the Trump Campaign, meet with ambassador Kislyak. They stress that Trump would like to improve relations with Russia. [Revised March 6, 2017]
- July 22, 2016: On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks releases its first trove of emails stolen from the DNC.
- July 24, 2016: When ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asks whether there were any connections between the Trump campaign and Putin’s regime, Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort answers, “No, there are not. And you know, there’s no basis to it.” [Added March 6, 2017]
- July 25, 2016: Trump tweets:
The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2016
[Added March 3, 2017]
- July 27, 2016: At a press conference, Trump says, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” At the same press conference, he insists, “I never met Putin. I’ve never spoken to him.” In an interview with CBS News, he reiterates: “But I have nothing to do with Russia, nothing to do, I never met Putin, I have nothing to do with Russia whatsoever.”
- During the summer of 2016: American spies are intercepting conversations involving senior Russian intelligence and political officials. Russians discuss using Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn — both of whom had prior contacts with Russia — to shape Trump’s opinions on Russia. Former CIA Director John Brennan notices suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and associates of Trump’s campaign. Brennan believes that the American election is under attack and worries that Trump’s campaign might be aiding the effort. Brennan refers his concerns to the FBI, the intelligence agency leading the investigation. [Revised May 30, 2017]
- By the end of July 2016: The FBI has opened an investigation into possible collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. [Added April 24, 2017]
- July 31, 2016: Manafort denies knowing anything about the change in the Republican platform. That afternoon, Boris Epshteyn, Trump’s Russian-born adviser, spouts the Kremlin’s party line telling CNN: “Russia did not seize Crimea. We can talk about the conflict that happened between Ukraine and the Crimea… But there was no seizure by Russia. That’s an incorrect statement, characterization, of what happened.”
- Also on July 31, 2016: On CNN, Jeff Sessions defends Trump’s approach to Russia: “This whole problem with Russia is really disastrous for America, for Russia and for the world,” he says. “Donald Trump is right. We need to figure out a way to end this cycle of hostility that’s putting this country at risk, costing us billions of dollars in defense, and creating hostilities.” [Added March 3, 2017]
- And also on July 31, 2016: Trump tells ABC News he was not involved in the Republican Party platform change that softened America’s position on Russia’s annexation of Crimea. [Added March 6, 2017]
- August 2016: The consulting firm headed by Trump’s national security adviser Mike Flynn begins lobbying for a company owned by a businessman close with Turkey’s President Erdogan. [Added May 22, 2017]
- Early August 2016: According to a subsequent report in The Washington Post, the CIA informs President Obama that based on intelligence sources within the Russian government, Putin had given Russian officials specific objectives for the ongoing cyberattack on the US election: defeat or at least damage Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump. Upon receiving the news, Obama directs the entire intelligence community to provide him with as much information as soon as possible. CIA Director John Brennan convenes a secret task force composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, NSA and FBI. [Added June 26, 2017]
- Aug. 4, 2016: CIA Director John Brennan warns the director of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) not to meddle in the election. [Added May 30, 2017]
- Aug. 5, 2016: Trump surrogate Roger Stone writes an article for Breitbart News. Stone argues that Guccifer 2.0 had nothing to do with Russia. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on Aug. 5, 2016: Carter Page’s ongoing public criticism of US sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine and his praise for Putin generate increasing attention and concern. In response, Trump campaign spokesman Hope Hicks describes Page as an “informal policy adviser” who “does not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.” Later that month, after the FBI believes Page was no longer part of the Trump campaign, it obtains a Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) warrant to monitor his communications. The initial 90-day warrant is renewed more than once. [Added April 17, 2017]
- Aug. 6, 2016: NPR confirms the Trump campaign’s involvement in the Republican platform change on Ukraine.
- Aug. 8, 2016: Roger Stone addresses a Broward County, Florida Republican Party group. An audience member asks (near the 46-minute mark of the video) about his predictions for an “October surprise” based on materials in the possession of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange. In response, Stone says, “I actually have communicated with Assange.” [Updated May 8, 2017]
- Aug. 12, 2016: On a #MAGA podcast (around the 7-minute mark), Stone says, “I believe Julian Assange — who I think is a hero fighting the police state — has all of the emails that Huma [Abedin] and Cheryl Mills, the two Clinton aides, thought they had erased…. I think Assange has them. I know he has them. And I believe he will expose the American people to this information, you know, in the next 90 days.” [Added April 24, 2017]
- Also on Aug. 12, 2016: A batch of hacked Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) documents appear on the Guccifer 2.0 website. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on Aug. 12, 2016: Stone tells Alex Jones that he was “in communication with Julian Assange.” Later, Stone continues, “I am not at liberty to discuss what I have.” [Added April 24, 2017]
- Also on Aug. 12, 2016: Florida GOP consultant Aaron Nevins reaches out to hacker Guccifer 2.0, who had invited journalists to send questions via Twitter direct messages relating to information that Guccifer 2.0 had hacked from the DNC and the DCCC. Under his pseudonymous blog, Nevins begins posting links to Guccifer 2.0, along with highlights of the material. Nevins tells Guccifer 2.0 that releasing fresher data would have more impact and that the hacker should “feel free to send any Florida-based information.” [Added May 30, 2017]
- Aug. 13, 2016: After receiving complaints about the publication of private information, Twitter and wordpress.com (host for the Guccifer 2.0 website) suspends the Guccifer 2.0 accounts. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Aug. 14, 2016: Roger Stone tweets, “Now Guccifer 2.0 – why are those exposing the truth banned?” Without explanation, Twitter reinstates the Guccifer 2.0 account. In a private message to Guccifer 2.0, Roger Stone writes, “Delighted you are reinstated. Fuck the State and their MSM lackeys.” [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on Aug. 14, 2016: The New York Times reports that Ukraine anti-corruption investigators were seeking to identify and recover assets that it claims former President Viktor Yanukovych had stolen from the Ukrainian people. Investigators had discovered the Black Ledger from Yanukovych’s pro-Russia Party of Regions. Later, Manafort questions the authenticity of the Black Ledger, claims it had been falsified and asserts that no public evidence exists that he or others received the payments listed on the ledger. [Added April 17, 2017]
- Aug. 15, 2016: Continuing their private exchange, Guccifer 2.0 responds to Stone: “wow thank u for writing back and thank you for an article about me!!! do u find anything interesting in the docs I posted?” [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on Aug. 15, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 releases hacked DCCC documents on primaries in Florida. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on Aug. 15, 2016: Concerned about additional intelligence reports about Russia’s cyberattack efforts, the Obama administration seeks bipartisan support from the states to designate election systems as “critical infrastructure” that would entitle them to priority in shoring up defenses against such attacks. The reaction from the states ranges “from neutral to negative,” according to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. [Added June 26, 2017]
- Aug. 16, 2016: Stone publishes an article in The Hill and asks Guccifer 2.0 to retweet it, “PLZ RT: How the election can be rigged against Donald Trump — thehill.com/blogs/pundits-…” Guccifer 2.0 responds: “done” and “I read u’d been hacked” [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on Aug. 16, 2016: With “TRUMP 2000” posters in the background from what appears to be Stone’s home office, he again tells radio host Alex Jones (around the 6 1/2-minute mark of the interview) that he has had “back-channel communications” with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange who have “political dynamite” on the Clintons. [Added April 24, 2017]
- Also on Aug. 16, 2016: In an interview on The Blaze, Stone says he has “communicated” with Julian Assange through a “mutual acquaintance.” He continues, “I think that Assange is going to be very influential in this election….” [Added April 24, 2017]
- Aug. 17, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 sends another private message to Stone: “I’m pleased to say that u r great man and I think I gonna read ur books” “please tell me if I can help u anyhow it would be a great pleasure to me.” [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on Aug. 17, 2016: The Associated Press reports that in 2012 Paul Manafort had secretly routed more than $2 million from Ukraine President Yanukovych’s governing pro-Russia governing party to two US lobbying firms working to influence American policy toward Ukraine. [Added April 17, 2017]
- Aug. 18, 2016: In a C-SPAN interview, Stone says (around the 48-minute mark of the broadcast) that he’s never met Julian Assange, but he has been in touch with him “through an intermediary — somebody who is a mutual friend.” He continues, “I expect you’re going to see more from Mr. Assange.” [Added April 24, 2017]
- Aug. 19, 2016: As reports of Manafort’s financial connections to Ukraine intensified, he resigns from the Trump campaign.
- Also on Aug. 19, 2016: On the day he resigns from the Trump campaign, Manafort records documents creating Summerbreeze LLC, a shell company that he controls. Shortly thereafter, Summerbreeze receives a $3.5 million loan from Spruce Capital, a small New York investment firm. Spruce’s co-founder is a developer of Trump hotel projects, including Trump International Hotel and Tower in Waikiki. One of Spruce’s financial backers, Alexander Rovt, is a billionaire who made his fortune in the privatization of the fertilizer industry in post-Soviet Ukraine. On Feb. 1, 2016, Rovt had shared a Manor College stage forum about Ukraine with Andrii Artemenko, a pro-Putin member of the Ukraine Parliament. In January 2017, Artemenko would resurface at the Manhattan Loews Regency hotel on Park Avenue with long-time Trump business associate Felix Sater and Trump’s personal lawyer Michael D. Cohen. During their meeting, Sater gives Cohen a sealed envelope containing Artemenko’s Ukranian-Russian peace plan and asks him to deliver it to Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. The plan would have leased Crimea to Russia for 50 or 100 years, essentially ceding to Putin the territory he had annexed illegally. [Added April 17, 2017]
- Aug. 21, 2016: Trump surrogate Roger Stone tweets:
Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) Aug. 21, 2016
[Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on Aug. 21, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 posts hacked DCCC documents on Pennsylvania’s congressional primaries. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on Aug. 21, 2016: On a local Maryland radio program, Stone denies (around the 6-minute mark of the broadcast) that Guccifer 2.0 is connected to the Russians: “The DNC leaks that nailed Deborah Wasserman Schultz in the heist against Bernie Sanders was not leaked by the Russians, it was leaked by Cruccifer [sic] 2, I should say hacked and leaked first by Cruccifer 2, well known hacker who is not in the employment of the Russians, and then WikiLeaks. So that whole claim is a canard.” [Added April 24, 2017]
- Aug. 22, 2016: Responding to Florida GOP consultant Aaron Nevins’ Aug. 12 request, Guccifer 2.0 uploads almost 2.5 gigabytes of stolen documents — including the Democratic Party’s get-out-the-vote strategy for Florida — to Nevins’ Dropbox. Guccifer 2.0 then sends Roger Stone a link to Nevins’ blog. Nevins continues posting hacked documents through the end of August, culminating in the Sept. 8, 2016 release of the DCCC’s “Democrats Turnout Model” for Florida. [Added May 30, 2017]
- Aug. 26, 2016: In an interview with Breitbart Radio, Stone says (near the 10-minute mark of the interview), “I’m almost confident Mr. Assange has virtually every one of the emails that the Clinton henchwomen, Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, thought that they had deleted, and I suspect that he’s going to drop them at strategic times in the run up to the rest of this race.” [Added April 24, 2017]
- Aug. 29, 2016: Stone tells a local Florida radio interviewer (around the 7-minute mark of the interview), “We’re going to, I think, see from WikiLeaks and other leakers see the nexus between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department.” About Assange, he says, “Perhaps he has the smoking gun that makes this handcuff time.” [Added April 24, 2017]
- Aug. 31, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 posts documents hacked from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s personal computer. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Late August 2016: CIA Director John Brennan briefs the top eight members Congress’ Intelligence Committees — the “Gang of Eight” — on intelligence that Russian cyberattacks were aimed at getting Trump elected. [Added May 22, 2017]
- Labor Day weekend 2016: According to a June 29, 2017 article in The Wall Street Journal and a July 1, 2017 follow-up piece, wealthy GOP operative Peter W. Smith sets out to get his hands on any emails that were stolen from the private email server that Hillary Clinton used while she was secretary of state. Smith assembles a team of technology experts, lawyers and a Russian-speaking investigator in Europe to help him find the emails. They identify five groups of hackers, two of which are Russian. In recruiting experts, Smith claims to be in contact with Trump adviser Mike Flynn and Flynn’s son. With one potential collaborator, he shares a packet of opposition research articles with a cover sheet listing Trump campaign officials Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and Sam Clovis. Responding to the 2017 articles in The Wall Street Journal about Smith’s effort, a Trump campaign official says Smith didn’t work for the campaign, and if Flynn coordinated with Smith, it would have been in his capacity as a private individual. Bannon says he’s never heard of Smith. Conway says she knew Smith from Republican politics, but never met with him during the campaign. About 10 days after his May 2017 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Smith dies at the age of 81. [Added July 3, 2017]
- Early September 2016: Stung by unsuccessful effort to enlist the states’ bipartisan support for shoring up the nation’s election system, senior members of the Obama administration meet with 12 key congressional leaders to seek their help. The response devolves into partisan wrangling, with Democrats wanting to alert the public about Russia’s efforts and Republicans dissenting. According to a later report in The Washington Post, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voices skepticism about whether the underlying intelligence truly supports the White House’s claims about Russian interference. [Added June 26, 2017]
- Sept. 8, 2016: Jeff Sessions meets Russian ambassador Kislyak in his Senate office. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Sept. 9, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 sends Roger Stone a link to a blog post about voter turnout, along with this message: “hi what do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign? Basically how it works is there are people who will vote party line no matter what and there are folks who will actually make a decision. The basic premise of winning an election is turnout your base (marked turnout) and target the marginal folks with persuadable advertising (marked persuadable). They spend millions calculating who is persuadable or what we call a ‘soft democrat’ and who is a ‘hard democrat.’” [Added March 13, 2017]
- Sept. 15, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 posts hacked DCCC documents on New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Sept. 16, 2016: Stone says on Boston Herald Radio (around the 12-minute mark), “I expect Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks people to drop a payload of new documents on Hillary on a weekly basis fairly soon. And that of course will answer the question of exactly what was erased on that email server.” He says he’s in touch with Assange “through an intermediary.” He also says that Hillary Clinton’s association with Putin and Russia’s oligarchs was “far more troubling to me than Donald Trump’s.” [Added April 24, 2017]
- Sept. 22, 2016: Frustrated that the White House won’t inform the public about Russian cyberattacks on the election, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) issue a statement that they had learned from intelligence briefings that Russia was directing a campaign to undermine the election. [Added June 26, 2017]
- Sept. 23, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 posts hacked DCCC documents on chairman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on Sept. 23, 2016: Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News reports US intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page had opened up private communications with senior Russian officials, including talks about the possibility of lifting economic sanctions if Trump became president. [Added April 17, 2017]
- Sept. 25, 2016: Carter Page writes to FBI Director James Comey that in 2016 he “had not met with any sanctioned official in Russia….” [Added April 17, 2017]
- Sept. 26, 2016: Amid accusations that he has ties to Russia, Carter Page takes a leave of absence from the Trump campaign. [Added April 17, 2017]
- Sept. 28, 2016: FBI Director Comey appears before the House Judiciary Committee and refuses to answer questions about whether the bureau is investigating connections between members of the Trump campaign and Russia. “We do not confirm or deny investigations,” Comey says. [Added April 24, 2017]
- October 2016: Jared Kushner’s real estate company finalizes a $285 million loan with Deutsche Bank as part of a refinancing package for its property near Times Square. In total, the refinancing deal reportedly results in Kushner’s company receiving $74 million more than it had paid for the property in 2015, when Kushner had negotiated the purchase with Lev Leviev. According to a 2007 New York Times report, Leviev — a Uzbek-born Israeli citizen who is one of the world’s wealthiest men — kept a framed photo of Vladimir Putin on his office shelf and described Putin as a “true friend,” who has helped him in his work with an influential Jewish organization in Russia. At the time of the October 2016 refinancing with Kushner’s company, Deutsche Bank was negotiating to settle New York state regulators’ charges that it had aided a possible Russian money-laundering scheme. Eventually, the state cases were settled in December and January. [Added June 26, 2017]
- Oct. 1, 2016: Six days before WikiLeaks releases emails that Russian hackers had acquired from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s email account, Trump’s informal adviser and surrogate Roger Stone tweets:
Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) Oct. 2, 2016
- Oct. 4, 2016: Trump tweets:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) Oct. 5, 2016
- Also on Oct. 4, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 posts documents hacked from the Clinton Foundation. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Oct. 7, 2016: In a joint statement, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence says, “The US Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations… We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” But two other stories dominate the news cycle: WikiLeaks begins publishing stolen emails from the account of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tapes become public.
- Oct. 12, 2016: Roger Stone tells NBC News, “I have back-channel communications with WikiLeaks.”
- Mid-October 2016: The FISA court approves a secret surveillance order authorizing the Department of Justice to investigate two banks suspected of participating in Russia’s undercover influence operation relating to the US election. [Added May 22, 2017]
- Oct. 19, 2016: During the third presidential debate, Trump dismisses the Oct. 7 US intelligence findings: “[Clinton] has no idea whether it is Russia, China or anybody else… Our country has no idea.” And he says this: “I don’t know Putin. I have no idea… I never met Putin. This is not my best friend.”
- Oct. 28, 2016: In a letter to key leaders in the House and Senate, FBI Director Comey says that in connection with the bureau’s closed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, it was reviewing emails on a computer belonging to Clinton adviser Huma Abedin. Comey says nothing about the ongoing FBI investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. [Added April 24, 2017]
- Oct. 30, 2016: According to reporting by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the $100 million plane belonging to the Russian oligarch who had bought a Florida residence from Trump for $95 million in 2008 was in Las Vegas on the same day Trump was holding a rally there. [Added March 6, 2017]
- Oct. 31, 2016: Asked about news reports that the FBI was investigating connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, former campaign manager Manafort says, “None of it is true… There’s no investigation going on by the FBI that I’m aware of.” [Added March 6, 2017]
- Nov. 3, 2016: According to reporting by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the plane belonging to the Russian oligarch who had bought a Florida residence from Trump for $95 million in 2008 was at the single-runaway airport near Concord, North Carolina, where Trump was holding a rally. [Added March 6, 2017]
- Nov. 5, 2016: In a letter to key leaders in Congress, Comey confirms that the FBI has completed its review of the additional Abedin emails and, as a result, has not changed its earlier recommendation not to recommend prosecuting Clinton for her use of a private email server. [Added April 24, 2017]
- Nov. 8, 2016: Election Day.
- Nov. 9, 2016: After Putin announced Trump’s election victory, Russia’s Parliament erupts in applause.
- Nov. 10, 2016: Russia’s deputy foreign minister admits that during the campaign, the Kremlin had continuing communications with Trump’s “immediate entourage.”
- Also on Nov. 10, 2016: During their first meeting after the election, President Obama warns Trump about appointing Mike Flynn to a top national security post. In 2014, Obama had removed Flynn as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Nov. 11, 2016: Vice President-elect Pence replaces Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) as chair of Trump’s transition team. [Added May 25, 2017] [Added May 25, 2017]
- Nov. 14, 2016: Reporters ask Mike Flynn’s business associate Robert Kelley if Turkish interests had retained their consulting firm from August through Election Day because of Flynn’s close relationship with Trump. “I hope so,” Kelley says. The subject of Flynn’s lobbying activities for Turkey comes up again periodically in news reports throughout November and December. [Added May 22, 2017]
- Nov. 18, 2016: Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sends Trump transition team chair (and Vice President-elect) Mike Pence a letter expressing concerns about national security adviser-designate Mike Flynn’s conflicts of interest. Specifically, Cummings worries about Flynn’s work for an entity affiliated with the government of Turkey, as well as a paid trip to Moscow in December 2015 during which Flynn was “highly critical of the United States.” [Added May 8, 2017]
- Nov. 28, 2016: Trump’s transition team acknowledges receipt of Cummings’ Nov. 18 letter regarding Mike Flynn. [Added May 30, 2017]
- Late November 2016: In a meeting that includes senior Trump transition national security team members, national security adviser-designate Mike Flynn reveals he has scheduled a conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In attendance is Marshall Billingslea, a member of the team who had been a senior Pentagon official for President George W. Bush. He warns Flynn that any such communications carry risks because US intelligence agencies are almost certainly monitoring Kislyak’s conversations. After the meeting, Billingsea asks national security officials in the Obama White House for a copy of the classified CIA profile of Kislyak. [Added May 8, 2017]
- Winter 2016: According to US Attorney Rod Rosenstein, during one of his first interviews with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to become deputy attorney general in the Trump administration, they discuss “the need for new leadership at the FBI.” [Added May 30, 2017]
- Early December 2016: In Moscow, Russians arrest a Russian computer security expert and two high-level intelligence officers who worked on cyber operations. They are charged with treason for providing information to the United States. The arrests amount to a purge of the cyber wing of the FSB, successor to the KGB and the main Russian intelligence agency. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Also in December 2016: Officials in the Obama administration become concerned that the incoming administration would cover up or destroy previously gathered intelligence relating Russia’s interference with the election. To preserve that intelligence for future investigations, they spread it across the government. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Dec. 1 or 2, 2016: Unbeknownst to the press covering the comings and going at Trump Tower, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak visits Trump Tower to meet with Kushner and Trump’s national security adviser-designate Mike Flynn. According to a later report in The Washington Post, Kislyak reports to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner makes a surprising suggestion: use Russia’s diplomatic facilities in the US for a secret and secure communications channel between Trump and the Kremlin prior to the inauguration. According to The Post, Kushner wanted to use the Russian embassy so that American officials could not monitor the discussions. Later that month, an anonymous letter tipped off The Washington Post to what Kushner had supposedly said at the meeting. [Added May 30, 2017]
- Dec. 8, 2016: Carter Page is in Moscow for several days to meet with “business leaders and thought leaders.” [Added March 6, 2017]
- Dec. 9, 2016: In response to a Washington Post report that the CIA had concluded Russia had intervened in the election to help Trump win, he says, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’ ”
- Also on Dec. 9, 2016: Paul Manafort tells CBS News he is not active in the Trump transition. Asked if he is talking to President-elect Trump, Manafort says, “I don’t really want to talk about who I’m speaking to, but I’m aware of what’s going on.” Interviewers also question him about the appearance of his name among the handwritten entries in the Ukraine Party of Regions’ Black Ledger from 2007 to 2012 (purporting to show more than $12 million in payments to him). Manafort responds that the ledger was fabricated. [Added April 17, 2017]
- Dec. 11, 2016: Trump praises Rex Tillerson, chairman of ExxonMobil and recipient of Russia’s “Order of Friendship” Medal from Vladimir Putin in 2013, as “much more than a business executive” and a “world-class player.” Trump says Tillerson “knows many of the players” and did “massive deals in Russia” for Exxon. Two days later, Trump nominates him to be secretary of state.
- Also on Dec. 11, 2016: Asked about the earlier US intelligence report on hacking, Trump says, “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea.”
- Dec. 12, 2016: While in Moscow, Trump’s former campaign surrogate Jack Kingston meets with Russian businessmen to discuss what they might expect from a Trump administration. “Trump can look at sanctions,” Kingston says. “They’ve been in place long enough.” [Added March 3, 2017.]
- Dec. 13, 2016: NBC News’ Richard Engel reports from Moscow on Trump’s secretary of state pick, Rex Tillerson. Former Russian Energy Minister Vladimir Milov tells Engel that Tillerson was a “gift for Putin.”
- Sometime in December 2016: At Kislyak’s request, Kushner meets secretly with Sergey Gorkov, chief of Russia’s state-owned bank VEB. US intelligence reportedly views Gorkov as a “Putin crony” and a graduate of a “finishing school” for spies. In 2010, VEB had been involved in a financial transaction that assisted the struggling Trump International Hotel and Tower project in Toronto. Since 2014, VEB has been subject to US sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and meddling in Ukraine. In December 2016, Kushner is still looking for more than $1 billion from investors to refinance Kushner Companies’ debt on its troubled 666 Fifth Avenue building. The public remains unaware of the Kushner/Gorkov meeting until March 2017, when The New York Times breaks the story. The White House characterizes it as a routine diplomatic encounter that went nowhere, but VEB says it was part of the bank’s ongoing business strategy. For months thereafter, the White House refuses to disclose the date of the meeting. On June 1, 2017, The Washington Post reports the results of its independent investigation: On Dec. 13, 2016, a private plane associated with VEB (and on which its executives travel) flew from Moscow to Newark airport outside New York City. The following day, the plane then flew to Japan, where Putin met with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Dec. 15. [Revised June 5, 2017]
- Dec. 29, 2016: On the same day President Obama announces sanctions against Russia in retaliation for its interference in the 2016 election, national security adviser-designate Lt. Gen. Flynn places five phone calls to the Russian ambassador.
- Dec. 30, 2016: After Putin makes a surprise announcement that Russia would not retaliate for the new sanctions, Trump tweets:
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2016
- Late December 2016: Steve Bannon joins Flynn and Kushner for a secretive meeting with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who made an undisclosed visit to New York later in December. [Added May 30, 2017]
- Jan. 3, Jan. 4 and Jan. 5, 2017: Trump tweets a series of attacks on the integrity of the US intelligence community’s findings that Russia had hacked the election.
- Also on Jan. 4, 2017: National security adviser-designate Mike Flynn tells the transition team’s chief counsel Donald F. McGahn II that he is under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey. Flynn’s lawyer followed up, but did not get a call back until Jan. 6. [Added May 18, 2017]
- Jan. 6, 2017: The CIA, FBI and NSA release their unclassified report, concluding unanimously, “Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” The three intelligence agencies agree that “the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible.” The report also states that WikiLeaks had been Russia’s conduit for the effort, writing “We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.” [Updated March 13, 2017]
- Also on Jan. 6, 2017: FBI Director Comey meets Trump for the first time at a meeting with the intelligence community to brief him on the investigation into Russian interference with the election. At the end of the meeting, Comey remains alone to brief Trump on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled, referred to as the “Steele dossier.” During that meeting, Comey says that the FBI does not have an open counter-intelligence case on him personally. Comey prepares a memo to document his conversation with Trump. [Added June 12, 2017]
- Jan. 10, 2017: At Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing to become attorney general, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) asks him, “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?” Sessions answers: “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.” [Updated March 4, 2017]
- Also on Jan. 10, 2017: President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, informs Trump of the military plan to retake the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa with the help of Syrian Kurdish forces. Obama’s team informed Trump because execution of the plan would not occur until after the inauguration. Turkey has long opposed US forces partnering with Kurdish forces in the region. Trump national security adviser-designate Flynn tells Rice to hold off on approving the mission. [Added May 22, 2017]
- On or around Jan. 11, 2017: Erik Prince — the founder of the Blackwater private security firm, $250,000 donor to the Trump campaign, and brother of Trump’s nomination for secretary of education Betsy DeVos —
meets secretly in the Seychelles Islands with a Russian close to Putin. Russia’s goal is to establish a back-channel line of communication with the Trump administration. The meeting had been arranged by the United Arab Emirates, and came soon after a meeting between the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Mike Flynn and Jared Kushner in December. [Added May 22, 2017]
- Jan. 11, 2017: At his first news conference, Trump says, “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.” The final question of Trump’s first news conference comes from Ann Compton of ABC News: “Mr. President-elect, can you stand here today, once and for all, and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?” Trump never answered her. Away from cameras and heading toward the elevators, he reportedly says, “No,” his team didn’t have contact with Russia.
- Also on Jan. 11, 2017: Sheri Dillon, Trump’s outside lawyer and a partner in the Morgan, Lewis & Bockius law firm, presents the plan to deal with Trump’s business conflicts of interest during his presidency. The plan allows Trump to retain beneficial ownership in all of his businesses. Across the political spectrum, legal experts agree the plan is a sham because, among other things, it does not require Trump to divest his holdings. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Jan. 13, 2017: In response to The Washington Post’s article about Flynn’s Dec. 29 conversations with the Russian ambassador, press secretary Sean Spicer says it was only one call. They “exchanged logistical information” for an upcoming call between Trump and Vladimir Putin after the inauguration.
- Jan. 14, 2017: A member of Trump’s transition team says that Maryland US Attorney Rod Rosenstein will replace Sally Yates as deputy attorney general. In a statement to Congress on May 19, Rosenstein said that prior to his nomination, in one of his first meetings with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions after the election, he and Sessions had discussed the need for new leadership at the FBI. [Added May 22, 2017]
- Jan. 15, 2017: “We should trust Putin,” Trump tells The Times of London. Expressing once again his skepticism about NATO, Trump lambastes German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
- Also on Jan. 15, 2017: Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation, Vice President Pence says Flynn’s call to the Russian ambassador on the same day President Obama announced new sanctions was “strictly coincidental,” explaining: “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure on Russia…. What I can confirm, having to spoken with [Flynn] about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.” Host John Dickerson asks Pence, “Just to button up one question, did any advisor or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?” Pence replies, “Of course not. And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.” [Revised May 30, 2017]
- Also on Jan. 15, 2017: On Fox News Sunday, Pence denies contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. Responding to Chris Wallace, Pence says, “All the contact by the Trump campaign and associates were with the American people.” On a third try, Wallace asks if Pence had ever asked Donald Trump if there were any contacts in the campaign between Trump or his associates and Russians, Pence answers, “Of course not.” [Added May 25, 2017]
- Jan. 18, 2017: On his application for national security clearance, Jared Kushner omits his December meetings with Russian Ambassador Kislyak and the chief of the Russian bank VEB. [Added May 30, 2017]
- Jan. 19, 2017: The New York Times reports that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, along with advisers Roger Stone and Carter Page, are under investigation in connection with possible links to Russia. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Jan. 20, 2017: Trump is inaugurated.
- Jan. 22, 2017: Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was sworn in as national security adviser, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.
- Also on Jan. 22, 2017: FBI Director James Comey is reluctant to attend a White House ceremony honoring law enforcement because, according to his friend Benjamin Wittes, he doesn’t want the director of the bureau to have a close relationship with any president. But Comey ultimately decides to go. Wittes later tells The New York Times and writes at Lawfare that Comey, noticing that the drapes were a similar shade of blue to his blazer, tried to blend in with them at the far end of the room — as far from Trump as he could get. As the ceremony concludes, Trump calls him over, saying, “Oh, and there’s Jim. He’s become more famous than me.” According to Wittes’ account, as Comey takes the long walk across the room, he is determined that he will not hug Trump. To protect the bureau’s integrity, Comey wants to avoid showing warmth toward him. As Comey preemptively reaches out to shake hands, Trump grabs his hand and attempts an embrace. Comey is “disgusted” and, according to Wittes, regards the move as a “physical attempt to show closeness and warmth in a fashion calculated to compromise him before Democrats who already mistrusted him.” [Added May 22, 2017]
- Jan. 23, 2017: At Sean Spicer’s first press briefing, Spicer says that none of Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador touched on the Dec. 29 sanctions. That got the attention of FBI Director James Comey. According to The Wall Street Journal, Comey convinced acting Attorney General Sally Yates to delay informing the White House immediately about the discrepancy between Spicer’s characterization of Flynn’s calls and US intelligence intercepts showing that the two had, in fact, discussed sanctions. Comey reportedly asked Yates to wait a bit longer so that the FBI could develop more information and speak with Flynn himself. The FBI interviews Flynn shortly thereafter.
- Jan. 24, 2017: According to a subsequent article in The Washington Post, Flynn reportedly denied to FBI agents that he had discussed US sanctions against Russia in his December 2016 calls with the Russian ambassador.
- Jan. 26, 2017: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informs White House Counsel Don McGahn that, based on recent public statements of White House officials including Vice President Mike Pence, Flynn had lied to Pence and others about his late-December conversations with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. According to Sean Spicer, Trump and a small group of White House advisers were “immediately informed of the situation.” [Added May 15, 2017]
- Jan. 27, 2017: McGahn asks Yates to return to the White House for another discussion about Flynn. He asks Yates, “Why does it matter to the Department of Justice if one White House official lies to another?” Yates explains that Flynn’s lies make him vulnerable to Russian blackmail because the Russians know that Flynn lied and could probably prove it. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on Jan. 27, 2017: At lunchtime, Trump calls FBI Director Comey and invites him to dinner that evening. In a one-on-one White House dinner in the Green Room, Trump asks Comey if he would like to stay on as director, which strikes Comey as odd because Trump had told him in two earlier conversations that he wanted Comey to remain. Comey says that he intends to serve out his full 10-year term. He also says that he’s not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but that Trump could always count on him to tell the truth. A few moments later, Trump says, “I need loyalty; I expect loyalty.” An awkward silence follows. The conversation moves to other subjects, including Comey’s explanation of why the FBI must remain independent of the White House. At the end of the dinner, Trump repeats, “I need loyalty.” Comey responds, “You will always get honesty from me.” Trump replies, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” To end the awkward conversation, Comey says, “You will get that from me.” Afterward, Comey writes a detailed memo about the dinner and describes it to the FBI’s senior leadership team on the condition that they not disclose it while he remains director. [Revised June 12, 2017]
- During the week following the Jan. 20, 2017 inauguration: Trump administration officials are considering an executive order to lift unilaterally the US sanctions against Russia. Removing the sanctions also would have expanded greatly the Russian bank VEB’s ability to do business in the US, and allowed Americans to borrow from and provide financing to the bank. Five months later, Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff breaks the rest of the story: “Unknown to the public at the time, top Trump administration officials, almost as soon as they took office, tasked State Department staffers with developing proposals for the lifting of economic sanctions, the return of diplomatic compounds and other steps to relieve tensions with Moscow.” State Department officials are so alarmed that they urge congressional leaders to pass legislation that would lock the sanctions in place. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) become involved. [Added June 5, 2017]
- Jan. 29, 2017: TIME photographs Trump at his desk in the Oval Office. Sitting across from him are Kushner and Flynn, about whom Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House earlier that week. The caption indicates that Trump is speaking on the phone with King Salman of Saudi Arabia. [Added May 30, 2017]
- Jan. 30, 2017: Trump fires Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. According to his statement, the reason was that she had “betrayed the Department of Justice” by refusing to defend Trump’s travel ban in court.
- Jan. 31, 2017: The White House announces its intention to nominate Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general. [Added May 22, 2017]
- Late January 2017: At the Manhattan Loews Regency hotel on Park Avenue, Trump’s personal attorney, Michael D. Cohen, meets with Felix Sater and Andrii Artemenko, a pro-Putin lawmaker from Ukraine. Artemenko and Sater gave Cohen a peace plan whereby Russia would lease Ukraine for 50 or 100 years and, eventually, get relief from US sanctions. According to The New York Times, Cohen says he would give the plan to national security adviser Michael Flynn. Responding to questions from The Washington Post, Cohen denies that statement, calling it “fake news.” [Added March 3, 2017]
- Feb. 7, 2017: Sens. Cardin and Graham introduce bipartisan legislation that would bar Trump from granting sanctions relief to Russia without congressional involvement. [Added June 5, 2017]
- Feb. 8, 2017: Flynn tells reporters at The Washington Post he did not discuss US sanctions in his December conversation with the Russian ambassador.
- Also on Feb. 8, 2017: Jeff Sessions, the first senator to endorse Trump’s candidacy and the former chair of the Trump campaign’s national security advisory committee, becomes attorney general. Every Republican senator and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia votes to confirm him. During the confirmation process, Sessions had said he was “not aware of a basis to recuse myself” from the Justice Department’s Russia-related investigations of Trump.
- Feb. 9, 2017: Through a spokesman, Flynn changes his position: “While [Flynn] had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
- Feb. 10, 2017: Trump tells reporters he was unaware of reports surrounding Flynn’s December conversations with the Russian ambassador.
- Also on Feb. 10, 2017: On the Friday preceding Trump’s weekend at Mar-A-Lago, the plane belonging to the Russian oligarch who had bought a Florida residence from Trump for $95 million in 2008 flies from the south of France to Miami International Airport. [Added March 6, 2017]
- Feb. 13, 2017: The Washington Post breaks another story: Then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned the White House in late January that Flynn had mischaracterized his December conversation with the Russian ambassador, and that it made him vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Later that evening, Flynn resigns.
- Feb. 14, 2017: The New York Times corroborates the Russian deputy foreign minister’s admission on Nov. 10. Based on information from four current and former American officials, The Times reports, “phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.” (On June 8, 2017, former FBI Director James Comey said of the Times story: “In the main, it was not true,” without specifying its inaccuracies.) Meanwhile, on Feb. 14, advisers to Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterate his earlier position: Sessions sees no need to recuse himself from the ongoing Justice Department investigations into Trump/Russia connections.[Revised June 12, 2017]
- Also on Feb. 14, 2017: Press secretary Sean Spicer denies that anyone in the Trump campaign had any contacts with Russia during the campaign. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Also on Feb. 14, 2017: At the conclusion of an Oval Office meeting that includes Vice President Pence, Attorney General Sessions and FBI Director Comey, Trump asks everyone except Comey to leave. The last person to leave is Jared Kushner. When Comey and Trump are alone, Trump says, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” In a June 8 statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey recalls that Trump “began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the vice president. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.” After discussing the subject of classified information leaks, Trump returns to the topic of Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeats that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled Pence. He then says, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Comey replies only that “he is a good guy.” Comey later testifies that he understood Trump to be requesting that the FBI drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. He writes up a memorandum of his conversation and discusses the matter with the FBI’s senior leadership. [Revised June 12, 2017]
- Feb. 15, 2017: Trump tweets a series of outbursts attacking the Trump/Russia connection as “nonsense,” diverting attention to “un-American” leaks in which “information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy.” Shortly thereafter, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and other congressional Republicans formally ask the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate the leaks, but they and their GOP colleagues resist the creation of an independent bipartisan commission with the power to convene public hearings and discover the truth about the Trump/Russia connections.
- Also on Feb. 15, 2017: During an afternoon appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump refuses to answer questions about connections between his presidential campaign and Russia. That evening, The New York Times reports that Trump is planning to appoint Stephen Feinberg, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Trump ally, to lead “a broad review of American intelligence agencies.” Feinberg has no prior experience in intelligence or government, but he has close ties to Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.
- Also on Feb. 15, 2017: FBI Director Comey asks Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prevent any further direct communication between Trump and him. He tells Sessions that what had just occurred — that he, the attorney general, had been asked to leave so that the president could be alone with the FBI director — was inappropriate and should never happen. Sessions doesn’t answer. [Added June 12, 2017]
- And also on Feb. 15, 2017: Chief of staff Reince Priebus asks FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to rebut publicly The New York Times’ story about Trump aides’ contacts with Russia during the campaign. McCabe and FBI Director Comey refuse. The White House then asks senior intelligence officials and key lawmakers — including the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees conducting the Trump/Russia investigation — to contact the media and counter the Times story themselves. [Added March 3, 2017]
- And also on Feb. 15, 2017: Former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page deny having any meetings in 2016 with Russian officials inside or outside Russia: “I had no meetings, no meetings.” [Added March 6, 2017]
- Feb. 16, 2017: Trump continues his diversionary twitter assault on the intelligence leaks that were fueling intensified scrutiny of his Russia connections. At Trump’s afternoon press conference, he says: “I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia… Russia is fake news. Russia — this is fake news put out by the media.” Reporters ask repeatedly about anyone else involved with Trump or his campaign. “No,” Trump says. “Nobody that I know of.”
- Feb. 17, 2017: FBI Director Comey meets privately with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss the Russia investigation. Immediately thereafter, the Committee sends a letter asking more than a dozen agencies, organizations and individuals — including the White House — to preserve all communications related to the Senate panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Also on Feb. 17, 2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee sends Roger Stone a letter asking him to preserve any records he had in connection with the Committee’s inquiry into Russia’s interference in the US election. [Added March 20, 2017]
- Feb. 19, 2017: NBC’s Chuck Todd questions Reince Priebus about Flynn’s firing. The White House line was that Trump had fired Flynn because he’d lied to Vice President Pence about his conversations with the Russians about US sanctions. But that left an awkward gap of more than two weeks during which Trump apparently knew about Flynn’s deception before firing him. “Why did more than a week go by before the vice president was informed of this issue?” Todd asks. “Well, I think he was always aware of the issue as to whether or not he talked about sanctions,” Priebus answers. Later, Todd asks about the more than two-week delay between Yates’ disclosure of Flynn’s deception and Trump’s decision to fire him. “Waiting that long, do you regret that it looks like that the vice president is essentially not in the loop?” Todd asks. “No,” Priebus replies, “the vice president’s in the loop on everything, Chuck.” [Added May 25, 2017]
- Feb. 20-26, 2017: Trump continues his attacks on the media and the FBI leaks that were generating the Trump/Russia stories. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Feb. 25, 2017: Nigel Farage, ex-leader of the UK Independence Party, key Brexit campaigner and one of Donald Trump’s most visible foreign supporters during and after the presidential campaign, dines with Trump, daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Florida Gov. Rick Scott at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Feb. 26, 2017: NBC’s Chuck Todd notes a pattern: Trump’s attacks on the press followed immediately after a new and unflattering Trump/Russia story breaks. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Feb. 28, 2017: On a party line vote, the House Judiciary Committee kills Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s Resolution of Inquiry calling for Trump to provide documents relating to Trump/Russia connections and his business conflicts of interest. [Added March 3, 2017]
- Also on Feb. 28, 2017: More than 10 days after the Senate Intelligence Committee had requested that the White House and other agencies preserve Trump/Russia-related communications, the White House counsel’s office instructs Trump’s aides to preserve such materials, according to a March 1 report by the Associated Press. [Added March 3, 2017]
- March 1, 2017: In response to reports in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times about Jeff Sessions’ pre-election contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sessions issues a statement saying he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss any issues of the campaign.” [Added March 3, 2017]
- Also on March 1, 2017: As Director Comey prepares to board a helicopter, he receives a message from the White House: Trump wants to speak with him urgently. Comey delays his flight but, according to Wittes, soon realizes that Trump wants only to “chitchat.” [Added May 22, 2017]
- March 2, 2017: Trump says he has “total confidence” in Jeff Sessions and he shouldn’t recuse himself from the Russia investigation. An hour later, Sessions recuses himself “from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.” [Revised March 13, 2017]
- Also March 2, 2017: Despite an earlier denial, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page admits to meeting with Russian ambassador Kislyak during the campaign. Another adviser, J.D. Gordon, admits that he’d met with Kislyak during the Republican Convention in July. Gordon says he had successfully urged changes in the party platform that Trump had sought to soften US policy regarding Ukraine. [Added March 6, 2017]
- Also March 2, 2017: The New York Times reports, and the White House confirms, a previously undisclosed meeting involving Mike Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Russian Ambassador Kislyak. According to The Times, “Michael T. Flynn, then Donald J. Trump’s incoming national security adviser, had a previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador in December to ‘establish a line of communication’ between the new administration and the Russian government, the White House said on Thursday. Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and now a senior adviser, also participated in the meeting at Trump Tower with Mr. Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.” [Added May 30, 2017]
- March 4, 2017: Trump is reportedly furious that Jeff Sessions had recused himself from the Trump/Russia investigation. He unleashes a tweet-storm, claiming that President Obama had wiretapped his phones during the presidential campaign. Stunned by Trump’s outburst, White House staffers begin searching for evidence to support his false wiretap claim. Among those reportedly involved in the effort are White House Counsel Donald McGahn II and Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a 30-year-old Trump transition team member whom former national security adviser Mike Flynn had brought to the White House as senior director for intelligence programs. [Revised April 3, 2017]
- Also on March 4, 2017: Stone tweets — then deletes — about his communications with Assange: “[N]ever denied perfectly legal back channel to Assange who indeed had the goods on #CrookedHillary.” Forty minutes later, the tweet was gone. [Added April 24, 2017]
- March 5, 2017: FBI Director Comey asked the Justice Department to rebut publicly Trump’s assertion that President Obama had ordered the wiretapping of Trump’s phones. Meanwhile, Sean Spicer announces that neither Trump nor the White House would comment further on Trump/Russia matters until Congress completes an investigation into whether President Obama’s executive branch abused its powers during 2016 election. [Added March 6, 2017]
- March 7, 2017: WikiLeaks releases a trove of alleged CIA documents relating to the agency’s hacking tools for smartphones, computers and internet-connected devices. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on March 7, 2017: Michael Ellis, 32-year-old general counsel to Nunes’ intelligence committee, joins White House Counsel McGahn’s office as “special assistant to the president, senior associate counsel to the president and deputy National Security Council legal adviser.” [Added April 3, 2017]
- Also on March 7, 2017: Former national security adviser Mike Flynn files registration documents confirming that between August 2016 and Election Day, he’d earned $530,000 for lobbying work on behalf of a company owned by a Turkish businessman. Flynn acknowledges that his work as a foreign agent could have benefitted the Turkish government. [Added May 22, 2017]
- March 8, 2017: Nigel Farage meets with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Embassy of Ecuador in London, where Assange had found sanctuary since 2012. [Added March 13, 2017]
- March 9, 2017: In an online press conference, Assange threatens to release more documents relating to CIA’s hacking capabilities and methods. [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on March 9, 2017: When reporters ask Sean Spicer about Nigel Farage’s meeting with Julian Assange and whether Farage was delivering a message from Trump, Sean Spicer says, “I have no idea.” [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on March 9, 2017: Responding to questions about Mike Flynn’s lobbying activities for Turkish interests during the campaign and thereafter, Vice President Mike Pence tells Fox News’ Bret Baier twice that he’d just learned of it: “Well, let me say, hearing that story today was the first I’d heard of it. And I fully support the decision that President Trump made to ask for Gen. Flynn’s resignation.” BAIER: “You’re disappointed by the story?” PENCE: “The first I heard of it, and I think it is, uh, it is an affirmation of the president’s decision to ask Gen. Flynn to resign.” Asked whether Trump knew about Flynn’s activities on behalf of Turkish interests, Sean Spicer says, “I don’t believe that that was known.” [Added May 22, 2017]
- March 10, 2017: Trump campaign surrogate Roger Stone admits that in August 2016 he had engaged in private direct messaging with Guccifer 2.0, whom US intelligence agencies later identified as the persona for the Russian hacking operation. Describing the messages as “completely innocuous,” Stone says, “It was so perfunctory, brief and banal I had forgotten it.” [Added March 13, 2017]
- Also on March 10, 2017: Mike Flynn’s replacement as national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, tells Ezra Cohen-Watnick that he is reassigning him. Unhappy with the decision, Cohen-Watnick appeals to Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. They intervene and take the issue to Trump, who orders that Cohen-Watnick should remain in his position. [Added April 3, 2017]
- Also on March 10, 2017: Senior Democratic members of the House Committee on Financial Services write to the committee’s chairman requesting “a formal assessment of the [Justice] Department’s investigation into Deutsche Bank’s Russian money-laundering scheme, including a review of Attorney General Session’s role in conducting the investigation.” The letter cites the bank’s recent payment of more than $600 million to settle claims that its inadequate controls failed to prevent “a group of corrupt traders from improperly and secretly transferring more than $10 billion out of Russia.” The letter also expresses concern that Deutsche Bank “is one of Trump’s top creditors with an estimated $360 million in outstanding loans to his companies.” [Added June 26, 2017]
- March 12, 2017: John McCain tells CNN’s Jake Tapper that former Trump adviser and surrogate Roger Stone “obviously” needs to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee concerning his communications with Guccifer 2.0. McCain says that Stone should also explain fully his involvement matters relating to Ukraine’s pro-Putin former president. [Added March 20, 2017]
- March 13, 2017: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr says Roger Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 are part of the Committee’s ongoing investigation and that Stone could be called to testify. [Added March 20, 2017]
- March 14, 2017: House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes and ranking member Adam Schiff invite former acting Attorney General Sally Yates to testify before their committee at an open hearing on March 28, 2017. [Added April 3, 2017]
- March 15, 2017: Roger Stone is riding in the front passenger seat of a car near Pompano Beach, Florida, when another car broadsides his, shifts gears, backs up and speeds away. In January, Stone had claimed that he was poisoned in late 2016 with polonium, a radioactive material manufactured in a nuclear reactor and used to kill former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Litvinenko had defected to Britain and become an outspoken critic of Putin. As he lay in a hospital bed, he said Putin had been responsible for his impending death. On Jan. 21, 2016, retired British High Court Judge Sir Robert Owen concluded a House of Commons inquiry and issued a 328-page report finding that Litvinenko’s accusation was probably correct. [Added March 20, 2017]
- Also on March 15, 2017: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, says the committee has no evidence to support Trump’s March 4 wiretapping claim. “I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower,” Nunes says. “Are you going to take the tweets literally? If you are, clearly the president is wrong.” [Added March 20, 2017]
- Also on March 15, 2017: On the subject of his wiretapping claims, Trump tells Fox News, “I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.” [Added April 3, 2017]
- March 16, 2017: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders issue a joint statement rebutting Trump’s unfounded assertion that President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower: “Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.” [Added March 20, 2017]
- March 17, 2017: Roger Stone says he had only just received the letter from the Senate Intelligence Committee, dated Feb. 17, asking him to preserve his records relating to Russian election interference. Quoted in The New York Times, Stone says, “I had never heard allegations that Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian asset until now, and am not certain it’s correct.” He says that his 16 interactions with Guccifer 2.0, which included public Twitter posts and private messages, were all part of “exchanges,” not “separate contacts.” [Added March 20, 2017]
- March 20, 2017: On the morning of FBI Director Comey’s testimony before Congress on his agency’s investigation into Russian election interference, Trump tweets:
The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2017
Hours later, Comey testifies that the FBI was investigating Russian interference with election, including “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” With respect to Trump’s wiretapping claims, Comey says, “I have no information that supports those tweets.” [Revised May 22, 2017]
- March 20, 2017: In a House Intelligence Committee public hearing, Paul Manafort’s name comes up more than two dozen times. [Added March 27, 2017]
- Within days of March 20, 2017: Less than a week after FBI Director Comey’s testimony, Trump personally calls the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, and the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Mike Rogers, and asks them to deny publicly the existence of any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia prior to the election. A senior intelligence official later tells The Washington Post that Trump’s goal is to “muddy the waters” about the scope of the FBI probe at a time when Democrats are ramping up their calls for the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel. A NSA official reportedly documents Rogers’ conversation with Trump in a contemporaneous memo. Coats and Rogers deem Trump’s request inappropriate and refuse. Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 7, 2017, Rogers refuses in open session to answer questions about his conversations with Trump about FBI Director Comey. But Rogers goes on to assert that he does not recall ever feeling “pressured” to interfere with any ongoing investigation. Coats adopts Rogers’ response, as do fellow testifying witnesses Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. [Revised June 12, 2017]
- March 21, 2017: In his daily press briefing, Sean Spicer says that, with respect to the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort had “played a very limited role for a very limited period of time.” [Added March 27, 2017]
- March 22, 2017: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, bypasses his fellow committee members and goes directly to the White House with alleged evidence that Trump associates may have been “incidentally” swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies. Nunes refuses to release the information or name his sources, even to fellow committee members. And he confirms that he still had seen no evidence to support Trump’s claim that President Obama had ordered his wires tapped. [Added March 27, 2017]
- Also on March 22, 2017: In a joint letter to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee request information and documents relating to payments that former national security adviser Mike Flynn received from entities affiliated with foreign governments, including Russia and Turkey. [Added May 2, 2017]
- Also on March 22, 2017: As a briefing from several government agencies concludes in the Oval Office, Trump asks everyone to leave, except recently confirmed Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Trump then complains to them about FBI Director Comey’s Trump/Russia investigation and asks Coats to intervene and get Comey to back off. Coats discusses the matter with other officials and decides that Trump’s request is inappropriate. Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 7, 2017, Coats refuses in open session to discuss his conversations with Trump. [Added June 12, 2017]
- March 23, 2017: In a letter to acting Assistant Attorney General Samuel R. Ramer, Sally Yates’ lawyer disagrees with the Justice Department’s objections to Yates’ anticipated congressional testimony. Associate Deputy Attorney General Scott Schools responds that Yates’ testimony is “likely covered by the presidential communications privilege and possibly the deliberative process privilege.” But Schools adds that Yates needs only the consent of the White House, not the Justice Department, to testify. [Added April 3, 2017]
- March 24, 2017: Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Roger Stone volunteer to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee. [Added March 27, 2017]
- Also on March 24, 2017: Yates’ lawyer writes to White House Counsel McGahn about Yates’ upcoming testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. He notes that unless McGahn objects before 10 a.m. on March 27, Yates will appear and answer the committee’s questions. [Added April 3, 2017]
- Also on March 24, 2017: Rep. Nunes cancels public hearings scheduled for March 28. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates had been slated to testify before his committee. Nunes postpones their appearances indefinitely. [Added March 27, 2017]
- March 26, 2017: In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Roger Stone says, “I reiterate again, I have had no contacts or collusions with the Russians. And my exchange with Guccifer 2.0, based on the content and the timing, most certainly does not constitute collusion.” [Added March 27, 2017]
- March 27, 2017: Trump tweets that the House Intelligence Committee should be looking into Bill and Hillary Clinton’s ties to Russia: “Trump Russia story is a hoax.” [Added April 3, 2017]
- Also on March 27, 2017: During lunch with Benjamin Wittes, Comey says he’s worried about Trump’s nominee for deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. “Rod is a survivor,” he says, explaining that a person doesn’t survive for more than 25 years across Republican and Democratic administrations without making compromises. “So I have concerns.” Wittes later says he thinks Comey’s concerns stemmed, in part, from his “loyalty dinner” with Trump. If Trump had asked Comey for personal loyalty, what had he asked of Rosenstein? [Added May 22, 2017]
- Also on March 27, 2017: The New York Times reports the previously undisclosed December meeting between Kushner and Sergey Gorkov, head of the Russian bank VEB. On May 29, 2017, the White House says that Kushner met the banker “in his capacity as a transition official.” The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to question Kushner about both of Kushner’s December meetings with Kislyak and Gorkov. [Added June 5, 2017]
- March 30, 2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee opens its hearings into the Trump/Russia investigation. Clinton Watts, senior fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security and former FBI agent, testifies that the committee should follow the money funding misinformation websites. Watts then adds a more ominous suggestion: “Follow the trail of dead Russians,” he says. “There’s been more dead Russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation who have assets in banks all over the world. They are dropping dead, even in Western countries.” Eight Russian politicians, activists, ambassadors and a former intelligence official have died since Trump’s election. Some were apparent assassinations. [Added April 3, 2017]
- Also March 30, 2017: The New York Times reports that Nunes’ sources for the information that he’d reviewed nine days earlier on White House grounds — and then reported to Trump directly without informing anyone on his committee — are two members of the Trump administration: Ezra Cohen-Watnick (the NSC staffer whose job Trump had saved personally around March 13) and Michael Ellis (who had served as general counsel of Nunes’ committee before becoming Trump’s “special assistant, senior associate counsel and deputy National Security Council legal adviser” on March 7). [Added April 3, 2017]
- Also on March 30, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reports that Mike Flynn is seeking immunity from prosecution in return for testifying before congressional intelligence committees. The next day, his lawyer confirms, “Gen. Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should circumstances permit.” [Added April 3, 2017]
- Also on March 30, 2017: In the morning, according to Comey’s June 8 statement, Trump calls Comey at the FBI, asking what Comey can do to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation overhanging the presidency. Trump asks Comey to “get out” the fact that Trump personally is not a subject of the FBI investigation. According to Comey, Trump says “he had nothing to do with Russia” and “had not been involved with hookers in Russia,” referring to allegations in the “Steele dossier.” Trump “went on to say that if there were some ‘satellite’ associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out…” [Added June 12, 2017]
- March 31, 2017: Trump tweets:
Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 31, 2017
[Added April 3, 2017]
- Also on March 31, 2017: During an appearance with Bill Maher, Roger Stone denies that Guccifer 2.0 was an arm of Russia. “I’ve had no contacts with Russians,” he insists. [Added April 3, 2017]
- Also on March 31, 2017: Jared Kushner submits his financial disclosure form to the Office of Government Ethics. It reports that he holds jointly with his mother a $25 million personal line of credit from Deutsche Bank. [Added June 26, 2017]
- April 5, 2017: In an interview with The New York Times, Trump says, “The Russia story is a total hoax.” [Added April 10, 2017]
- April 6, 2017: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) recuses himself from the Trump/Russia investigation. Texas Rep. Mike Conaway assumes control. [Added April 10, 2017]
- Also on April 6, 2017: The New York Times reports that Jared Kushner’s application for national security clearance had failed to disclose his December meetings at Trump Tower with Russian Ambassador Kislyak and the CEO of the Russian bank, VEB. In a statement, Kushner’s attorney says that after learning of the error, Mr. Kushner told the FBI: “During the presidential campaign and transition period, I served as a point-of-contact for foreign officials trying to reach the president-elect. I had numerous contacts with foreign officials in this capacity. … I would be happy to provide additional information about these contacts.” [Added May 30, 2017]
- April 11, 2017: In the morning, according to Comey’s June 8 statement, Trump calls Comey to ask what he’d done to “get out” the fact that he wasn’t personally being investigated. Comey replies that he’d sent Trump’s request to the acting attorney general, but had not heard back. Trump says that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. Comey replies that White House counsel should contact the Department of Justice leadership to make the request. Trump says he would do that and adds, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” Comey does not reply or ask him what Trump means by “that thing.” Comey says only that the way to handle it was to have the White House counsel call the acting deputy attorney general. Trump says that was what he would do and the call ends. [Added June 12, 2017]
- April 12, 2017: The Associated Press confirms that newly obtained financial records show Paul Manafort’s firm had received two wire transfers — one in 2007 and another in 2009 — corresponding to two of the 22 entries next to Manafort’s name in Ukraine’s Party of Regions Black Ledger. Manafort’s spokesman says Manafort intended to register retroactively with the US Justice Department as a foreign agent for the work he had done on behalf of political interests in Ukraine through 2014. [Added April 17, 2017]
- April 13, 2017: Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page tells ABC’s George Stephanopoulos he won’t reveal who brought him into the Trump campaign. Page also says he didn’t recall discussing the subject of easing Russian sanctions in conversations with Russian officials during his July 2016 trip to Moscow. “We’ll see what comes out in this FISA transcript,” Page says, referring to surveillance collected after the FBI obtained a secret court order to monitor him under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. “Something may have come up in a conversation… I have no recollection.” Later he continues, “Someone may have brought it up. I have no recollection. And if it was, it was not something I was offering or that someone was asking for.” Page says that from the time of his departure as an adviser to the Trump campaign through Inauguration Day, he maintained “light contact” with some campaign members. [Added April 17, 2017]
- April 19, 2017: The White House refuses the March 22 bipartisan request from the House Oversight Committee for more information and documents relating to payments that former national security adviser Mike Flynn received from entities affiliated with the Russian and Turkish governments. [Added May 2, 2017]
- April 25, 2017: The Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism reveals that it has scheduled former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to testify on May 8, 2017. [Added May 2, 2017]
- Also on April 25, 2017: The Senate confirms Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general. Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from matters relating to the 2016 presidential election, including the Trump/Russia investigation, Rosenstein becomes the top Justice Department official supervising FBI Director Comey on that investigation. FBI Director Comey later testifies (at the 1:18 mark) that he explains to Rosenstein his “serious concern about the way in which the president is interacting, especially with the FBI….” [Revised June 12, 2017]
- Also on April 25, 2017: Flynn reportedly receives a message from Trump to “stay strong.” When the story appears on May 18, the White House does not respond to a request for comment. [Added May 25, 2017]
- April 28, 2017: The chair and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee send letters to several former Trump campaign advisers, including Carter Page, Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. Among other requests, the letters ask for a “list of all meetings between you and any Russian official or representative of Russian business interests which took place between June 16, 2015 and Jan. 20, 2017.” The letters also request information about any such meetings of which they are aware, as well as all documents relating to Trump campaign communications with Russian officials or business representatives. The committee also seeks information about any financial and real estate transactions related to Russia from June 15, 2015 through Trump’s inauguration. [Added May 8, 2017]
- April 29, 2017: In an interview airing on Trump’s 100th day in office, he tells CBS’ John Dickerson, “The concept of Russia with respect to us [the Trump campaign] is a total phony story.” Dickerson then asks, “You don’t think it’s phony that they, the Russians, tried to meddle in the election?” Trump answers, “That I don’t know.” Later, Trump says, “I’d love to find out what happened.” [Added May 2, 2017]
- May 2, 2017: On the eve of FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Trump tweets: “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds! The phony… Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?” [Added May 8, 2017]
- May 3, 2017: In response to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who asks FBI Director Comey about Trump’s April 29, 2017 interview in which he said that the hacking of the DNC “could’ve been China, could’ve been a lot of different groups,” Comey answers, “The intelligence community with high confidence concluded it was Russia.” [Added May 8, 2017]
- May 5, 2017: The chair and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee issue a joint statement, saying: “Three days ago, Carter Page told Fox News he was cooperating with the Committee’s investigation into Russian activities surrounding the 2016 Election. Today we have learned that may not be the case.” The statement expresses the hope that Page “will live up to his publicly-expressed cooperation with our effort.” [Added May 8, 2017]
- May 6-7, 2017: Trump spends the weekend at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. Since March, he’s been fuming over Comey’s congressional appearance, in which the FBI director had acknowledged the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia and had refuted Trump’s false claim that President Obama had wiretapped him. In the weeks that followed, Trump grew angrier and talked about firing Comey. At Bedminister, Trump grouses over Comey’s May 3 congressional testimony — especially his comment about being “mildly nauseous” at the thought that his actions relating to the Clinton investigation might have affected the outcome of the election. [Added May 15, 2017]
- May 8, 2017: Trump informs a small group of his closest advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence, Jared Kushner and White House counsel Don McGahn, that he plans to fire FBI Director James Comey. According to The New York Times, McGahn counsels Trump to delay dismissing Comey; Kushner urges him to proceed. [Revised May 30, 2017]
- Also on May 8, 2017: Trump follows Kushner’s advice and, according to ABC News, Kushner, White House counsel Don McGahn, Vice President Pence and chief of staff Reince Priebus begin to prepare talking points about Comey’s planned firing. Meanwhile, Trump summons Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to the White House, where he instructs them provide a written justification for removing Comey. Before Rosenstein prepares the requested memo, he knows Trump intends to fire Comey. [Revised May 30, 2017]
- Also on May 8, 2017: With former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates scheduled to testify later in the day, Trump tweets:
General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration – but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2017
Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2017
[Added May 15, 2017]
- Days before May 9, 2017: According to The New York Times FBI Director Comey asks Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein for additional resources to expand the bureau’s Trump/Russia investigation. Department of Justice spokesperson Sarah Flores denies the story, calling it “100 percent false.” [Added May 15, 2017]
- May 9, 2017: Citing the May 9 recommendations of Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, Trump fires FBI Director Comey, ostensibly because of his inappropriate statements about the Clinton email investigation prior to the 2016 election. Trump, Sessions and Rosenstein write that terminating Comey is necessary to restore trust, confidence and integrity in the FBI. In his termination letter to Comey, Trump also says he “greatly appreciates you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.” [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 9, 2017: CNN reports that a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia had recently issued subpoenas to associates of former national security adviser Mike Flynn. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 9, 2017: Late in the evening and amid bushes on the White House grounds, press secretary Sean Spicer tells reporters to “turn the lights off” before answering questions about Comey’s firing. He says that the impetus came from the deputy attorney general. “No one from the White House,” Spicer says. “That was a DOJ decision.” Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway echoes that position on CNN, reading excerpts from Rosenstein’s memo to Anderson Cooper. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 9, 2017: Over Turkey’s objections, the Pentagon announces that the US will partner with Kurds to retake the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. On Jan. 10, the Obama administration had presented President-elect Trump with a plan to partner with the Kurds against ISIS, but his then-national security adviser-designate Mike Flynn had killed it. [Added May 22, 2017]
- May 10, 2017: Vice President Mike Pence says repeatedly that Comey’s firing occurred because Sessions and Rosenstein recommended it: The deputy attorney general “came to work, sat down and made the recommendation for the FBI to be able to do its job that it would need new leadership. He brought that recommendation to the president. The attorney general concurred with that recommendation.” [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 10, 2017: Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Trump had been thinking about firing Comey “since the day he was elected,” but reiterates Pence’s position that Sessions and Rosenstein were “absolutely” the impetus for the firing. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 10, 2017: The Washington Post and The New York Times report that Trump had been the impetus for Comey’s firing, not Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 10, 2017: Rod Rosenstein speaks by phone with White House counsel Don McGahn. According to The Wall Street Journal, Rosenstein insists that the White House correct the misimpression that Rosenstein initiated the process leading to Comey’s firing. He suggests that he can’t work in an environment where facts aren’t reported accurately. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 10, 2017: The White House releases a new timeline of the events relating to Comey’s firing. It recites that the impetus for removing Comey had come from Trump, not the deputy attorney general. But the White House acknowledges that Trump met with Sessions and Rosenstein on May 8 to discuss “reasons for removing the director” and that the attorney general and his deputy sent their written recommendations to Trump on May 9. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 10, 2017: House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) asks the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate Comey’s firing. [Added May 15, 2017]
- And Also on May 10, 2017: At an Oval Office meeting with Russia’s Ambassador Kislyak, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and their aides, Trump reveals highly classified intelligence about the Islamic State and American counterterrorism plans. The meeting occurs because Putin previously had asked Trump to meet with Lavrov, and, Trump later says, he didn’t feel he could say no. Kislyak’s presence was unexpected. The intelligence that Trump reveals is so sensitive that it has not been shared with American allies and has been tightly restricted within the US government. Minutes after the meeting ends, Kislyak’s presence becomes known when the Russian news agency TASS publishes photographs that a Russian photographer had taken of the session. The White House had not permitted any US news organization to attend any part of the meeting, even for photographs. During the meeting, Trump also discusses the Comey firing. “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump says. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Then he adds, “I’m not under investigation.” [Revised May 22, 2017]
- May 11, 2017: Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testifies that James Comey enjoyed “broad support within the FBI and still does to this day…. The majority, the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep, positive connection to Director Comey.” [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 11, 2017: Trump tells NBC’s Lester Holt that he had already decided to fire Comey before his meeting with Sessions and Rosenstein: “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story….” Trump also says that on three different occasions — once in person and twice over the phone — he’d asked Comey if he was under investigation for alleged ties to Russia, and Comey told him he wasn’t. And Trump tells Holt that he had sent Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) a “certified letter” from “from one of the most prestigious law firms in the country” confirming that he has “nothing to do with Russia.” [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 11, 2017: The New York Times reports on Trump’s one-on-one dinner with Comey on Jan. 27, when Trump asked Comey for a personal loyalty pledge that Comey refused to provide. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 11, 2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee sent Mike Flynn a subpoena for documents that he’d refused to produce voluntarily in response to the committee’s April 28 letter request. [Added May 15, 2017]
- May 12, 2017: Trump tweets:
James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
[Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 12, 2017: In response to questions about Trump’s early morning tweet about Comey and “tapes,” press secretary Sean Spicer refuses to answer whether Trump was taping Oval Office conversations. “The president has nothing further to add on that,” Spicer says repeatedly. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 12, 2017: The White House releases a one-page March 8, 2017 letter from Trump’s outside lawyers — Sheri Dillon and William Nelson at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. The carefully worded letter states that “with a few exceptions” totaling about $100 million, Trump’s tax returns from 2005 “do not reflect” any “income from Russian sources,” “debt owed by you or [The Trump Organization] to Russian lenders,” “equity investments by Russian persons or entities,” or “equity or debt investments by you or [The Trump Organization] in Russian entities.” The letter does not define “Russian” or purport to determine whether or to what extent individuals from Russia, Ukraine, or other former Soviet-bloc countries may have used shell corporations through which they may have conducted transactions with Trump businesses. Months earlier, Dillon had developed and presented Trump’s business conflicts of interest plan whereby Trump retained all ownership in his businesses. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Also on May 12, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reports that the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) — a unit that specializes in combating money-laundering — will share financial records with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Trump’s ties to Russia. [Added May 15, 2017]
- Between May 13 and May 15, 2017: After seeing Trump’s “tapes” tweet, Comey remembers that he has contemporaneous memos of his conversations with Trump. He gives them to a friend at Columbia Law School and asks his friend to provide them to the press. [Added June 12, 2017]
- May 15, 2017: At his daily press conference, Sean Spicer refuses — seven times — to answer whether Trump is secretly recording his conversations. [Added May 18, 2017]
- Also May 15, 2017: National security adviser H.R. McMaster issues a 40-second “non-denial denial” of the Washington Post story that Trump disclosed highly classified intelligence to Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Foreign Minister Lavrov. McMaster says, “The story that came out tonight as reported is false… At no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.” The Post story had said nothing about disclosure of “intelligence sources and methods.” “I was in the room,” McMaster concludes, “It didn’t happen.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who also attended the Oval Office meeting with the Russians, issues a statement saying the group “did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.” [Added May 18, 2017]
- Also on May 15, 2017: Trump meets in the Oval Office with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who had arranged the January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles Islands between Erik Prince and a Russian close to Putin. [Added June 5, 2017]
- May 16, 2017: In response to press reports that former FBI Director James Comey had written a contemporaneous memorandum documenting Trump’s Feb. 14 request to halt the Flynn investigation, the White House issues an unattributed statement that concludes: “This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.” [Added May 17, 2017]
- Also on May 16, 2017: Trump tweets:
As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
[Added May 18, 2017]
- Also on May 16, 2017: National security adviser McMaster tells reporters repeatedly that Trump’s disclosure of intelligence with the Russians was “wholly appropriate.” As his press conference ends, McMaster says that Trump “wasn’t even aware where this information came from. He wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information either.” [Added May 18, 2017]
- May 17, 2017: Putin offers to provide the US Congress with transcripts of the May 10 Oval Office conversations among Trump, the Russian ambassador, and Russia’s foreign minister. [Added May 18, 2017]
- Also on May 17, 2017: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein names former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference with the election. In a White House statement, Trump says, “As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.” [Revised May 22, 2017]
- May 18, 2017: Trump tweets:
With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel appointed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2017
This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2017
[Added May 18, 2017]
- Also on May 18, 2017: At a joint news conference with the president of Colombia, a reporter asks Trump whether he ever asked former Director Comey to close or back down the investigation into Michael Flynn. “No. No,” Trump answers. “Next question.” He goes on to characterize the ongoing Trump/Russia investigation as “totally ridiculous” and a “witch hunt.” Then he adds, “Director Comey was very unpopular with most people, I actually thought when I made that decision. And I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.” [Added May 22, 2017]
- Also on May 18, 2017: TIME reports that congressional investigators are reviewing whether Cambridge Analytica or Breitbart News played any role in working with Russian efforts to help Trump win the election. [Added May 30, 2017]
- May 19, 2017: The Washington Post reports that federal investigators in the Trump/Russia matter have identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest. On May 25, news reports identify the official as Jared Kushner. [Revised May 30, 2017]
- Also on May 19, 2017: Vice President Pence faces added scrutiny on what he knew about Flynn’s connections to Turkey and Russia — and when he knew it. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee post a Nov. 18, 2016 letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to Pence, who at the time was vice president-elect and chair of the presidential transition team. The letter expressed concerns about national security adviser-designate Flynn’s ties to those countries. In response to the posting, Pence’s spokesperson states, “The vice president stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding Gen. Flynn’s ties to Turkey and fully supports the President’s decision to ask for General Flynn’s resignation.” A White House aide adds, “I’m not sure we saw the letter.” Democrats on the House Oversight Committee then post the formal Nov. 28, 2016 transition team message acknowledging receipt of Cummings’ letter. [Added May 22, 2017]
- Also on May 19, 2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee announces that former FBI Director Comey will testify in a public hearing after Memorial Day. [Added May 22, 2017]
- Also on May 19, 2017: Reuters reports on efforts by White House lawyers to undermine Robert Mueller’s credibility. They’re particularly interested in a rule that restricts newly hired government lawyers from investigating clients of their former employer for at least one year. By executive order on Jan. 28, 2017, Trump had extended that period to two years; however, the Justice Department can waive the rule. Mueller’s law firm WilmerHale represents Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, but the firm says that Mueller has not personally worked with any Trump-related clients. Meanwhile, CNN reports that White House lawyers are also researching impeachment procedures. [Added May 22, 2017]
- May 22, 2017: Rather than produce documents in response to a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mike Flynn invokes his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Paul Manafort and Roger Stone produced some documents in response to the committee’s request. [Added May 25, 2017]
- May 23, 2017: Former CIA Director John Brennan testifies before the House Intelligence Committee that during the summer of 2016, he noticed suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and associates of Trump’s campaign. Brennan says that he knew the US election was under Russian attack and feared that the Trump campaign might be aiding the effort. [Added May 30, 2017]
- Also on May 23, 2017: Senior Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee ask Deutsche Bank to provide information about the bank’s internal reviews relating to: 1) alleged Russian money laundering, and 2) the personal accounts of Trump and his family. Citing US privacy laws, the bank refuses. [Added June 26, 2017]
- May 24, 2017: In response to media reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ application for national security clearance had failed to disclose his contacts with Russian officials, Sessions says he was “instructed not to list meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities.” [Added May 30, 2017]
- May 26, 2017: The Washington Post reports on Kushner’s Dec. 1 or 2 meeting with Russian Ambassador Kislyak at which, according to Kislyak, Kushner requested a secret and secure communication channel between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. In mid-December, an anonymous letter had tipped off The Post to what Kushner had supposedly said at the meeting. Former US intelligence officials described the idea of a backchannel using a hostile foreign power’s facilities as “disturbing” and “dangerous.” [Added May 30, 2017]
- Also on May 26, 2017: The Washington Post reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee has demanded that the Trump campaign produce all Russia-related documents, emails and phone records dating to June 2015, when the campaign was launched. [Added May 30, 2017]
- May 27, 2017: Reuters reports that Jared Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during and after the presidential campaign. Two were phone calls between April and November. His attorney says that Kushner “has no recollection of the calls as described” and asks Reuters for the dates that they allegedly occurred. [Added May 30, 2017]
- May 28, 2017: In three Sunday morning talk show appearances, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly says that if Kushner was trying to a create a backchannel to communicate with the Russian government, it was a “good thing.” Veteran diplomatic and intelligence experts remain unconvinced. [Added May 30, 2017]
- May 31, 2017: The House Intelligence Committee approves the issuance of subpoenas to Mike Flynn, Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, and the businesses that each of them runs. Separately, several news outlets report that House Committee Chairman Nunes, who had recused himself from the committee’s Trump/Russia investigation, issued subpoenas to former Obama administration officials on the issue of “unmasking” — revealing the names of persons referenced in intelligence reports. [Added June 5, 2017]
- Also on May 31, 2017: The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration is moving toward returning two suspected espionage compounds to Russia. When President Obama issued new sanctions on Dec. 29, he said that the compounds — located in New York and Maryland — were being “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes” and had given Russia 24 hours to vacate them. [Added June 5, 2017]
- Also on May 31, 2017: Sergey Gorkov, head of Russian bank VEB, refuses to comment in response to reporters’ questions about his December 2016 meeting with Jared Kushner. [Added June 5, 2017]
- June 1, 2017: Putin tells reporters that “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers might have been involved in cyberattacks that interfered with the US election. “We’re not doing this on the state level,” Putin says. [Added June 5, 2017]
- June 2, 2017: Special counsel Robert Mueller assumes control over a federal grand jury criminal investigation of Mike Flynn’s ties to Turkey, as well as the criminal investigation involving Paul Manafort. [Added June 5, 2017]
- June 8, 2017: FBI Director Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He expands on prepared remarks detailing his conversations with Trump on Jan. 27 (“loyalty dinner”), Feb. 14 (“let Flynn go”), March 30 (“lift the cloud”), and April 11 (“get out the word”). Asked why Trump fired him, Comey says, “It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.” On the subject of whether Trump recorded their conversations, Comey says, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.” Later, he continues: “It never occurred to me before the president’s tweet. I’m not being facetious. I hope there are, and I’ll consent to the release of them … All I can do is hope. The president knows if he taped me, and if he did, my feelings aren’t hurt. Release all the tapes. I’m good with it.” [Added June 12, 2017]
- Also on June 8, 2017: Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, issues a statement saying that Trump “feels completely vindicated” by Comey’s testimony. Shortly thereafter, reports circulate that Trump’s legal team is planning to file a complaint with the Justice Department inspector general against Comey for “leaking” memos of his conversations with Trump. [Added June 12, 2017]
- June 9, 2017: Trump tweets:
Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2017
[Added June 12, 2017]
- Also on June 9, 2017: Trump accuses Comey of lying under oath to the Senate Intelligence Committee and agrees “100 percent” to provide his version of events under oath. He refuses to answer whether he has tapes of his conversations with Comey. [Added June 12, 2017]
- Also on June 9, 2017: The House Intelligence Committee sends two letters relating to its investigation. One requests that Comey produce any notes or memoranda relating to his conversations with Trump. The second asks White House counsel Don McGahn to inform the Committee whether any White House recordings or memoranda of Comey’s conversations with Trump have ever existed and, to the extent they still exist, produce them by June 23. [Added June 26, 2017]
- June 11, 2017: Trump tweets:
I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!’
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2017
[Added June 12, 2017]
- Also on June 11, 2017: The New York Times reports that in recent days, White House aides had asked Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, if it was also time for them to hire personal lawyers. Kasowitz, according to a Times source, said it was not yet necessary. [Added June 19, 2017]
- June 12, 2017: After visiting the White House, Trump’s longtime friend and chief executive of Newsmax Media, Chris Ruddy, says on the PBS NewsHour that Trump “is considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel,” Robert Mueller. When asked about the report, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders says, “While the president has the right to, he has no intention to do so.” [Added June 19, 2017]
- June 13, 2017: Trump tweets:
A.G. Lynch made law enforcement decisions for political purposes…gave Hillary Clinton a free pass and protection. Totally illegal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2017
[Added June 19, 2017]
- Also on June 13, 2017: Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein says he would need “good cause” to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and he hasn’t seen any yet. [Added June 19, 2017]
- Also on June 13, 2017: Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee about earlier news reports that he had met in April 2016 with Russian Ambassador Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says, “If any brief interaction occurred in passing with the Russian ambassador during that reception, I do not remember it.” When asked for details about his September 2016 meeting with Kislyak, Sessions can’t recall them. Sessions acknowledges that after Trump met privately with then-FBI Director Comey on Feb. 14, 2017, Comey told Sessions the next day never to leave him alone with Trump again. When asked about his conversations with Trump about Comey prior to Comey’s firing on May 9, Sessions refers back to Rosenstein’s memo. Beyond that, Sessions admits that Trump has not invoked executive privilege to block Sessions from answering, but Sessions refuses to answer anyway. [Added June 19, 2017]
- June 14, 2017: The Washington Post reports that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice. [Added June 19, 2017]
- June 15, 2017: Trump tweets:
They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
Why is that Hillary Clintons family and Dems dealings with Russia are not looked at, but my non-dealings are?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, ‘bleached’ emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared- & they talk about obstruction?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
[Added June 19, 2017]
- Also on June 15, 2017: Vice President Pence hires an outside attorney to deal with issues arising from the Trump/Russia investigation. [Added June 19, 2017]
- Also on June 15, 2017: The Washington Post reports that, “according to US officials familiar with the matter,” special counsel Mueller is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner. [Added June 19, 2017]
- Also on June 15, 2017: Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein issues a press release cautioning Americans against reliance on stories based on “anonymous ‘officials’” and “anonymous allegations.” [Added June 19, 2017]
- June 16, 2017: Trump tweets:
After 7 months of investigations & committee hearings about my “collusion with the Russians,” nobody has been able to show any proof. Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017
Despite the phony Witch Hunt going on in America, the economic & jobs numbers are great. Regulations way down, jobs and enthusiasm way up!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017
I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017
[Added June 19, 2017]
- Also on June 16, 2017: ABC News reports that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein has acknowledged to colleagues that he may have to recuse himself from the Trump/Russia investigation. Reportedly, he informed Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand — whom the Senate had confirmed on May 18 — that she would then assume supervisory responsibility for special counsel Mueller’s investigation. [Added June 19, 2017]
- Also on June 16, 2017: House investigators reportedly want to interview Brad Parscale, digital director of Trump’s campaign. Investigators were digging into Jared Kushner’s role overseeing data operations for the campaign. [Added June 19, 2017]
- June 18, 2017: Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, one of Trump’s attorneys, Jay Sekulow, counters Trump’s tweet about “being investigated.” Sekulow says, “There is not an investigation of the president of the United States, period.” He asserts a similar position on Fox News Sunday and CNN’s State of the Union. Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation, Sekulow says, “The fact of the matter is the president has not been and is not under investigation.” Later in the interview, he says, “There has been no notification from the special counsel’s office that the president is under investigation.” When asked if the special counsel had an obligation to notify Trump if he were under investigation, Sekulow responds, “I can’t imagine a scenario where the president would not be aware of it.” Referring to the president’s power to fire the FBI director, Sekulow adds, “The president cannot be investigated, or certainly cannot be found liable for engaging in an activity he clearly has power to do under the constitution.” [Added June 19, 2017]
- Also on June 18, 2017: In response to reports that Jared Kushner is seeking to supplement his legal team with experienced criminal defense lawyers, his lead attorney, Jamie Gorelick, says, “After the appointment of our former partner Robert Mueller as special counsel, we advised Mr. Kushner to obtain the independent advice of a lawyer with appropriate experience as to whether he should continue with us as his counsel.” [Added June 19, 2017]
- June 20, 2017: White House press secretary Sean Spicer says he doesn’t know if Trump believes that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. [Added June 26, 2017]
- June 21, 2017: Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting director of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Cyber Division says that individuals connected to the Russian government tried to hack election-related computer systems in 21 states. A week earlier, Bloomberg had reported that Russian hackers had tried to penetrate voting systems in 39 states. [Added June 26, 2017]
- Also on June 21, 2017: The New York Times reports that the White House has been lobbying the House of Representatives to weaken the Senate bill that would limit Trump’s power to curtail Russian sanctions. The bipartisan legislation had passed the Senate a week earlier, and would allow Congress to thwart any effort by the White House to curtail those sanctions without congressional approval. On June 20, the Treasury Department issued sanctions directed against more than three dozen Russian individuals and organizations that had participated in the country’s incursion into Ukraine. [Added June 26, 2017]
- June 22, 2017: Trump tweets:
…whether there are “tapes” or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017
[Added June 26, 2017]
- June 23, 2017: In an interview on Fox & Friends, Trump says that special counsel Robert Mueller is “very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome… Look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey.” Asked about Mueller’s legal team, Trump says, “I can say that the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters. Some of them worked for Hillary Clinton. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous if you want to know the truth.” [Added June 26, 2017]
- Also on June 23, 2017: In a two-sentence response to the House Intelligence Committee’s prior request for any and all records memorializing conversations between Trump and James Comey, the White House refers to and quotes from Trump’s June 22, 2017 tweets (above) and provides no other information. [Added June 26, 2017]
- Also on June 23, 2017: The New York Times reports that federal investigators and the New York state attorney general are looking into Paul Manafort’s real estate dealings in recent years. [Added June 26, 2017]
- Also on June 23, 2017: Trump tweets:
Just out: The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2017
[Added June 26, 2017]
- June 24, 2017: Trump tweets:
Since the Obama Administration was told way before the 2016 Election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2017
[Added June 26, 2017]
- June 25, 2017: Interviewing Kellyanne Conway on ABC News’ This Week, George Stephanopoulos says, “The president said he did not tape James Comey, but I am confused by the top part of that [tweet]. Does the president have any evidence at all that his personal conversations were somehow taped? And has he asked the intelligence agencies for that evidence?” When Conway doesn’t answer those questions directly, Stephanopoulos persists, “Has the president asked the intelligence agencies if they have any tapes of his conversations? Does he know if they have that? Does he have any evidence to back up that suggestion that he put out in the tweet?” Conway answers, “I’m not going to comment on his conversations with his intelligence community… I mean, what are we talking about here with this never-ending Russian discussion?” [Added June 26, 2017]
- June 26, 2017: Trump tweets:
The real story is that President Obama did NOTHING after being informed in August about Russian meddling. With 4 months looking at Russia…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2017
..under a magnifying glass, they have zero “tapes” of T people colluding. There is no collusion & no obstruction. I should be given apology!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2017
[Added June 26, 2017]
- Also on June 26, 2017: Jared Kushner’s lawyers confirm that he has added a prominent criminal defense trial lawyer, Abbe Lowell, to his legal team. [Added July 3, 2017]
- June 27, 2017: Paul Manafort registers retroactively as a foreign agent. Between 2012 and 2014 he received more than $17 million from the pro-Russia political party (“Party of Regions”) that dominated Ukraine before its leader, then-President Viktor Yanukovych, fled to Moscow amid a popular uprising in 2014. As part of the filing, Manafort discloses that he met in 2013 with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, an outspoken California Republican who has often called for a closer relationship between the US and Russia. [Added July 3, 2017]
- July 6, 2017: En route to the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany where he will meet privately with Vladimir Putin, Trump stops in Poland to deliver a speech. At a news conference NBC News’ Hallie Jackson asks: “Can you once and for all, yes or no, definitively say that Russia interfered in the 2016 election?” Trump answers, “I think it could very well have been Russia, but I think it could have been other people in other countries and I won’t be specific.” He then excoriates President Obama for doing “nothing” in the face of the Obama administration’s conclusion that Russian meddling was underway. “The reason is, he thought Hillary was going to win,” Trump continues. Pressed again on whether he agrees with the “definitive” conclusion of his own intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the election, Trump says, “I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people and/or countries…. Nobody really knows for sure. I remember when I was sitting back listening about Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. How everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Guess what — that led to one big mess. They were wrong.” [Added July 11, 2017]
- Also on July 6, 2017: The Financial Times reports that Felix Sater has agreed to cooperate in an international investigation of a Kazakh family’s real estate dealings. The head of the family — Viktor Khrapunov, a former Kazakh minister now exiled in Switzerland — is reportedly under investigation for allegations that he embezzled government funds and hid the cash in other countries throughout the world, including the US. Deeds and banking records obtained by the Financial Times show that in April 2013, members of the Khrapunov family purchased three apartments in Trump SoHo for a grand total price of $3.1 million from a holding company in which Trump held a stake. [Added July 11, 2017]
- July 7, 2017: For the first time since the 2016 election, Trump meets Vladimir Putin. The only other attendees to their private two-and-a-half hour session are Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and two interpreters. [Added July 11, 2017]
- Also on July 7, 2017: In an off-camera interview with the press after the Trump/Putin meeting, Tillerson says that Trump opened the session by “raising the concerns of the American people regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election…. The president pressed President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement. President Putin denied such involvement, as I think he has in the past.” Responding to a later question about whether Trump “was unequivocal in his view that Russia did interfere in the election,” Tillerson says, “The Russians have asked for proof and evidence. I’ll leave that to the intelligence community to address the answer to that question. And again, I think the president, at this point, he pressed him and then felt like at this point let’s talk about how do we go forward.” [Added July 11, 2017]
- Also on July 7, 2017: Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov offers a different version of the Trump/Putin meeting, saying, “President Trump said he’s heard Putin’s very clear statements that this is not true and that the Russian government didn’t interfere in the elections and that he accepts these statements. That’s all.” [Added July 11, 2017]
- July 8, 2017: At a press conference concluding the G-20 summit, Putin responds to questions about whether Russian meddling in the 2016 election was a subject of their private meeting. “[Trump] really was interested in some details. I, as far as I could, answered all this in detail,” Putin says through a translator at the press conference, which a Russian state-owned news channel broadcasted. “He asked me, I answered. He asked clarifying questions, I explained. He appeared to me satisfied with these answers.” [Added July 11, 2017]
- Also on July 8, 2017: The New York Times first reports the story of the June 9, 2016 meeting that Donald Jr. had arranged with Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and a Kremlin-connected lawyer. In response, Donald Jr. issues this statement: “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up… I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.” [Added July 11, 2017]
- July 9, 2017: As The New York Times prepares to report that the Russian lawyer with whom Donald Jr., Kushner and Manafort met on June 9, 2016 was supposedly going to be offering them damaging information on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. issues a new statement changing his story from less than 24 hours earlier: “I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign. I was not told her name prior to the meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to attend, but told them nothing of the substance. We had a meeting in June 2016. After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting. I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office. The meeting lasted approximately 20 to 30 minutes. As it ended, my acquaintance apologized for taking up our time. That was the end of it and there was no further contact or follow-up of any kind. My father knew nothing of the meeting or these events.” [Added July 11, 2017]
- July 10, 2017: Donald Trump Jr. tweets:
Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent… went nowhere but had to listen. https://t.co/ccUjL1KDEa
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 10, 2017
[Added July 11, 2017]
- Also on July 10, 2017: Donald Trump Jr. confirms that he has hired a criminal defense attorney to represent him in connection with the Trump/Russia probe. [Added July 11, 2017]
- Also on July 10, 2017: The New York Times reports on the email from Rob Goldstone to Donald Jr. preceding the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower among Donald Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer with Kremlin ties. [Added July 11, 2017]
- July 11, 2017: Donald Jr. posts his June 3-8, 2016 email exchanges with Rob Goldstone that culminate in the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the person Goldstone described as a “Russian government attorney.” In his accompanying statement, Donald Jr. says that he knew Emin from the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. “Emin and his father have a very highly respected company in Moscow,” he continues. “The information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was political opposition research…To put this in context, this occurred before the current Russian fever was in vogue.” [Added July 11, 2017]
This is part of a series by Steven Harper. Read the other posts in the series: Trump Resistance Plan.
This timeline first appeared on Feb. 15, 2017, and has been updated continually. New entries are marked with the date they were added. Timeline produced by John Light using a template from the Knight Lab at Northwestern University.