In July 2016, the FBI began investigating the Russian government’s attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election, including whether President Donald Trump’s campaign associates were involved in those efforts.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election” between Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, according to a U.S. intelligence community report released Jan. 6, 2017. Russian intelligence services gained access to the computer network of Democratic Party officials and released the hacked material to WikiLeaks and others “to help President-elect Trump’s election chances,” the IC said in its report.
The Internet Research Agency, a Russian online propaganda operation, also conducted a social media campaign “to advocate for President-elect Trump as early as December 2015,” the IC report said.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III in May 2017 to serve as special counsel to oversee the “FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters.”
The special counsel’s investigation “established multiple links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government,” according to redacted report released by Attorney General William P. Barr on April 18, 2019. But the investigation “did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.”
The special counsel’s office also investigated the president for possible obstruction of justice. While the Mueller report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The report “found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations.” Mueller, however, refrained from recommending prosecution, saying that there were “difficult [legal] issues that would need to be resolved,” in order to move forward with a case.
Here we present a timeline of key events in the investigation. We will update this timeline as necessary. For those reading this on a website other than FactCheck.org, please click here for updates.
June 16 — Trump announces that he is running for president.
July — The Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, which is responsible for intelligence collection for the Russian military, gains access to the Democratic National Committee computer network and maintains that access until at least June 2016, when the hacking plot was publicly disclosed. (This is according to a report issued Jan. 6, 2017, by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.)
Oct. 13 – Felix Sater, a Trump business associate, sends an email to Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, about a proposal to build a Trump-branded residential and commercial building in Moscow. Sater’s email includes a letter of intent signed by Andrey Rozov, owner of I.C. Expert Investment Co., of Moscow, to build “Trump World Tower Moscow.” Sater, an American citizen who was born in Russia, tells Cohen to have Trump sign the agreement and send it back. The agreement would have given the Trump Organization “a $4 million upfront fee, no upfront costs, a percentage of the sales, and control over marketing and design.” Sater writes, “Lets make this happen and build a Trump Moscow. And possibly fix relations between the countries by showing everyone that commerce & business are much better and more practical than politics. That should be Putins message as well, and we will help him agree on that message.” (CNN would later obtain a copy of the email and the agreement.)
Oct. 28 – Trump signs a letter of intent with a Moscow-based developer, I.C. Expert Investment Co., to pursue “Trump Tower Moscow” – a licensing project in which Trump would be paid for the use of his name on a building in Moscow. (Cohen would later disclose the project in a statement provided to congressional investigators on Aug. 28, 2017, according to the Washington Post. “The decision to pursue the proposal initially, and later to abandon it were unrelated to the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign,” Cohen told Congress.)
Nov. 16 — Lana Erchova, on behalf of her then-husband, Dmitry Klokov, emails lvanka Trump and offers to help the Trump campaign. “If you ask anyone who knows Russian to google my husband Dmitry Klokov, you’ll see who he is close to and that he has done Putin’s political campaigns.” The Mueller report, who contained the email, says, “Klokov was at that time Director of External Communications for PJSC Federal Grid Company of Unified Energy System, a large Russian electricity transmission company, and had been previously employed as an aide and press secretary to Russia’s energy minister.” Ivanka Trump forwarded the email to Cohen.
December — Some social media accounts apparently tied to a Russian online propaganda operation start to advocate for Trump’s election. (This is also according to the DNI report issued Jan. 6, 2017. That report attributed its source to “a journalist who is a leading expert on the Internet Research Agency,” a Russian online propaganda operation.)
Dec. 10 — Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn speaks at RT’s anniversary conference in Moscow. RT is a Russian government-funded TV station once known as Russia Today. Flynn, who would become a foreign policy adviser to Trump during the campaign and national security adviser in the Trump administration, sits next to Putin at the event. In remarks at the event, Flynn is critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy and supportive of working with Russia to battle ISIS. (It’s later learned that he was paid $45,000 for his appearance, and failed to report the income on his government financial disclosure forms.)
Dec. 19 — Sater sends Cohen an email. “Please call me I have Evgeney [Dvoskin] on the other line. He needs a copy of your and Donald’s passports they need a scan of every page of the passports. Invitations & Visas will be issued this week by VTB Bank to discuss financing for Trump Tower Moscow,” Sater writes, trying to arrange a visit to Moscow for Cohen and Trump. “Politically neither Putins office nor Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot issue invite, so they are inviting commercially/ business. VTB is Russia’s 2 biggest bank and VTB Bank CEO Andrey Kostin, will be at all meetings with Putin so that it is a business meeting not political. We will be invited to Russian consulate this week to receive invite & have visa issued.”
Jan. 14 and 16 — Cohen, chief counsel for the Trump Organization, writes two emails to Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary to Russian President Vladimir Putin, seeking the Russian government’s help “regarding the development of a Trump Tower-Moscow project in Moscow City.” (Cohen would later disclose his correspondence with Peskov in a statement to congressional investigators on Aug. 28, 2017, as reported that day by the Washington Post and later confirmed by the criminal information filed against Cohen in federal court on Nov. 29, 2018.)
Jan. 20 – Peskov’s assistant emails Cohen, telling him to give her a call. Cohen calls Peskov’s assistant and speaks to her for 20 minutes. Cohen outlines the Moscow Trump Tower project and asks for the Russian government’s assistance.
Jan. 21 – Sater contacts Cohen and says, “It’s about [Putin] they called today.”
Feb. 26 — Reuters reports that Flynn “has been informally advising Trump” on foreign policy during the presidential campaign.
March — Russian intelligence services probably begin the cyber operations that resulted in the compromise of the personal email accounts of Democratic Party officials and political figures. (This is according to the Jan. 6, 2017, report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.) More than “300 individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign, DCCC, and DNC” were targeted. (This is according to the July 13, 2018, indictment filed against 12 Russian military intelligence officers. The indictment confirms that the start date of the operation.)
March 3 — Trump names Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama chairman of the campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee. In a statement, Sessions says that Trump knows “our country needs a clear-eyed foreign policy rooted in the national interest.”
March 6 — George Papadopoulos accepts an offer to be a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. (“Approximately a week after signing on as a foreign policy advisor, Papadopoulos traveled to Rome, Italy,” where he was introduced to Joseph Mifsud — a professor who “maintained various Russian contacts while living in London,” according to the Mueller report. Mifsud’s contacts included a former employee of the Internet Research Agency, the Russian online propaganda operation that waged a social media campaign in support of Trump’s election, the report said.)
March 19 — Aleksey Viktorovich Lukashev, a senior lieutenant in the Russian military, and other Russian intelligence officers send a spear-phishing email to John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton campaign. (This is according to the July 13, 2018, indictment filed against the Russian military officers.)
March 21 — Lukashev and other Russian military intelligence officers steal more than 50,000 emails from Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.
At an editorial board meeting with the Washington Post, Trump tells the Washington Post that Carter Page, an American businessman who has worked in Russia and now owns a consulting firm called Global Energy Capital, is a member of his foreign policy team. (Seven months later, the FBI would receive court approval to monitor Page’s communications.)
Trump also publicly identifies George Papadopoulos as one of his foreign policy advisers. “George Papadopoulos. He’s an oil and energy consultant. Excellent guy,” Trump tells the Post. (Papadopoulos would later plead guilty to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with people that he believed to have substantial Russian ties.)
March 24 — Mifsud, the London-based professor, introduces Papadopoulos to Olga Polonskaya. Mifsud introduces her as a former student who has connects to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “During the meeting, Polonskaya offered to help Papadopoulos establish contacts in Russia and stated that the Russian ambassador in London was a friend of hers,” according to the Mueller report.
Papadopoulos emails Carter Page and other campaign officials about his meeting with Mifsud and Polonskaya. “The topic of the lunch was to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump,” he writes. “They are keen to host us in a ‘neutral’ city, or directly in Moscow. They said the leadership, including Putin, is ready to meet with us and Mr. Trump should there be interest. Waiting for everyone’s thoughts on moving forward with this very important issue.”
March 29 — Trump announces that Paul Manafort, a longtime Republican operative, will be his campaign convention manager. Manafort had worked for more than a decade for pro-Russia political organizations and people in Ukraine — including Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine and a close ally of Putin.
March 31 — Trump attends a national security meeting that was chaired by Sessions and attended by his foreign policy advisers, including Page and Papadopoulos. At the meeting, Papadopoulos says he has connections in Russia and could help arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, according to the Justice Department. “Papadopoulos and Campaign advisor J.D. Gordon — who told investigators in an interview that he had a “crystal clear” recollection of the meeting — have stated that Trump was interested in and receptive to the idea of a meeting with Putin,” according to the Mueller report.
April — The Internet Research Agency, a Russian online propaganda operation, begins to “produce, purchase, and post advertisements on U.S. social media and other online sites expressly advocating for the election of then-candidate Trump or expressly opposing Clinton.” (This is from the Feb. 16, 2018, indictment of the Internet Research Agency and 13 Russian nationals. The advertising continued through November 2016.)
April 6 — Russian military intelligence officers create an email account similar to a Clinton campaign staffer and then send emails to more than 30 Clinton campaign employees that include a link to a document titled, “hillary-clinton-favorable-rating.xlsx.” The link directs the recipients’ computers to a website created by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency.
April 12 — Russian military intelligence officers use the stolen credentials of a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee employee to access the DCCC computer network. (By June, they had gained access to 33 DNC computers.)
April 18 — Mifsud, while in Moscow, introduces Papadopoulos via email to “Ivan Timofeev, a member of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). Mifsud had described Timofeev as having connections with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the executive entity in Russia responsible for Russian foreign relations,” according to the Mueller report.
April 26 — At a meeting in London, Mifsud tells Papadopoulos that the Russian government has “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” (The meeting would be disclosed later in a plea agreement between Papadopoulos and the Justice Department and detailed in the Mueller report.)
April 27 – Trump delivers a foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the United States, attends the event. Trump vows to improve relations with Russia by finding shared interests, such as combating terrorism. “I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia — from a position of strength only — is possible, absolutely possible,” Trump says. (Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, would later tell congressional investigators on July 24, 2017, that he spoke briefly to Kislyak and three other foreign ambassadors at the event. “[W]e shook hands, exchanged brief pleasantries and I thanked them for attending the event and said I hoped they would like candidate Trump’s speech and his ideas for a fresh approach to America’s foreign policy,” Kushner says. “Each exchange lasted less than a minute; some gave me their business cards and invited me to lunch at their embassies. I never took them up on any of these invitations and that was the extent of the interactions.”)
May 4 — Sater, a Russian-American and Trump business associate, sends an email to Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, about arranging for Cohen and Trump to visit Russia and discuss plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow. “I had a chat with Moscow. ASSUMING the trip does happen the question is before or after the convention … Obviously the pre-meeting trip (you only) can happen anytime you want but the 2 big guys where [sic] the question. I said I would confirm and revert.” In response, Cohen wrote, “My trip before Cleveland. [Trump] once he becomes the nominee after the convention.” (The existence of this email was disclosed in a criminal information filed against Cohen in federal court on Nov. 29, 2018 as part of Cohen’s plea deal. Trump is identified in the information as Individual 1 and Sater as Individual 2.)
May 5 — In a follow-up email on a possible trip to Moscow, Sater tells Cohen that a Russian official “would like to invite you as his guest to the St . Petersburg Forum which is Russia’s Davos it’s June 16- 19. He wants to meet there with you and possibly introduce you to either [Russian President Vladimir Putin] or [Dmitry Medvedev], as they are not sure if 1 or both will be there. He said anything you want to discuss including dates and subjects are on the table to discuss.” (The existence of this email was disclosed in a criminal information filed against Cohen on Nov. 29, 2018. Putin is identified only as “the President of Russia” and Medvedev as “the Prime Minister of Russia.”)
May 6 — In a conversation with a representative of a foreign government, Papadopoulos suggests “that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton,” according to the Mueller report. “The foreign government conveyed this information to the U.S. government on July 26, 2016, a few days after WikiLeaks’s release of Clinton-related emails,” the Mueller report said. “The FBI opened its investigation of potential coordination between Russia and the Trump Campaign a few days later based on the information.”
Sater emails Cohen about attending the St. Petersburg Forum, asking the Trump Organization executive whether he would be able to travel to Moscow on those dates. “Works for me,” Cohen writes.
May 10 — Prior to the National Rifle Association annual convention in Louisville, Kentucky, Paul Erickson, a Republican strategist, emails Rick Dearborn, a Trump campaign official, with the subject line “Kremlin Connection.” Erickson says “President Putin’s emissary” will be at the NRA convention and would like to meet with Trump and present Mrs. Trump with a gift. “Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump. He wants to extend an invitation to Mr. Trump to visit him in the Kremlin before the election.” (This and other emails about the NRA meeting would later be disclosed in separate House intelligence reports written by the Republican staff and Democratic staff.)
May 16 — Rick Clay, an advocate for Christian causes, emails Dearborn with the subject line “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite.” Clay says Russia would like to set up a private meeting at the NRA convention between Trump and Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of Russia’s central bank. (The New York Times would later write about Clay’s email, which also was included in the House intelligence committee reports.)
May 17 — Dearborn forwards Clay’s email to Kushner, Manafort and Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, calling it an “interesting request.” He says Torshin would like to “meet with a high level official in our campaign” to discuss “an offer [Torshin] claims to be carrying from President Putin to meet with DJT.”
May 19 — Manafort is elevated from convention manager to campaign chairman and chief strategist.
May 20 — Trump gives a speech at the NRA convention in Kentucky. Torshin also attends the convention and meets with Donald Trump Jr. (Donald Trump Jr. told the House intelligence committee that he spoke to Torshin about “stuff as it related to shooting and hunting,” and the Republican staff report said no other witnesses interviewed by the committee “provided a contrary recollection.”)
May 21 — Papadopoulos emails Manafort: “Russia has been eager to meet Mr. Trump for quite sometime and have been reaching out to me to discuss.” (The Post, which reported the email exchange in an Aug. 14, 2017, story, reported that Manafort forwarded the email to his deputy, Rick Gates, with a note saying, “We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips.”)
May 25 — Russian military intelligence officers successfully hack into the DNC’s server and over the course of a week stole thousands of emails from DNC employees.
June — The Internet Research Agency begins to organize political rallies in the U.S. (This is from the Feb. 16, 2018, indictment of the Internet Research Agency and 13 Russian nationals. The indictment provides examples of pro-Trump and/or anti-Clinton rallies during the campaign, including in Florida, Pennsylvania and New York. At “Florida Goes Trump” rallies in August, the Russians paid “one U.S. person to build a cage on a flatbed truck and another U.S. person to wear a costume portraying Clinton in a prison uniform,” the indictment says.)
June 3 – Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s eldest son, receives an email about information that could be damaging to the Clinton campaign that was purportedly “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” The email from music publicist Rob Goldstone says that Russian pop star Emin Agalarov reached out to him on behalf of his father, Aras Agalarov, a Russian real estate developer who has ties to Donald Trump Sr., including his 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. “Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting,” Goldstone wrote. “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.” Goldstone asks if Donald Trump Jr. would speak to Emin. The younger Trump responds, saying, “[I]f it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
June 7 – Goldstone again emails Donald Trump Jr., saying: “Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday.”
June 8 — Russian military intelligence officers launch the website dcleaks.com, which they use to release stolen emails from DNC and Clinton campaign. (The website falsely claims it was started by group of “American hacktivists.” It will receive more than 1 million page views before it shuts down in March 2017.)
June 9 – Donald Trump Jr., Manafort and Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Sr.’s son-in-law, meet with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower. The New York Times, which on July 8, 2017, broke the story of the meeting, said Veselnitskaya “has connections to the Kremlin.” (See the entry for July 8, 2017, for Donald Trump Jr.’s response to the story.) Goldstone, Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist, Ike Kaveladze, a vice president of a Russian real estate company, and Anatoli Samochornov, a translator and a former State Department contractor, also attend the meeting. (Kushner would later issue a statement to congressional investigators on July 24, 2017, about the meeting that says: “No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign, there was no follow up to the meeting that I am aware of, I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted.”)
June 14 — The Washington Post reports that hackers had gained access to DNC servers. It is the first public disclosure of the security breach.
Cohen meets with Sater in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City and tells him that he cannot travel to Moscow, as discussed, for the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and meet Russian officials later that month. (The existence of this meeting was disclosed in a criminal information filed against Cohen on Nov. 29, 2018. The information said that Cohen and Trump did not visit Russia to discuss the Trump Tower Moscow project.)
June 15 — CrowdStrike, a computer security firm hired by the DNC to investigate the hacking, says that Russia is behind the cyberattack. In a blog post on its website, CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch says that the company “immediately identified two sophisticated adversaries on the network – COZY BEAR and FANCY BEAR.” He writes that “both adversaries engage in extensive political and economic espionage for the benefit of the government of the Russian Federation and are believed to be closely linked to the Russian government’s powerful and highly capable intelligence services.”
Guccifer 2.0 takes credit in a blog post for hacking the DNC computers and releases a few documents, including the Democratic Party’s 200-page opposition research report on Donald Trump. “The main part of the papers, thousands of files and mails, I gave to Wikileaks. They will publish them soon,” Guccifer 2.0 says in its blog post. (U.S. intelligence would later identify Guccifer 2.0 as the “persona” used by Russian military intelligence to release hacked emails to media outlets and WikiLeaks. Federal prosecutors would later say Guccifer used the same computer infrastructure and financing as DCLeaks.)
Trump releases a statement that says: “We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader.”
June 20 — Manafort becomes the Trump campaign manager. He replaces Corey Lewandowski, who was fired.
Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, files his first of 16 memos on Trump’s connections to Russia. Fusion GPS, a research firm founded by former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch, hired Steele as part of an opposition research project paid for by a law firm representing Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
July 7 — Manafort offers to give “private briefings” to Russian aluminum billionaire Oleg Deripaska regarding the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. (The Washington Post disclosed the offer in a Sept. 20, 2017, story. The Post said there was no evidence that any briefings took place, and Manafort’s spokesman said his client was offering a “routine” status update on the campaign.)
July 8 – Page, a Trump foreign policy adviser, visits Moscow and speaks at the commencement ceremony of the New Economic School. Prior to his trip, Page informed Sessions and some members of the campaign’s national security team about his Moscow visit. In his speech, Page is critical of U.S. policy toward Russia. (The Washington Post would later report on Sept. 26, 2016, that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich also spoke at the graduation. Page told the Post that the two men only exchanged pleasantries at the event. The New York Times reported on Nov. 2, 2017, that Page said he met with two Russian government officials during his visit. “I had a very brief hello to a couple of people. That was it,” Page told the Times.)
July 15 — Flynn sends an email that says, “There are a number of things happening (and will happen) this election via cyber operations (by both hacktivists, nation states and the DNC).” The name of the recipient is not known. (Flynn’s email was contained on Page 72 of a redacted report issued by the Republicans on the House intelligence committee.)
July 20 – Sessions delivers a speech at “Global Partners in Diplomacy,” an event held during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and sponsored by the State Department, Heritage Foundation and others. After the event, Sessions had what he would later describe as a “brief encounter” with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S. The event was attended by somewhere between 50 ambassadors, according to the Washington Post, and 100 ambassadors, according to Heritage. (Sessions acknowledged when he recused himself from the Russian investigation in March 2017 that he spoke twice with Kislyak, including at this event.)
(In the January 2019 indictment of Roger Stone, an informal adviser to Trump, the special counsel’s office would say, “After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign.” The indictment referred to WikiLeaks as Organization 1.)
July 25 – The FBI confirms it has opened an investigation into the hacking of the DNC computer network. “The FBI is investigating a cyber intrusion involving the DNC and are working to determine the nature and scope of the matter. A compromise of this nature is something we take very seriously, and the FBI will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace,” it says in a release.
(A report by the Republican-controlled House intelligence committee would later say that the FBI in late July began investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the election and whether Trump campaign associates were involved in those efforts “following the receipt of derogatory information about foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos.”)
July 25 — In a tweet, Trump says: “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.”
July 27 — At a press conference, Trump says he has “never spoken” to Putin, even though he had said in 2013 “I have a relationship” with Putin. At the press conference, Trump also says he doubts that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC computer network, but invites Russia to find the 30,000 personal emails that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s staff deleted when she left office. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he says. Trump later says he was being “sarcastic” in inviting Russia to find the emails.
On or about that same day, Russian military intelligence officers attempt “to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.” (This is according to the July 13, 2018, indictment filed against 12 Russian military intelligence officers.)
July 29 — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announces that its computer network also has been hacked. Several of its House candidates were targets of stolen emails released by Guccifer 2.0.
July 31 — The FBI initiates a counterintelligence investigation after receiving information that Papadopoulos had learned that the Russians obtained “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”
The New York Times reports on Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort’s “business dealings with prominent Ukrainian and Russian tycoons.”
Aug. 2 — Manafort and Gates meet with Konstantin V. Kilimnik in New York City. Prosecutors believe Kilimnik, a Russian Army-trained linguist who oversaw the Kiev office for Davis Manafort Partners Inc., had active ties to Russian intelligence during the 2016 campaign. (In court filings, prosecutor Andrew Weissman told a judge in 2019: “This [meeting] goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the Special Counsel’s Office is investigating.” The Mueller report said, “Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a message from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was then living in Russia. The message was about a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort has since acknowledged was a ‘backdoor’ means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine.”)
Jerome Corsi, a conservative author, informs Roger Stone, an informal adviser and friend to Trump, that WikiLeaks plans to release “very damaging” information about Clinton. “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.… Time to let more than [the Clinton Campaign chairman] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton],” Corsi writes. “That appears to be the game hackers are now about.” (The contents of Corsi’s email are contained in a statement of offense drafted by the special counsel’s office and released by Corsi on Nov. 27, 2018.)
Aug. 3 — Donald Trump Jr. meets at Trump Tower with an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes and an Israeli social media expert to discuss a social media campaign strategy. (The existence of the meeting was disclosed on May 19, 2018, in a New York Times story. “He was not interested and that was the end of it,” Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Donald Trump Jr., said. “The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president,” according to the Times. The meeting was arranged by Erik Prince, a private security contractor with business interests in the Middle East, and attended by Joel Zamel, an Israeli social media expert, the Times said. In a statement to the Times, Futerfas confirmed that such a meeting took place. “They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy.)
Aug. 8 — Stone, Trump’s informal adviser, says during a speech to the Southwest Broward Republican Organization that he had “communicated with Assange,” referring to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Stone tells the Republican group, “I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation but there’s no telling what the October surprise may be.”
Aug. 14 — The New York Times reports that Manafort’s name surfaced in a secret ledger that recorded millions of dollars in payments from a pro-Russian party in Ukraine. Manafort’s lawyer, Richard A. Hibey, told the Times that his client did not receive “any such cash payments.”
Aug. 15 — After several weeks of discussions about a potential meeting with Russian officials, Sam Clovis, Trump’s national campaign co-chairman, encourages Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign policy adviser, to make a trip to Russia. (This exchange between Clovis and Papadopoulos was disclosed in a court document as part of the plea agreement announced by the Justice Department on Oct. 30, 2017. Clovis, who was described in the court document as “the Campaign Supervisor,” tells Papadopoulos “that ‘I would encourage you’ and another foreign policy advisor to the Campaign to ‘make the trip, if it is feasible.’” But the trip proposed by Papadopoulos did not take place, the Justice Department says.)
Aug. 14-17 — Stone exchanges Twitter messages with Guccifer 2.0, which the U.S. intelligence community later publicly identified as the “persona” used by Russian military intelligence to release hacked emails to media outlets and WikiLeaks. The exchange of Twitter messages was initiated by Stone after Guccifer 2.0’s Twitter account was reinstated after being suspended. In one message, Guccifer tells Stone, “please tell me if I can help u anyhow.”
Aug. 19 — Trump removes Manafort as his campaign manager.
Aug. 21 — Stone tweets, “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel,” referring to Clinton’s campaign chairman. (Rep. Adam Schiff would later claim that Stone’s tweet “predicted that John Podesta would be a victim of a Russian hack and have his private emails published.” Stone said the tweet was about Podesta’s business ties with Russia. He said his “friend and colleague Paul Manafort was under attack for his perfectly legal work in Ukraine for a democratic political party. I predicted that Podesta’s business dealings would be exposed.”)
Sept. 8 — Sen. Jeff Sessions meets privately with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, in the senator’s office.
In an interview that airs on RT, formerly known as Russia Today, Trump says it is “pretty unlikely” that the Russian government was behind the hacks targeting the Democratic Party. “I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out. Who knows? But I think that it’s pretty unlikely,” Trump said. “I hope that if they are doing something I hope that somebody’s going to be able to find out so they can end it, because that would not be appropriate.”
Sept. 20 — The official WikiLeaks Twitter account sends Donald Trump Jr. a private direct message. “A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch. The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?” A day later, Trump Jr. responds, “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around.” (Trump Jr. would later release this and other direct messages he exchanged with WikiLeaks on Twitter from Sept. 20, 2016, to July 11, 2017. This message is the first known contact between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which the U.S. intelligence community has said was used by Russia as part of its influence campaign to help elect Trump.)
Sept. 26 — At the first presidential debate, Trump discounts reports that Russia is behind the computer hacks targeting Democrats. “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC,” Trump says. “She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
September and October — Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman and Manafort’s former business associate, is in direct communication with a “former Russian Intelligence Officer” who has ties to the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency. (This information was contained in a court document dated March 27, 2018. The Russian contact was identified in court papers only as “Person A,” but the New York Times reported he is “Konstantin V. Kilimnik, who for years was Mr. Manafort’s right-hand man in Ukraine.”)
Oct. 1 — Radio host Randy Credico, whom Stone would later describe as his intermediary with WikiLeaks, sends Stone text messages that say, “big news Wednesday . . . now pretend u don’t know me . . . Hillary’s campaign will die this week.” (The email was disclosed in Stone’s indictment. The indictment refers to Credico as “Person 2.”)
Stone tweets, “Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.”
Oct. 3 — WikiLeaks sends a direct message on Twitter to Donald Trump Jr. “Hiya, it’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story,” WikiLeaks says to Trump Jr., referring to a comment that Hillary Clinton allegedly made about Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder. An hour and a half later, Trump Jr responds, “Already did that earlier today. It’s amazing what she can get away with.” (A day earlier, the conservative website True Pundit wrote that Clinton in 2010 asked whether the U.S. could “just drone” Assange, citing anonymous State Department sources. Clinton said she could not recall making such a comment.)
After exchanging messages on Clinton’s alleged comments about Assange, Trump Jr. asks WikiLeaks, “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?” WikiLeaks does not respond, at least not on Twitter.
Stone tweets, “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp”
Matthew Boyle, the political editor of Breitbart, sends Stone a text message that says, “Assange — what’s he got? Hope it’s good.” Stone replies, “It is. I’d tell Bannon but he doesn’t call me back.”
Boyle forwards Stone’s email to Bannon and says, “You should call Roger. See below. You didn’t get it from me.” Bannon responds to Boyle, “I’ve got important stuff to worry about.”
Oct. 4 — Boyle responds to Bannon’s email: “Well clearly he knows what Assange has. I’d call that important.”
In Berlin, Assange tells reporters about his plan to release “significant material” in the near future regarding, among other things, the U.S. presidential election. The founder of WikiLeaks says, “We hope to be publishing every week for the next 10 weeks.”
After Assange’s press conference, Bannon and Stone exchange emails about WikiLeaks’ plans to release hacked material. “A load every week going forward,” Stone writes to Bannon.
(The emails exchanged between Boyle, Stone and Bannon in the days just prior to WikiLeaks’ release of Podesta’s emails were disclosed in Stone’s indictment. Boyle is described in the indictment as “a reporter who had connections to a high-ranking Trump Campaign official,” referring to Bannon.)
Oct. 7 — WikiLeaks begins to release Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails.
After WikiLeaks released Podesta’s emails, Stone receives a text message from Bannon’s “associate” that says, “Well done.” (The text message was included in Stone’s indictment.)
The Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issue a joint statement saying that the U.S. intelligence community is “confident” that hacks into the email systems of the Democratic Party and its officials were directed by the Russian government.
Oct. 9 — At the second presidential debate, Clinton notes that “our intelligence community just came out and said in the last few days that the Kremlin, meaning Putin and the Russian government, are directing the attacks … to influence our election.” Trump responds: “I notice any time anything wrong happens they like to say, the Russians, the Russians — she doesn’t know it’s the Russians doing the hacking, maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia.”
Oct. 11 — Trump tweets, “I hope people are looking at the disgraceful behavior of Hillary Clinton as exposed by WikiLeaks. She is unfit to run.”
Oct. 12 — In a direct message on Twitter, WikiLeaks asks Donald Trump Jr., to have his father tweet a link to hacked Democratic emails that can be found on WikiLeaks: “Hey Donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us wlsearch.tk. i.e you guys can get all your followers digging through the content. There’s many great stories the press are missing and we’re sure some of your follows will find it.”
Donald Trump Sr. tweets, “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!” The tweet does not include a link to WikiLeaks, and it is not clear if the tweet is in response to WikiLeaks’ request.
Oct. 14 — Trump Jr. publicly tweets the wlsearch.tk link, as noted in the Mueller report released April 18, 2019.
Oct. 19 — At the third and final debate, Trump again refuses to accept the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was responsible for stealing emails of Democratic Party committees and officials. “She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else,” Trump says. When Clinton interrupted to say it was the opinion of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the hacking, Trump responded: “And our country has no idea.”
Oct. 21 — The FBI receives approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a member of Trump’s foreign policy team.
Oct. 30 — In a letter to FBI Director James Comey, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid criticizes Comey for failing to disclose that his office possesses “explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his advisors, and the Russian government.”
Nov. 3 — The Internet Research Agency-controlled Instagram account “Blacktivist” posts a message that is part of a larger campaign by Russia to suppress the minority vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote.” (This is from the Feb. 16, 2018, indictment of the Internet Research Agency and 13 Russian nationals.)
Nov. 8 — Donald J. Trump is elected 45th president of the United States.
Nov. 10 — Trump meets with President Barack Obama at the White House. Obama reportedly warns Trump against hiring Flynn.
Nov. 18 — The president-elect selects Flynn as his national security adviser.
Nov. 28 — Trump reiterates his lack of confidence in the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was responsible for the computer hacks. Trump tells Time magazine, “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
Nov. 30 — Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and Flynn meet with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, at Trump Tower. (The Trump White House did not acknowledge the meeting occurred until it was disclosed in March 2017. The content of the conversation was not disclosed at that time, but in May 2017 the Washington Post reported that Kushner and Kislyak “discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin.” In a statement to congressional investigators on July 24, 2017, Kushner says Kislyak “wanted to convey information from what he called his ‘generals’” about “U.S. policy in Syria.” Kushner said the exchange of information did not occur during the transition because neither party could arrange a secure line of communication. “I asked if they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to General Flynn. The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration. Nothing else occurred,” Kushner’s statement reads. The Mueller report released April 18, 2019, said nothing came of meeting. “Kislyak floated the idea of having Russian generals brief the Transition Team on the topic using a secure communications line,” the report said. “After Flynn explained that there was no secure line in the Transition Team offices, Kushner asked Kislyak if they could communicate using secure facilities at the Russian Embassy. Kislyak quickly rejected that idea.”)
Dec. 9 — The Washington Post reports that the CIA believes the Russians were trying to help Trump win the election. In response, Trump issues a statement that criticizes the U.S. intelligence community. “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.’”
President Obama announces he has ordered a detailed review of Russian hacks during the 2016 campaign.
Dec. 13 — Kushner meets with Sergey N. Gorkov, the chief of Vnesheconombank — a Russian state-run bank that had been sanctioned by the Obama administration in 2014 after Russia had annexed Crimea. Under the sanctions, U.S. entities are prohibited from conducting any financial deals with Vnesheconombank. Gorkov was appointed to head the bank by Putin. (The meeting was not revealed until March 2017. At that time, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer explained that “throughout the campaign and the transition, Jared served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials until we had State Department officials up.” But in a statement, the bank said Gorkov met with Kushner in his capacity as the then-chief executive officer of Kushner Companies, his family’s real estate conglomerate.)
In his July 24, 2017, statement to congressional investigators, Kushner says he spoke to Gorkov for 20 to 25 minutes and “he told me a little about his bank and made some statements about the Russian economy.” Kushner says, “At no time was there any discussion about my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind.”)
Dec. 22 — Flynn asks Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, if Russia would delay or defeat an upcoming U.N. Security Council resolution vote that sought to condemn Israel’s building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Obama administration agreed to allow the resolution to come up for a vote — angering Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (A day later, the U.N. resolution would pass, with Russia voting in favor and the U.S. abstaining from voting.)
Dec. 29 — With less than a month remaining in office, Obama announces “a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election in 2016.”
In a phone call with Kislyak, Flynn asks that Russia refrain from retaliating to the U.S. sanctions. Kislyak agrees that Russia would “moderate its response to those sanctions” as a result of his request, according to charges later filed against Flynn by the U.S. special counsel’s office. (Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador would not become public until next year.)
Dec. 30 — Putin issues a statement that says Russia will not retaliate against the U.S. for imposing sanctions, citing the incoming Trump administration. “While we reserve the right to take reciprocal measures, we’re not going to downgrade ourselves to the level of irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy,” Putin said. “In our future steps on the way toward the restoration of Russia-United States relations, we will proceed from the policy pursued by the administration of D. Trump.”
In a tweet, Trump praises Putin’s decision, calling the Russian president “very smart!”
Early January — The FISA court agrees to extend the FBI’s surveillance of Carter Page, who was a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.
Jan. 3 — In advance of a meeting with U.S. intelligence officials about Russia’s interference in the U.S. elections, Trump tweets: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”
Jan. 6 — The Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases a declassified intelligence report that says: “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” The report says Russian intelligence services gained access to the Democratic National Committee computer network for nearly a year, from July 2015 to June 2016, and released hacked material to WikiLeaks and other outlets “to help President-elect Trump’s election chances.”
The DNI report contains no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Intelligence officials brief Trump on their findings. After the briefing, Comey remains alone in the room with the president-elect to brief Trump on what Comey would later call “some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment” that were “salacious and unverified.”
Comey also assures the president-elect at the meeting that he is not personally under investigation. (“That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him,” Comey would later tell the Senate intelligence committee in written testimony prior to his June 8 hearing.) Immediately after leaving the meeting, Comey types up some notes in his car — one of seven memos he wrote about his encounters with Trump.
Trump releases a statement about the briefing that says, in part: “While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”
Jan. 10 — At the Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions, Sen. Al Franken asks Sessions: “[I]f 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 replied, “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians.” (Sessions would later acknowledge that he had two meetings with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., during the campaign, although he would say neither was related to the campaign.)
Sessions also says, “I do believe that if an attorney general is asked to do something that’s plainly unlawful, he cannot participate in that — he or she — and that person would have to resign ultimately before agreeing to execute a policy that the attorney general believes would be unlawful or unconstitutional.”
CNN reports that Trump received a two-page synopsis of unsubstantiated compromising information that Russian operatives had allegedly gathered about Trump. The FBI presented the two-page synopsis to Trump at the Jan. 6 intelligence briefing on Russia. BuzzFeed publishes the full 35-page unsubstantiated report on Trump, even though the news outlet acknowledges the “allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.”
Jan. 11 — Trump tweets in response to the CNN and BuzzFeed reports: “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
Jan. 12 — The Washington Post reports that Flynn and Kislyak spoke on Dec. 29, the day that the U.S. announced new sanctions on Russia in response to the cyberattacks during the 2016 presidential election. Spicer denies that the call was about U.S. sanctions. “The call centered on the logistics of setting up a call with the president of Russia and the president-elect after he was sworn in,” Spicer said. “And they exchanged logistical information on how to initiate and schedule that call. That was it, plain and simple.”
Jan. 13 — The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence announces that it will investigate “Russian intelligence activities” during the 2016 U.S. election, “including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.”
Jan. 15 — Vice President-elect Mike Pence says Flynn and Kislyak did not discuss U.S. sanctions on Russia. “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,” Pence said.
Jan. 20 — Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.
Jan. 22 — On the same day that Flynn is sworn in as the national security adviser, the Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. counterintelligence agents have investigated Flynn’s communications with Russian officials.
Jan. 24 — Two days after he takes office as President Trump’s national security adviser, Flynn is interviewed by FBI agents. He is asked about two conversations that he had with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, in December 2016 when Flynn was still a private citizen and before Trump took office.
Flynn tells the FBI agents that he did not ask Kislyak, in a Dec. 29, 2016, conversation, for Russia to refrain from retaliating after the Obama administration announced sanctions that day against Russia for interfering in the 2016 elections. He also says that he did not ask Kislyak, in a Dec. 22, 2016, conversation for Russia to delay or defeat a U.N. Security Council resolution, approved Dec. 23, 2016, that would have condemned Israel’s building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Flynn would later plead guilty to lying to the FBI about both of those conversations with Kislyak.
Jan. 25 — The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence announces that it will investigate Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and “any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.”
Jan. 26 — Acting Attorney General Sally Yates meets with White House counsel Donald McGahn in his office. She tells McGahn that high-ranking administration officials, including Vice President Pence, had made statements “about General Flynn’s conduct that we knew to be untrue.” She was referring to administration statements that Flynn did not discuss U.S. sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador. (This would not be disclosed until Yates testified before Congress on May 8.)
Jan. 27 — Trump and Comey privately dine at the White House. Comey says: “[T]he President said, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.’ I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.” At that point, Comey recalls the president again saying, “‘I need loyalty.’ I replied, ‘You will always get honesty from me.’ He paused and then said, ‘That’s what I want, honest loyalty.’ I paused, and then said, ‘You will get that from me.’” Comey also tells Trump that he is not personally under investigation. (Comey gave this account of the meeting in written testimony for his June 8 hearing before the Senate intelligence committee, and in one of seven memos he wrote about his encounters with Trump. The dinner meeting was first reported May 11 by the New York Times.)
On the same day as Comey’s dinner with Trump, the FBI interviews Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. He is asked about contacts he may have had with Russians during the campaign. (At this meeting, Papadopoulos makes false statements that would result in a guilty plea for lying to FBI investigators.)
Jan. 28 — Trump receives a congratulatory phone call from Putin.
Feb. 9 — The Washington Post reports that Flynn “privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials,” citing unnamed current and former officials.
Feb. 13 – Flynn resigns. He acknowledges that he misled Pence and others in the administration about his conversations with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. “I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Flynn says.
Feb. 14 — Trump privately meets with Comey in the Oval Office. Comey says that the president brought up the FBI investigation of Flynn. “He then said, ‘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.’ I replied only that ‘he is a good guy.’ … I did not say I would ‘let this go,'” Comey recalled. (Comey gave this account of his meeting with Trump in written testimony for his June 8 hearing before the Senate intelligence committee. The FBI director also recounted the meeting in one of seven memos that he wrote about his encounters with Trump. The account was first reported May 16 by the New York Times. At the time, the White House issued a statement saying the Times story is “not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”)
Feb. 15 — A day after Trump reportedly asked Comey to drop the investigation of Flynn, the FBI director tells U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that “he did not want to be left alone again with the president,” according to a New York Times story published June 6. (Comey also confirms the Times account in his June 8 Senate testimony.)
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asks FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe if the agency would help the White House knock down news stories about contacts between Trump aides and Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Feb. 16 — Trump is asked at a press conference, “Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss the sanctions with the Russian ambassador?” He responds, “No, I didn’t. No, I didn’t.”
The FBI interviews Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign policy adviser, for a second time.
March 1 — The Washington Post reports that then-Sen. Sessions “spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States,” including a private meeting in the senator’s office on Sept. 8, 2016. The report contradicts what Sessions told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary during his confirmation hearing.
March 2 — Sessions, now the U.S. attorney general, acknowledges at a press conference that he met with the Russian ambassador and failed to disclose those meetings to the Senate. “In retrospect, I should have slowed down and said, ‘But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times. That would be the ambassador,’” Sessions says. He also announces he will recuse himself “from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.”
March 4 — In a flurry of tweets, Trump accuses Obama of illegally “tapping my phones in October” during the “very sacred election process.” He compares Obama’s actions to Watergate and calls the former president a “bad (or sick) guy!” Trump presents no evidence that Obama was tapping his phones.
March 20 — FBI Director Comey confirms the existence of an FBI investigation at a hearing of the House intelligence committee. Comey tells the committee that the agency is investigating “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating 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.”
March 22 — Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House intelligence committee, holds a press conference to announce that he had reviewed intelligence reports that show “incidental collection” on some unnamed Trump transition team members had occurred after the election. Nunes, a former Trump transition team member, says he believes the information was legally obtained and was unrelated to Russia, but he says it raises questions about whether the intelligence community was improperly unmasking U.S. citizens whose identities should be protected.
Trump tells Time magazine that the “new information” from Nunes proved he was “right” when he tweeted that Obama was tapping his phones. But it doesn’t, as we reported. Nunes himself said the information he reviewed “doesn’t mean that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.”
March 27 — The New York Times reports that the Senate intelligence committee informed the White House that it wants to question Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, about his meetings in December with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, and Gorkov, the head of Russia’s state-owned bank.
Nunes acknowledges that he went to the White House to review the intelligence reports on the “incidental collection” of information on Trump transition team members.
March 30 — Trump calls Comey and asks what can be done to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation from his administration. Comey told Trump that he was not personally under investigation. “He finished by stressing ‘the cloud’ that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated,” Comey said. “I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.” (Comey gave this account of the meeting in written testimony for his June 8 hearing before the Senate intelligence committee. He also memorialized the meeting in one of seven memos that he wrote about his encounters with Trump.)
Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, says in a statement that his client is willing to testify before Congress if Flynn receives immunity. “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” Kelner’s statement said.
March 31 — 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!”
The White House releases a revised financial disclosure form for Flynn that shows he received speaking fees from RT TV, the Russian television network, and two other Russian firms. Flynn failed to report that income when he initially filed his disclosure form in February.
Early April — The FISA court agrees to extend the FBI’s surveillance of Carter Page, who was a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.
April 6 — Nunes announces he will no longer oversee the House intelligence committee’s Russia investigation.
April 11 — Comey returns Trump’s call and the two men speak for about four minutes. The former FBI director recalls that the president “asked what I had done about his request that I ‘get out’ that he is not personally under investigation.” Comey suggests that Trump contact the acting deputy attorney general to make that request. “He said he would do that and added, ‘Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.'” After hanging up, Comey took notes about the call — one of seven memos that he wrote to himself about his encounters with Trump. (This would be the last time that the two men spoke. Comey gave this account of the phone call in written testimony for his June 8 hearing before the Senate intelligence committee.)
The Washington Post reports that the FBI obtained a secret court order last summer under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a member of Trump’s foreign policy team. The Justice Department convinced the FISA judge that Page, who had worked in Russia, “was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia,” the Post wrote.
April 28 – The Senate intelligence committee requests that Flynn turn over any documents relevant to its investigation into the Russian interference with the election. (Flynn declined, and the committee would later subpoena the documents, which Flynn turned over on June 6.)
May 3 — Comey discloses at a Senate judiciary committee hearing that the FBI has “opened investigations on” more than one “U.S. persons” in connection with the FBI investigation into whether the Trump campaign cooperated with Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 campaign. Comey declines to answer if Trump is under investigation. He says FBI investigators are “always open-minded” and will “follow the evidence wherever it takes us.” He says, “I’m not going to comment on anyone in particular, because that puts me down a slope of — because if I say no to that then I have to answer succeeding questions. So what we’ve done is brief the chair and ranking on who the U.S. persons are that we’ve opened investigations on. And that’s — that’s as far as we’re going to go, at this point.”
May 5 — The National Security Agency says in a detailed classified report that the Russian military intelligence operation carried out cyberattacks in 2016 on a company that supplies software for voting machines in eight U.S. states. The report contains no evidence that any votes were changed as a result of the hack. (The NSA report was obtained by The Intercept, an online website that started as a platform for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The report was published on June 5.)
May 8 — Yates testifies at a Senate hearing that she had two in-person meetings and one phone call with McGahn, the White House counsel, to discuss Flynn’s meetings with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. Her first meeting with McGahn was on Jan. 26, as mentioned above.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein learns that Trump intends to fire Comey. Rosenstein later would tell Congress, “On May 8, I learned that President Trump intended to remove Director Comey and sought my advice and input. Notwithstanding my personal affection for Director Comey, I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader.” Rosenstein then set out to write a memo outlining his concerns about Comey’s leadership.
May 9 – Trump fires Comey. A White House statement said that Trump acted “based on the clear recommendations” of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In a two-and-a-half-page memo, Rosenstein cited Comey’s handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for official government business while she was the secretary of state under Obama. Rosenstein criticized Comey for holding a press conference on July 5, 2016, to publicly announce his recommendation to not charge Clinton, and for disclosing on Oct. 28, 2016, that the FBI had reopened its investigation of Clinton.
May 10 — Trump meets in the Oval Office with Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. The official White House readout of the meeting makes no mention that Kislyak attended the meeting. (It was later reported that Trump made disparaging remarks about Comey and disclosed classified information at the meeting. See the entries for May 15 and May 19.)
CNN also reports the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, issued subpoenas to associates who worked with Michael Flynn on contracts after he left the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014.
The Senate intelligence committee subpoenas Flynn seeking “documents relevant to the Committee’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.”
May 11 – Trump says in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire Comey. The president says he would have fired Comey with or without Rosenstein’s recommendation. “He made a recommendation, but 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 just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'”
The New York Times reports that Trump allegedly asked Comey for his loyalty at a private dinner meeting on Jan. 27 at the White House. (Comey confirms the Times account in written testimony for his June 8 appearance before the Senate intelligence committee. See the Jan. 27 entry for details.)
Sen. Mark Warner, ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, discloses that the committee has sent a request to FinCEN, the Treasury Department’s criminal investigation division, for any information it may have related to the president, administration officials and former campaign officials. “We’ve made a request, to FinCEN in the Treasury Department, to make sure, not just for example vis-a-vis the President, but just overall our effort to try to follow the intel no matter where it leads,” Sen. Mark Warner told CNN. “You get materials that show if there have been, what level of financial ties between, I mean some of the stuff, some of the Trump-related officials, Trump campaign-related officials and other officials and where those dollars flow — not necessarily from Russia.”
May 12 — Trump tweets: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
May 13 — In a Fox News interview with Judge Jeanine Pirro, Trump denies that he asked for Comey’s loyalty. “But I don’t think it would be a bad question to ask,” he adds.
May 15 — The Washington Post reports that during a May 10 meeting with Russian officials Trump discussed classified information about an ISIS terrorist threat involving laptop computers on commercial airlines.
May 16 — The New York Times reports that Israel was the source of the intelligence information that Trump disclosed to Russian officials.
The Times also reports that Trump asked Comey at a Feb. 14 dinner meeting to shut down the FBI investigation of Flynn. (See the Feb. 14 entry.)
May 17 — Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, appoints former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel to investigate any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
May 18 — Trump tweets that the investigation into collusion between his campaign and the Russians “is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
At a press conference with the president of Colombia, Trump denies that he asked Comey to close down the FBI’s investigation of Flynn. “No. No. Next question,” Trump said.
May 19 — The New York Times reports that Trump told his Russian visitors at the May 10 Oval Office meeting: “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job.” Trump also told them, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
The Washington Post reports that federal investigators have “identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest” in the Russia investigation. Six days later, the Post reports that that person is Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. The term has no legal meaning, but is used by law enforcement when identifying someone who may have information of interest to an investigation.
May 22 — The Washington Post reports that “Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.” The paper says the meeting happened in March and that Coats and Rogers denied the president’s request.
May 23 — Coats appears at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and is asked if the Post report on Trump’s request to help him push back against the FBI investigation is accurate. Coats declines to answer. “It’s not appropriate for me to comment publicly on any of that,” Coats said.
Former CIA Director John O. Brennan testifies before the House intelligence committee about the federal investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. In an exchange with Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, Brennan says he does not know if any “such collusion existed,” but he was concerned about contacts between Russian officials and people involved in the Trump campaign.
“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals and it raised questions in my mind, again, whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals,” he said. “I don’t know whether or not such collusion — and that’s your term, such collusion existed. I don’t know. But I know that there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.”
May 26 — The Washington Post reports that Kushner and Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, discussed setting up a secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin at a meeting in early December 2016. (See entry for December 2016.)
May 27 — National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster downplays reports of Kushner discussing so-called back-channel communications with Russia. McMaster says the U.S. has “back-channel communications with a number of countries. So, generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is to communicate in a discreet manner.”
May 31 — The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence issues subpoenas for testimony, documents and business records from Flynn and Michael Cohen, a personal attorney to the president.
June 5 — NSA contractor Reality Winner is charged with leaking classified information about Russia’s hacking activities. It is widely reported that Winner gave The Intercept an NSA report dated May 5 that detailed how the Russian military intelligence operation carried out cyberattacks in 2016 on a U.S. election software company. (See May 5 entry.)
June 6 — Flynn provides more than 600 pages of documents to the Senate intelligence committee, CNN reports. The committee subpoenaed the documents on May 10.
The Washington Post reports that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in a March 22 meeting “if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe.” The report was based on “officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.” Brian Hale, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, issues a statement that said Coats “never felt pressured by the President or anyone else in the Administration to influence any intelligence matters or ongoing investigations.”
June 7 — At a Senate intelligence committee hearing, Sen. Marco Rubio asks National Intelligence Director Dan Coats if he has ever been asked “by the president or the White House to influence an ongoing investigation.” Coats declines to comment, saying it would be inappropriate to answer that question at an open hearing. “I am willing to come before the committee and tell you what I know and don’t know,” Coats says. “What I’m not willing to do is to share what I think is confidential information that ought to be protected in an open hearing, and so I’m not prepared to answer your question.”
At the same hearing, Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, also declines to discuss any conversations he has had with the president. But he adds, “In the three plus years that I have been the director of the National Security Agency, to the best of my recollection I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate.”
Trump announces his intention to nominate Christopher Wray to replace Comey as the FBI director. Wray was an assistant U.S. attorney general in the Bush administration in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal prosecutions division.
Comey submits written testimony to the Senate intelligence committee in advance of his June 8 appearance before the committee. In his testimony, Comey says that he first spoke to Trump on Jan. 6, 2017, at Trump Tower, and he wrote memos after each meeting or conversation. The former FBI director said that he had “nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.” On three occasions, Comey told Trump he was not personally under investigation.
Here are Comey’s impressions of some of the key conversations that he had with the president:
On his Jan. 27 dinner with Trump at the White House, where Trump asked for Comey’s loyalty: “I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because ‘problems’ come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.”
On his Feb. 14 Oval Office meeting about Flynn: “I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. … Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.”
On his March 30 phone call from Trump, in which Comey reassured the president that he was not personally under investigation and Trump asked Comey to find a way to get that information out to the public: “I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.”
June 8 – Comey testifies under oath before the Senate intelligence committee. As his written testimony detailed, Comey says the president asked him for his loyalty at a Jan. 27 dinner and asked him to drop the Flynn investigation at a Feb. 14 meeting. He also says Trump asked that the FBI “lift the cloud” over his administration and publicly announce that the president is personally not under investigation on March 30 and April 11.
Comey also discloses that he gave a copy of his memo about his meeting with the president on Feb. 14 to a friend with instructions that he share the contents of the memo with a reporter. He says he did so “because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”
Asked if the president’s request to drop the Flynn investigation amounts to obstruction of justice, Comey says: “ I don’t know. That — that’s [special counsel] Bob Mueller’s job to sort that out.”
June 9 – At a joint press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Trump denies that he told Comey to drop the Flynn investigation. “I didn’t say that,” Trump says. He also says that he never asked Comey to pledge loyalty to him. “I hardly know the man,” Trump says. “I’m not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance.”
The president also says that he is “100 percent” willing to testify under oath about his conversations with Comey. “No collusion, no obstruction, he’s a leaker,” Trump says.
When a reporter begins to ask a question about Trump hinting that he may have tape recordings of his conversations with Comey, Trump says: “I’m not hinting at anything. I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time.”
The House intelligence committee sends a letter to McGahn, the White House counsel, asking if any such tapes exist and, if so, to turn them over to the committee by June 23.
June 12 — Christopher Ruddy, CEO of the conservative Newsmax Media and a friend of the president, told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff that Trump is considering firing Mueller. “I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel,” Ruddy said. “I think he’s weighing that option.”
June 13 – Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president has the “right” to fire Mueller, but won’t. “While the president has the right to, he has no intention to do so,” Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One.
Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, tells the Senate Judiciary Committee that he alone has the authority to fire the special counsel, and that he has not seen any evidence of good cause for firing Mueller.
Sessions testifies before the Senate intelligence committee. “[T]he suggestion that I participated in any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie,” he says.
Sessions, who has acknowledged meeting the Russian ambassador on two occasions, says he does not recall meeting Kislyak a third time at Trump’s foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., on April 27, 2016. “I don’t recall it,” Sessions says. “Certainly I can assure you nothing improper — if I’d had a conversation with him and it’s conceivable that occurred — I just don’t remember it.”
Sessions declines to answer any questions about his conversations with the president regarding Comey’s firing or any other matter. “[C]onsistent with long-standing Department of Justice practice, I cannot and will not violate my duty to protect confidential communications with the president,” he says.
June 14 – The Washington Post reports that Mueller, the special counsel heading the Russia investigation, has widened his inquiry to include “an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice.” The Post reports: “Five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week. The investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI.”
June 15 — 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”.
The Washington Post reports that Mueller is investigating “the finances and business dealings” of Kushner. It also writes that the FBI and federal prosecutors have been “examining the financial dealings of other Trump associates,” including Flynn, Manafort and Page. In an email to the paper, Kushner’s attorney, Jamie Gorelick, said, “It would be standard practice for the Special Counsel to examine financial records to look for anything related to Russia.”
Pence hires Virginia lawyer Richard Cullen, a partner at McGuireWoods and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia under President George H.W. Bush, to serve as his personal lawyer during the Russia investigation. “I can confirm that the Vice President has retained Richard Cullen of McGuireWoods to assist him in responding to inquiries by the special counsel,” Pence spokesman Jarrod Agen said in a statement.
June 16 – Trump seemingly confirms that he is under investigation by the special counsel for obstruction of justice. On Twitter, he writes: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.”
June 18: Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow says on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the president is not under investigation. “The fact of the matter is the president has not been and is not under investigation,” Sekulow says. “So this was his response, via twitter, via social media was in response to the Washington Post piece with five anonymous sources.”
June 22 – In a pair of tweets, Trump announces that he did not tape his conversations with the former FBI director. “With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea…,” Trump tweeted. “…whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”
Late June — The FISA court agrees to extend the FBI’s surveillance of Carter Page, who was a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.