AN UPDATED TIMELINE: RUSSIA AND TRUMP

This Timeline was first published and updated at billmoyers.com. It will be updated periodically. 

  • Trump’s efforts to develop business in Russia date to 1987. In 1996, he applied for his trademark in that country. Discussing ambitions for a Trump hotel in 2007, he declared, “We will be in Moscow at some point.”
  • 2002: Russian-born Felix H. Sater and his company, Bayrock Group – a Trump Tower tenant – began working with Trump on a series of real estate development deals, one of which became the Trump SoHo. Another development partner in Trump SoHo was Tamir Sapir, a Russian immigrant born in the Republic of Georgia who left the Soviet Union in 1973. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • 2005: Donald Trump gave Sater and Bayrock an exclusive deal to develop a project in Russia, according to Sater’s 2008 deposition. “I’d come back, pop my head into Mr. Trump’s office and tell him, you know, ‘Moving forward on the Moscow deal.’ And he would say ‘All right… I showed him photos, I showed him the site, showed him the view from the site. It’s pretty spectacular.” But that early effort to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow failed. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Oct. 15, 2007: Trump said: “Look at Putin — what he’s doing with Russia — I mean, you know, what’s going on over there. I mean this guy has done — whether you like him or don’t like him — he’s doing a great job.”
  • July 2008: As the Florida real estate market began to crash, Trump sold a Florida residence to a Russian oligarch for $95 million, believed to be the biggest single-family home sale in U. S. history. The Russian oligarch never lived in the house and, since then, it has been demolished. Three years earlier, Trump had bought the home at auction for $41 million. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • September 2008Donald Trump Jr. said: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
  • January 2010 – January 2011: After leaving Bayrock, Sater became “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump,” according to his Trump Organization business card. He also had a Trump Organization e-mail address and office. The phone number listed on his business card belonged previously to a lawyer in Trump’s general counsel’s office. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • June 18, 2013: Trump tweeted: “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow — if so, will he become my new best friend?” While at the pageant, Trump said, “I have plans for the establishment of business in Russia. Now, I am in talks with several Russian companies to establish this skyscraper.”
  • July 8, 2013: After a BBC reporter questioned Trump about Felix Sater’s alleged prior connections to organized crime, Trump ended the interview[Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • October 17, 2013: On The Late Show, David Letterman asked Trump, “Have you had any dealings with the Russians?” Trump answered, “Well I’ve done a lot of business with the Russians…” Letterman continued, “Vladmir Putin, have you ever met the guy?” Trump said, “He’s a tough guy. I met him once.”
  • Nov. 5, 2013: In a deposition, an attorney asked Trump about Felix Sater. “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like,” Trump answered. When asked how many times he had ever spoken with Sater, Trump said, “Not many.” When asked about his July 2013 BBC interview during which he was questioned about Sater’s alleged connections to organized crime, Trump said he didn’t remember it. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • November 2013: Trump said: “I do have a relationship [with Putin] and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today [at the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow]… I do have a relationship with him… He’s done a very brilliant job in terms of what he represents and who he’s represented.”
  • Mar. 6, 2014: Trump said: “You know, I was in Moscow a couple of months ago. I own the Miss Universe Pageant and they treated me so great. Putin even sent me a present, a beautiful present.” On the same day, President Obama signed an Executive Order imposing sanctions on Russia for its unlawful annexation of Crimea.
  • June 16, 2015: Trump declared his candidacy for president.
  • Sept. 21, 2015: On Hugh Hewitt’s radio program, Trump said, “[T]he oligarchs are under [Putin’s] control, to a large extent. I mean, he can destroy them, and he has destroyed some of them… [T]wo years ago, I was in Moscow… I was with the top level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top of the government people. I can’t go further than that, but I will tell you that I met the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Nov. 10, 2015: Trump said: “I got to know [Putin] very well because we were both on 60 Minutes.We were stablemates, and we did very well that night.”
  • Nov. 30, 2015: When an Associated Press reporter asked Trump about Felix Sater, he answered, “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it. I’m not that familiar with him.” Trump referred questions about Sater to his staff. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Feb. 17, 2016: As questions about Russia swirled around Trump, he changed his story: “I have no relationship with [Putin], other than he called me a genius.”
  • Feb. 28, 2016: Jeff Sessions formally endorsed Donald Trump’s candidacy for president. Three days later, Trump named Sessions chairman of his campaign’s national security advisory committee. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • March 17, 2016: Jeff Sessions discussed 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. Strategically it’s not justified for either country.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Mar. 21, 2016: In a Washington Post interview, Trump identified Carter Page as one of his foreign policy advisers. Page had opened the Moscow office of investment banking firm Merrill Lynch and had advised Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom, in which Page is an investor. He blamed U.S. 2014 sanctions relating to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine for driving down Gazprom’s stock price. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Mar. 31, 2016: Meeting with several of his national security and foreign policy advisers, including J.D. Gordon, Trump said that he “didn’t want to go to World War III over Ukraine.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • April 20, 2016: Paul Manafort became Trump’s campaign manager. Reports surfaced about his 2007 to 2012 ties to Ukraine’s pro-Putin former president, whom Manafort had helped to elect.
  • Early June 2016: At a closed-door gathering of high-powered foreign policy experts visiting with the Prime Minister of India, Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page hailed Vladimir Putin as stronger and more reliable than President Obama and touted the positive effect that a Trump presidency would have on U.S.-Russia relations. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • July 18, 2016: The Washington Post reported that the Trump campaign worked behind the scenes on a Republican Convention platform plank. It gutted the GOP’s longstanding support for Ukrainians’ popular resistance to Russia’s 2014 intervention.
  • Also on July 18, 2016: At a Heritage Foundation event during the Republican Convention, Jeff Sessions spoke individually with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • July 22, 2016: On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks released its first trove of emails stolen from the DNC.
  • July 24, 2016: When ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asked whether there were any connections between the Trump campaign and Putin’s regime, Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort answered, “No, there are not. And you know, there’s no basis to it.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • July 25, 2016: Trump tweeted, “The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • July 27, 2016: Trump said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” At the same press conference, he insisted: “I never met Putin. I’ve never spoken to him.” In an interview with CBS, he reiterated: “But I have nothing to do with Russia, nothing to do, I never met Putin, I have nothing to do with Russia whatsoever.”
  • July 31, 2016: Manafort denied knowing anything about the change in the Republican platform. That afternoon, Boris Epshteyn, Trump’s Russian-born adviser, spouted the Kremlin’s party line telling CNN: “Russia did not seize Crimea. We can talk about the conflict that happened between Ukraine and the Crimea… But there was no seizure by Russia. That’s an incorrect statement, characterization, of what happened.”
  • Also on July 31, 2016: Jeff Sessions defended Trump’s approach 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.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Also on July 31, 2016: Trump told ABC News that he was not involved in the Republican Party platform change that softened America’s position on Russia’s annexation of Ukraine. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Aug. 19, 2016: As reports of Manafort’s financial connections to Ukraine intensified, he resigned from the Trump campaign.
  • Sept. 23, 2016: In response to reporter inquiries about Carter Page, Trump campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks replied, “He has no formal role in the campaign.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Oct. 7, 2016: In a joint statement, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence said, “The US Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations… We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” But two other stories dominated the news cycle: WikiLeaks began publishing stolen emails from the account of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tapes became public.
  • Oct. 19, 2016: During the third presidential debate, Trump dismissed the Oct. 7 US intelligence findings: “[Clinton] has no idea whether it is Russia, China or anybody else… Our country has no idea.” And he said this: “I don’t know Putin. I have no idea… I never met Putin. This is not my best friend.”
  • Oct. 31, 2016: Asked about news reports that the FBI was investigating connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, former campaign manager Manafort said, “None of it is true… There’s no investigation going on by the FBI that I’m aware of.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Also on Nov. 10, 2016: Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks said, “There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Early December 2016: In Moscow, Russians arrested a Russian computer security expert and two high-level intelligence officers who worked on cyber operations. They were charged with treason for providing information to the United States. The arrests amounted to a purge of the cyberwing of the F.S.B., successor to the K.G.B. and the main Russian intelligence and security agency. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Also in December 2016: Officials in the Obama administration became concerned that the incoming administration would cover up or destroy previously gathered intelligence relating Russia’s interference with the election. To preserve that intelligence for future investigations, they spread it across the government. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Dec. 8, 2016: Carter Page was in Moscow for several days to meet with “business leaders and thought leaders.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Dec. 9, 2016: In response to a Washington Post report that the CIA had concluded Russia had intervened in the election to help Trump win, he said, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”
  • Dec. 11, 2016: Trump praised Rex Tillerson, chairman of Exxon Mobil and recipient of Russia’s “Order of Friendship” Medal from Vladimir Putin in 2013, as “much more than a business executive” and a “world-class player.” Trump said Tillerson “knows many of the players” and did “massive deals in Russia” for Exxon. Two days later, Trump nominated him to be secretary of state.
  • Also on Dec. 11, 2016: Asked about the earlier US intelligence report on hacking, Trump said, “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea.”
  • Dec. 12, 2016: While in Moscow, Trump’s former campaign surrogate Jack Kingston met with Russian businessmen to discuss what they might expect from a Trump administration. “Trump can look at sanctions,” Kingston said. “They’ve been in place long enough.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Dec. 13, 2016: NBC News’ Richard Engel reported from Moscow on Trump’s secretary of state pick, Rex Tillerson. Former Russian Energy Minister Vladimir Milov told Engel that Tillerson was a “gift for Putin.”
  • Dec. 29, 2016: On the same day that President Obama announced Russian sanctions for its interference with the 2016 election, national security adviser-designate Lt. Gen. Flynn placed five phone calls to the Russian ambassador.
  • Dec. 30, 2016: After Putin made a surprise announcement that Russia would not retaliate for the new sanctions, Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he was very smart.”
  • Jan. 3Jan. 4, and Jan. 5, 2017: Trump tweeted a series of attacks on the integrity of the US intelligence community’s findings that Russia had hacked the election.
  • Jan. 6, 2017: The CIA, FBI and NSA released their unclassified report, concluding unanimously, “Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” The three intelligence agencies agreed that “the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible.” The report also stated that WikiLeaks had been Russia’s conduit for the effort.
  • Jan. 10, 2017: At Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing to become attorney general, Sen. Al Franken asked Sessions, “[I]f there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?” Sessions answered: “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.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Jan. 11, 2017: At his first news conference, Trump said, “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”
  • Also on Jan. 11, 2017: The final question of Trump’s first news conference came from Ann Compton of ABC News: “Mr. President-elect, can you stand here today, once and for all, and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?” Trump never answered her. Away from cameras and heading toward the elevators, he reportedly said, “No,” his team didn’t have contact with Russia.
  • Jan. 13, 2017: In response to The Washington Post’s article about NSA-designate Flynn’s Dec. 29 conversations with the Russian ambassador, press secretary Sean Spicer said it was only one call. They “exchanged logistical information” for an upcoming call between Trump and Vladimir Putin after the inauguration.
  • Jan. 15, 2017: “We should trust Putin,” Trump told The Times of London. Expressing once again his skepticism about NATO, Trump lambasted Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.
  • Also on Jan. 15, 2017: Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, Vice President Pence said Flynn’s call to the Russian ambassador on the same day President Obama announced new sanctions was “strictly coincidental,” explaining: “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure on Russia…. What I can confirm, having to spoken with [Flynn] about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.”
  • Jan. 19, 2017: The New York Times reported that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, along with advisers Roger Stone and Carter Page, were under investigation in connection with possible links to Russia. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Jan. 20, 2017: Trump inaugurated. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Jan. 22, 2017: Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was sworn in as National Security Adviser, a position that did not require Senate confirmation.
  • Jan. 23, 2017: At Sean Spicer’s first press briefing, Spicer said that none of Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador touched on the Dec. 29 sanctions. That got the attention of FBI Director James Comey. According to the Wall Street Journal, Comey convinced Acting Attorney General Sally Yates to delay informing the White House immediately about the discrepancy between Spicer’s characterization of Flynn’s calls and US intelligence intercepts showing that the two had, in fact, discussed sanctions. Comey reportedly asked Yates to wait a bit longer so that the FBI could to develop more information and speak with Flynn himself. The FBI interviewed Flynn shortly thereafter.
  • Jan. 24, 2017: According to a subsequent article in The Washington PostFlynn reportedly denied to FBI agents that he had discussed US sanctions against Russia in his December 2016 calls with the Russian ambassador.
  • Late January 2017: At the Manhattan Loews Regency hotel on Park Avenue, Trump’s personal attorney, Michael D. Cohen, met with Felix Sater and Andrii Artemenko, a pro-Putin lawmaker from Ukraine. Artemenko and Sater gave Cohen a peace plan whereby Russia would lease Crimea for 50 or 100 years and, eventually, get relief from U.S. sanctions. According to The New York Times, Cohen said he would give the plan to NSA Mike Flynn. Responding to questions from the Washington Post, Cohen denied that statement, calling it “fake news.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Feb. 8, 2017: Flynn told reporters at The Washington Post that he did not discuss US sanctions in his December conversation with the Russian ambassador.
  • Feb. 9, 2017: Through a spokesman, Flynn changed his position: “While [Flynn] had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
  • Feb. 10, 2017: Trump told reporters he was unaware of reports surrounding Flynn’s December conversations with the Russian ambassador.
  • Also on Feb. 10, 2017: On the Friday preceding Trump’s weekend at Mar-A-Lago, the plane belonging to the Russian oligarch who had bought a Florida residence from Trump for $95 million in 2008 flew from the south of France to Miami International Airport. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Feb. 13, 2017The Washington Post broke another story: Then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned the White House in late January that Flynn had mischaracterized his December conversation with the Russian ambassador, and that it made him vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Later that evening, Flynn resigned.
  • Feb. 14, 2017: The New York Times corroborated the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister’s admission on Nov. 10. Based on information from four current and former American officials, The Times reported, “Members of the Trump campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior intelligence officials in the year before the election.” Meanwhile, advisers to Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated his earlier position: Sessions saw no need to recuse himself from the ongoing Justice Department investigations into the Trump/Russia connections.
  • Feb. 15, 2017: Trump tweeted a series of outbursts attacking the Trump/Russia connection as “non-sense” and diverting attention to “un-American” leaks in which “information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy.”
  • Shortly thereafter, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and other congressional Republicans formally asked the Justice Department’s Inspector General to investigate the leaks, but they and their GOP colleagues resisted the creation of an independent bipartisan commission with the power to convene public hearings and discover the truth about the Trump/Russia connections. During an afternoon appearance with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump refused to answer questions about connections between his presidential campaign and Russia. That evening, The New York Times reported that Trump was planning to appoint Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Trump ally, to lead “a broad review of American intelligence agencies.” Feinberg has no prior experience in intelligence or government, but he has close ties to Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.
  • Also on Feb. 15: Chief of staff Reince Priebus asked FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to rebut publicly The New York Times’ story about Trump aides’ contacts with Russia during the campaign. McCabe and FBI Director Comey refused. The White House then asked senior intelligence officials and key lawmakers – including the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees conducting the Trump/Russia investigation – to contact the media and counter the Times story themselves. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Feb. 16, 2017: Trump continued his diversionary twitter assault on the intelligence leaks that were fueling intensified scrutiny of his Russia connections. At Trump’s afternoon press conference, he said: “I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia… Russia is fake news. Russia — this is fake news put out by the media.” Reporters asked repeatedly about anyone else involved with Trump or his campaign. “No,” Trump said. “Nobody that I know of.”
  • Feb. 17, 2017: FBI Director Comey met privately with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss the Russia investigation. Immediately thereafter, the Committee sent a letter asking more than a dozen agencies, organizations and individuals – including the White House – to preserve all communications related to the Senate panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Feb. 26, 2017: NBC’s Chuck Todd noted a pattern: Trump’s attacks on the press followed immediately after a new and unflattering Trump/Russia story breaks. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Also on March 1, 2017: More than 10 days after the Senate Intelligence Committee had requested that the White House and other agencies preserve Trump/Russia-related communications, the White House counsel’s office instructed Trump’s aides to preserve such materials, according to the Associated Press[Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • March 1, 2017: In response to reports in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times about Jeff Sessions’ pre-election contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sessions issued a statement saying he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss any issues of the campaign.” [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • Also March 2, 2017: Former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page admitted to meeting with Russian ambassador Kislyak during the campaign. Another former adviser, J.D. Gordon, admitted that he’d met with Kislyak during the Republican Convention in July. Gordon said he had successfully urged changes in the party platform that Trump had sought to soften U.S. policy regarding Ukraine. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • March 4, 2017: Trump was reportedly furious that Jeff Sessions had recused himself from the Trump/Russia investigation. He unleashed a Tweet-storm, claiming that President Obama had wiretapped his phones during the presidential campaign. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]
  • March 5, 2017: Sean Spicer announced that neither Trump nor the White House would comment further on Trump/Russia matters until Congress completed an investigation into whether President Obama’s executive branch abused its powers during 2016 election. [Added Mar. 6, 2017]

This is part of a series by Steven Harper for Moyers & Company. Read the other posts in the series: Trump Resistance Plan.

2 thoughts on “AN UPDATED TIMELINE: RUSSIA AND TRUMP

  1. Enthusiastically support your work, especially the timeline. Must make for fast and furious days. Happy to help proofread if you need an extra eagle eye. @lizlytleisaac

  2. Thanks for continuing to document these connections. We all need to keep the pressure on for Congress to start an independent investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia and how they may have affected the 2016 election.

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