Part 1 of 3.
(Part 2 and 3 are above this post.)
This section includes events occurring before 2017.
By Pokey Anderson
Most recent update: September 22, 2017.
Cartoon illustrations drawn by David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions.
All Rights Reserved
A fictional detective said that the first rule of the good cop is: Don’t look for the facts; look for the glue that holds them together. [Author Michael Connelly]. I hope these facts help you identify the glue.
Notes: Having compiled a timeline before for a book about a very complex scandal, I thought this might be useful as a reference. Chronological context can be quite revealing.
If an event occurred on a certain date, I generally have listed it on that date even if it was not known by the public until a much later date. I have compiled this using the sources listed, summarizing, paraphrasing, and sometimes including language directly from the articles referenced. Thank you to all those who have been diligently reporting on this.
–2005. The Trump Organization gave [Felix Sater’s] development company, the Bayrock Group, an exclusive one-year deal to attempt to build a Moscow Trump Tower. Sater located a site for the project — an abandoned pencil factory — and worked closely with Trump on the deal, which did not come to fruition. [Washington Post, August 27, 2017, “Trump’s business sought deal on a Trump Tower in Moscow while he ran for president”]
Photo credit: Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Photo credit: New York Times
–2006. For $10 million annually, beginning in 2006, Paul Manafort worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government.” Manafort (who would become campaign manager for Donald Trump in 2016) proposed in a confidential strategy plan that “he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government.” “Manafort pitched the plans to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally. …Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.” For instance, Manafort and Deripaska were partners in an offshore fund set up to buy telecommunications and cable TV assets in Ukraine in 2007. The deal fell apart. [AP, March 22, 2017, “AP Exclusive: Before Trump job, Manafort worked to aid Putin”] [New York Times, May 26, 2017 “Russian Once Tied to Trump Aide Seeks Immunity to Cooperate With Congress”]
A page from the “black ledger,” released by Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau. This page does not include Mr. Manafort’s name.
–2007 to 2012. “Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for [Paul] Manafort from [Viktor] Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012, according to Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau [in August 2016]. Investigators assert that the disbursements were part of an illegal off-the-books system whose recipients also included election officials.” “[C]riminal prosecutors are investigating a group of offshore shell companies that helped members of Mr. Yanukovych’s inner circle finance their lavish lifestyles, including a palatial presidential residence with a private zoo, golf course and tennis court.” [New York Times, August 14, 2016, “Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief”]
–2007. “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment,” Donald Trump said in a 2007 court deposition. [Washington Post, August 27, 2017, “Trump’s business sought deal on a Trump Tower in Moscow while he ran for president”]
Donald Trump, Jr.
Photo credit: AP
–2008. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” [Washington Post, June 17, 2016, “Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin”]
Photo credit: Reuters/Eric Gaillard
–MARCH 2008. Even though the real-estate bubble was deflating, Russian fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev bought a Palm Beach, Florida, estate for $95 million through a trust, from Donald Trump, who had bought it for $41 million. “Trump told The Post he was delighted … when Dmitry plunked down the full $95 million asking price for his Palm Beach estate, which Trump had purchased for $41 million in 2004. ‘I didn’t do much to the house,’ Trump said. ‘I just painted it.'” At the time, the $95 million was the higest price ever paid for a residence in the US. Later, in 2015, Rybolovlev would be ranked by Forbes as the 156th richest person in the world with a net worth of $8.5 billion. [Bloomberg, July 20, 2017, “Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions”] [New York Post, January 1, 2012, “From Russia with major daddy issues”] [Palm Beach Post, March 17, 2017, “Yachts of Trump financial backer, Russian oligarch seen close together”] [Alchetron, “Dmitry Rybolovlev”]
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Donald Trump unveil a planned Trump Tower project on the Black Sea
Photo credit: Flickr page of Mikheil Saakashvili
–April 2012. By 2012, Donald Trump was struggling financially in the US market. He “had defaulted on loans multiple times, and nearly every bank in the U.S. refused to finance deals bearing his name.”
As one of multiple foreign deals in 2012, Trump lends his name to a plan to build a Trump Tower in Batumi, a city on the Black Sea in the Republic of Georgia. The deal, netting Trump $1 million for his name and a PR visit in April 2012, intertwined his company with a Kazakh oligarch who has direct links to Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin.
“The developer that had paid Trump and invited him to Georgia—a holding company known as the Silk Road Group—had been funded by a bank that was enmeshed in a giant money-laundering scandal. And Trump, it seemed, had not asked many questions before taking the money.” The Silk Road wasn’t even experienced as a developer; rather, it shipped oil products. “With minimal due diligence, Trump Organization executives would have noticed that the Silk Road Group exhibited many warning signs of financial fraud: its layered and often hidden ownership, its ornate use of shell companies, its close relationship with a bank that was embroiled in a financial scandal.” [New Yorker, by Adam Davidson, August 21, 2017 issue, “Trump’s Business of Corruption”]
–May 2012. “A month after Trump visited [the Republic of] Georgia, he agreed to license his name to, and provide oversight of, a luxury hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan…. Trump received several million dollars from the brother and the son of an Azerbaijani billionaire who was then the Minister of Transportation—a man who, U.S. officials believe, may have been simultaneously laundering money for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.” [New Yorker, by Adam Davidson, August 21, 2017 issue, “Trump’s Business of Corruption”]
Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions
–2012 to 2014. Michael Flynn is appointed by President Obama to head the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), until he was forced out. During his DIA stint, he became enthusiastic about improving liaison with Russia, which he saw as a natural counterterrorism partner. [David Ignatius, Chicago Tribune, February 14, 2017, “How Michael Flynn fell into the arms of the Russians”]
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn
Photo Credit: Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock
–JUNE 2013. While heading up DIA, Flynn visited the Russian military-intelligence agency known as GRU. This is where he first met Sergey Kislyak. “Flynn came back advocating greater cooperation in monitoring Syrian chemical weapons. Even after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, Flynn proposed inviting the intelligence chiefs of its various theater commands to Washington for discussions. His superiors rejected what they saw as a ‘supremely ill-timed proposal.'” [David Ignatius, Chicago Tribune, February 14, 2017, “How Michael Flynn fell into the arms of the Russians”] [CNN, May 19, 2017, “Russian officials bragged they could use Flynn to influence Trump, sources say”]
–AUGUST 2013. Golf writer James Dodson went to see a new Donald Trump golf course in North Carolina, and to play 9 holes with Trump and son Eric. Dodson asked where Trump was getting money. “He just sort of tossed off that he had access to $100 million,” said Dodson, whose curiosity was piqued:
“So when I got in the cart with Eric,” Dodson says, “as we were setting off, I said, ‘Eric, who’s funding? I know no banks—because of the recession, the Great Recession—have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s dead in the water the last four or five years.’ And this is what he said. He said, ‘Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.’ I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Oh, yeah. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.’ Now that was three years ago, so it was pretty interesting.” (The recollection was in 2017, so that would seemingly make the conversation in 2014. However, in a clarification, Dodson says the events happened in August 2013.)
Eric Trump denied that the conversation ever happened.
[Vanity Fair, May 8, 2017, “ERIC TRUMP REPORTEDLY BRAGGED ABOUT ACCESS TO $100 MILLION IN RUSSIAN MONEY”] [WBUR, May 5, 2017, “A Day (And A Cheeseburger) With President Trump”]
Donald Trump, Emin and Aras Agalarov
Photo credit: CNN
–NOVEMBER 2013. Moscow was the site of the Miss Universe 2013 pageant, hosted by Donald Trump, in partnership with Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov. “At the heart of the episode is Trump’s relationship with Aras Agalarov, a billionaire Russian real estate mogul with ties to Putin, and Agalarov’s rakish son, Emin, 36, a dance-pop singer with ambitions to international stardom who got Trump to appear in one of his music videos.” Speaking about the Agalarovs, Trump said: “One of the great families in Russia is our partner in this endeavor.” Trump said he hoped to meet Putin while in Moscow, and he also explored the idea of a Trump Tower-Moscow with Agalarov’s company, the Crocus Group, although that did not come to fruition. However, SEE June 3 to 7 and June 9, 2016 when a meeting is arranged, then held between Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and several Russians, purportedly using the Agalarov connection. [Politico, May 15, 2016, “When Donald Trump brought Miss Universe to Moscow”]
–2014. Paul Manafort engaged in lobbying efforts in Ukraine through early 2014. His main client, Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine, was ousted by a popular uprising and fled to Russia. [New York Times, July 19, 2017, “Manafort Was in Debt to Pro-Russia Interests, Cyprus Records Show”]
–2014. Carter Page becomes the subject of a secret intelligence surveillance warrant. This date is earlier than had been previously reported, US officials briefed on the probe told CNN. [CNN, August 4, 2017, “One year into the FBI’s Russia investigation, Mueller is on the Trump money trail”]
Photo credit: Fortune
Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons
–JULY 2014. Wilbur Ross becomes Vice Chairman of Bank of Cyprus, with his group injecting $1.3 billion in capital for 17% of the bank’s stock. The bank had a long history of being awash in fleeing capital “from Russian oligarchs, who had been accused of using it to move their money to offshore accounts.” For a year after Wilbur Ross arrived at the Bank of Cyprus in July 2014, until June 2015, his Co-Chair and leading co-investor was none other than Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, described by the New York Times and the FT as “a former KGB agent” and as a “long-time associate of Putin’s.” “The financial secrecy and special tax treaty provisions offered by Cyprus insulated the owners from pesky annoyances like taxes, creditors, exchange controls, and restrictions on money laundering.” (Wilbur Ross would become part of Trump’s cabinet in 2017, as Secretary of Commerce.) [Business Insider, March 10, 2017 “‘No foundation in fact’: Russian billionaire issues first response to theories about his ties to Trump”] [DC Report.org, February 25, 2017, “Another Cabinet Pick With Secret Ties To Putin And Oligarchs”]
–AUGUST 2014. The Obama administration fires Michael Flynn as head of the DIA. Flynn’s 3-year term was cut short to only 18 months for a variety of reasons. His subordinates began collecting what they called “Flynn facts,” things he would say that weren’t true. He had a temper and berated subordinates in front of colleagues. His tactical talents didn’t translate well to running a large bureaucracy. Soon, a parallel power structure arose to try to fence him in and keep things running. [Dana Priest, The New Yorker, November 23, 2016, “The Disruptive Career of Michael Flynn, Trump’s National-Security Adviser”] [NBC News, May 8, 2017, “Flynn Never Told DIA That Russians Paid Him, Say Officials”]
–OCTOBER 8, 2014. A letter from a Defense Department lawyer warns Michael Flynn upon his retirement from military service that he is forbidden from receiving payments from foreign sources without receiving permission from the U.S. government first. Retiring military officers are subject to the Constitution’s rarely enforced emoluments clause, which prohibits top officials from receiving payments or favors from foreign governments. [Washington Post, April 27, 2017, “Top Pentagon watchdog launches investigation into money that Michael Flynn received from foreign groups”]
–SPRING 2015. “Investigators are re-examining conversations detected by U.S. intelligence agencies in spring 2015 that captured Russian government officials discussing associates of Donald Trump, according to current and former U.S. officials, a move prompted by revelations that the president’s eldest son met with a Russian lawyer last year. In some cases, the Russians in the overheard conversations talked about meetings held outside the U.S. involving Russian government officials and Trump business associates or advisers, these people said.” “The 2015 conversations were detected several months before Mr. Trump declared his candidacy for the White House.” ” [T]he volume of the mentions of Trump associates by the Russians did have officials asking each other, “What’s going on?” one former official said.” [Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2017, “Russian Officials Overheard Discussing Trump Associates Before Campaign Began”]
–SUMMER 2015. Flynn received $11,250 from a Russian cargo airline named Volga-Dnepr Airlines. The company came under United Nations scrutiny after allegations of bribery surfaced involving two Russian officials serving at the United Nations. As part of that investigation, the United Nations removed the company in 2007 from its approved list of vendors. This is according to a letter released on March 16, 2017 sent to Trump, FBI Director James Comey, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (MD-D), the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. [New York Times, March 16, 2017, “Michael Flynn Was Paid by Russian-Linked Firms, Letter Shows”]
–AUGUST 2015. Trump and Flynn meet. [Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017; also Katy Tur, MSNBC reporter]
Photo credit: Carlos Javier Sanches, San Antonio Business Journal
–2015. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner hired a Texas-based digital guru, Brad Parscale, for the Trump campaign. As the campaign’s top digital director, Parscale ran much of the operation from his offices in San Antonio. His company took in “about $90 million for work targeting many states with paid advertisements, social media messages and other cyber tools.” [McClatchy Washington Bureau, July 12, 2017, “Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation”]
DNC computer system hacked by team linked to Russian government.
–SEPTEMBER 2015. FBI Special Agent Adrian Hawkins called the Democratic National Committee to pass along some troubling news about its computer network: at least one DNC computer system had been compromised by hackers. Investigators had named the hackers “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government. The DNC person who fielded the repeated FBI calls fumbled them. This hacker intrusion was the first sign of a cyberespionage and information-warfare campaign devised by a foreign power to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. Intelligence officials believe it became an effort to harm one candidate, Hillary Clinton, and tip the election to her opponent, Donald J. Trump. [New York Times, December 13, 2016, “The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.”]
Photo credit: IowaPolitics.com
–SEPTEMBER 2015 to JANUARY 2016. The Trump Organization weighed the “Trump Tower Moscow” proposal from September 2015 to January 2016 (as told by attorney Michael Cohen to the House Intelligence Committee in summer 2017). Cohen said the Trump Organization signed a non-binding letter of intent in October 2015 with Moscow-based I.C. Expert Investment Company. Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen discussed the proposal three times, Cohen said. The company solicited building designs from architects and engaged in preliminary financing discussions. When it seemed to be foundering, Cohen emailed the press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin to ask for assistance on the project. But the project ultimately fizzled. In a statement, Cohen said “The Trump Tower Moscow proposal was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.” [Bloomberg, August 28, 2017, “Lawyer Says He Discussed Moscow Tower Plan With Trump Three Times”]
–OCTOBER 2015. Flynn was paid $11,250 by the firm Kaspersky Government Security Solutions, which was founded by Eugene Kaspersky. “Mr. Kaspersky’s Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab has long been suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence services. He studied cryptography at a high school run by the K.G.B. and Soviet Defense Ministry, and later worked for the Russian military.” This is according to a letter released on March 16, 2017 sent to Trump, FBI Director Comey, and Defense Secretary Mattis, by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (MD-D), the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. [New York Times, March 16, 2017, “Michael Flynn Was Paid by Russian-Linked Firms, Letter Shows”]
–LATE 2015. Michael Flynn began informally advising the Donald Trump presidential campaign. [David Ignatius, Chicago Tribune, February 14, 2017, “How Michael Flynn fell into the arms of the Russians”]
–DECEMBER 10, 2015. Retired General Michael Flynn gave a paid speech in Moscow at the 10th-anniversary celebration of Russia Today, a global cable network described by U.S. intelligence as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” Flynn is seated next to Putin. He is paid more than $30,000. [Washington Post, August 15, 2016, “Trump adviser Michael T. Flynn on his dinner with Putin and why Russia Today is just like CNN”] [New York Times, March 16, 2017, “Michael Flynn Was Paid by Russian-Linked Firms, Letter Shows”]
–December 2015. Paul Manafort was in debt to pro-Russia interests by as much as $17 million. The financial records include December 2015 audited statements from a complex web of more than a dozen shell companies connected to Manafort, transferring millions of dollars among them. This is according to documents obtained by the NY Times, which had been filed in the secretive tax haven of Cyprus. The transactions occurred in 2012 and 2013. (Manafort will join the Trump campaign in March 2016.) [New York Times, July 19, 2017, “Manafort Was in Debt to Pro-Russia Interests, Cyprus Records Show”]
–THROUGHOUT 2016. Russian officials bragged in conversations during the presidential campaign that they had cultivated a strong relationship with Flynn and believed they could use him to influence Trump and his team, sources told CNN. The conversations deeply concerned US intelligence officials, some of whom acted on their own to limit how much sensitive information they shared with Flynn. “This was a five-alarm fire from early on,” one former Obama administration official said, “the way the Russians were talking about him.” [CNN, May 19, 2017, “First on CNN: Russian officials bragged they could use Flynn to influence Trump, sources say”]
Photo credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
–FEBRUARY 28, 2016. Jeff Sessions formally endorses Donald Trump for president. He is the first sitting US Senator to make a Trump endorsement. Three days later, Trump names him chair of the campaign’s national security advisory committee. [Washington Post, March 2, 2017, “What Jeff Sessions said about Russia, and when”] [NBC, February 29, 2016, “Alabama’s Jeff Sessions Becomes First Senator to Endorse Trump”]
Photo credit: Bloomberg
–FEBRUARY 29, 2016. Paul Manafort, former lobbyist and enigmatic international fixer, wants to jump into the Trump presidential campaign. Through a mutual friend, he reaches out to Trump through Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. The friend, Thomas J. Barrack, Jr., appended an effusive cover letter, calling Manafort “the most experienced and lethal of managers” and “a killer.” “In five single-spaced pages of punchy talking points, Mr. Manafort showed how as a onetime lobbyist he had adeptly won over rich and powerful business and political leaders, many of them oligarchs or dictators, in Russia, Ukraine, the Philippines and Pakistan. … He began by telling the candidate he lived on an upper floor of Trump Tower. … Plus he had a powerful closer’s move: He would work for free.” [New York Times, April 8, 2017 “To Charm Trump, Paul Manafort Sold Himself as an Affordable Outsider”]
Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions
–MARCH 17, 2016. At an event hosted by the American Council for Capital Formation, Sessions discusses Trump’s foreign policy positions, saying, “I think an argument can be made there is no reason for the U.S. and Russia to be at this loggerheads. Somehow, someway we ought to be able to break that logjam.” [Washington Post, March 2, 2017, “What Jeff Sessions said about Russia, and when”]
Photo credit: ABC/Esquire
Photo credit: The National Herald
–LATE MARCH 2016. Trump appeared before the Washington Post’s editorial board. When asked about his foreign policy advisers, Trump got a list out, and read five names. “Carter Page, Ph.D.” was one name. “George Papadopoulos” was another of the five. “He’s an energy consultant,” Trump said. “Excellent guy.”
Carter Page came from a referral from the son-in-law of Richard Nixon, New York state Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox. A top Trump adviser, Sam Clovis, checked him out, and Page was in. [In September, Carter Page will be dropped from the campaign after questions arise on his ties to Russia.]
[On October 5, 2017, George Papadopoulos will plead guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about contacts he had with the Russian government in 2016 relating to U.S.–Russia relations and Trump’s campaign.] [Washington Post, May 25, 2017, “‘Anyone . . . with a pulse’: How a Russia-friendly adviser found his way into the Trump campaign”] [Washington Post, June 26, 2017, “FBI has questioned Trump campaign adviser Carter Page at length in Russia probe”]
–LATE MARCH 2016. Three days after Donald Trump named his campaign foreign policy team in March 2016, a new young adviser, George Papadopoulos, sent an email to seven campaign officials with the subject line: “Meeting with Russian Leadership – Including Putin.” The adviser wrote he could set up “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump,” telling them his Russian contacts welcomed the opportunity, according to internal campaign emails read to The Washington Post.
Between March and September, the adviser would send at least six requests for Trump or his team to meet with Russian officials. The low-level adviser’s emails, however, got a cool response from campaign members such as Paul Manafort, Sam Clovis and retired Navy Rear Adm. Charles Kubic.
“Steven L. Hall, who retired from the CIA in 2015 after 30 years of managing the agency’s Russia operations, said when told by The Post [in August 2017] about the emails: ‘The bottom line is that there’s no doubt in my mind that the Russian government was casting a wide net when they were looking at the American election. I think they were doing very basic intelligence work: Who’s out there? Who’s willing to play ball? And how can we use them?'” [Washington Post, August 14, 2017, “Trump campaign emails show aide’s repeated efforts to set up Russia meetings”]
From left: Jeff Sessions, J. D. Gordon, George Papadopoulos … Trump is at the other end of the table.
Photo credit: Donald Trump twitter account via Boston Herald
–MARCH 31, 2016. At a meeting between Trump and his foreign policy team, George Papadopoulos introduces himself and said “that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin,” according to court records.
“He went into the pitch right away,” said J. D. Gordon, a campaign adviser who attended the meeting. “He said he had a friend in London, the Russian ambassador, who could help set up a meeting with Putin.”
Trump listened with interest. Sessions vehemently opposed the idea, Gordon recalled. “And he said that no one should talk about it because it might leak,” he said.
Several of Trump’s campaign advisers attended the March 2016 meeting, and at least two of those advisers are now in the White House: Hope Hicks, the communications director, and Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser. [Quoted or paraphrased from the New York Times, November 2, 2017, “Trump and Sessions Denied Knowing About Russian Contacts. Records Suggest Otherwise”.]
It appears that Russians interfered in US elections in numerous ways during both party primaries, favoring Donald Trump and disfavoring Hillary Clinton.
Photo credit: C-Span
–DURING THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARIES, Early 2016. As Donald Trump battled to get the Republican nomination in early 2016, “Russia sent armies of bots carrying pro-Trump messages and deployed human ‘trolls’ to comment in his favor on Internet stories and in social media. … Before Russian propaganda and fake news targeted Hillary Clinton, it went after Republican opponents of Donald Trump, including Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Lindsey Graham, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.” Testimony on this would first be offered in the Senate about a year later, on March 30, 2017, by Clint Watts, a cybersecurity specialist with the Foreign Policy Research Institute Program on National Security. Russia’s efforts in the Republican primaries, he said, were a combination of “pumping up Trump while tamping down the others.” [McClatchy Washington Bureau, March 30, 2017, “Russians took Trump’s side in GOP primary, too, expert tells Senate panel”] [McClatchy Washington Bureau, July 12, 2017, “Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation”]
–DURING THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARIES, around MARCH OR APRIL 2016. Cybersecurity consultants believe Russian hacking of the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) took place around March or April of 2016. The consequences started to become clear in August when the hackers released the home addresses, cellphone numbers and personal email addresses of Democratic House members. Thousands of pages of documents stolen by hackers from the DCCC in Washington were made available to reporters and bloggers. There were intrusions in House races in states including Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina. The hackers, working under the made-up name of Guccifer 2.0, used social media tools to invite individual reporters to request specific caches of documents, handing them out the way political operatives distribute scoops. In some cases, a candidate’s internal strategy documents were included. [New York Times, December 13, 2016, “Democratic House Candidates Were Also Targets of Russian Hacking”]
–APRIL 27, 2016. In his first major foreign policy address, candidate Donald Trump promised in a speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington to improve relations with Russia. His son-in-law Jared Kushner, Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and Jeff Sessions were present. A former senior intelligence official would say in May 2017 that the FBI is looking at that April 2016 gathering with some interest. It is unclear whether Kislyak interacted there with Kushner and/or Sessions. Sessions’ Senate testimony in June 2017 was vague and conflicting on that question. [Washington Post, May 25, 2017, “Jared Kushner now a focus in Russia investigation”] [Democracy Now, June 14, 2017, “Jeff Sessions Said ‘I Don’t Remember’ or ‘I Don’t Recall’ 26 Times During Senate Intel Testimony”]
–MAY 2016. As Donald Trump was locking up the Republican presidential nomination, “a U.S. intelligence intercept picked up Russians discussing ways to spread news damaging to Clinton, two people familiar with the matter said.” Also, Mike Carpenter, a former senior Pentagon official who specialized on Russia matters up until leaving in January 2017, expressed suspicions about collaboration between the campaign and Russia’s cyber operatives in July 2017: “There appears to have been significant cooperation between Russia’s online propaganda machine and individuals in the United States who were knowledgeable about where to target the disinformation,” he said, without naming any American suspects. [McClatchy Washington Bureau, July 12, 2017, “Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation”]
–APRIL to NOVEMBER 2016. “Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race.” “The 18 calls and electronic messages took place between April and November 2016 as hackers engaged in what U.S. intelligence concluded in January was part of a Kremlin campaign to discredit the vote and influence the outcome of the election” in favor of Trump over Hillary Clinton. [Reuters, May 18, 2017, “Exclusive: Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians: sources”]
–MAY 16, 2016. Pulitzer-winning journalist David Cay Johnston sheds light on presidential candidate Donald Trump’s links to organized crime, writing: “I’ve covered Donald Trump off on for 27 years, and in that time I’ve encountered multiple threads linking Trump to organized crime. Some of Trump’s unsavory connections have been followed by investigators and substantiated in court; some haven’t. And some of those links have continued until recent years, though when confronted with evidence of such associations, Trump has often claimed a faulty memory.” [Politico, May 22, 2016, by David Cay Johnston, “Just What Were Donald Trump’s Ties to the Mob? I’ve spent years investigating, and here’s what’s known”]
Photo credit: Getty Images, Peter Burka (Flickr). Design: Holly Warfield
–MAY 17, 2016. The Washington Post delves into the relationship between Donald Trump and a complex figure, Russian-born Felix Sater. Sater’s firm, Bayrock Group, was in Trump Tower, and was a key real estate partner with Trump in the 2000s. “Sater has both been accused by former business associates of threatening to kill them and praised by top government officials for information that has led to numerous mob convictions and national security gains.” [Washington Post, May 17, 2016, “Former Mafia-linked figure describes association with Trump”]
New York Magazine will do a full-length look at the complex Sater much later, writing: “Long before [Trump] struck up a bizarrely chummy relationship with Vladimir Putin, Sater was the one who introduced the future president to a byzantine world of oligarchs and mysterious money.” [NY Magazine, August 3, 2017, “The Original Russia Connection”]
In late January/early February 2017, Sater and Trump personal attorney Michael D. Cohen will concoct a “peace plan” as a means to end US economic sanctions against Russia.
Photo credit: Carlo Allegri/Reuters
–MAY 19, 2016. Paul Manafort, who had been “involved in a couple of million-dollar investment deals with oligarchs linked to Putin,” is promoted to chief strategist and campaign manager of the Trump presidential campaign. Since late March, Manafort had been managing the convention and was tasked with amassing the number of delegates needed for the nomination. [Washington Post, June 23, 2017, “The Post’s new findings in Russia’s bold campaign to influence the U.S. election”] [New York Times, August 19, 2016 “Paul Manafort Quits Donald Trump’s Campaign After a Tumultuous Run”]
–SUMMER OF 2016. Carter Page is the subject of a foreign intelligence surveillance court order (FISA) beginning in summer of 2016. This would be reported by the Washington Post in April 2017. [Washington Post, June 26, 2017, “FBI has questioned Trump campaign adviser Carter Page at length in Russia probe”]
Donald Trump, Jr. agrees to meet with a Russian attorney at Trump Tower in New York. Incriminating info on Hillary Clinton is offered, “private and confidential,” “very high level and sensitive” and “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. responds to the email within minutes, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” At least eight people attend the meeting, which was a secret until 13 months later.
Donald Trump, Emin and Aras Agalarov
Photo credit: CNN
Donald Trump Jr. on Sean Hannity (July 12, 2017)
Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya
Photo credit: Yury Martyanov/AP, file
Photo credit: RFE/RL Graphics
–JUNE 3, 2016. Donald Trump, Jr. receives an email from Rob Goldstone. Goldstone was an acquaintance Trump Jr. knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, which Donald Trump convened in Moscow. Goldstone is manager of Azerbaijani pop star Emin Agalarov. His father, Aras Agalarov, is a billionaire Moscow developer in favor with Vladimir Putin, who in 2013 awarded him the Order of Honor for his construction work in Russia.
Here is the subject line of the email received by Donald Trump Jr.:
—SUBJECT: FW: Russia — Clinton – private and confidential—
Goldstone informs Trump Jr., “Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. The Crown prosecutor of Russia … 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.” (Russia has no Crown Prosecutor, but Goldstone may have been referring to the Prosecutor General, Yury Chaika.) Goldstone also writes, “I can send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.” [“Rhona” is Rhona Graff, Donald Trump’s assistant.]
Trump Jr. responded, 17 minutes later, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” (He would release the emails publicly on July 11, 2017.) [Washington Post, July 11, 2017, “Donald Trump Jr.’s full emails about meeting a ‘Russian government attorney,’ annotated”] [Lawfare, Benjamin Wittes, July 11, 2017, “The Wall Begins to Crumble: Notes on Collusion”] [Mother Jones, July 11, 2017, by David Corn, “The Trump-Russia Conspiracy Is Now Very Simple”]
–JUNE 7, 2016. Rob Goldstone and Donald Trump, Jr. agree to a June 9th meeting time at Trump Tower, with a “Russian government attorney.” Trump Jr. says he’ll bring along campaign manager Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner.
That evening, Trump wins the primaries in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota, giving him the delegates to officially clinch the Republican nomination. During his victory speech that night, Trump promises more dirt on Clinton. “I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week [June 13] and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.” [Trump did give a speech on June 13, but it was on national security.]
[Washington Post, July 11, 2017, “What happened and when: The timeline leading up to Donald Trump Jr.’s fateful meeting”] [CNN, July 12, 2017, “Recreating June 9: A very consequential day in the 2016 campaign]
Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner
Photo credit: ABC News
–JUNE 9, 2016. 4 pm. The meeting takes place at Trump Tower in New York.
Participants: Donald Trump Jr. brings along Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, the candidate’s son-in-law and a campaign adviser.
Publicist Rob Goldstone who helped broker the meeting, brings Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and her Russian translator. Natalia Veselnitskaya is a former prosecutor with deep connections to the Russian government and a history of arguing for Russian interests.
Also at the meeting, it is disclosed later, was Rinat Akhmetshin,* a Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer. In 2015 a mining company based in the Netherlands accused Akhmetshin “of hacking into its computer systems, stealing confidential information and unlawfully disseminating it as part of a smear campaign orchestrated by a rival Russian mining firm. … Before it withdrew its complaints in 2016, the firm accused Mr. Akhmetshin of an elaborate scheme to steal emails and other confidential information from its computer system and disseminate it to help its Russian competitor.” He vehemently denied that. [*See update on him below) [New York Times, July 14, 2017, “Russian-American Lobbyist Attended Meeting Organized by Trump’s Son”]
Also attending, it is disclosed later, was Ike Kaveladze, a Russian-American, US-based VP at Crocus Group, the real estate development company run by Aras Agalarov. Kaveladze was named by the New York Times in 2000 as responsible for using about 2,000 shell companies in the US to launder $1.4 billion from Russia and eastern Europe into accounts at Citibank and the Commercial Bank of San Francisco. At that time, Kaveladze called the accusations “a Russian witch hunt.” (No one has yet volunteered a rationale for including an accused money launderer in a meeting about adopting Russian children.)
The existence of the meeting was revealed over a year after it happened, after Kushner updated his government security clearance form to include it. Special Counsel Robert Mueller would ask White House staff to preserve all documents relating to the meeting, CNN would report in July 2017.
The substance of the meeting has had conflicting descriptions. Donald Trump Jr. first said it was just about Russian adoptions, and amounted to nothing, with no follow-up. Russian adoptions to the US were stopped because of sanctions — the Magnitsky Act in 2012 imposed sanctions for Russia’s human rights abuses. So, any discussion about Russian adoptions in this context would also be a discussion about sanctions. Later revelations in the media prompted more and more statements by Trump Jr, revising and expanding upon the first, limited disclosure. New York Times: It “was so incomplete that it required day after day of follow-up statements, each more revealing than the last.”
In addition to the incomplete list of attendees and the shifting description of the meeting’s substance, there were conflicting statements about the author of the original misleading statement put out by the Trump camp. One could pick from a variety: Trump Sr. had nothing to do with it, or Trump Sr. knew about it, or Trump Sr.’s advisers had a hand in it. The Washington Post reported: “Flying home from Germany on July 8  aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had ‘primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children’ when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement … emphasized that the subject of the meeting was ‘not a campaign issue at the time.’” A White House spokesperson, confronted with that story, made the limited admission that the president “weighed in.” [New York Times, July 11, 2017, “Rancor at White House as Russia Story Refuses to Let the Page Turn”] [CNN, July 19, 2017, “8th person at Trump Tower meeting identified”] [The Guardian, July 18, 2017, “Eighth person at Trump Jr meeting was accused of money laundering”] [CNN, July 22, 2017, “Exclusive: Mueller asks WH staff to preserve all documents relating to June 2016 meeting”] [Washington Post, July 31, 2017, “Trump dictated son’s misleading statement on meeting with Russian lawyer”]
Photo credit: Hermitage Capital
–JUNE 9, 2016. *UPDATE. A New York Times article reports later that Rinat “Akhmetshin, who is under scrutiny by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, has much deeper ties to the Russian government and Kremlin-backed oligarchs than previously known.” “He has an association with a former deputy head of a Russian spy service, the F.S.B., and a history of working for close allies of President Vladimir V. Putin. Twice, he has worked on legal battles for Russian tycoons whose opponents suffered sophisticated hacking attacks, arousing allegations of computer espionage.” “In short, Mr. Akhmetshin’s projects over two decades in Washington routinely advanced the Kremlin’s interests, especially after he became an American citizen in 2009.” “He told some journalists that he worked with a military counterintelligence unit, but said he never joined Russian intelligence services — unlike his father, sister and godfather.” In a July 2017 text message to the NY Times, he denied that he is a Russian spy. [New York Times, August 21, 2017, “Lobbyist at Trump Campaign Meeting Has a Web of Russian Connections”]
Russian government hackers thoroughly penetrated the computer network of the DNC. Trump suggests the DNC hacked itself. A GOP operative, independent but implying he was working with Michael Flynn, assembles a team to attempt to hack and release Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 deleted emails. The operative worked with five groups of hackers, including two he thought were Russians.
–JUNE 14, 2016. “Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach. The intruders so thoroughly compromised the DNC’s system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic… The networks of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were also targeted by Russian spies, as were the computers of some Republican political action committees…” [Washington Post, June 14, 2016, “Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump”]
–JUNE 15, 2016. According to a recording, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy asserted in a private conversation on Capital Hill with fellow GOP leaders: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” House Speaker Paul Ryan immediately interjected, stopping the conversation, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy. [Washington Post, May 17, 2017, “House majority leader to colleagues in 2016: ‘I think Putin pays’ Trump”] After this recording emerged in May 2017, the reaction from Republicans was to say that McCarthy’s comment was just a joke.
–JUNE 2016. Rick Dearborn, serving both as then-Sen. Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff and as a top policy aide to the Trump campaign, sends “a brief email to campaign officials … relaying information about an individual who was seeking to connect top Trump officials with Putin.” This information only became known to the public, through sources citing an email in possession of congressional investigators, much later (August 2017). The individual was only identified as “WV.” Also, “Dearborn was involved in helping to arrange an April 2016 event at the Mayflower Hotel [which Kislyak, Jared Kushner, and Session attended] where Trump delivered a major foreign policy address.” In response to the August 2017 news of this previously-unknown email, both Dearborn and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to comment. (At the time the existence of this email became public, Rick Dearborn had become Trump’s deputy chief of staff.) [CNN, August 24, 2017, “http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/23/politics/donald-trump-rick-dearborn-email-russia-investigation/index.html”>”Top Trump aide’s email draws new scrutiny in Russia inquiry”]
–JUNE 15, 2016. Trump says the hacking of the DNC is a distraction and suggests the DNC hacked itself to get attention. ““This is all information that has been out there for many years. Much of it is false and/or entirely inaccurate. 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. Too bad the DNC doesn’t hack Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing emails.” [Washington Post, June 23, 2017, “The Post’s new findings in Russia’s bold campaign to influence the U.S. election”] [Washington Post, June 1, 2017, “Every Russia story Trump said was a hoax by Democrats: A timeline”]
–JULY 7 or 8, 2016. According to the unverified Steele dossier’s claims (page 30), there was a reported secret meeting in Moscow between Trump advisor Carter Page and a Putin ally at Rosneft, confirmed by a senior member of Rosneft. Rosneft is a large oil company with $65 billion in sales in 2016. The government of Russia owns the majority stake. “The Rosneft president was so keen to lift personal and corporate western sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered PAGE/TRUMP’s associates the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatised) stake in Rosneft in return. PAGE had expressed interest and confirmed that were TRUMP elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.” [BuzzFeed, January 10, 2017, “These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia”]
–JULY 9, 2016. Donald Trump is increasingly intrigued by the idea of tapping retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn for Vice President to project strength and know-how on national security. … The turn toward a military figure is being driven by Trump himself rather than by his advisers, the people said, and comes as the real estate mogul is telling his friends that national unrest may demand a “tough and steady” presence alongside him on the ticket. … One person encouraging Trump to perhaps choose a general is Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who has become a force inside of the campaign. He shares Trump’s view that, while unorthodox, a general could excite voters from both parties who want to see wholesale change in domestic politics and an aggressive approach to combating terrorism. [Robert Costa, Washington Post, July 9, 2016, “A curveball in Trump’s Veep search: He’s seriously considering a retired general”]
–JULY 18, 2016. On the first day of the Republican National Convention, the Heritage Foundation hosted a panel addressing European relations that was attended by a number of ambassadors. “Much of the discussion focused on Russia’s incursions into Ukraine and Georgia,” moderator Victor Ashe later wrote, adding that “[s]everal ambassadors asked for names of people who might impact foreign policy under Trump.” This appears to be the event after which Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak approached Sessions as part of a small group of foreign dignitaries. Sessions, the Washington Post reports, “then spoke individually to some of the ambassadors, including Kislyak.” “A former U.S. official who read [Kislyak’s reports to the Kremlin] said that the Russian ambassador reported speaking with Sessions about issues that were central to the campaign, including Trump’s positions on key policy matters of significance to Moscow.” [Washington Post, March 2, 2017, “What Jeff Sessions said about Russia, and when”] [Washington Post, July 21, 2017, “Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show”]
–JULY 2016. Carter Page and J. D. Gordon, two national security advisers to the Trump campaign, spoke with Russian Ambassador Kislyak at the RNC convention in Cleveland. J. D. Gordon managed the advisory committee as the Trump campaign’s director of national security. Gordon called the conversation “informal.” Page, another member of the Trump campaign’s national security advisory committee who also spoke with Kislyak in Cleveland, cited “confidentiality rules” in declining to say what he discussed with the ambassador. “Sessions, Gordon, and Trump campaign national security advisory committee member Walid Phares all spoke on stage at the Global Partners in Diplomacy program on July 20 in an auditorium at Case Western Reserve University, according to the program schedule and pictures posted on social media.” [USA Today, March 2, 2017, “Exclusive: Two other Trump advisers also spoke with Russian envoy during GOP convention”]
–JULY 22, 2016. Nearly 20,000 emails stolen from senior Democratic National Committee officials were dumped online by WikiLeaks. Intelligence officials have said that the emails were taken from the party’s computer system by Russian hackers. [Washington Post, June 23, 2017, “Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault”] [New York Times, July 12, 2017, “Conspiracy or Coincidence? A Timeline Open to Interpretation”]
–JULY 24, 2016. In an interview on CNN, Donald Trump Jr. dismissed Democratic suggestions that the Russians were trying to hurt Mrs. Clinton and help his father. “It’s disgusting,” he said. “It’s so phony.” He added: “I can’t think of bigger lies. But that exactly goes to show you what the D.N.C. and what the Clinton camp will do. They will lie and do anything to win.” [New York Times, July 12, 2017, “Conspiracy or Coincidence? A Timeline Open to Interpretation”]
Peter W. Smith
–JULY 2016. Matt Tait was contacted out of the blue by Peter W. Smith. Tait, a UK-based security consultant, had been researching the DNC breach. Smith, a wealthy, long-time GOP operative, was looking to find hackers with access to Hillary Clinton’s private email server, and wanted to make sure the deleted or missing 30,000 Clinton emails would be exposed prior to the election. He wanted Tait to evaluate whether some emails claimed to be from Secretary Clinton’s server were genuine. Tait, over several phone conversations, warned Smith that the hackers could be Russians. Smith didn’t seem to care.
Smith told the Wall Street Journal (in May 2017) that he and his team, including one Russian speaker, found five groups of hackers who claimed to possess Mrs. Clinton’s deleted emails, including two groups he determined were Russians.
Tait: “Although it wasn’t initially clear to me how independent Smith’s operation was from Flynn or the Trump campaign, it was immediately apparent that Smith was both well connected within the top echelons of the campaign and he seemed to know both Lt. Gen. Flynn and his son well.” Lt. Gen. Flynn was then a senior adviser to the Trump campaign.
Peter Smith sent Tait a document after a few weeks of them interacting. It was “ostensibly a cover page for a dossier of opposition research to be compiled by Smith’s group, and which purported to clear up who was involved, dated September 7. It detailed a company Smith and his colleagues had set up as a vehicle to conduct the research: “KLS Research”, set up as a Delaware LLC “to avoid campaign reporting,” and listing four groups who were involved in one way or another.
The first group, entitled “Trump Campaign (in coordination to the extent permitted as an independent expenditure)” listed a number of senior campaign officials: Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sam Clovis, Lt. Gen. Flynn and Lisa Nelson.
The largest group named a number of “independent groups / organizations / individuals / resources to be deployed.” …
Tait: “My perception then was that the inclusion of Trump campaign officials on this document was not merely a name-dropping exercise. This document was about establishing a company to conduct opposition research on behalf of the campaign, but operating at a distance so as to avoid campaign reporting. Indeed, the document says as much in black and white.” [LawFare Blog, June 30, 2017, by Matt Tait, The Time I Got Recruited to Collude with the Russians”][Wall Street Journal, June 29, 2017, by Shane Harris, “GOP Operative Sought Clinton Emails From Hackers, Implied a Connection to Flynn”] [Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2017, by Shane Harris, Michael C. Bender and Peter Nicholas, ”GOP Activist Who Sought Clinton Emails Cited Trump Campaign Officials”] PLEASE SEE the entry at June 29-July 1, 2017, when Wall Street Journal stories would be the first to reveal Peter W. Smith and his efforts.
–JULY 27, 2016. Trump said he hoped Russian intelligence services had successfully hacked Hillary Clinton’s email, and encouraged them to publish whatever they may have stolen, essentially urging a foreign adversary to conduct cyberespionage against a former secretary of state. ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,’ Mr. Trump said during a news conference here in an apparent reference to Mrs. Clinton’s deleted emails. ‘I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.’” “When asked whether he would recognize Crimea ‘as Russian territory’ and lift the sanctions, Mr. Trump said: ‘We’ll be looking at that. Yeah, we’ll be looking.'” [New York Times, July 27, 2016, “Donald Trump Calls on Russia to Find Hillary Clinton’s Missing Emails”]
–LATE JULY 2016. The investigation into Trump-Russia contacts is opened. [Citing James Comey’s testimony, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said this before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017]
–JULY 31, 2016. In an appearance on CNN, Sessions defends Trump’s position on reaching out to Russia. “This whole problem with Russia is really disastrous for America, for Russia and for the world,” he said. “Donald Trump is right. We need to figure out a way to end this cycle of hostility that’s putting this country at risk, costing us billions of dollars in defense, and creating hostilities. [Washington Post, March 2, 2017, “What Jeff Sessions said about Russia, and when”]
Photo credit: The Daily Beast
–AUGUST 2016. Roger Stone exchanges private Twitter messages with a hacker called Guccifer 2.0. The US intelligence community says that hacker was a front for the Russian military agency, GRU, which was deeply involved in Russia’s election-meddling campaign. Stone was a longtime Trump ally and former campaign adviser, but wasn’t a campaign official at the time. The contacts were first revealed by The Smoking Gun in March 2017. Stone later released screenshots of what he claimed was the entire conversation. [TheSmokingGun, March 8, 2017, “Roger Stone’s Russian Hacking ‘Hero'”] [CNN, July 23, 2017, “The many unearthed interactions between Trump-world and Russia, documented”]
–EARLY AUGUST 2016. The CIA sends a top-secret envelope by courier to President Obama and three aides. The “intelligence bombshell [was] a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race. … The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.” Washington Post: “In political terms, Russia’s interference was the crime of the century, an unprecedented and largely successful destabilizing attack on American democracy.” After much investigation, further intel assessments, and internal debate, Obama approved sanctions against Russia that were announced in late December. [Washington Post, June 23, 2017, “Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault”]
–AUGUST 4, 2016. A concerned CIA Director John Brennan, having recently learned of Russian contacts and interference, was the first to confront a senior member of the Russian government on the matter. He used a phone conversation with the head of Russia’s security service, the FSB, to warn that the meddling would backfire and damage the country’s relationship with the United States. Brennan told FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov that “American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in the election” and that such activity “would destroy any near-term prospect of improvement” in relations with the US. Bortnikov twice denied that Russia was waging such a campaign, but said he would carry the message to Putin. This is according to testimony Brennan would offer the House Intelligence committee much later, on May 23, 2017. [CNN, May 23, 2017, “Ex-CIA chief John Brennan: Russians contacted Trump campaign”] [Washington Post, May 23, 2017, “CIA director alerted FBI to pattern of contacts between Russian officials and Trump campaign associates”] [Washington Post, June 23, 2017, “Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault”]
–EARLY AUGUST, 2016. Compiled by a former British intelligence agent, the Steele dossier had various claims that were explosive but unverified. It would not be published until January 2017. However, the alleged Kremlin view at this pivotal time is certainly interesting (page 13): “Speaking in early August 2016, two well-placed and established Kremlin sources outlined the divisions and backlash in Moscow arising from the leaking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) e-mails and the wider pro-TRUMP operation being conducted in the US. Head of Presidential Administration, Sergei IVANOV, was angry at the recent turn of events. He believed the Kremlin “team” involved, led by presidential spokesman Dmitriy PESKOV, had gone too far in interfering in foreign affairs with their “elephant in a china shop black PR.” [BuzzFeed, January 10, 2017, “These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia”]
On August 12, 2016, Sergei Ivanov was unexpectedly fired from his Chief of Staff position by Putin. [The Economist, August 12, 2016, “Vladimir Putin’s powerful right-hand man steps down”] The Steele dossier (pages 22 and 23) says a “senior figure” reports that Ivanov was sacked “on account of giving Putin poor advice on the issue” of Russian interference in US presidential campaign. Ivanov “backed by Russian Foreign Intelligence (SVR) … had advised PUTIN that the pro-TRUMP, anti-CLINTON operation/s would be both effective and plausibly deniable with little blowback.” [BuzzFeed, January 10, 2017, “These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia”]
–AUGUST 17, 2016. Donald Trump, as the GOP nominee, began receiving intelligence briefings. The material presented included the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was meddling in the US election. Flynn was with Trump at the meeting. [Mother Jones, February 14, 2017, “Michael Flynn Resigned. Here’s Why He Still Needs to be Investigated”]
Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions
–AUGUST 19, 2016. Paul Manafort is fired as Trump’s campaign manager. [New York Times, August 19, 2016 “Paul Manafort Quits Donald Trump’s Campaign After a Tumultuous Run”]
Having already successfully hacked the DNC, Russian military intel hackers target a company that sells software to verify voter registrations in eight states, then launch a spearfishing campaign aimed at over 100 local US government organizations. Months later, intel officials say that 21 US states were targeted by Russian hackers.
–AUGUST 24, 2016. Russian military intelligence, or GRU, conducted cyber attacks against a named US company, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware. “Some of the company’s devices are advertised as having wireless internet and Bluetooth connectivity, which could have provided an ideal staging point for further malicious actions” including on Election Day. The document contains references to a product made by VR Systems, a Florida-based vendor of electronic voting services and equipment whose products are used in eight states: California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. VR sells the software and devices that verify and catalogue who’s permitted to vote when they show up on Election Day or for early voting. The actors likely used data from that operation to launch a voter registration-themed spearfishing campaign targeting over 100 US local government organizations.
“According to Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society and an electronic voting expert, one of the main concerns in the scenario described by the NSA document is the likelihood that the officials setting up the electronic poll books are the same people doing the pre-programming of the voting machines. … Usually at the county level there’s going to be some company that does the pre-election programming of the voting machines,” Halderman told The Intercept. “I would worry about whether an attacker who could compromise the poll book vendor might be able to use software updates that the vendor distributes to also infect the election management system that programs the voting machines themselves,” he added. “Once you do that, you can cause the voting machine to create fraudulent counts.” (This is according to a top-secret NSA report that will be dated May 5, 2017, and leaked to The Intercept on June 5, 2017.) [The Intercept, June 5, 2017, “TOP-SECRET NSA REPORT DETAILS RUSSIAN HACKING EFFORT DAYS BEFORE 2016 ELECTION”]
–EARLY SEPTEMBER 2016. In light of DNC hacks by Russians, Obama confronted Putin directly about election interference, during a meeting of world leaders in Hangzhou, China. Privately, Obama told Putin to stop interfering, to not hack the US election infrastructure: “When I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn’t happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out and there were going to be serious consequences if he didn’t. And in fact we did not see further tampering of the election process.” (This is according to Obama speaking at a December press conference.) [Washington Post, June 23, 2017, “Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault”] [The Intercept, June 5, 2017, “TOP-SECRET NSA REPORT DETAILS RUSSIAN HACKING EFFORT DAYS BEFORE 2016 ELECTION”]
–SEPTEMBER, 2016. “Flynn met privately in New York with two senior Turkish government officials, including the government’s ministers of foreign affairs and energy.” Turkish businessman Ekim “Alptekin told the AP he set up the meeting at a New York hotel between Flynn and the two officials while the officials were attending U.N. sessions and a separate conference Alptekin had arranged.” Flynn would finally disclose (March 8, 2017) in DOJ Foreign Agent Registration filings that he was lobbying, August through Election Day, for a Dutch-based firm, Inovo BV, owned by Alptekin, for a $530,000 fee. [AP at CNBC, March 10, 2017, “White House: Trump unaware of Flynn’s foreign agent work”]
Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak
Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
–SEPTEMBER 8, 2016. Sessions and Kislyak meet in his Senate office. The subject of the meeting isn’t clear, but one official told NBC’s Hallie Jackson that during such meetings ambassadors would “often make superficial comments about election-related news.” On March 2, 2017, Session would explain that the meeting was attended by himself and two or three other staffers. They “listened to the ambassador and what his concerns might be.” The topics discussed included travel to Russia, terrorism and Ukraine. “I don’t recall any specific political discussions,” Sessions said. Sessions later denied any campaign-related meetings with Russians at his confirmation hearing to be Attorney General, saying “I did not have communications with the Russians.” [Washington Post, March 2, 2017, “What Jeff Sessions said about Russia, and when”]
Photo credit: Getty via Esquire
–SEPTEMBER 23-26, 2016. Carter Page, identified in March as one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers, comes under public scrutiny. “U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials — including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president, according to multiple sources who have been briefed on the issue.” After a congressional briefing on suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, “Senate minority leader Harry Reid wrote FBI Director James Comey, citing reports of meetings between a Trump adviser (a reference to Page) and “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow over the summer as evidence of “significant and disturbing ties” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that needed to be investigated by the bureau.” “Page came to the attention of officials at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow several years ago when he showed up in the Russian capital during several business trips and made provocative public comments critical of U.S. policy and sympathetic to Putin. “He was pretty much a brazen apologist for anything Moscow did,” said one U.S. official who served in Russia at the time.”
The Trump campaign wasted no time in distancing itself from Carter Page, with campaign manager KellyAnne Conway telling CNN on September 25 that Page is not really involved at all with the campaign at this point.
A day after that, Carter Page told the Washington Post he was taking a leave of absence from his work with the Trump campaign, while leveling charges that the accusations of meetings between Page and sanctioned Russian officials were “complete garbage.” [Yahoo News, September 23, 2016, by Michael Isikoff, “U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin”] [Washington Post, September 26, 2016, “Trump’s Russia adviser speaks out, calls accusations ‘complete garbage’”]
–SEPTEMBER 26, 2016. In the first presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump refused to blame Russia: “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. 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, okay? You don’t know who broke into DNC.” [Washington Post, June 1, 2017, “Every Russia story Trump said was a hoax by Democrats: A timeline”]
–SEPTEMBER 29, 2016. Two successful breaches have been disclosed of online voter registration databases, in Illinois and Arizona, over the summer. Those two breaches were linked to hackers in Russia. Now, adding to those two, there have been hacking attempts on election systems in more than 20 states — far more than had been previously acknowledged — a senior Department of Homeland Security official told NBC News. The “attempted intrusions” targeted online systems like registration databases, and not the actual voting or tabulation machines that will be used on Election Day. The DHS official described much of the activity as “people poking at the systems to see if they are vulnerable.” “We are absolutely concerned,” the DHS official said. “The concern is the ability to cause confusion and chaos.” The DHS official did not say who was responsible for the additional failed attempts, noting that “we’re still doing a lot of forensics.” FBI Director James Comey told a congressional hearing this week that he is taking the threat to election systems “extraordinarily seriously.” “We are urging the states just to make sure that their deadbolts are thrown and their locks are on and to get the best information they can from DHS just to make sure their systems are secure,” he told the House Judiciary Committee.
Months later (June 2017), DHS’ acting Director of Cyber Division of the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Samuel Liles, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that by late September 2016 the intelligence community concluded that 21 states “were potentially targeted by Russian government-linked cyber actors” with scanning of Internet-connected election systems. [NBC News, September 29, 2016, “Hackers Target Election Systems in 20 States”] [CNN via MyArkLaMiss.com, June 21, 2017, “DHS officials: 21 states potentially targeted by Russia hackers pre-election”]
Finally, nearly a year later (September 2017), DHS finally contacted each state to let them know if theirs was one of the 21 states targeted. Hotly-contested states that were targeted include Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Additional targeted states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington.[Washington Post, September 22, 2017, “21 states told they were targeted by Russian hackers during 2016 election”] [89.3 KPCC (Southern California Public Radio), September 22, 2017, “Federal government notifies California and 20 other states of election hacking”]
Author’s note: In the 2012 election, 52% of the states voted for the Democrat. Among the states identified as hacker targets in the 2016 election, 79% of them were states that had voted for the Democrat in the 2012 election.
–OCTOBER 2016. The ninth-largest county in the US, with 1.3 million voters, was targeted by 17 suspicious internet address, possibly linked to Russian hackers. The US Department of Homeland Security had alerted local election officials to scan election systems and block out any of 600 specific Internet Protocol addresses. Dallas County, Texas discovered that Russian hackers had taken aim at their servers, possibly attempting to get access to voter registration rolls before the November election. If the hackers had been able to manipulate or delete the county’s registered voter database that could have caused chaos on Election Day, according to Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price. The county’s elections administrator, Toni Pippins-Poole, insists “They didn’t infiltrate our system.” This was not reported to the public until eight months later, June 2017. [Dallas Morning News, June 14, 2017, “Russian hackers targeted Dallas County servers before presidential election”]
–EARLY OCTOBER, 2016. Jared Kushner’s real estate company finalizes a $285 million loan as part of a refinancing package for its property near Times Square in Manhattan. It was a month before the presidential election. The lender, Deutsche Bank, was negotiating to settle a federal mortgage fraud case and charges from New York state regulators that it aided a possible Russian money-laundering scheme. (The cases were later settled, in December and January.) [Washington Post, June 25, 2017, “Kushner firm’s $285 million Deutsche Bank loan came just before Election Day”]
–OCTOBER 7, 2016. On this day, three things happened in quick succession. The first thing will become lost in the turmoil of the second and third things. (1) Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson and DNI James Clapper release a statement: “The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations,” the statement said. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” (2) A story is published by the Washington Post about crude comments Trump had made about women in an “Access Hollywood” tape. (3) Half an hour later, WikiLeaks publishes its first batch of emails stolen from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. [Washington Post, June 23, 2017, “Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault”] [Dept. of Homeland Security, October 7, 2016, “Joint Statement from the Department Of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security”]
–OCTOBER 25, 2016. Forbes documents Donald Trump’s many business dealings with Felix Sater. “That he has a colorful past is an understatement: The Russian-born Sater served a year in prison for stabbing a man in the face with a margarita glass during a bar fight, pleaded guilty to racketeering as part of a mafia-driven ‘pump-and-dump’ stock fraud and then escaped jail time by becoming a highly valued government informant. He was also an important figure at Bayrock, a development company and key Trump real estate partner during the 2000s, notably with the Trump SoHo hotel-condominium in New York City, and has said under oath that he represented Trump in Russia and subsequently billed himself as a senior Trump advisor, with an office in Trump Tower.” In July 2016, “A year-old private lawsuit against Bayrock, Sater and others, filed on behalf of the state of New York, is unsealed by a New York court. It alleges that the group sought to launder as much as $250 million of profits on Trump projects out of the country to evade taxation and hide its true foreign owners.” In September 2016, Forbes uncovered over 100 Internet domain names that … led back to Sater, including one called DealsByTrump.com. [Forbes, October 25, 2016, by Richard Behar, “Donald Trump And The Felon: Inside His Business Dealings With A Mob-Connected Hustler”] In late January/early February 2017, Sater and Trump personal attorney Michael D. Cohen will concoct a “peace plan” as a means to end US economic sanctions against Russia.
–OCTOBER 27-NOVEMBER 1, 2016. Following up their August cyber attacks, Russian military intelligence hackers set up a fake account appearing to belong to an employee of VR systems, a Florida-based vendor of electronic voting services and equipment whose products are used in eight states: California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Then they sent spear-fishing emails to “122 email addresses ‘associated with named local government organizations,’ probably to officials “involved in the management of voter registration systems.” The attachments if opened could eventually open a target’s back door, allowing virtually any malware to be delivered. (This is according to a top-secret NSA report that will be dated May 5, 2017, and leaked to The Intercept, which publishes it on June 5, 2017.) [The Intercept, June 5, 2017, “TOP-SECRET NSA REPORT DETAILS RUSSIAN HACKING EFFORT DAYS BEFORE 2016 ELECTION”]
–NOVEMBER 8, 2016. Election day. Trump won the US Electoral vote, surprising nearly every pollster and analyst in the country. The decisive states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania went to Trump by a combined 77,744 votes out of 13.9 million ballots cast (half a percent). Flipping 5,353 Trump voters to Clinton would have won Michigan for Clinton. In Wisconsin, if 11,375 votes had flipped to her, she would’ve won that state. Pennsylvania would have flipped if 22,147 Trump voters had instead picked Clinton. [McClatchy Washington Bureau, July 12, 2017, “Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation”]
–NOVEMBER 10, 2016. In their post-election meeting in the Oval Office, Obama warns Trump against hiring Michael Flynn as his National Security Adviser. Obama passed along a caution that Flynn was not suitable for such a high-level post. (This story was told to NBC by three former officials and revealed six months after it happened.) [NBC News, May 8, 2017, “Obama Warned Trump Against Hiring Mike Flynn, Say Officials“]
–NOVEMBER 18, 2016. Michael Flynn accepts Trump’s offer of the position of National Security Advisor. The appointment did not require Senate confirmation. [CNN, November 18, 2016 “Trump offers Flynn job of national security advisor”]
Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions
–NOVEMBER 18, 2016. U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings sends a letter to VP-elect Mike Pence, that begins: “Recent news reports have revealed that Lt. Gen. Flynn was receiving classified briefings during the presidential campaign while his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, Inc. was being paid to lobby the U.S. government on behalf of a foreign government’s interests.” [Letter shown on AM-Joy, MSNBC, May 6, 2017]
Photo credit: Mike Segar/Reuters
–NOVEMBER 20, 2016. As Trump auditions potential members of his cabinet. Kris Kobach, Secretary of State of Kansas, met with Trump at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. A document Kobach was holding had a list of right-wing policies that included “extreme vetting” and tracking of “all aliens from high-risk areas,” reducing “intake of Syrian refugees to zero,” deporting a “record number of criminal aliens in the first year” and the “rapid build” of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.” In addition to his intense anti-immigrant views, Kobach has been called the American most closely associated with voter suppression. Earlier in the year, Kobach called the League of Women Voters “communists.” (On May 11, 2017, Trump will name Kobach vice chair of a new Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. At that time, Kobach told the AP he met Trump through Donald Trump Jr.) [CNN, November 21, 2016, “Photo of Trump-Kobach meeting reveals apparent DHS proposal”] [New York Times Magazine, June 13, 2007, by Ari Berman, “The Man Behind Trump’s Voter-Fraud Obsession: How Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, plans to remake America through restrictive voting and immigration laws”] [Kansas City Star, February 22, 2016, “Kobach calls League of Women Voters ‘communist’”]
–NOVEMBER 30, 2016. In a letter, the Justice Department notified Flynn that it was scrutinizing his lobbying work. [New York Times, May 17, 2017, “Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House”]
Jared Kushner, son-in-law of Donald Trump, meets secretly with Sergey Kislyak. Flynn was present. In a startling departure from normal channels of diplomacy, private citizen and senior adviser to president-elect Trump, Kushner proposes to Kislyak the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities. This could bypass diplomats and US intelligence agences. The same month, Kushner meets with Sergei Gorkov, the head of a US-sanctioned Russian bank implicated in an espionage case. Gorkov is a trained Russian intelligence officer.
Jared Kushner (with Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross)
Photo credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
–DECEMBER 1 or 2, 2016. Incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak had a meeting at Trump Tower. (This meeting went undisclosed for several months, but was finally admitted to by the Trump White House in early March after press reports disclosed it, piecemeal.) Kushner proposed to Kislyak the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports. Kushner did not share meetings with the Russians on his security clearance form. [New York Times, March 2, “Kushner and Flynn Met With Russian Envoy in December, White House Says”] [New Yorker, March 6, “Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War”] [Washington Post, May 26, 2017, “Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin”] [Washington Post, May 26, 2017, “Jared Kushner trying to secretly talk to the Russians is the biggest billow of smoke yet”] [Reuters, May 27, 2017, “Exclusive: Trump son-in-law had undisclosed contacts with Russian envoy – sources”] As a follow-up to that meeting, a Kushner associate again met with Kislyak.
–DECEMBER 13 or 14, 2016. Kushner met with Sergei Gorkov, head of Russian bank VEB (Vnesheconombank), later in December 2016 at Trump Tower. Gorkov is a trained intelligence officer whom Putin appointed. The bank is under U.S. sanctions and was implicated in a 2015 espionage case in which one of its New York executives pleaded guilty to spying and was jailed. At the time Kushner met with Kislyak and then the head of VEB, Kushner had already spent months trying to arrange fresh financing for a troubled building his family owns, 666 Fifth Avenue. Kushner had spent the prior months lobbying Anbang, an insurer and prolific deal-maker close to China’s government, for a $4 billion investment in 666 Fifth Avenue. As Bloomberg writer Timothy L. O’Brien puts it: “The prospect that [Kushner] may have been jockeying for Chinese or Russian financiers to bail out him and his family from a potentially disastrous investment at 666 Fifth Avenue presents complex but obvious conflicts of interest as well as the prospect of injudicious or self-serving White House policymaking.” (See the LATE JANUARY, 2017 entry about the Trump administration considering lifting VEB’s sanctions in its first week in office.) [New York Times, March 27, 2017, “Senate Committee to Question Jared Kushner Over Meetings With Russians”] [Reuters, May 27, 2017, “Exclusive: Trump son-in-law had undisclosed contacts with Russian envoy – sources”] [Bloomberg, May 25, 2017, “When the Feds Come Knocking on Kushner’s Door …”]
–DECEMBER 2016. Flynn, Kushner, and Steve Bannon reportedly also met with Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, an encounter that appears more significant in light of reports that the crown prince later arranged a back-channel meeting in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean around January 11 between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Putin emmisary. (Kushner did not disclose these meetings at the time, nor did Flynn disclose his own meeting with Kislyak.) [Washington Post, April 3, 2017, “Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel”]
–DECEMBER 2016. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, speaking on Hardball on MSNBC on June 21, 2017, recalls: “I asked for Flynn’s security clearance to be reviewed back in December before he was even hired. There was enough on the record for the Trump administration to say, ‘No, Flynn does not belong in this administration and certainly he doesn’t belong in a room where there is classified information being discussed.’ [MSNBC video, Hardball, June 21, 2017]
–DECEMBER 19, 2016. Michael Flynn contacted the Russian ambassador. White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said the call came in the wake of the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, and Flynn offered his condolences. [CNN, July 23, 2017, “The many unearthed interactions between Trump-world and Russia, documented”]
–DECEMBER 25, 2016. Michael Flynn contacted the Russian ambassador. The purpose was to wish him a Merry Christmas, according to Sean Spicer. [Phone call from Spicer, January 13, cited by CBS News, “Michael Flynn in frequent contact with Russia’s ambassador to U.S.”]
–DECEMBER 29, 2016. FBI releases a report about Russian civilian and military intelligence attempts to compromise aspects of the US election, as well as other targets. “These cyber operations have included spearphishing campaigns targeting government organizations, critical infrastructure entities, think tanks, universities, political organizations, and corporations leading to the theft of information.” [New York Times, August 16, 2017, “In Ukraine, a Malware Expert Who Could Blow the Whistle on Russian Hacking”] [Joint Analysis by US Dept. of Homeland Security and FBI, December 29, 2016, “GRIZZLY STEPPE – Russian Malicious Cyber ActivitySummary”] SEE ALSO January 9, 2017.
On the day the FBI releases a report about Russian attempts to compromise the US election, and the Obama administration announces sanctions on Russia for meddling in the US election, Flynn and the Russian ambassador talk five times. These calls were dismissed, denied, and concealed by the Trump administration.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn
Photo Credit: Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock
Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak
Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
–DECEMBER 29, 2016. According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29. This was the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials, ejection of Russians from two diplomatic compounds, and other measures in retaliation for Russia’s interference in the US election of 2016. A Trump transition official said sanctions were not discussed in the Flynn calls. [David Ignatius, Washington Post, January 12, 2017, “Why did Obama dawdle on Russia’s hacking?”]
DECEMBER 29, 2016, UPDATED. According to three officials familiar with the matter, Flynn actually held FIVE phone calls with Kislyak on this day. The timing of the calls raised a question about whether Flynn had given Kislyak any assurances to soothe Russian anger over the U.S. moves. The following day, the Putin government surprised observers by announcing it would not retaliate after the Obama administration’s sanctions of December 29. [Reuters, by Jonathan Landay and Arshad Mohammed, January 23, 2017, “Trump adviser had five calls with Russian envoy on day of sanctions: sources”]
End of Part 1, continued in next posts, above.
Categories: Trump, Eric Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Russia, timeline, investigation, Putin, Paul Manafort, Oleg Deripaska, Dmitry Rybolovlev, Carter Page, Comey, Flynn, George Papadopolous, Michael Cohen, Pence, Sessions, Wilbur Ross, Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, 2016 Election, Roger Stone, Mueller, Kislyak, Kushner, Felix Sater, Bayrock Group, Peter W. Smith, emoluments, Brad Parscale, Donald Trump, Jr., Natalia Veselnitskaya, Rinat Akhmetshin, Ike Kaveladze, Grizzly Steppe.