Since July 2016, the FBI has been 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 the U.S. intelligence community. 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 a report released in January 2017.
At this point, no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign has been made public. It may or may not exist. However, there is an ongoing investigation.
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.)
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.)
Mid-January — Cohen, chief counsel for the Trump Organization, writes an email 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 email to Peskov in a statement to congressional investigators on Aug. 28, 2017, as reported by the Washington Post.)
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 21 — 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 names 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 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.
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 26 — Papadopoulos meets with a man later identified as Joseph Mifsud in London. Papadopoulos would later tell federal prosecutors that Mifsud told him that the Russian government had “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. Mifsud denied the allegation. In a statement stipulating the facts of the plea agreement, the Justice Department said that after the London meeting Papadopoulos “continued to correspond with Campaign officials” and Russian intermediaries “in an effort to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government.”)
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 — Prior to the National Rifle Association annual convention in Louisville, Kentucky, a Trump campaign official receives a series of emails from a U.S. businessman discussing Russia’s interest in Trump’s candidacy. The emails discuss the possibility of setting up a “back channel” between the campaign and Russia and arranging a meeting at the NRA convention between Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, and a top campaign official. One email says that Torshin wants to discuss “an offer he [Torshin] claims be carrying from President Putin to meet with DJT.” (The emails would later be disclosed in a House intelligence committee report written by the Republican staff on the Russia investigation.)
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. (Alan Futerfas, lawyer for Donald Trump Jr., would later confirm that Donald Trump Jr. was introduced to Torshin at the convention and spoke with him. “They made small talk for a few minutes and went back to their separate meals. That is the extent of their communication or contact,” Futerfas told NBC News in a Nov. 18, 2017 story. 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.”)
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 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.
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.)
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 attorney 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.)
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. 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 — Roger Stone, a friend and an informal adviser to Trump, 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 — Stone tweets, “Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.”
Oct. 3 — Stone tweets, “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp”
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.
Oct. 7 — WikiLeaks begins to release Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails.
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. 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.”
Dec. 1 — 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.)
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.
July 7 – Trump talks twice with Putin at G-20 summit. The first is a regularly scheduled meeting that lasted more than two hours. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attends that meeting and discusses it with the media after it ends. The second conversation occurs at a dinner for G-20 leaders and their spouses. The White House would not disclose or confirm that second conversation until July 18. Ian Bremmer, president and founder of the Eurasia Group, revealed the previously undisclosed conversation in a newsletter to clients of his New York-based risk management company. Bremmer said Trump went to Putin’s table at some point during the dinner and the two men spoke for “roughly an hour.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that Trump initiated the conversation, but he said it was brief and nothing more than “pleasantries and small talk” were exchanged. There is no record of the conversation, which was facilitated only by a Russian interpreter.
July 8 – The New York Times breaks the story of Donald Trump Jr. arranging a June 9, 2016, meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower. In a statement to the Times, Donald Trump Jr. says it was a “short introductory meeting” and, “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.” But the following day, Donald Trump Jr. says, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. 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.”
The Times writes: “He said [Veselnitskaya] then turned the conversation to adoption of Russian children and the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The 2012 law so enraged President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that he halted American adoptions of Russian children.” Donald Trump Jr. said: “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.”
July 11 – Before the Times publishes a story detailing the email chain between Donald Trump Jr. and music publicist Rob Goldstone about the June 2016 meeting with Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump Jr. tweets images of the emails. He says Veselnitskaya “was not a government official” and that “[t]he information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was Political Opposition Research.”
July 13 — At a joint press conference with France President Emmanuel Macron, Trump says the Trump Tower meeting between his top campaign aides and Veselnitskaya is “very standard in politics.” Trump says, “I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research, or even research into your opponent. … That’s very standard in politics. Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard where they have information and you take the information.”
July 19 – The Senate judiciary committee asks Donald Trump Jr. to turn over all documents “relating to any attempts or actions taken by the Trump Organization or Trump campaign to coordinate, encourage, gain, release, or otherwise use information related to Russia’s influence campaign aimed at the US 2016 presidential election.” The committee’s letter, in particular, asks for any documents related to the June 2016, meeting with Veselnitskaya, as well as all communications he had with a long list of specific Trump campaign officials and Russian individuals and businesses.
July 24: Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, meets for two hours with Senate intelligence committee investigators. “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner says in a statement that he provided to congressional investigators.
In his statement, Kushner says he can recall two meetings with Russian government representatives during the campaign and two meetings during the transition. The statement says he spoke briefly to Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., in April 2016 prior to a speech by Trump on foreign affairs, and that he met with Kislyak for 20 or 30 minutes at Trump Tower on Dec. 1, 2016. He also says he met banker Sergey Gorkov in New York on Dec. 13, 2016, for 20 to 25 minutes, and he attended a meeting arranged by Donald Trump Jr. with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower on June 9.
July 26 – The FBI raids the Alexandria, Virginia, home of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman. (Jason Maloni, Manafort’s spokesman, would later confirm the raid after the Washington Post broke the story on Aug. 9. “Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well,” Maloni said.)
July 27 — Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign policy adviser during the campaign, is arrested at Dulles International Airport on charges that he lied to FBI agents. Following his arrest, Papadopoulos met with government investigators “on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions,” according to a court document.
Aug. 1 – White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirms that the president was involved in drafting the statement that Donald Trump Jr. issued on July 8 about the meeting that he and other Trump campaign officials had with Russian representatives on June 9, 2016. That statement was misleading. It failed to mention that Donald Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting after being promised “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” according to emails that Donald Trump Jr. released on July 11.
Sanders says: “The president weighed in, as any father would, based on the limited information that he had. He certainly didn’t dictate, but like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestions like any father would do.” This contradicts an earlier statement by Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s attorneys, who said on “Good Morning America” on July 12 that “the president wasn’t involved.”
Aug. 2 — In a letter defining the scope of the Russia investigation, Rosenstein says Mueller has the authority to investigate “allegations that Paul Manafort committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States, in violation of United States law.”
Aug. 28 – ABC News and the Washington Post report that Michael Cohen, the former chief counsel for the Trump Organization, provided congressional investigators with a statement that says Trump signed a “letter of intent” during the 2016 campaign to pursue “a proposal for ‘Trump Tower Moscow.’” Cohen, who now serves as one of the president’s personal attorneys, told Congress that Trump signed the letter of intent with a Moscow-based developer, I.C. Expert Investment Co., on Oct. 28, 2015, according to the Post. Cohen also told Congress that in January 2016 he emailed Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an attempt to gain the approvals necessary for the project. “Those permissions were never provided,” Cohen writes. “I decided to abandon the proposal less than two weeks later for business reasons and do not recall any response to my email, nor any other contacts by me with Mr. Peskov or other Russian government officials about the proposal.”
In a separate statement to ABC News, Cohen says that “the Trump Moscow proposal was simply one of many development opportunities that the Trump Organization considered and ultimately rejected.”
Sept. 6 — Facebook announces that it has identified roughly 3,000 politically related ad buys connected to 470 fake accounts linked to Russia. In a blog post, Alex Stamos, the company’s chief security officer, writes: “In reviewing the ads [sic] buys, we have found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017 — associated with roughly 3,000 ads — that was connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.” The company says it also alerted U.S. authorities that it found an additional “$50,000 in potentially politically related ad spending on roughly 2,200 ads” that may be linked to Russia. Those ads were “bought from accounts with US IP addresses but with the language set to Russian” and “didn’t necessarily violate” Facebook policies.
Stamos says the ads “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages,” including on race, immigration, gun rights and LGBT issues.
Sept. 7 – Donald Trump Jr. spends five hours behind closed doors answering the questions of Senate judiciary committee investigators. In his prepared remarks, Trump says, “I did not collude with any foreign government and do not know anyone who did.” He also discusses his June 9, 2016, meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and five or six others at Trump Tower in New York. Trump’s oldest son says he was “skeptical” but nonetheless intrigued by an email he received from a Russian acquaintance who claimed that the Russian government had “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia.” Trump says, “To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out.” He says the meeting lasted 20 to 30 minutes and produced no information about Clinton. “I have no recollection of any documents being offered or left for us,” he says.
Sept. 19 — CNN reports that federal investigators “wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election,” citing unnamed sources. According to CNN, the FBI obtained two warrants to conduct surveillance of Manafort from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court. CNN says the first warrant was issued in 2014 and expired before Manafort joined the Trump campaign. CNN does not say if the second warrant was issued when Manafort was still part of the Trump campaign. “It is unclear when the new warrant started,” CNN writes.
Sept. 22 — Trump tweets, “The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?”
Sept. 26 – Stone testifies for three hours in a closed session of the House intelligence committee. In written testimony to the committee, Stone denies any collusion with the Russians. “To be clear, I have never represented any Russian clients, have never been to Russia, and never had any communication with any Russians or individuals fronting for Russians, in connection with the 2016 presidential election,” he says.
After the hearing, Stone tells reporters that Manafort expects to be indicted. Stone was once a partner in a political consulting firm with Manafort. “I believe his attorneys informed my attorneys of that,” Stone says. “They didn’t seem to know when nor what the charge may be.”
Oct. 2 – Facebook gives the Senate and House intelligence committees more than 3,000 ads linked to Russia that it says appeared on the social media site during the 2016 campaign. In a blog post, Elliot Schrage, vice president of policy and communications at the company, says the ads reached an estimated 10 million people in the United States.
Oct. 4 — The Republican chairman and the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee hold a joint press conference to provide an update on the Russia investigation. “The issue of collusion is still open,” says Sen. Richard Burr, the committee chairman, referring to possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The North Carolina Republican says the committee has interviewed more than 100 people and has 25 additional interviews scheduled for October. He says the committee hopes to complete its work before the 2018 midterm elections next November.
Oct. 5 — Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign policy adviser, pleads guilty to lying to FBI agents. His guilty plea is not made public until Oct. 30.
Oct. 13 — Federal investigators interview Reince Priebus, the president’s former chief of staff. “Mr. Priebus was voluntarily interviewed by Special Counsel Mueller’s team today. He was happy to answer all of their questions,” his attorney William Burck said in a statement.
Oct. 18 — At a hearing of the Senate judiciary committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham asks Sessions, “Did you ever overhear a conversation between you and anybody on the [Trump] campaign who talked about meeting with the Russians?” The attorney general indicates that he did not. “I have not seen anything that would indicate a collusion with Russians to impact the campaign,” Sessions tells the committee. (It was later disclosed that Russia was discussed at a March 31, 2016 meeting chaired by Sessions of the campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee. At that meeting, Papadopoulos said he had contacts in Russia and could help arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin. Sessions would later say that he “pushed back” at the idea of such a meeting.)
Oct. 24 – NBC News reports that the Podesta Group and the group’s co-founder, Tony Podesta, brother of Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, are “subjects” of the special counsel’s investigation. John Podesta is not affiliated with the firm.
Citing unnamed sources, NBC News says federal investigators are interested in the Podesta Group’s work from 2012 to 2014 for a public relations campaign organized by Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, for a nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. The nonprofit reportedly was backed by the “pro-Russian and oligarch-funded Ukrainian political party” that was in control of Ukraine at the time, according to NBC News.
A spokesman for the Podesta Group tells NBC News in a statement that the firm “is cooperating fully with the Special Counsel’s office and has taken every possible step to provide documentation that confirms timely compliance.”
Oct. 30 — Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business associate and a Trump campaign aide, are indicted on money laundering and tax evasion charges related to their work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.
Between 2006 and 2015, Manafort controlled firms that did “political consulting, lobbying, and public relations” for the government of Ukraine, the Party of Regions and its presidential candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, and then later for the Opposition Bloc, a successor to the Party of Regions, according to the indictment. Yanukovych, a close ally of Putin, was elected president of Ukraine in 2010, but fled the country in 2014 after a popular uprising. The Opposition Bloc formed after Yanukovych fled Ukraine.
Manafort allegedly laundered “more than $18 million” that he used to buy property, goods and services in the United States without paying federal taxes. “Gates transferred more than $3 million from the offshore accounts to other accounts he controlled,” the indictment says.
“The indictment contains 12 counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading [Foreign Agents Registration Act] statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts,” a Department of Justice press release says.
Gates joined the Trump campaign at around the same time that Manafort became the campaign’s convention manager in late March 2016. He served as Manafort’s deputy and remained with the campaign after Manafort left in August 2016.
Separately, the Department of Justice announces that George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a professor who Papadopoulos “understood to have substantial connections to Russian government officials.”
Papadopoulos, who became a campaign adviser in March 2016, learned from the professor in April 2016 that Russia possessed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton “in the form of ‘thousands of emails,’” according to a statement from the Justice Department stipulating the facts of the case against Papadopoulos. However, Papadopoulos falsely told the FBI “multiple times that he learned that information” about Clinton prior to joining the Trump campaign, according to the statement.
According to the statement, the professor also introduced Papadopoulos to two others: a “Female Russian National,” who Papadopoulos believed had “connections to senior Russian government officials,” and “an individual in Moscow … who told defendant Papadopoulos he had connections to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
Papadopoulos lied to the FBI about his contacts with the “Female Russian National,” and failed initially to disclose his contacts with the “Russian MFA Connection,” the statement says.
Nov. 2 — Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, testifies before the House intelligence committee at a closed-door hearing. According to a transcript of his testimony, Page tells the committee that he briefly exchanged “some nice pleasantries” with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich during his July 8, 2016, trip to Moscow, where both men spoke at the commencement ceremony of the New Economic School.
Page also confirms for the committee that he wrote an email to campaign policy aides J.D. Gordon and Tera Dahl that said: “On a related front, I’ll send you guys a readout soon regarding some incredible insights and outreach I’ve received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the Presidential administration here.” But, under questioning, he says that he gained those “incredible insights” from listening to Dvorkovich’s speech and reading the Moscow newspapers — not from meetings with Russian government officials.
Nov. 13 — The Atlantic reports that Donald Trump Jr. exchanged private Twitter messages with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump Jr. confirms his contacts with WikiLeaks and releases what he describes as his “entire chain of messages with @wikileaks,” which span from Sept. 20, 2016 to July 11, 2017. In its Jan. 6, 2017 report, the U.S. intelligence community said Russian intelligence services used WikiLeaks as part of its influence campaign to help elect Trump — an assessment that both Russia and WikiLeaks deny. (See the 2016 entries for Sept. 20, Oct. 3, and Oct. 12 for examples of direct messages exchanged between Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks.)
Nov. 14 — Sessions testifies before the the House judiciary committee and addresses why he failed to inform Congress that Russia was discussed at a March 31, 2016, meeting of the Trump campaign’s national security team. Sessions, who was chairman of the national security committee, says he didn’t recall the meeting until he saw recent news reports about it. Papadopoulos, a member of the national security team who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, told the Justice Department that he introduced himself at the March 2016 meeting as someone who had Russian contacts and could help arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin. “I did not recall this event, which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago, and would gladly have reported it had I remembered it, because I pushed back against his suggestion that I thought may have been improper,” Sessions says of Papadopoulos and the March 31, 2016 meeting. The attorney general also said that he did not recall a conversation with Carter Page about Page’s visit to Moscow in July 2016.
Nov. 16 — The Senate judiciary committee asks Kushner to provide “missing documents” related to the Russia probe that it knows exists. “For example, other parties have produced September 2016 email communications to Mr. Kushner conceming WikiLeaks, which Мr. Kushner then forwarded to another campaign official. Such documents should have been produced in response to the third request but were not,” the committee says in a letter to Kushner’s attorney. “Likewise, other parties have produced documents concerning а ‘Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite’ which Mr. Kushner also forwarded. And still others have produced communications with Sergei Millian, copied to Mr. Kushner.” Millian is a Belarusan American businessman and president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce who has boasted of his contacts with high-ranking Russian government officials.
Nov. 17 — The New York Times reports that the email with the subject line “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” was sent in May 2016 by Rick Clay, “an advocate for conservative Christian causes,” to Rick Dearborn, a Trump campaign aide. In the email, Clay tells Dearborn that Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, proposed a meeting between Trump and Putin. The request reached top Trump officials, but it was rejected by Kushner, the Times reported, citing a letter sent to the Senate judiciary committee by Kushner’s lawyer. (Torshin, however, did meet that same month with Donald Trump Jr. at an NRA convention in Kentucky. See the May 20, 2016 entry.)
Dec. 1 — Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, pleads guilty to making false statements to the FBI. Flynn admits lying to FBI agents about two discussions he had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, in December 2016 when Flynn was still a private citizen and before Trump took office.
In the first instance, Flynn admits he lied to FBI agents about a conversation he had with Kislyak on Dec. 22, 2016 about an upcoming U.N. Security Council resolution. Although he initially denied it to FBI agents, Flynn now admits he asked 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. The Obama administration had agreed to allow the resolution to come up for a vote over the objection of Israel.
Flynn also admits that he lied to FBI agents about a Dec. 29 conversation that he had with Kislyak about the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration that day for interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections. Flynn told Kislyak that Russia should refrain from responding to the U.S. sanctions and Kislyak agreed that Russia would “moderate its response to those sanctions” as a result of his request, according to charges filed by the U.S. special counsel’s office. But, when interviewed by the FBI on Jan. 24, Flynn denied making such a request and could not recall if Kislyak agreed to his request.
“My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country,” Flynn says in a statement.
Dec. 6 — Donald Trump Jr. testifies in a closed session of the House intelligence committee. He tells the committee that he spoke to his father about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer two days after the New York Times reported about the meeting on July 8, 2017. But the president’s son declines to disclose the content of his conversation with his father.
Jan. 3 — Paul Manafort files a lawsuit against the Department of Justice that asks the court to set aside the criminal charges brought against him by the special counsel’s office. The suit alleges that Mueller’s investigation “is completely unmoored from the Special Counsel’s original jurisdiction to investigate ‘any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.’” The charges brought against Manafort stem from “unrelated, decade-old business dealings” that had “no connection whatsoever to the 2016 presidential election or even to Donald Trump,” the suit states. The Justice Department called the suit “frivolous.”
Jan. 24 — The Justice Department confirms that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed by the special counsel’s office last week as part of its Russia investigation.
Jan. 25 — John Dowd, Trump’s private attorney, releases a one-page memo that says the Trump campaign turned over 1.4 million pages of documents to the special counsel’s office and the White House provided over 20,000 pages. The memo also says that the special counsel’s office to date has interviewed more than 20 White House staffers, 17 Trump campaign workers and 11 others affiliated with the Trump campaign.
Jan. 29 – In a letter to special counsel Mueller, Dowd and Sekulow write that the president “dictated” a July 8, 2017 statement to the New York Times about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between top Trump campaign aides and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The lawyers write, “You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.” The admission contradicts statements made last year by Sekulow and Sanders, the White House press secretary, that the president did not dictate the letter.
Feb. 2 — The House intelligence committee releases a memo written by the Republican committee staff that accuses the FBI of political bias. Specifically, the memo claims that federal law enforcement officials abused their authority when they sought court approval to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Trump approved the release of the memo over the FBI’s objections. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the FBI said. (For more information, see “Q&A on the Nunes Memo.”)
Feb. 12 — Richard Pinedo, a California man, pleads guilty to identity fraud. Pinedo operated an online service called “Auction Essistance,” which federal prosecutors say was used by foreign nationals “to circumvent the security features of large online digital payment companies.” Prosecutors did not identify Pinedo’s clients. However, Pinedo’s attorney, Jeremy I. Lessem, told the New York Times that the California man did not know the identity or the motivation of his clients. “To the extent that Mr. Pinedo’s actions assisted any individuals, including foreign nationals, with interfering in the American presidential election, it was done completely without his knowledge or understanding,” Lessem told the Times.
Feb. 16 — The special counsel’s office charges three Russian organizations and 13 Russian nationals with violating U.S. criminal laws to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections. The indictment says the defendants conspired to defraud the United States. The conspiracy involved using the names of U.S. citizens and companies to illegally buy political ads on social media and stage political rallies. Some defendants also “solicited and compensated real U.S. persons to promote or disparage candidates,” according to the indictment.
The defendants are alleged to have employed hundreds of people for its online operations, “ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and administrative support personnel, with an annual budget of millions of dollars,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says.
By early to mid-2016, the defendants’ operation included supporting Trump and disparaging Clinton, the indictment says. “Some Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities,” the indictment says.
In announcing the indictments, Rosenstein says, “There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in this indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 elections.”
The Internet Research Agency, an online Russia propaganda operation based in St. Petersburg, was among those indicted. “The indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft,” the special counsel’s office says.
Feb. 20 — Alex van der Zwaan, a former associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and son-in-law of Russian oligarch German Khan, pleads guilty to making false statements to federal investigators. Van der Zwaan admitted he lied about conversations he had with Rick Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman, about Skadden’s report on Ukraine’s former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko. He also “deleted and otherwise did not produce emails” that had been requested by the law firm and/or the special counsel’s office, according to court documents.
Feb. 23 — Rick Gates pleads guilty to conspiracy and making false statements to federal investigators. Gates was originally indicted Oct. 30, 2017, on money laundering and tax evasion charges related to work that he and his business associate, Paul Manafort, did for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. Gates admits he participated in the financial conspiracy with Manafort. He also admits that he lied to prosecutors about a 2013 meeting involving Manafort and a congressman — identified by NBC News as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who chairs the panel’s subcommittee on European affairs. Gates misled investigators when he told them that Ukraine had not been discussed at the meeting.
Gates is now cooperating with federal investigators in exchange for dropping other criminal charges, including money laundering and tax evasion charges in the original indictment.
The special counsel’s office also files a superseding indictment against Manafort. The new charges include the allegation that “Manafort, with the assistance of Gates, … secretly retained a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favorable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States.” The indictment says, “The plan was for the former politicians, informally called the ‘Hapsburg group,’ to appear to be providing their independent assessments of Government of Ukraine actions, when in fact they were paid lobbyists for Ukraine.” In his plea agreement, Gates acknowledges participating in that conspiracy.
Feb. 24 — A memo written by the Democratic staff of the House intelligence committee is released. The memo is in response to the Republican committee staff memo, released Feb. 2, that claims the FBI and DOJ abused their authority when they sought court approval to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. The Democratic memo contends the “FBI and DOJ officials did not ‘abuse’ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process,” saying the DOJ “cited multiple sources to support the case for surveilling Page.” (For more information, see “Trump’s Spin on Democratic Memo.”)
March 12 — The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence says it has ended its Russia investigation. The Republicans on the committee release a one-page summary of their draft report. It says, “We have found no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.” The full report has not yet been released.
April 3 — U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentences Alex van der Zwaan to 30 days in prison. Van der Zwann, a former associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and son-in-law of Russian oligarch German Khan, had pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about conversations he had with Rick Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman. It is the first sentence to be handed down in the Russia investigation.
April 27 — The Republican-controlled House intelligence committee issues a majority report on its Russia investigation along with a 98-page dissent from the Democrats. Both reports were redacted to protect classified information.
The majority report says, “In the course of witness interviews, reviews of document productions, and investigative efforts extending well over a year, the Committee did not find any evidence of collusion, conspiracy, or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians. While the Committee found that several of the contacts between Trump associates and Russians — or their proxies, including WikiLeaks — were ill-advised, the Committee did not determine that Trump or anyone associated with him assisted Russia’s active measures campaign.
The minority report says that Democratic members “remain committed to continuing the investigation.” It says, “Although important evidence has been found on the issues of collusion and obstruction, much work remains on these and other vital lines of inquiry and key unanswered questions.”
April 30 — The New York Times reports that the special counsel’s office has “at least four dozen questions on an exhaustive array of subjects he wants to ask President Trump to learn more about his ties to Russia and determine whether he obstructed the inquiry itself.” The Times published a list of the questions.
May 20 — In a tweet, Trump calls for the Justice Department to “look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”
May 21 — The Justice Department announces it has asked the department’s inspector general to conduct a review at the president’s request. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the Russia investigation, said that “if anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”
June 8 — The special counsel’s office files a third superseding indictment against Manafort, adding an obstruction of justice charge for alleged witness tampering.The new indictment also accuses Konstantin V. Kilimnik, Manafort’s one-time business associate, with obstructing justice.
Kilimnik, who oversaw the Kiev office for Davis Manafort Partners Inc., is a Russian Army-trained linguist who prosecutors say had active ties to Russian intelligence during the 2016 campaign.
June 15 — A federal judge, citing the new obstruction of justice charges, orders Manafort to be held in federal custody until the trial starts in September.
July 13 — Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, announces the indictment of 12 members of GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency. The GRU officers “engaged in a sustained effort to hack into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, and released that information on the internet under the names ‘DCLeaks’ and ‘Guccifer 2.0’ and through another entity,” a Justice Department press release says.
The names of those indicted are: Viktor Borisovich Netyksho, Boris Alekseyevich Antonov, Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, Aleksey Viktorovich Lukashev, Sergey Aleksandrovich Morgachev, Nikolay Yuryevich Kozachek, Pavel Vyacheslavovich Yershov, Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, Aleksandr Vladimirovich Osadchuk, Aleksey Aleksandrovich Potemkin and Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev.
July 16 — The Department of Justice announces the arrest of Maria Butina, a Russian national, on charges that she conspired to act as a Russian agent to influence U.S. politics and advance Russia’s interests. The government says she “worked at the direction of a high-level” Russian official from as early as 2015 through at least February 2017. The official described in the Justice Department press release matches the description of Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in April.
In a sworn affidavit, FBI special agent Kevin Helson says Butina sought “to establish a ‘back channel’ communication for representatives of the Government of Russia” and “American politicians” in the hopes of advancing Russia’s interests. She did so by trying to infiltrate organizations active in U.S. politics, including “an organization promoting gun rights,” which has been identified in media reports as the National Rifle Association. (See our May 2016 entries for more about Torshin’s meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at the NRA’s annual convention in Kentucky.)
At a joint press conference with Russia President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, President Trump is asked “who do you believe” U.S. intelligence agencies that have found Putin ordered an extensive covert campaign to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election or Putin’s denial that Russia was involved. “I have confidence in both parties,” Trump says. He goes on to say, “I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
Asked if he wanted Trump to win, Putin said: “Yes, I wanted him to win. Because he talked about bringing the U.S. Russia relationship back to normal.”
July 31 – Paul Manafort’s trial on bank and tax fraud charges begins in Alexandria, Virginia. He is also due to stand trial in Washington, D.C., in September on separate charges of money laundering and failure to register as a foreign agent.
Aug. 5 – In a tweet, President Trump downplays the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower between his top campaign aides and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. “This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere,” Trump says. “I did not know about it!”
Aug. 21 — A jury finds Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, guilty on five tax fraud charges, one charge of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud. The judge dismisses 10 other charges after the jury failed to reach a verdict on those.
Aug. 31 – Samuel Patten pleads guilty to violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act for failing to register as a lobbyist for a pro-Russian political party, the Opposition Bloc, in Ukraine, and members of that party, including “a prominent Ukraine oligarch” who matches the description of Serhiy Lyovochkin. Patten also admits he used foreign funds to arrange for a U.S. citizen to buy tickets for Lyovochkin to attend Trump’s inauguration, a court document shows. Federal law bans foreign nationals, including corporations, from contributing to presidential inaugurations.
Patten is a business partner of Konstantin Kilimnik, who was indicted by the special counsel’s office on June 8 in a superseding indictment that was filed against Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. Kilimnik oversaw the Kiev office for Davis Manafort Partners Inc., and is a Russian Army-trained linguist who prosecutors believe had active ties to Russian intelligence during the 2016 campaign. He has been charged with “conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.”
The plea agreement says Patten has agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation.
Sept. 7 — George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, is sentenced to 14 days in prison and 200 hours of community service, as well as ordered to pay a $9,500 fine. Papadopoulos lied to the FBI about his contact in April 2016 with professor Joseph Mifsud, who told him that the Russian government had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”
In an interview with the New York Times, Papadopoulos says he lied to federal agents in an attempt to “distance myself as much as possible and Trump himself, and the campaign from what was probably an illegal action or dangerous information.” He said he regretted “not telling the U.S. intelligence community what Mifsud told me actually the minute after I left that meeting in London with him.”
Sept. 9 — On ABC’s “This Week,” Papadopoulos says that he told Trump, Sessions and others in attendance at a March 31, 2016 campaign meeting on national security that he had a “connection that can establish a potential summit between candidate Trump and President Putin.” Papadopoulos says that Sessions was “quite enthusiastic” about a possible meeting — contrary to what Sessions told Congress. Papadopoulos also says that sometime after June 20, when Manafort became the campaign manager, he told Manafort about the possibility of arranging such a meeting with Putin, but “it didn’t seem that Paul Manafort wanted to pursue this meeting.” Such a meeting never happened during the campaign.
Sept. 14 — In a plea agreement with the special counsel’s office, Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, pleads guilty to two counts of conspiracy in federal court and agrees to “cooperate fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly with the Government and other law enforcement authorities identified by the Government in any and all matters as to which the Government deems the cooperation relevant.” The charges are conspiracy against the United States including money laundering, tax fraud, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, lying to the Department of Justice and obstructing justice by tampering with witnesses. The plea deal includes Manafort admitting guilt to bank fraud charges on which a Virginia district court had failed to reach a verdict.
Nov. 7 — A day after the midterm elections, President Trump announces on Twitter that Department of Justice Chief of Staff Matthew G. Whitaker will replace Sessions, becoming acting attorney general. “We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date,” the president writes. Sessions’ resignation letter says he is submitting it at the president’s request. Whitaker now oversees the special counsel’s investigation, not Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein.