Trump/Russia Timeline

Trump/Russia Timeline

June 2017 to present.
Part 3 of 3
(Part 1 and 2 are below this post.)

By Pokey Anderson

Most recent update: September 17, 2017.

Cartoon illustrations drawn by David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions.

All Rights Reserved
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This part, Part 3 of 3 includes June 2017 to the present.

Part 2 of 3 includes January through May 2017.

Part 1 of 3 includes events occurring before 2017.

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NOTE: If you just want the icing on the cake, here are a few places to look:

1. TOP SECRET FROM NSA: RUSSIA HACKED US ELECTION INFRASTRUCTURE. THREE DAYS LATER, PRESIDENT TRUMP’S RESPONSE: FIRE COMEY. Perhaps the most stunning chronological find is that it was a Friday, MAY 5, 2017 that a top-secret NSA report was circulated internally to only the highest levels of the US government. It detailed Russia’s cyber attacks against the US election and voting infrastructure. The very next working day, MAY 8, President Trump meets with a few top advisers, and says he has to get rid of FBI Director James Comey, who leads the investigation into Russian interference. [See Timeline, Part 2.]

2. INTEL SAYS IT WAS RUSSIA. TRUMP SAYS MAYBE IT WAS SOMEONE SITTING ON THEIR BED WEIGHING 400 LBS. Donald Trump, as the GOP nominee, began receiving intelligence briefings on AUGUST 17, 2016. The material presented included the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was meddling in the US election. (Bear in mind that intel chiefs and President Obama have their hair on fire, and are warning Putin directly, several times, to butt out of US elections.)

Nevertheless, in the first presidential debate with Hillary Clinton (SEPTEMBER 26, 2016), 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.” [See Timeline, Part 1.]

3. TRUMP JR. MEETING AT TRUMP TOWER ON … RUSSIAN ADOPTIONS? Top Trump campaign personnel, — Donald Trump, Jr., campaign chief Paul Manafort, and the candidate’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — meet with a Russian lawyer on JUNE 9, 2016 at Trump Tower. Additional Russian attendees include a former Soviet military officer accused of hacking into a mining company’s computer system and disseminating the info as part of a smear campaign by a rival. An additional Russian attendee was named by the NY Times in 2000 as responsible for using US shell companies to launder $1.4 billion.

The meeting’s pretext was to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton, as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” After the meeting’s existence becomes public over a year later, there was a parade of statements from Trump Jr.’s camp, describing the meeting as being about adoptions of Russian children, and that the meeting had no follow-up and amounted to nothing.

Coincidence or not, on JUNE 14, 2016, five days after the meeting, 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. [See Timeline, Part 1.]

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2017
–JUNE 1 to 14, 2017. “Detailed information on nearly every U.S. voter — including in some cases their ethnicity, religion and views on political issues — was left exposed online for two weeks by a political consultancy that works for the Republican National Committee and other GOP clients.” With billions of data points, “[t]he data offered a strikingly complete picture of the voting histories and political leanings of the American electorate laid out in an easily downloadable format, said cybersecurity researcher Chris Vickery. He discovered the unprotected files of 198 million voters in a routine scan of the Internet last week and alerted law enforcement officials.” The 1.1 terabytes of data included the names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, voter registration details, and other data that tries to predict each person’s likely religion and ethnicity. Vickery works for UpGuard. The data was compiled by GOP consultant Deep Root Analytics. [Washington Post, June 19, 2017, “A Republican contractor’s database of nearly every voter was left exposed on the Internet for 12 days, researcher says”] [Consumerist, June 19, 2017, “Personal Info For 200 Million U.S. Voters Left Unsecured Online”]

–JUNE 5, 2017. A top secret NSA report, dated May 5, 2017, is leaked to online publication The Intercept. The report is about Russian military intelligence efforts to attack elements of the US election and voting infrastructure. (See also August 24, 2016, October 27-November 1, 2016, and May 5, 2017.) [The Intercept, June 5, 2017, “TOP-SECRET NSA REPORT DETAILS RUSSIAN HACKING EFFORT DAYS BEFORE 2016 ELECTION”]

–JUNE 6, 2017. Sen. Mark Warner tells USA Today that “the extent” of Russia’s cyberattacks around the US election “is much broader than has been reported so far.” The comments from Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, came one day after The Intercept reported on a top-secret National Security Agency document that said hackers associated with Russia’s military intelligence agency targeted a company with information on US voting software days before the election. About an hour after The Intercept’s publication, the DOJ announces that a 25-year-old government contractor, Reality Leigh Winner, is charged with taking classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet. Previously an Air Force linguist, Winner had top-secret clearance and was working in a US government facility in Georgia. She was arrested at her home on June 3. [Business Insider, June 6, 2017, “Top senator: The extent of Russia’s election attacks ‘is much broader than has been reported'”] [The Intercept, June 5, 2017, “TOP-SECRET NSA REPORT DETAILS RUSSIAN HACKING EFFORT DAYS BEFORE 2016 ELECTION”] [NY Magazine, June 6, 2017, “What We Know About Alleged Russia-Hacking-Report Leaker Reality Winner”]

In his first public comments since being fired, former FBI Director James Comey testifies under oath.


James Comey
Photo credit: Jonathan Ernest, Reuters

–JUNE 8, 2017. James Comey, the FBI director fired by Trump, testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on his interactions with Trump.
See Timeline entries for January 6 (Comey begins a practice of writing memos immediately after each contact with Trump), January 27 (Asking whether Comey wants to stay on as FBI Director, Trump twice asks Comey to declare loyalty to Trump while at a one-on-one dinner at the White House), February 14 (Trump kicks senior people out of the office except for Comey, and tells Comey “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go”), March 30 and April 11, 2017 (Trump calls Comey on both these dates, asking him to lift “the cloud” over his administration).
Asks why he believed he was fired, Comey answered: “Again, I take the president’s words. I know I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was, in some way, putting pressure on him, in some way, irritating him. And he decided to fire me because of that.”
Also, Comey confirmed that while Michael Flynn was Trump’s National Security Adviser, Flynn was facing a criminal investigation.
Comey also testified that on three separate occasions, he did tell Trump that Trump was not personally under investigation. And, Comey said that the president was not under investigation at the time of Comey’s dismissal on May 9.
Comey also testified about the substance of the Russia investigation, and a stunning lack of interest in the Russia threat from Trump:
COMEY: “The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active-measures campaign driven from the top of that government. There is no fuzz on that. It is a high-confidence judgment of the entire intelligence community, and — and the members of this committee have — have seen the intelligence. It’s not a close call.”
SEN. HEINRICH: So that was a hostile act by the Russian government against this country?
COMEY: Yes, sir.
SEN. HEINRICH: Did the president, in any of those interactions that you’ve shared with us today, ask you what you should be doing, or what our government should be doing, or the intelligence community, to protect America against Russian interference in our election system?
COMEY: I don’t recall a conversation like that.
HEINRICH: Never?
COMEY: No.
SEN. KING: Was the Russian activity in the 2016 election a one-off proposition? Or is this part of a long-term strategy? Will they be back?
COMEY: … They’re going to come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of. And they’re — they’re not devoted to either, in my experience. They’re just about their own advantage. And they will be back.
COMEY later in his testimony, re Russia: The reason this is such a big deal has — we have this big, messy, wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time, but nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for, except other Americans, and that’s wonderful and often painful. But we’re talking about a foreign government that, using technical intrusion, lots of other methods, tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it.
[New York Times, June 8, 2017, “Full Transcript and Video: James Comey’s Testimony on Capitol Hill”] [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, June 8, 2017, James B. Comey Statement for the Record”] [New York Times, June 8, 2017, “Comey Testimony: Highlights of the Hearing”]

–JUNE 12, 2017. “In a lawsuit filed against President Trump, the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Maryland seek to pierce the web of Trump-related proprieties and force him to make a choice: the presidency or his business empire?” Analysis of this lawsuit considers the states to be convincing plaintiffs, and also suggests that the lawsuit “may force Trump to give up financial records he has tenaciously fought to keep private.” [Washington Post, June 13, 2017, “The attorneys general suit against Trump may be the most dangerous yet”]

–JUNE 13, 2017. Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee, to address both Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and the firing of James Comey. He was adamant that he did not collude with Russia, calling that an “appalling and detestable lie,” but on other questions, he said “I don’t remember” or “I don’t recall” 26 times. Sessions gave vague or conflicting answers as to whether he had a meeting or encounter with Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel on April 27, 2016; if so, that would be a third meeting in addition to the two that were initially undisclosed. He declined to answer some questions regarding conversations with Trump; his apparent lack of a legal basis to do so prompted accusations of stonewalling and impeding an investigation from some Senators. [Democracy Now, June 14, 2017, “Jeff Sessions Said “I Don’t Remember” or “I Don’t Recall” 26 Times During Senate Intel Testimony”]


Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions

–JUNE 14, 2017. “The Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to allow Congress to block any efforts by the president to scale back sanctions against Russia, and to strengthen those sanctions in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 election and its actions in Syria. The vote of 97 to 2 is a sharp rebuke to President Trump’s posture on Russia and his resistance to the intelligence community’s assessment that the country was behind efforts to influence the election he won.” The House has yet to vote on the measure. [Washington Post, June 14, 2017, “Senate overwhelmingly votes to curtail Trump’s power to ease Russia sanctions”]

–JUNE 14, 2017. A lawsuit is filed by 30 members of the Senate and 166 members of the House against Donald J. Trump, claiming continuing violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution. This is the third lawsuit against Trump for violations of the emoluments clause. [Civil Action, June 14, 2017, Complaint, US District Court for the District of Columbia.] [Slate, June 14, 2017, “Donald Trump Is Now Facing Three Emoluments Lawsuits”]

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been widening his probe. The prongs include not just Russian election meddling and possible collusion, but whether the Trump administration has obstructed justice. Also, investigators have been looking at potential financial crimes among Trump associates. Top White House officials have been lawyering up, including Trump, Sessions, Pence and Kushner.


Robert Mueller
Photo credit: CNN

–JUNE 14-15, 2017. In a turning point in the investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been widening his Russia probe to investigate whether President Trump has obstructed justice. The broader probe began days after Comey was fired by Trump on May 9. Mueller’s investigation will include interviews of senior intelligence officials, including Dan Coats and Admiral Mike Rogers. Richard Ledgett, Rogers’ deputy until recently, is also included; a source tells CNN that “Ledgett wrote a memo … documenting a conversation in which President Donald Trump allegedly urged Rogers to help get the FBI to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation.” On another front, “[i]nvestigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.” The Washington Post cited as sources officials and others.
In summary, the three prongs of investigation under Special Counsel Mueller are believed to be: (1) Russian election meddling, with possible collusion with the Trump campaign; (2) Possible attempts to obstruct justice; and (3) Possible financial crimes. [Washington Post, June 14, 2017, “Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say”] [CNN, June 15, 2017, “Source: Investigators for special counsel will soon speak to senior intelligence officials”] [Washington Post, June 15, 2017, “Three prongs of the Russia investigation, explained”]


Donald Trump
Photo credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty

–JUNE 15, 2017. Using a phrase that will be repeated often, Donald Trump tweets: “you are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA” [Washington Post, August 7, 2017, “‘Fake news’? The Russia investigation is getting very, very real.”]

–JUNE 15, 2017. Vice President Pence has hired outside legal counsel to assist with congressional and special investigations into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. The attorney, Richard Cullen, has previously served as a US attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia. [Washington Post, June 15, 2017, “Pence hires outside counsel to deal with Russia probe inquiries”]


Michael Flynn
Photo credit: NBC News

–JUNE 19, 2017. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a former prosecutor, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that evidence is pointing toward fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn now cooperating with FBI investigators. Whitehouse says he has ‘connected dots’ of unrelated evidence to deduce this conclusion. “‘All the signals are suggesting [Flynn] is already cooperating with the FBI, and may have been for some time. First of all, they had him dead to rights on a felony false statement, on the statement they took from him at the White House on the Kislyak conversations. Second, Comey reported that one of the things the FBI does with cooperators is get them to go back and clean up areas of non-compliance. Flynn, who will never be hired by a foreign government again, went back and cleaned up his foreign agent filings. Third, all of the reporting of the Eastern District of VA on subpoenas is one hop away from Flynn. He is the hole in a donut of subpoenas,’ he said. He continued: ‘One of the most talkative people in Trumpland [Flynn] has gone absolutely silent. That is exactly what a prosecutor would strongly encourage a cooperating witness to do… in order to avoid lengthy imprisonment.'” [Real Clear Politics, June 19, 2017, “Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse: Tons Of Evidence Mike Flynn Is Cooperating With FBI; ‘Who Knows What Trump Said To Him?'”]

–JUNE 19, 2017. Ranking Democrats on two House committees are looking into additional unreported foreign connections of Michael Flynn. They expanded their probes by requesting documents from Michael Flynn’s consulting firm and two other companies regarding a trip Flynn took to Saudi Arabia in June 2015. This trip was apparently not reported on Flynn’s security clearance renewal. “He did report a later trip to Saudi Arabia on his security form, but left out important details, says the joint letter from Representatives Elijah E. Cummings and Eliot L. Engel, the ranking Democrats on the House Government Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, respectively.” “Newsweek reported on June 9 that Flynn had traveled to Egypt and Israel in the summer of 2015 as an adviser on a project to pursue a joint U.S.-Russian-Saudi business venture to develop nuclear facilities located in—and financed by—Saudi Arabia.” These matters are new developments, in addition to the legal jeopardy Flynn was already facing. Newsweek: “[Flynn] was … involved in one of the most audacious—and some say harebrained—schemes in recent memory: a plan to build scores of U.S. nuclear power plants in the Middle East. As a safety measure.” [Newsweek, June 19, 2017, “MICHAEL FLYNN, TRUMP’S EX-NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, IS TARGET OF NEW HOUSE INQUIRY RELATED TO HIS DEALINGS IN SAUDI ARABIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST”] [Newsweek, June 9, 2017, “MICHAEL FLYNN, RUSSIA AND A GRAND SCHEME TO BUILD NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS IN SAUDI ARABIA AND THE ARAB WORLD”]


Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions

–JUNE 20, 2017. AG Jeff Sessions has hired long-time confidante Charles Cooper as his private attorney, the DOJ announced. Other members of the administration with recently-hired private attorneys include Trump, Pence, and Kushner. [Reuters, June 20, 2017, “U.S. Attorney General Sessions hires private attorney”]

–JUNE 21, 2017. In a letter, “18 members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said they have ‘serious concerns’ about how the White House is handling classified information and who is being allowed access to such sensitive material. The letter, citing press reports, singles out Kushner for failing to disclose numerous contacts with foreign officials on his security clearance questionnaire. It also questions why the White House allowed Flynn to have access to classified information after learning that he had misled administration officials about the content of conversations with a Russian diplomat.” [Washington Post, June 21, 2017, “House Dems pressure WH on Kushner, Flynn security clearances”]

–JUNE 22, 2017. Two watchdog groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive file a lawsuit against Trump and his office, alleging that the White House is not complying with the Presidential Records Act. As examples, the lawsuit cites news reports about White House aides using “certain email messaging applications that destroy the contents of messages as soon as they are read, without regard to whether the messages are presidential records,” as well as tweets from Trump’s account that have been deleted after they were sent. [Politico, June 22, 2017, “Lawsuit accuses Trump of violating federal records law”]


Paul Manafort
Photo credit: Independent UK

–JUNE 27, 2017. Paul Manafort’s consulting firm retroactively filed forms showing that the firm received over $17 million during 2012-2014, from a political party that dominated Ukraine before its leader fled to Russia in 2014. Manafort was chair of Trump’s presidential campaign for several months during 2016. He is the second senior Trump advisor to retroactively file forms acknowledging work for foreign interests. (Michael Flynn filed a retroactive foreign agent disclosure in March.) “Manafort resigned from the campaign in August 2016, following reports by the New York Times that his name had appeared in a ledger found in Kiev detailing millions of dollars in under-the-table payments from the Party of Regions. Manafort has consistently denied wrongdoing and said that reports alleging that he received funds improperly from Ukrainian interests are false.” [Washington Post, June 27, 2017, “Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort files as foreign agent for Ukraine work”]


Trump and Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office
Photo credit: Russian news agency TASS

–JUNE 27, 2017. Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, will leave his post and return to Moscow. A Russian spokesperson says the move was planned in advance. His departure date is unknown, but a farewell dinner will be on July 11. Kislyak drew attention for, among other things, secret meetings and contacts with associates of Donald Trump like Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions, meetings that were disclosed many months later. Anatoly Antonov will be the replacement. [CNN, June 27, 2017, “Controversial Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak is leaving the US”]


Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity
Mike Pence and Kris Kobach
Photo credit: AP/Andrew Harnik

–JUNE 28, 2017. All 50 states are sent letters from Kris Kobach — vice chair for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — requesting information on voter fraud, election security and copies of every state’s voter roll data. The letter asked state officials to deliver the data within two weeks. In addition to the typical names, ages and addresses on record of registered voters, the commission also asked for Social Security numbers, voting history, and military status, if the state election databases contain it. Vice President Pence is the chair of the commission.
By June 30, officials from at least 24 states stated they will not fully comply with the request. Republican Secretary of State of Mississippi Delbert Hosemann said his reply would be: “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Alex Padilla, Secretary of State of California, stated he would not send the information because it would “only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud.” Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe and Secretary of State of Kentucky Alison Lundergan Grimes called the commission a vehicle for “voter suppression.”
Kris Kobach, also the Secretary of State of Kansas, has been called the American most closely associated with voter suppression. Ari Berman: “Kobach’s chilling narrative of deceitful foreigners subverting democracy has served him well. Making people believe that voter fraud is rampant builds public support for policies that restrict access to the ballot. And claims of illegal voting by noncitizens help justify Kobach’s hard-line anti-immigration agenda. This has given Kobach a powerful political constituency, not least of which is the president himself.”
A study by Stanford University of the Interstate Crosscheck Program previously promulgated by Kobach found that that program’s “purging strategy would eliminate about 200 registrations used to cast legitimate votes for every one registration used to cast a double vote.”
“I have every reason to think that given the shoddy work that Mr. Kobach has done in this area in the past that this is going to be yet another boondoggle and a propaganda tool that tries to inflate the problem of double registration beyond what it actually is,” Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said. [ProPublica, June 29, 2017, “Presidential Commission Demands Massive Amounts of State Voter Data”]
[NY Magazine, June 30, 2017, “State Officials Are Not Cooperating With Trump’s ‘Voter Fraud’ Panel”] [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”][Stanford University study, November 4, 2016, “One Person, One Vote:
Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting
in U.S. Presidential Elections”
] [Philadelphia Inquirer, June 30, 2017, “Gov. Wolf rebuffs Trump voter fraud commission”]

–JUNE 29, 2017. Keith Schiller, part of Trump’s inner circle, is on the witness list for the House Intelligence Committee, sources told ABC News. Schiller was Trump’s former bodyguard and is now the White House director of Oval Office operations. “A former New York police officer, Schiller has been at Trump’s side for nearly 20 years and is one of his closest advisers and aides — playing the role of a body man, confidant and gatekeeper. When Trump made the decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, it was Schiller who hand-delivered the letter of termination from the president to FBI headquarters.” [ABC News, June 29, 2017, “Trump’s longtime bodyguard-turned-White House aide Keith Schiller eyed in House’s Russia probe, sources say”]

A long-time GOP operative has told the Wall Street Journal of his attempts to get hackers, including Russians, to hack and publish Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 emails last fall before the election. The operative, Peter W. Smith, was apparently operating independently but implied he had connections to Michael Flynn and other top advisers to the Trump campaign, including Bannon and Conway.

–JUNE 29-JULY 1, 2017. Today for the first time evidence is published that, if true, could be a thread linking people connected to the Trump campaign with Russian operatives. A long-time GOP operative, implying he had connections to Michael Flynn, attempted in July through September 2016 to track down Hillary Clinton’s infamous 30,000+ deleted emails and get them released publicly. To do this, the operative, Peter W. Smith attempted to reach several hacker groups, including at least two that Smith believed to be Russia-tied.
“Mr. Smith, a private-equity executive from Chicago active in Republican politics, said he assembled a group of technology experts, lawyers and a Russian-speaking investigator based in Europe to acquire emails the group theorized might have been stolen from the private server Mrs. Clinton used as secretary of state,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
A computer-security expert from Atlanta who searched hacker forums on Mr. Smith’s behalf for people who might have access to the emails, reported that Mr. Smith said, ‘I’m talking to Michael Flynn about this — if you find anything, can you let me know?’ At the time, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was a senior Trump campaign advisor with numerous Russian ties. “According to an email of Smith reviewed by the Journal, the GOP operative appeared to pull in people to work with him on seeking the emails, and he also offered these people to introduce them to Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, who worked as chief of staff in his father’s company.”
A September 7, 2016 document sent by Peter Smith to a UK-based security consultant, Matt Tait, had a cover page for opposition research to be gathered by Smith’s team. Smith had set up an LLC “to avoid campaign reporting,” and included this as one of the groups: “Trump Campaign (in coordination to the extent permitted as an independent expenditure)” and listed a number of senior campaign officials: Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sam Clovis, Lt. Gen. Flynn and Lisa Nelson.
The WSJ reporter who broke the story, Shane Harris, wrote that the attempt by Mr. Smith seems to fit in with what is already known by investigators: “The operation Mr. Smith described is consistent with information that has been examined by U.S. investigators probing Russian interference in the elections. Investigators have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the intelligence.”
Sometimes, an intelligence operation uses an intermediary, or cut-out, to muddy the waters of attribution, making an operation difficult to trace if discovered.
Mr. Smith died at age 81 on May 14, 2017, which was about 10 days after Shane Harris interviewed him. Initially, the reporter said he has been unable to find out the cause of death of Mr. Smith, even after attempts with family members, associates, and government officials in the town where he lived. Eventually, public records said that Peter Smith killed himself in a Minnesota hotel room near the Mayo Clinic, leaving a statement police called a suicide note, noting his ill health.
Harris did note, in a CNN interview: “We should also say, for context, Peter Smith is sort of a notorious figure in the Clintons’ political history. He’s been responsible for bringing a lot of allegations, including some unproven and unfounded ones, about President Clinton to light in conservative press in the early 1990s.”
A Trump campaign official said Smith didn’t work for the campaign and Flynn, if he was involved, was participating in a personal capacity, not as a campaign official, Slate reported.
[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, ”GOP Activist Who Sought Clinton Emails Cited Trump Campaign Officials”] [Vox, June 29, 2017, “A new report raises some big questions about Michael Flynn and Russian hackers; The Wall Street Journal describes how one Trump supporter reached out to hackers — and dropped Flynn’s name.”] [International Business Times, June 30, 2017, “Who Was Peter W Smith? GOP Operative Implied Michael Flynn Tie To Seek Clinton Emails From Russian Hackers”] [Raw Story, June 30, 2017, “WSJ reporter: No one will tell me how GOP source who tried to get Hillary’s emails from Russia died”] [CNN, June 30, 2017, “June 30, 2017 Transcript”] [Slate, June 29, 2017, “GOP Operative Attempted to Collude With Hackers He Thought Were Russian to Get Hacked Clinton Emails”] [LawFare Blog, June 30, 2017, by Matt Tait, “The Time I Got Recruited to Collude with the Russians”] [Chicago Tribune, July 13, 2017, “Peter W. Smith, GOP operative who sought Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers, committed suicide, records show”]. PLEASE SEE ALSO July 2016 entry about Matt Tait being contacted by Peter Smith.


Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions

–EARLY JULY, 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has begun investigating possible money laundering by Paul Manafort, according to a person familiar with the matter. The inquiry angle began “several weeks” before the WSJ report, published on July 20. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees are also investigating possible money laundering by Manafort. [Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2017, “Special Counsel Investigating Possible Money Laundering by Paul Manafort”]


Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions

–JULY 7-8, 2017. At the Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg, Trump and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meet with Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. However, there was a second, undisclosed hour-long conversation between Trump and Putin with only the Russian translator present, during a dinner for G-20 leaders. Trump did not have a translator for Russian; reporters traveling with the White House were not informed of the discussion, and there was no formal readout of it. “Leaders who witnessed the meeting were ‘bemused, nonplussed, befuddled’ by the animated conversation, held in full view — but apparently not within listening distance — of others present.” [Washington Post, July 19, 2017 “There are no notes on Trump’s meeting with Putin. That’s a big deal.”] [Washington Post, July 18, 2017, “Trump had undisclosed hour-long meeting with Putin at G-20 summit”

–JULY 12, 2017. Another investigation of the Trump campaign has begun, this one adjudicated by a judge rather than congressional committees or the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Two Democratic Party donors and a former party staff member have filed an invasion of privacy lawsuit against President Trump’s campaign and longtime informal adviser, Roger J. Stone Jr.. The suit accuses them of conspiring in the release of hacked Democratic emails and files that exposed their personal information to the public. The case was organized by Protect Democracy, a government watchdog group run by former Obama administration lawyers. One of the plaintiffs, Scott Comer, was chief of staff in the finance department of the Democratic National Committee. [New York Times, July 12, 2017, “Trump Campaign Is Sued Over Leaked Emails Linked to Russians”]


Brad Parscale
Photo credit: Carlos Javier Sanches, San Antonio Business Journal

–JULY 14, 2017. The data and digital director for Trump’s presidential campaign said he will speak with the House Intelligence committee later this month as part of its own Russia probe. Kushner had hired Brad Parscale in 2015. Parscale said in a statement that he is “unaware of any Russian involvement” in the data and digital operations but will voluntarily appear before the panel. “Parscale’s company raked in about $90 million for work targeting many states with paid advertisements, social media messages and other cyber tools.” [AP, July 14, 2017, “Russian-American lobbyist joined Trump’s son’s meeting, too”] [McClatchy DC Bureau, July 12, 2017, “Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation”]

Special Counsel Mueller is using an additional federal grand jury, located in DC. Pressure ramps up, with a pre-dawn FBI raid of Paul Manafort’s Northern Virginia home.


Robert Mueller
Photo credit: Greg Nash

–MID TO LATE JULY, 2017. Special Counsel Mueller starts using a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. as part of the investigation. This is in addition to a grand jury in Northern Virginia that has already been working on the investigation (that one apparently has focused on Flynn). A grand jury can get testimony from witnesses and demand documents. It can also return indictments. Its proceedings are secret, but a person whose documents or testimony is demanded is free to disclose that, or not.
Mueller has already assembled a team of 16 experienced attorneys with experience in international bribery, organized crime and financial fraud. Included on the team is Mueller’s expert on Russia, Elizabeth Prelogar, a former Fulbright Scholar in Russia who is fluent in Russian. Also included is James Quarles, who was an assistant special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation and a former partner with Mueller at the law firm WilmerHale. Michael Dreeben, another of Mueller’s lawyers, is the Justice Department’s top criminal law expert. Andrew Goldstein, who worked under former U.S Attorney Preet Bharara in the Southern District of New York, is likely familiar with the world of New York real estate. Andrew Weissman, who worked on the complex Enron case, is experienced in the art of “flipping” witnesses. Also, just hired is Greg Andres, a fraud specialist who managed a program targeting illegal foreign bribery while previously at the DOJ. [Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2017, “Special Counsel Robert Mueller Impanels Washington Grand Jury in Russia Probe”] [AP, August 4, 2017, “AP Source: Grand Jury Among Mueller’s Tools in Russia Probe”] [Reuters, August 1, 2017, “Exclusive: Former Justice Department official joins Mueller team”] [Rolling Stone, August 7, 2017, Why Trump Should Be Afraid With Robert Mueller on the Case”>]


Paul Manafort
Photo credit: Bloomberg

–LATE JULY-EARLY AUGUST, 2017. “Mueller’s team of investigators has sent subpoenas from a Washington grand jury to global banks for account information and records of transactions involving Manafort and some of his companies, as well as those of a long-time business partner, Rick Gates, according to people familiar with the matter.” Rick Gates’s relationship with Manafort dates back to at least 2006.
“Mueller is drawing on investigations that were well underway, including one by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, when he was appointed in May. … Federal prosecutors in Manhattan were investigating Manafort earlier this year, examining allegations that he laundered money from eastern Europe into New York properties, according to two people familiar with the earlier inquiry. … Along with the real-estate inquiry, the special counsel has taken over a review of Manafort’s late filings to comply with the foreign-agent registration act.”
“Jeffrey Yohai, who is the estranged husband of Manafort’s daughter, is under investigation by FBI agents working with prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, according to people familiar with their work. With cash infusions from Manafort, Yohai formed real-estate partnerships that took in investor money in New York and Los Angeles. Some of the partnerships subsequently declared bankruptcy, court filings show. U.S. authorities are now looking into claims by an investor that Yohai operated a Ponzi scheme.”
CNN reported on August 11 that Jeffrey Yohai had provided information and documents to DOJ investigators in New York more than two months ago, according to one source. Two sources say DOJ was seeking cooperation related to the federal investigation into Manafort for possible money laundering or tax violations in his business dealings with pro-Russia parties in Ukraine.
Although more stringent rules have been placed on banks, the international real estate business is still a place where foreigners can use cash with fewer questions asked about sources of money.
Those investigating Manafort include various congressional committees, the New York Attorney General and the Manhattan District Attorney. Large payments Manafort apparently received for his work for Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s former pro-Putin president, may be a particular focus.
[Bloomberg, August 11, 2017, “With Bank Subpoenas, Mueller Turns Up the Heat on Manafort”] [New York Post, August 10, 2017, “Paul Manafort hiring new legal team amid Mueller probe”] [CNN, August 4, 2017, “One year into the FBI’s Russia investigation, Mueller is on the Trump money trail”] [CNN, August 11, 2017, “Manafort’s son-in-law met with federal investigators, sources say”]

–JULY 26, 2017. FBI agents raided Paul Manafort’s home in Alexandria, Virginia during the pre-dawn hours. Manafort was convention manager, then chief strategist and campaign manager, of the Trump campaign from March to August, 2016. FBI agents seized tax, banking and other documents and materials relating to the Mueller investigation. Since being appointed special counsel, Mueller has taken over a Manafort investigation that was underway. “Manafort has been under increasing pressure as the Mueller team looked into his personal finances and his professional career as a highly paid foreign political consultant.
Agents with a search warrant appeared early the day Manafort was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was the day after he met voluntarily with Senate Intelligence Committee staff members. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Judiciary Committee and a former U.S. attorney said in a statement: “A federal judge signing this warrant would demand persuasive evidence of probable cause that a serious crime has been committed and that less intrusive and dramatic investigative means would be ineffective.” “Manafort has provided more than 300 pages of documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate and House intelligence committees.”
“As a political consultant, Manafort traveled the world, at times offering advice to despots and dictators. His decade of work in Ukraine on behalf of a Russia-friendly political party has drawn attention from the FBI.” In June Manafort retroactively filed Foreign Agents Registration Act paperwork with DOJ showing that for its work in Ukraine, his firm was paid $17.1 million.
“State authorities in New York also have issued subpoenas seeking information about Manafort’s real estate loans.”
After the FBI raid of Manafort’s home, Trump quickly sent out 2 tweets about Andrew McCabe. McCabe became acting FBI director after Trump fired Comey. “Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe,” Trump demanded, charging, inaccurately, a conflict of interest. [Washington Post, August 9, 2017 “FBI conducted predawn raid of former Trump campaign chairman Manafort’s home”] [New York Times, August 19, 2016 “Paul Manafort Quits Donald Trump’s Campaign After a Tumultuous Run”] [Think Progress, August 9, 2017, “Trump called for acting FBI director’s firing hours after FBI agents raided Paul Manafort’s home”]

–LATE JULY, AUGUST 2 and 7, 2017. In a late July phone call, Trump tried to convince Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that a bipartisan bill sanctioning Russia wasn’t good policy. Trump argued that it was unconstitutional and would damage his presidency. Corker was “unrelenting,” and “told Trump the bill was going to pass both houses with bipartisan support.” The bill cleared Congress overwhelmingly in July, and Trump signed it grudgingly on August 2.
On August 7, Trump phoned Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who is “working with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on a bill designed to protect Robert Mueller, the independent counsel investigating the president’s Russia connections, from any attempt by Trump to fire him.” One person familiar with the call said Trump was unhappy about the legislation and didn’t want it to pass.
During the time interval from late July to August 9, Trump also publicly admonishes Senators including Mitch McConnell, John Cain, and Jeff Flake.
“It seems he is just always focused on Russia,” Politico quoted one senior GOP aide as saying. [Politico, August 23, 2017, “http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/23/trump-senate-yell-phone-calls-241950″>”Trump clashed with multiple GOP senators over Russia”]

–AUGUST 2, 2017. After both houses of Congress overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against Russia, today President Trump grudgingly signed the legislation into law, while insisting that the measure included “clearly unconstitutional provisions.” Congress will now be able to block any effort by Trump to unilaterally ease the sanctions. Trump signed the bill privately, without the fanfare that normally accompanies his signings. The Prime Minister of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, said the sanctions amount to a “full-scale trade war,” adding in a Facebook post that they showed the Trump administration had demonstrated “utter powerlessness.” The Russian government had already responded after Congress passed the legislation, cutting the American Embassy workers in the Soviet Union. [Reuters, August 2, 2017, “Trump signs Russia sanctions bill, Moscow calls it ‘trade war'”] [New York Times, August 2, 2017, “Trump Signs Russian Sanctions Into Law, With Caveats”]


Len Blavatnik
Photo credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images


Mitch McConnell
Photo credit: Politico

–AUGUST 3, 2017. A new investigation shows that a Ukranian-born billionaire, Leonid “Len” Blavatnik, made $7.35 million in contributions to Donald Trump and political actions committees for top Republicans. Blavatnik is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.” Other top recipients included PACs for Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain. “In January, Quartz reported that Blavatnik donated another $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee. Ironically, the shared address of Blavatnik’s companies is directly across the street from Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York.” Len Blavatnik holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and the U.K. [Dallas Morning News, by Ruth May, August 3, 2017 “Tangled web connects Russian oligarch money to GOP campaigns”]


Michael Flynn
Photo credit: Mediaite

–AUGUST 4, 2017. Mueller’s investigators are looking at money flows in and out of Michael Flynn’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, according to several potential witnesses who have been interviewed by prosecutors and FBI agents. The investigators have recently asked the White House for documents related to Flynn, who was Trump’s first National Security Adviser.
Flynn Intel Group shared office space with White Canvas Group, which was founded by a former special ops officer who was a friend of Flynn’s. Reportedly paid $200,000 by the Trump campaign, the White Canvas Group was a data-mining company that is also the target of investigators’ questions. [New York Times, August 5, 2017, “Mueller Seeks White House Documents on Flynn”]

–AUGUST 9, 2017. Trump initiates a phone call to Mitch McConnell, in which he accuses the Senate Majority Leader of bungling the health care legislation. The call “quickly devolved into a profane shouting match.” Trump “was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.” [New York Times, August 22, 2017, “McConnell, in Private, Doubts if Trump Can Save Presidency”]


Robert Mueller
Photo credit: Larry Downing/Reuters


Reince Priebus
Photo credit: NBC News

–AUGUST 12, 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is talking with the West Wing about interviewing current and former senior administration officials. Among those is the recently fired White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus. He was involved in major decisions made by Trump during the transition and in the first six months of the administration.
Among the matters Mueller is believed to be pursuing is Trump’s decision to fire FBI director James Comey, and whether that was obstruction of justice.
“According to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation, Mr. Comey met with Mr. Priebus at the White House on Feb. 8 — a week before Mr. Comey said Mr. Trump cornered him in the Oval Office and asked him to end an investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. In Mr. Comey’s meeting with Mr. Priebus, Mr. Comey told Mr. Priebus about a Justice Department policy that largely bars discussions between White House officials and the F.B.I. about continuing investigations in order to prevent political meddling — or at least the appearance of it — in the bureau’s work, according to the law enforcement official. It is not clear whether Mr. Priebus ever relayed that message to the president.” Priebus was one of those present at the February 14 meeting between Comey and Trump. It was after Priebus and others were shooed out of the office, during a private one-on-one meeting, Comey later testified, that Trump asked Comey to end the Flynn investigation. [New York Times, August 12, 2017, “Mueller Is Said to Seek Interviews With West Wing in Russia Case”]


Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions

–AUGUST 18, 2017. Steve Bannon, after a turbulent run as chief strategist at the White House, is out of that job. Bannon has been a Trump connection to right-wing nationalists, and has seemed to embrace chaos. During the Trump campaign, megadonor Robert and Rebekah Mercer brought in millions of dollars, and by some accounts, pushed for Bannon to have a major role in the administration. Bannon was prominent in his former role as executive chairman in the right-wing media outlet Breitbart, which has also gotten major financial support (ten million dollars) from the billionaire Mercers. Among other positions, Robert Mercer has argued that climate change concerns were overblown, and that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a mistake. Cambridge Analytica, a cutting-edge data operation that ramped up during the campaign, was owned principally by Robert Mercer. One provocative headline today is: “President Trump Fires Robert And Rebekah Mercer.” [New York Times, August 18, 2017, “Stephen Bannon Out at the White House After Turbulent Run”] [Newsweek, November 21, 2016, “MEET ROBERT MERCER, THE MYSTERIOUS BILLIONAIRE BENEFACTOR OF BREITBART”] [New Yorker, by Jane Mayer, March 27, 2017, “The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency”]

–SEPTEMBER 1, 2017. Robert Mueller has obtained a letter drafted by Trump revealing his thinking about Comey, just before firing him. The letter was drafted with a top aide during a long weekend (May 4-8, 2017) at his Bedminster golf club. Rain forced Trump to cancel golf and instead he “stewed indoors, worrying about Mr. Comey and the Russia investigation.”
Mueller is believed to be investigating a potential case of obstruction of justice. The letter, “angry and meandering” in tone, was discarded in favor of one written by Rod Rosenstein. That one, pointing to Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, was trotted out as the public rationale for firing Comey. [New York Times, September 1, 2017, “Mueller Has Early Draft of Trump Letter Giving Reasons for Firing Comey”] See also the entry for May 4-8, 2017.

Please see also: Part 1 and Part 2, below.

Categories: Trump, Russia, timeline, investigation, Comey, Flynn, Pence, Sessions, 2016 Election, Mueller, Preet Bharara, Kislyak, Kushner, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Jeffrey Yohai, Felix Sater, emoluments, Peter W. Smith, Kris Kobach, Brad Parscale, Donald Trump, Jr., Natalia Veselnitskaya, Sen. Bob Corker, Len Blavatnik, Mitch McConnell, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Robert Mercer, Rebekah Mercer, Don McGahn.

All Rights Reserved.

Trump/Russia Timeline

Trump/Russia Timeline

January-May 2017, Part 2 of 3

(Part 1 is below this post.)

By Pokey Anderson

Most recent update: September 8, 2017.

Cartoon illustrations drawn by David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions.

All Rights Reserved

________________________________________

2017


Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions

–JANUARY 4, 2017. Michael Flynn informed the Trump transition team’s chief lawyer, Don McGahn that Flynn was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign. A second conversation was held two days later between Mr. Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers. Despite this, Flynn would become National Security Advisor on the day Trump was inaugurated, January 20. [New York Times, May 17, 2017, “Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House”]


James Comey

–JANUARY 6, 2017. FBI Director James Comey briefed President-elect Trump at Trump Tower on findings concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the US election. Salacious claims about Trump in the Steele dossier, which would be publicly released by BuzzFeed in a few days, were briefed by Comey to Trump privately. Comey felt that he needed to make a written record of the meeting as soon as he got into the car. Asked why, he responds in sworn testimony on June 8: “A combination of things, I think — the circumstances, the subject matter and the person I was interacting with. … I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document. That combination of things, I’d never experienced before, but it led me to believe I’ve got to write it down, and I’ve got to write it down in a very detailed way. [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, June 8, 2017, “James B. Comey Statement for the Record”] [BuzzFeed, January 10, 2017, “These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia”] [New York Times, June 8, 2017, “Full Transcript and Video: James Comey’s Testimony on Capitol Hill”]


Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions

–JANUARY 6, 2017. A declassified version of a highly classified DNI (Director of National Intelligence) document includes these key judgments: “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”

In addition, DNI makes this key judgment: “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”

Yet, six months later, the Daily Beast reports: “Despite assurances from the U.S. intelligence community that Russian hacking only influenced the 2016 U.S. election—and didn’t change vote tallies—there was never actually a formal federal audit of those systems, the Department of Homeland Security said.” “‘I think there’s a presumption amongst both the general public and lawmakers that DHS did some sort of investigation,’ said Susan Greenhalgh, who serves as Elections Specialist at Verified Voting, a nonprofit devoted to U.S. election integrity. ‘It didn’t happen. That doesn’t mean that something happened, but it also means it wasn’t investigated.’”[Office of Director of National Intelligence, January 6, 2017, “Background to ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections’: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution”] [The Daily Beast, June 20, 2017, “DHS Never Ran Audit to See if Votes Were Hacked; The Department of Homeland Security insists that no one hacked actual votes—but admits it never ran an audit to check.”]


Headquarters of the Russian F.S.B., the main successor to the K.G.B., in Moscow. The Americans believe Russian military intelligence operates Advanced Persistent Threat 28, or Fancy Bear.
Photo credit: Pavel Golovkin, AP

–JANUARY 9, 2017. Just days after American intel agencies publicly identified a computer program a hacker wrote as one tool used in Russian hacking in the US, the hacker, with the alias “Profexer,” suddenly went dark on the internet. The malware program is called the P.A.S. web shell, and is a hacking tool “used by cybercriminals throughout the former Soviet Union.” “But while Profexer’s online persona vanished, a flesh-and-blood person has emerged: a fearful man who the Ukrainian police said turned himself in early this year, and has now become a witness for the F.B.I.” Serhiy Demediuk, chief of the Ukrainian Cyber Police, said he made the witness available to the FBI, which has posted a full-time cybersecurity expert in Kiev. The “valuable” witness is said to be cooperating, although he apparently did not know what the code he wrote would be used for.
“It is the first known instance of a living witness emerging from the arid mass of technical detail that has so far shaped the investigation into the election hacking and the heated debate it has stirred.”
“I don’t know what will happen,” Profexer wrote in one of his last messages posted on a restricted-access website before going to the police. “It won’t be pleasant. But I’m still alive.”
Ukraine is “a country that Russia has used for years as a laboratory for a range of politicized operations that later cropped up elsewhere, including electoral hacking in the United States.”
Quiet cooperation of Ukrainian officials with American investigators has included sharing with the FBI the information that Ukraine’s central election was targeted by Russian hackers in May 2014. “Traces of the same malicious code, this time a program called Sofacy, were seen in the 2014 attack in Ukraine and later in the D.N.C. intrusion in the United States.” The elusive guise sometimes called Fancy Bear was a likely culprit. [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 December 29, 2016.


SIS Building in London, headquarters of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service
Photo credit: Telegraph UK

–JANUARY 10, 2017. BuzzFeed publishes what later comes to be known as the Steele dossier. Compiled by Christopher Steele, a former agent of British intelligence (MI6), the claims were explosive but unverified, and had been circulating among media for weeks. David Corn first referred to the documents in a late October column in Mother Jones. [BuzzFeed, January 10, 2017, “These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia”] [Mother Jones, by David Corn, October 31, 2017, “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump”]

–JANUARY 10, 2017. At a Senate Judiciary hearing on Jeff Sessions’s nomination to serve as attorney general, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asks about a CNN report on Russian ties to the Trump campaign that came out that day. FRANKEN: “…But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?” SESSIONS: “Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.” [Washington Post, March 2, 2017, “What Jeff Sessions said about Russia, and when”]


Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions

–JANUARY 15, 2017. Vice-President-elect Mike Pence declared that the Trump campaign had no interactions with Moscow. On Face the Nation, host John Dickerson asked him, “Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?” Pence was unequivocal: “Of course not. And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.” [CBS News, “Face the Nation transcript January 15, 2017: Pence, Manchin, Gingrich”]

–JANUARY 20, 2017. Donald J. Trump is inaugurated.

–JANUARY 22, 2017. At a reception for law enforcement at the White House, President Trump appears to blow James Comey a kiss, and beckons for Comey to come forward from across the room and they shake hands. Trump jokes, “He’s become more famous than me.” [The Hill, January 22, 2017, “Trump greets Comey: ‘He’s become more famous than me'”]

–LATE JANUARY, 2017. “During the Trump administration’s first week, officials said they were considering an executive order to unilaterally lift the sanctions” barring Americans from providing financing to and possibly limiting borrowing from VEB, Vnesheconombank. “Removing the sanctions would have greatly expanded the bank’s ability to do business in the United States.” (See the LATER IN DECEMBER 2016 entry about Jared Kushner’s secret meeting with the bank’s head.) [New York Times, May 29, 2017, “Investigation Turns to Kushner’s Motives in Meeting With a Putin Ally”]

–JANUARY 23, 2017. Three days after the inauguration, government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) files a federal lawsuit against President Trump for alleged violations of the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause. Law professor Jonathan Adler writes, “The underlying concern of the foreign emoluments clause is corruption. The authors of the clause were concerned that the receipt of gifts and other things of value could create a conflict of interest and compromise the president’s ability to perform his constitutional obligations.” [Washington Post, April 19, 2017, “Why CREW’s emoluments clause lawsuit against President Trump still has standing problems”]


After the FBI interviews Flynn, Sally Yates urgently meets with the White House Counsel to warn the White House that Flynn is compromised. She anticipates that the White House will take action. They do take action, but not the action Yates anticipated: four days after her first meeting with White House counsel, Yates is the one who is fired. Also, FBI Director James Comey is summoned to the White House by Trump; at dinner Trump asks for Comey to declare loyalty to Trump, which Comey declines to do.

–JANUARY 24, 2017. The FBI interviews Michael Flynn, particularly about his conversations with Kislyak in December, and whether they talked about the Obama administration’s sanctions of Russia. This takes place at the White House. [Washington Post, February 16, 2017, “Flynn in FBI interview denied discussing sanctions with Russian ambassador”] [Sworn testimony of Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, in a comment on All in with Chris Hayes on the same day, says, “There’s a very good chance that Flynn lied to the FBI.”]


Sally Yates
Photo credit: PBS News Hour

–JANUARY 25, 2017. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates got a detailed readout from the FBI agents who talked with Flynn. [Sworn testimony of Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017]

–JANUARY 26, 2017. Early on the morning of the 26th, without waiting for the official report of the FBI interview with Flynn, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates called White House Counsel Don McGahn and asked to come over to discuss a serious matter that was too sensitive to talk about over the phone. In a secure room (SCIF), she revealed that Vice President Pence and other White House officials were making false statements to the public regarding Flynn’s conversations in December with Sergey Kislyak. Yates explained that “the underlying conduct General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself,” but she said the bigger worry among senior Justice Department officials was that “the Russians also knew what (he) had done.” “And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.” The specific nature of what she called “the underlying conduct” is classified. The White House’s Sean Spicer has said McGahn informed Trump “immediately” about the matter. [Sworn testimony of Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017] ] [CNN cited by AJC, May 3, 2017, “Sally Yates to contradict White House statements on Mike Flynn”] [Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2017, “Yates Testimony to Shine Public Light on Russia Probes”][Robert Costas of the Washington Post says on May 8, 2017, that multiple sources told him that McGahn informed Trump after the meeting.] [CNBC, February 14, 2017, “White House: Trump asked Flynn to resign but doesn’t think he broke the law on Russian dealings”]

–JANUARY 27, 2017. Sally Yates is called by White House Counsel Don McGahn, to deal with his four questions following up after their meeting the previous day. They meet again. (1) Why does it matter to the DOJ if one White House official lies to another? (2) Are there applicable criminal statutes that would be pursued? (3) Is there concern that the administration taking action about Flynn would interfere with the FBI investigation of Flynn? (Yates said no, it wouldn’t.) (4) Could they make arrangements so that McGahn could go and see the evidence that was underlying what Yates was telling McGahn. This was a Friday afternoon; Yates tells him they’ll work on that this weekend. [Sworn testimony of Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017.]

–JANUARY 27, 2017. At lunchtime, Trump calls to summon FBI Director James Comey to a one-on-one dinner at the White House. This is 3 days after Flynn was questioned by the FBI, and the day after Sally Yates first warned White House counsel about Flynn. Comey felt “uneasy” about going, not wanting to create an “appearance of compromising the integrity of the FBI,” according to James Clapper. “[Trump] began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to,” Comey wrote for the Senate Intelligence Committee meeting on June 8. At the dinner, Trump twice requested a pledge of personal loyalty from Comey. Comey declined, offering instead a pledge of honesty. Finally, “it got very awkward,” Comey recalled later, and Comey agreed to Trump’s request for “honest loyalty,” deciding it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. Comey: “As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.” Trump gave Lester Holt an entirely different account of the dinner, saying that it was Comey who requested the meeting, that Comey was seeking job security, and told the president he was not under investigation. [NBC News, May 12, 2017, “My Dinner With Comey: Clapper, Others Dispute Trump Account of Meeting With FBI Director”] [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, June 8, 2017, “James B. Comey Statement for the Record”]

–JANUARY 27, 2017. The administration ordered the Office of Legal Counsel to not even tell Acting Attorney General Yates the Muslim travel ban was in the works; she found out about it in the media. [Sworn testimony of Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017.]

–JANUARY 28, 2017. Trump has an hour-long phone call with Putin. Flynn sat in on this call, as well as Pence, Bannon and Priebus. [NBC News, January 28, 2017, “Trump Fields Calls From Several Foreign Leaders, Including Putin and Merkel”]

–JANUARY 30, 2017. Yates calls McGahn that morning, and tells him that yes, she has made arrangements so that he can go and see the classified raw material re Flynn. Later, that evening, Yates is fired. The reason given is that she refused to enforce the Muslim travel ban put forward by the Trump administration. [Sworn testimony of Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017.]

–LATE JANUARY; ALSO EARLY FEBRUARY, A WEEK BEFORE FLYNN LEAVES OFFICE. “A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia. … [T]he proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remain[ed after Flynn’s departure] along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. “It was late January when the three men associated with the proposed plan converged on the Loews Regency, a luxury hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan where business deals are made in a lobby furnished with leather couches…” [New York Times, February 19, 2017, “A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates”]

–FEBRUARY 8, 2017. Flynn twice flatly denies he spoke to Kislyak in December about the sanctions placed on Russia by the Obama administration. [Washington Post, February 9, 2017, “National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say”]

News media publish reports of Flynn talking with Russian ambassador about sanctions; Flynn finally fired four days later.


Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions

–FEBRUARY 9, 2017. US intel officials shared an account indicating National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the month before President Trump took office. Flynn’s communications with Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.” Following this news, Flynn’s spokesperson backpedaled, saying Flynn indicated that “while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.” [Washington Post, February 9, 2017, “National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say”]

–FEBRUARY 10, 2017. Aboard Air Force One, Trump took a few minutes to respond to reporters’ questions. He was asked about a report that Flynn had had conversations with the Russians about sanctions, before the inauguration. He answered, “I don’t know about it. I haven’t seen it. What report is that? I haven’t seen it. I’ll look into that.” He also said, responding to a question about the Muslim travel ban (NOT Michael Flynn), “We have very very strong vetting. I call it extreme vetting. And we’re going to have very strong security in our country.” [New York Times, February 10, 2017; C-SPAN has the video clip, https://www.c-span.org/video/?423925-1/president-trump-remarks-air-force-one%5D


Former national security adviser Michael Flynn
Photo Credit: Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock

— FEBRUARY 13, 2017. Flynn was forced to resign as National Security Adviser. This is 18 days after Sally Yates told White House Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn was compromised as to the Russians. It’s also three months after President Obama warned Trump not to hire Flynn for the job, and three months after Congressman Elijah Cummings warned Pence that Flynn was being paid by foreign governments to lobby the US government. According to the first Trump White House official story, the reason for the firing was that Flynn lied to Pence about his Russia contacts.

Trump clears the Oval Office to have a one-on-one conversation with Comey, and tells Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

–FEBRUARY 14, 2017. The day after Flynn was forced to resign, FBI Director James Comey was in the Oval Office for a counterterrorism briefing. When the meeting ended, Trump told those present — including Vice President Pence, Comey’s boss Jeff Sessions, and senior adviser Jared Kushner — to leave the room except for Comey. Sessions and Kushner lingered, but Trump again directed them to leave Trump and Comey alone.
Alone in the Oval Office, Trump began the discussion by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” After talking for a few minutes about leaks of classified information, Trump returned to the topic of Flynn, saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” said Trump, according to a memo Comey wrote right after the meeting. The unclassified memo was part of a paper trail Comey created; he also discussed the conversation with FBI senior leadership.
The next day, Comey implored Sessions to prevent any future direct communication between Trump and Comey. Comey would not tell Sessions the part of the conversation about ‘letting Flynn go.’ Comey would say in June 8 testimony, Sessions was at the time “very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.” [New York Times, May 16, 2017, “Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation”] [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, June 8, 2017, “James B. Comey Statement for the Record”] [New York Times, June 8, 2017, “Full Transcript and Video: James Comey’s Testimony on Capitol Hill”]

–FEBRUARY 15, 2017. Re: Flynn. “I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media — as I call it, the ‘fake media,’ in many cases — and I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly,” Trump said at a news conference. “I think in addition to that, from intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked.” [Washington Post, February 15, 2017, “Trump says Flynn was treated unfairly, a day after Spicer said he was fired because of a lack of trust”] At various times, Trump has responded to criticisms of weak vetting of Flynn by blaming the Obama administration.

–MARCH 2017. Over a series of five meetings in March, FBI agents have questioned Carter Page about his contacts with Russia and his interactions with the Trump campaign. During the questioning, totally about 10 hours, “Page repeatedly denied wrongdoing when asked about allegations that he may have acted as a kind of ­go-between for Russia and the Trump campaign, according to a person familiar with Page’s account.” The FBI pressed him on allegations made in the Steele dossier, which claimed that in July 2016 Page met with Igor Sechin, a Putin associate, as well as senior Kremlin official Igor Divyekin. Page has denied the accusations. Page confirmed on June 26 that the interviews occurred, calling them “extensive discussions,” but he declined to say if he has spoken to investigators since the March interviews. [Washington Post, June 26, 2017, “FBI has questioned Trump campaign adviser Carter Page at length in Russia probe”]


Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions

–MARCH 2, 2017. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces he will recuse himself from any investigation into charges that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. [New York Times, March 2, 2017, “Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself From Russia Inquiry”]

–MARCH 8, 2017. Flynn and his firm, Flynn Intel Group, Inc. retroactively registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for $530,000 worth of lobbying work before election day, beginning in August 2016. This work was done on behalf of a Dutch-based company, Inovo BV, which may have been working for the Turkish government. The White House says it was not aware that Flynn had been working to further the interests of the Turkish government. The following day, Pence, who had headed up the transition, said he did not know about Flynn’s paid work either. [CBS News, March 10, 2017, “White House says Trump was unaware of Michael Flynn’s foreign agent work”]


Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions

–MARCH 9, 2017. Vice President Pence tells Fox News, when asked about Flynn’s foreign agent/lobbying deal with Turkey, “Let me say, hearing that story today is the first I’ve heard of it.” This despite the letter sent to Pence last November 18 with the information about Flynn’s lobbying deal with a foreign government. [Video clip played on AM-Joy, MSNBC, May 6, 2017]


Preet Bharara
Photo credit: CNBC/Getty Images

–MARCH 10, 2017. The Trump administration asked US Attorney Preet Bharara and 45 other US attorneys to immediately resign and leave their offices around the country. Bharara had pursued a number of high-profile cases from his Manhattan base over the years, and his office had jurisdiction over any Trump business interests in New York. (He had been asked by Trump to stay on shortly after the election.) Bharara refused to resign, and was fired. Normally, a new presidential administration will hire new US attorneys, but on a rolling basis, filling new positions over time as new appointees are vetted and available to replace current US attorneys. The wholesale housecleaning, without new appointees ready to replace them, was quite unusual. Later, on June 11, after Comey testifies as to Trump contacts with Comey, Bharara will reveal that President-elect Trump had called Bharara twice. “It was a little bit uncomfortable,” Bharara said. “But he was not the President. He was only the President-elect.” The former US attorney said Trump called him one more time — March 9, after Trump had taken office. “I refused to return the call,” Bharara said. “I was in discussions with my own folks, and in reporting the phone call to the chief of staff to the attorney general I said, it appeared to be that he was trying to cultivate some kind of relationship,” Bharara said. “It’s a very weird and peculiar thing for a one-on-one conversation without the attorney general, without warning between the president and me or any United States attorney who has been asked to investigate various things and is in a position hypothetically to investigate business interests and associates of the president.” A day later, Bharara and the 45 other US attorneys were fired. [New York Times, March 11, 2017, “U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Says He Was Fired After Refusing to Quit”] [CNN, June 12, 2017, Preet Bharara opens up about his interactions with Trump”] [Buzz Feed, June 23, 2017, “Memo Shows Preet Bharara Was Concerned After Phone Call From White House”]

–MARCH 15, 2017. At Sen. Chuck Grassley’s insistence, FBI Director James Comey met with Sen. Grassley and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, privately. “This briefing was all on sensitive matters and highly classified,” Feinstein said. “It’s really not anything we can answer any questions about.” She then let reporters know that she wasn’t going to answer any questions on the briefing, apologizing that she couldn’t give them any info. [Mediaite, March 15, 2017, “‘The Briefing Was All On Sensitive Matters’: Sen. Feinstein Tight-Lipped After Comey Meeting”]

–MARCH 20, 2016. Two Senators on the Judiciary Committee sent requests to then-FBI Director James Comey asking him to investigate Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Al Franken expressed their concern that Sessions may have had an additional, third meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The Senators followed up with letters on April 28 and (to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe) on May 12. They were concerned about Sessions’ “lack of candor” and the possibility that his testimony to the Senate committee could be construed as perjury. [CNN, June 1, 2017, “Senators asked Comey to investigate AG Jeff Sessions for possible perjury”]

FBI Director Comey acknowledges his agency is investiging possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. Shortly after, Trump appeals to the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion. White House officials also sound out top intel officials about intervening directly with Comey to get the FBI to drop its Flynn investigation.

–MARCH 20, 2017. Appearing before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged that “his agency is conducting an investigation into possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign in a counterintelligence probe that could reach all the way to the White House and may last for months.” [Washington Post, March 20, 2017, “FBI Director Comey confirms probe of possible coordination between Kremlin and Trump Campaign”]

–MARCH 22, 2017. Less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats was at a White House briefing. At the end of the briefing, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Trump complained about the FBI investigation and Comey’s handling of it, and asked Coats if he could get Comey to back off of the Flynn probe. [Washington Post, June 6, 2017, “Top intelligence official told associates Trump asked him if he could intervene with Comey on FBI Russia probe”] An earlier report had this pegged some time in late March: “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. Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate.” Senior intelligence officials also saw the requests as a threat to the independence of U.S. spy agencies, which are supposed to remain insulated from partisan issues. “The problem wasn’t so much asking them to issue statements, it was asking them to issue false statements about an ongoing investigation,” a former senior intelligence official said of the request to Coats. “In addition to the requests to Coats and Rogers, senior White House officials sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Flynn.” [Washington Post, May 22, 2017, “Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence”]

–MARCH 30, 2017. Trump calls Comey at the FBI. According to Comey: “He described the Russia investigation as ‘a cloud’ that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud.’ … Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week – at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign… I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need to get that fact out.”

COMEY: “(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.) The President went on to say that if there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.” [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, June 8, 2017, “James B. Comey Statement for the Record”]

–MARCH 31, 2017. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is in talks with the House and Senate intel committees, but wants immunity to give testimony in their investigations of potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. His attorney Robert Kelner said, ““General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.” [Boston Herald, March 31, 2017, “Michael Flynn ‘has a story to tell’ – with immunity”]

–APRIL 4, 2017. The Pentagon’s top watchdog, the Inspector General of the Defense Department, begins an investigation into payments Flynn received after his military retirement. (An Oct. 8, 2014 letter from a Defense Department lawyer had warned Flynn upon his retirement from military service that he was forbidden from receiving payments from foreign sources without receiving permission from the U.S. government first.) Flynn “misled Pentagon investigators about his income from companies in Russia and contacts with officials there when he applied for a renewal of his top-secret security clearance last year,” according to a letter released in May from Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.
Flynn received $45,000 to appear in 2015 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala dinner for RT, a Kremlin-controlled media organization. He also worked as a foreign agent representing Turkish interests for a Netherlands-based company, Inovo BV, which paid his company $530,000 in the fall. In addition to RT, Flynn received $11,250 from a Russian cargo airline, Volga-Dnepr Airlines, which had been implicated in a bribery scheme involving Russian officials at the United Nations. In October 2015, he was paid another $11,250 by Kaspersky Government Security Solutions, the American branch of a Russian cybersecurity firm. [Washington Post, April 27, 2017, “Top Pentagon watchdog launches investigation into money that Michael Flynn received from foreign groups”] [New York Times, May 22, 2017, “Michael Flynn Misled Pentagon About Russia Ties, Letter Says”]

–APRIL 11, 2017. Trump calls Comey again, asking what Comey has done to “get out” that Trump personally is not under investigation. Trump said that “the cloud” is interfering in Trump’s ability to do his job. [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, June 8, 2017, “James B. Comey Statement for the Record”]

–APRIL 21, 2017. After Exxon Mobil Corp. asked the Treasury Department for a waiver from U.S. sanctions, the waiver was refused. It would have allowed Exxon to drill for Russian state oil giant Rosneft in the Black Sea. “United States and European sanctions were first imposed on Russia in March 2014 [while Rex Tillerson was Exxon Mobil CEO] in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Exxon Mobil signed an expansion of its joint venture projects anyway, even after Igor I. Sechin, Rosneft’s chief executive, was personally blacklisted in connection with the sanctions.” [New York Times, April 21, 2017, “U.S. Rejects Exxon Mobil Bid for Waiver on Russia Sanctions”]


Rod Rosenstein
Photo credit: Official Photo

–APRIL 25, 2017. The Senate confirms Rod Rosenstein as Deputy Attorney General. Because of AG Jeff Sessions’ recusal, Rosenstein becomes the top DOJ official supervising the Trump/Russia investigation. [Washington Post, April 25, 2017, “Rod Rosenstein confirmed as deputy attorney general”]

The NSA produces a document that analyzes Russian military hackers’ 2016 cyber attack against US election and voting infrastructure, including a company managing voter registration data in eight states.

–MAY 5, 2017 (a Friday). A top-secret NSA document analyzes intelligence about a months-long Russian military intelligence cyber effort against elements of the US election and voting infrastructure. When the document is later leaked to The Intercept and published on June 5, it is the most detailed US government account of Russian interference in the 2016 election to date. Russian government hackers “focused on parts of the system directly connected to the voter registration process, including a private sector manufacturer of devices that maintain and verify the voter rolls. 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.” At least one observer believes that Trump would have been briefed on the document. [The Intercept, June 5, 2017, “TOP-SECRET NSA REPORT DETAILS RUSSIAN HACKING EFFORT DAYS BEFORE 2016 ELECTION”] [Business Insider, June 5, 2017, “‘This is huge’: National security experts were floored by the leaked NSA document on Russian election hack”] [NY Magazine, June 6, 2017, “Did the Intercept Betray Its NSA Source?”] [NY Magazine, June 6, 2017, “What We Know About Alleged Russia-Hacking-Report Leaker Reality Winner”] [Ars Technica, June 6, 2017, “How a few yellow dots burned the Intercept’s NSA leaker”]

–MAY 5, 2017. Trump tweets: “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton” and that Comey “gave her a free pass.” [Bloomberg, May 10, 2017, “The Trump Investigators That Trump Has Fired”]

–MAY 4-8, 2017. During a pivotal weekend, Donald Trump arrived at his Bedminster, N.J. golf club. Rain forced Trump to cancel golf and instead he “stewed indoors, worrying about FBI Director James Comey and the Russia investigation.”
A letter was drafted by Trump and Stephen Miller, a top political aide, that revealed Trump’s unvarnished thinking just before firing Comey. Additional advisers present over that weekend were Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Upon returning to DC on May 8, copies of the letter were given to White House counsel Donald McGahn and VP Pence. McGahn objected to the letter, believing its tone was “angry and meandering.” Although the letter was not used, a copy was given to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein wrote his own letter, blaming Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, and that letter was trotted out as the public rationale for firing Comey. However, Trump added this to it: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.” [New York Times, September 1, 2017, “Mueller Has Early Draft of Trump Letter Giving Reasons for Firing Comey”]

–MAY 8, 2017. With former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates scheduled to testify later today, Trump tweets: “General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration – but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that” and “Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel.” [realDonaldTrump Twitter account.]

Flynn associates get grand jury subpoenas. Various signs indicate that the investigation is heating up. Comey is abruptly fired by Trump. The Trump White House offers a parade of conflicting rationales for the firing.

–MAY 8, 2017 (a Monday). The very next working day after the top-secret NSA document analyzes the Russian military cyber interference in the US election, Trump tells a few close aides, including VP Pence and White House counsel Don McGahn, that Comey has to go. Pence, McGahn, Reince Priebus and Jared Kushner are members of a small group that begins to prepare talking points about Comey’s firing. Trump summons Sessions and Rosenstein to the White House, and instructs them to provide a written justification for removing Comey. [ABC News, May 14, 2017, “‘This Week’ Transcript 5-14-17: The Firing of Director Comey”] [New York Times, May 11, 2017, “Trump Shifts Rationale for Firing Comey, Calling Him a ‘Showboat’”]

–MAY 9, 2017. Associates of Michael Flynn have been given grand jury subpoenas by the US Attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia to obtain records relating to contracts following Flynn’s firing as director of DIA in 2014. CNN reported it learned of the subpoenas today, hours before Trump’s firing of Comey. [CNN, May 10, “CNN exclusive: Grand jury subpoenas issued in FBI’s Russia investigation”]


Photo credit: CNN

–MAY 9-10, 2017. FBI Director James Comey is abruptly dismissed by Trump on May 9. This is the only time an FBI director has ever been fired by a US president while investigating that president’s campaign. However, Trump’s firing of Comey is the third time in fourteen weeks Trump has fired an investigator of him or his associates. Acting US Attorney General Sally Yates was fired on January 30, 2017; US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara was fired on March 11, 2017.
In the termination letter, Trump wrote that Comey had told him on three separate occasions that Trump was not under investigation. The Trump team first explained the firing as coming from DOJ’s Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein. “It was all him [Rosenstein.] … No one from the White House,” says spokesperson Sean Spicer, emerging from between two tall hedges on the White House grounds.
Mike Pence and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echo that the next day: it was Sessions and Rosenstein who were the impetus for the Comey firing; it was NOT an attempt to interfere with the FBI Russian probe.
Rod Rosenstein speaks with White House counsel Don McGahn on May 10. He insists that the White House correct the misimpression that Rosenstein initiated the process leading to Comey’s firing. [Bloomberg, May 10, 2017, “The Trump Investigators That Trump Has Fired”] [Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2017, “Rosenstein Pressed White House to Correct the Record on Comey Firing”]
Soon after, Trump said Comey “was not doing a good job” and called Comey a “showboat and grandstander.” Soon after that, Trump stated to Lester Holt, “When I decided [to fire Comey], 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.'” [Washington Post, May 10, 2017, “After Trump fired Comey, White House staff scrambled to explain why”] [Talking Points Memo, May 10, 2017, “Pence Insists Trump Did Not Fire Comey Over Russia Investigation”] [The White House, May 10, 2017, “Daily Press Briefing by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders“] [Washington Post, May 11, “Trump said he was thinking of Russia controversy when he decided to fire Comey”] [New York Times, May 11, 2017, “Trump Shifts Rationale for Firing Comey, Calling Him a ‘Showboat’”]
The week before he was fired, Comey reportedly asked the DOJ’s Rosenstein for more resources for the agency’s investigation into Russian meddling into the US election and ties to the Trump campaign. This has been denied by DOJ spokesperson Sarah Flores, who called it “100 percent false.”. [CNN, May 10, 2017, “Sources: James Comey sought more resources for Russia investigation”] [New York Times, May 10, 2017, “Days Before Firing, Comey Asked for More Resources for Russia Inquiry”] [Washington Post, May 12, 2017, “All of the White House’s conflicting explanations for Comey’s firing: A timeline”]


Trump hosts Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak at White House
Photo credit: NPR

–MAY 10, 2017. The day after firing Comey, Donald Trump meets with Russia’s Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and their aides in the Oval Office. During the meeting, Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russians. Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. The intel had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said. Russian news agency Tass distributed photographs of the meeting, which was closed to any member of the American press. [Washington Post, May 15, 2017, “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador”]
In addition, during the meeting with the Russian officials, Trump discusses the Comey firing. “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump says. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Then he adds, “I’m not under investigation.” This reporting is based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and circulated as the official account of the meeting. [New York Times, May 19, 2017, “Trump Told Russians That Firing ‘Nut Job’ Comey Eased Pressure From Investigation”]
A week after the meeting with Russian envoys, Putin offered to provide Congress with transcripts of the meeting. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle scoffed. “Probably the last person [Trump] needs to vouch for him right now is Vladimir Putin,” said Adam Schiff on the CBS show “This Morning,” referring to the Russian offer. Sen. Marco Rubio had this to say: “I wouldn’t put much credibility on what Putin’s notes are, and if it comes in an email, I wouldn’t click on the attachment.” [Washington Post, May 17, 2017, “Putin offers to provide Congress with details of Trump disclosures to Russian envoys”]

–MAY 10, 2017. White House lawyers have had to warn Trump repeatedly against reaching out to his fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, two people familiar with the matter tell The Daily Beast. “Trump, angered by press coverage of the Russia investigation and Gen. Flynn, has asked senior staff and the White House counsel’s office multiple times if it was appropriate to reach out to the fired National Security Adviser.” If Trump spoke directly with Flynn amid ongoing investigations, it could be portrayed as witness tampering. “‘He was incensed by anti-Flynn leaks,’ a White House source confirmed to The Daily Beast this week. ‘The president is not trigger-happy to throw [Flynn] under the bus like others have been eager to.’”[Daily Beast, May 10, 2017, “White House Lawyers Warned Trump: Stay Away From Michael Flynn”]

–MAY 12, 2017. On Twitter, Trump warns fired FBI Director James Comey that he “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” After weeks of speculation, on June 22 Trump tweets that he does not have, and is not aware of any tapes of his conversations with Comey. Meanwhile, a relevant report by BuzzFeed the previous October identified extensive systems of security cameras and phone surveillance inside a Trump home outside Washington, DC, as well as in Trump National Golf Club, and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. License plate cameras and constant off-site monitoring are also identified in the story. [CBS News, May 12, 2017, “Trump says James Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes'” of conversations”] [CBS News, June 22, 2017, “Trump says he does “not have” tapes of Comey conversations”] [BuzzFeed, October 1, 2016, “Inside Donald Trump’s Surveillance Operations”]

–MAY 12, 2017. FinCEN, the Treasury Dept.’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which combats money-laundering, will share financial records with the Senate Intelligence Committee for its investigation into ties between Russia and Trump and his associates. [Wall Street Journal, May 12, 2017, “Financial-Crimes Monitor to Share Records in Trump-Russia Probe”]

–MAY 12, 2017. Just before going to court, the Justice Department agrees to settle a money-laundering case for a relatively small amount. One of the lawyers involved in the case is Natalia Veselnitskaya; her client is Prevezon Holdings Ltd., which is controlled by a Russian businessman and was accused of a multi-million-dollar tax theft and money laundering scheme. Bill Browder was expected to testify at trial, including providing info about the movement of funds from Russia into the US. One of Browder’s attorneys, Sergei Magnitsky, was arrested and died in a Russian prison (November 2009). The Magnitsky Act is named for him.
Four years prior, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had filed the claim. Bharara was one of 46 US attorneys abruptly forced to resign by the Trump administration, on March 10, 2017.
Veselnitskaya is the Russian attorney who met with Donald Trump Jr. on June 9, 2016 to discuss US sanctions against Russia, Russian adoption, the Magnitsky Act and, according to the email from Rob Goldstone setting the meeting up, offering the Trump campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” [Bloomberg, July 12, 2017, “Democrats Ask DOJ About Settlement Involving Trump-Linked Lawyer”]

–MAY 16, 2017. In her first interview since her testimony on May 8 before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, Sally Yates filled in some details. She told Anderson Cooper that it was the early part of January when “we first became aware of the underlying conduct of Michael Flynn. We were really concerned about the underlying conduct, even before there were misrepresentations about it,” she said. (She uses the term “underlying conduct” because the details of the conduct are classified.) She said that both the underlying conduct and also the misrepresentations (for example, to the Vice President) were problematic. “I think that this was a serious compromise situation, that the Russians had real leverage,” she said. Asked whether there there was illegality involving Flynn, she said, “Yes, there certainly is a criminal statute that was implicated by Flynn’s conduct.” Yates said, “It was a national security threat. I don’t think anybody in the intel community has any doubt about that.” She denied that her meeting with McGahn was a simple ‘heads-up.’ “We expected the White House to act,” she said. “Quickly?” she was asked. “Yes,” Yates responded. [Anderson Cooper, CNN, May 16, 2017, Interview with Sally Yates, “Breaking Her Silence”] [CNN, May 17, 2017, “Sally Yates: ‘There was nothing casual’ about Mike Flynn warning'”]

Special counsel Robert Mueller is appointed.


Robert Mueller
Photo credit: Greg Nash

–MAY 17, 2017. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appoints Special Counsel to oversee the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Former director of the FBI Robert Mueller will be Special Counsel. Mueller is tasked with investigating “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” and any other matters that fall under the scope of the Justice Department regulation covering special counsel appointments. [Washington Post, May 18, 2017, “Deputy attorney general appoints special counsel to oversee probe of Russian interference in election”]

–“DAYS AFTER MAY 9, 2017.” In a turning point in the investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been widening his Russia probe to investigate whether President Trump has obstructed justice. The broader probe began “days after” Comey was fired by Trump on May 9, but was not reported until an article on June 14 by the Washington Post, citing officials and others. [Washington Post, June 14, 2017, “Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say”]

–MAY 23, 2017. Former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Intelligence committee that Russia “brazenly interfered” in US elections, including actively contacting members of the President Donald Trump’s campaign — but he stopped shy of dubbing it “collusion.” “I saw interaction that in my mind raised questions of whether it was collusion,” Brennan told Rep. Trey Gowdy, saying that he had been “worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons,” and he supported the FBI digging further. “It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process,” Brennan said. “Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late,” Brennan said. [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”]

–LATE MAY, 2017. The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked Trump’s political organization “to gather and produce all Russia-related documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015.” “The request to Trump’s political operatives represents the first time that Trump’s official campaign structure has been drawn into the Senate committee’s ongoing bipartisan investigation.” [Washington Post, May 26, 2017, “Senate Intelligence Committee requests Trump campaign documents”]

–MAY 23, 2017. President Trump has hired outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz, to help him navigate the increasingly turbulent waters of the Russia investigation, souces tell the Washington Post. Kasowitz, based in New York, has known Trump for decades, representing him in things like real estate transactions. [Washington Post, May 23, 2017, “Trump retains outside lawyer Marc Kasowitz to help with Russia investigations”]

–MAY 25, 2017. European leaders had high hopes that President Donald Trump would finally endorse Article 5 of NATO — the keystone principle that an attack on one member is an attack against all — during a highly-anticipated speech. But after a speech in Brussels with those allies, those hopes have been dashed. Trump’s silence on the matter was deafening to European leaders. With Russia’s belligerence and expansionism in recent years, its neighbors are on edge. [Vox, May 25, 2017, “Trump didn’t say the one thing about NATO he was supposed to say”]


Former national security adviser Michael Flynn
Photo Credit: Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock

–MAY 25, 2017. Charlie Savage at the New York Times compiles a list of potential legal troubles for former national security adviser Michael Flynn to date. (1) Making false statements. For instance, Flynn’s application to have his security clearance extended in January 2016 neglected to include his Russia trip and compensation. In an interview with investigators in February 2016, Flynn apparently made false statements about the Moscow trip and contact with Putin. On January 24, 2017, Flynn may have lied to the FBI in an interview, about the December conversations with Kislyak. (2) Taking foreign payments without permission. The emoluments clause of the Constitution prohibits people who hold government positions from receiving payments from foreign governments without prior consent from Congress. The rule extends to retired military, who may accept such payments if they have permission from their service secretary and the Secretary of State. (3) Failing to register as a foreign agent. Flynn registered quite belatedly, at least six months after the fact. (4) Failure to comply with subpoenas. For instance, one from the Senate Intelligence Committee asks for all records of Flynn’s meetings and communications with Russian officials, plus his communications with the Trump campaign about Russia in the 18 months before the inauguration. At this point, Flynn is claiming the Fifth Amendment. [New York Times, May 25, 2017, “How Michael Flynn May Have Run Afoul of the Law”]


Oleg Deripaska
Photo credit: New York Times

–MAY 26, 2017. Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch once close to Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, has offered to cooperate with congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. According to congressional officials, though, lawmakers are unwilling to accept his conditions. Deripaska, who lives in Moscow, is in Putin’s inner circle. He is an aluminum magnate with an estimated worth of over $5 billion. “Deripaska, whose companies have long had offices in New York, has expanded his American holdings over the past 10 years, buying high-priced Manhattan townhouses and a major stake in a Russian-language newspaper in New York.” [New York Times, May 26, 2017 “Russian Once Tied to Trump Aide Seeks Immunity to Cooperate With Congress”]

–MAY 26, 2017. “The FBI’s criminal probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is increasingly touching on the multiple roles of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner on both the Trump campaign and the Trump transition team.” Focal points include Kushner’s contacts with the Russians, and Kushner’s relationship with Flynn. Kushner supervised Trump campaign’s data analytics operation, which the federal investigators have been taking a closer look at. Kushner worked with and helped oversee the campaign’s data operation contractors based in San Antonio, Texas. [CNN, May 26, 2017, “FBI Russia investigation looking at Kushner role”]

At the time Kushner met in December with Kislyak and then the head of VEB, a major Russian bank tied to the Kremlin, 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.” [Bloomberg, May 25, 2017, “When the Feds Come Knocking on Kushner’s Door …”]

Please see also: Part 1 and Part 3.

Categories: Trump, Russia, timeline, investigation, Comey, Flynn, Pence, Sessions, 2016 Election, Profexer, G.R.U. (Russia’s military intelligence agency), F.S.B. (Russia’s federal security service, successor to the KGB), MI6, Steele dossier, Mueller, Don McGahn, Preet Bharara, Sally Yates, Sergey Kislyak, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Felix Sater, Rod Rosenstein, emoluments, Peter W. Smith, Oleg Deripaska, Brad Parscale, Donald Trump, Jr., Natalia Veselnitskaya

Trump/Russia Timeline

Trump/Russia Timeline

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 17, 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.

_____________
BEFORE 2012

–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”]


Paul Manafort
Photo credit: Carlo Allegri/Reuters


Oleg Deripaska
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”]


Dmitry Rybolovlev
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”]

2012-2014


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”]


Wilbur Ross
Photo credit: Fortune


Vladimir Strzhalkovsky
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”]

2015

–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]


Brad Parscale
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.”]


Michael Cohen
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”]

2016

–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”]


Jeff Sessions
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”]


Paul Manafort
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”]


Carter Page
Photo credit: ABC/Esquire

–MARCH 2016. Carter Page is named as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. He will be dropped in September after questions arise on Page’s ties to Russia. [Washington Post, June 26, 2017, “FBI has questioned Trump campaign adviser Carter Page at length in Russia probe”]

–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”]


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”]

It appears that Russians interfered in US elections in numerous ways during both party primaries, favoring Donald Trump and disfavoring Hillary Clinton.


Clint Watts
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”]


Felix Sater
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.


Paul Manafort
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


Rinat Akhmetshin
Photo credit: RFE/RL Graphics


Ike Kaveladze

–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 [2017] 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”]


Rinat Akhmetshin
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 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”]


Matt Tait


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”]


Roger Stone
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”]


Carter Page
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 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”]

–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]


Kris Kobach
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, 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.