THE TRUMP/RUSSIA TIMELINE — UPDATE THROUGH MAY 22, 2017

These are my latest additions to the Bill Moyers & Company overall Timeline relating to Trump and Russia. You can read the entire Timeline here.

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  • Late 2015: Britain’s spy agency GCHQ became aware of suspicious activity between members of Trump’s campaign and Russian intelligence operatives. Over the next six months, a number of western agencies from Germany, Estonia, and Poland share more information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians. [Added May 22. 2017]

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  • April through November 2016: Mike Flynn and other advisers to the Trump campaign have at least 18 phone calls and emails with Russian officials, including six calls involving Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. [Added May 22, 2017]

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  • August 2016: The consulting firm headed by Trump’s national security adviser Mike Flynn begins to perform lobbying work for a company owned by a close adviser to Turkey’s President Erdogan. [Added May 22, 2017]

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  • Late August 2016: CIA Director John Brennan briefs the top eight members of Congress—the “Gang of Eight”—on intelligence that Russian cyberattacks were aimed at getting Trump elected. [Added May 22, 2017]

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  • Mid-October 2016: The FISA court approves a secret surveillance order authorizing the Department of Justice to investigate two banks suspected of participating in Russia’s undercover influence operation relating to the U.S. election. [Added May 22, 2017]

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  • Nov. 14, 2016: Reporters ask Mike Flynn’s business associate Robert Kelley if Turkish interests had retained their consulting firm from August through Election Day because of Flynn’s close relationship with Trump. “I hope so,” Kelley says. The subject of Flynn’s lobbying activities for Turkey comes up again periodically in news reports throughout November and December. [Added May 22, 2017]

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  • Also on Jan. 10, 2017: President Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice informs Trump of the military plan to retake the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa with the help of Syrian Kurdish forces. Obama’s team informed Trump because execution of the plan would not occur until after the inauguration. Turkey has long opposed US forces partnering with Kurdish forces in the region. Trump’s NSA-designate Flynn tells Rice to old off on approving the mission. [Added May 22, 2017]

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  • On or around Jan. 11, 2017: Erik Prince—the founder of the Blackwater private security firm, $250,000 donor to the Trump campaign, and brother of Trump’s nomination for secretary of education Betsy DeVos—meets secretly in the Seychelles Islands with a Russian close to Putin. Russia’s goal is to establish a back-channel line of communication with the Trump administration. The meeting had been arranged by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who had met with Mike Flynn and Jared Kushner in December. [Added May 22, 2017]

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  • Jan. 14, 2017: A member of Trump’s transition team says that Maryland US Attorney Rod Rosenstein will replace Sally Yates as deputy attorney general. In a statement to Congress on May 19, Rosenstein said that prior to his nomination, in one of his first meetings with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions after the election, he and Sessions had discussed the need for new leadership at the FBI. [Added May 22, 2017]

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  • Jan. 22, 2017: FBI Director James Comey is reluctant to attend a White House ceremony honoring law enforcement because, according to his friend Benjamin Wittes, he doesn’t want the director of the bureau to have a close relationship with any president. But Comey ultimately decides to go. Wittes later tells The New York Times and writes at Lawfare that Comey, noticing that the drapes were a similar shade of blue to his blazer, tried to blend in with them at the far end of the room — as far from Trump as he could get. As the ceremony concludes, Trump calls him over, saying, “Oh, and there’s Jim. He’s become more famous than me.” According to Wittes’ account, as Comey takes the long walk across the room, he is determined that he will not hug Trump. To protect the bureau’s integrity, Comey wants to avoid showing warmth toward him. As Comey preemptively reaches out to shake hands, Trump grabs his hand and attempts an embrace. Comey is “disgusted” and, according to Wittes, regards the move as a “physical attempt to show closeness and warmth in a fashion calculated to compromise him before Democrats who already mistrusted him.” [Added May 22, 2017]

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  • Jan. 31, 2017: The White House announces its intention to nominate Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general. [Added May 22, 2017]

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  • Also on March 1, 2017: As Director Comey prepares to board a helicopter, he receives a message from the White House: Trump wants to speak with him urgently. Comey delays his flight and soon realizes that Trump wants only to “chitchat.” [Added May 22, 2017]

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  • Also on March 7, 2017: Former NSA Mike Flynn files registration documents confirming that between August 2016 and Election Day, he’d earned $530,000 for lobbying work on behalf of a company owned by a Turkish businessman. Flynn acknowledges that his work as a foreign agent could have benefitted the Turkish government. [Added May 22, 2017]

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  • Also on March 9, 2017: Responding to questions about Mike Flynn’s lobbying activities for Turkish interests during the campaign and thereafter, Vice President Mike Pence tells Fox News’ Bret Baier twice that he’d just learned of it: “Well, let me say, hearing that story today was the first I’d heard of it. And I fully support the decision that President Trump made to ask for General Flynn’s resignation.” BAIER: “You’re disappointed by the story?” PENCE: “The first I heard of it, and I think it is, uh, it is an affirmation of the president’s decision to ask General Flynn to resign.” Asked whether Trump knew about Flynn’s activities on behalf of Turkish interests, Sean Spicer says, “I don’t believe that that was known.” [Added May 22, 2017]

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  • March 20, 2017: On the morning of FBI Director Comey’s testimony before Congress on his agency’s investigation into Russian election interference, Trump tweets: “The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!” Hours later, Comey testifies that the FBI was investigating Russian interference with election, including “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” With respect to Trump’s wiretapping claims, Comey says, “I have no information that supports those tweets.” [Revised March 20, 2017]

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  • Also on May 9, 2017: Over Turkey’s objections, the Pentagon announces that the US will partner with Kurds to retake the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. On January 10, the Obama administration had presented President-elect Trump with a plan to partner with the Kurds against ISIS, but his then- NSA-designate Mike Flynn had killed it. [Revised May 22, 2017]

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  • Also on May 10, 2017: At an Oval Office meeting with Russia’s Ambassador Kislyak, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and their aides, Trump reveals highly classified intelligence about the Islamic State and American counterterrorism plans. The meeting occurs because Putin had previously asked Trump to meet with Lavrov, and Trump didn’t feel he could say no. Kislyak’s presence was unexpected. The intelligence that Trump reveals is so sensitive that it has not been shared with American allies and has been tightly restricted within the US government. Minutes after the meeting ends, Kislyak’s presence becomes known when the Russian news agency TASS publishes photographs that a Russian photographer had taken of the session. The White House had not permitted any US news organization to attend any part of the meeting, even for photographs. During the meeting, Trump also discusses the Comey firing. “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. 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.” [Revised May 22, 2017]

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  • Also on May 17, 2017: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein names former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference with the election. In a White House statement, Trump says, “As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.[Revised May 22, 2017]

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  • Also on May 18, 2017: In a joint news conference with the president of Colombia, a reporter asks Trump whether he ever asked former Director Comey to close or back down the investigation into Michael Flynn. “No. No,” Trump answers. “Next question.” He goes on to characterize the ongoing Trump/Russia investigation as “totally ridiculous” and a “witch hunt.” Then he adds, “Director Comey was very unpopular with most people, I actually thought when I made that decision. And I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.” [Added May 22, 2017]

 

  • May 19, 2017: The Washington Post reports that federal investigators in the Trump/Russia matter have identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest. [Added May 22, 2017]

 

  • Also on May 19, 2017: Vice President Pence faces added scrutiny on what he knew about Flynn’s connections to Turkey and Russia—and when he knew it. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee post a November 18, 2016 letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to Pence, who at the time was vice president-elect and chair of the presidential transition team. The letter expressed concerns about NSA-designate Flynn’s ties to those countries. In response to the posting, Pence’s spokesperson states, “The vice president stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding General Flynn’s ties to Turkey and fully supports the President’s decision to ask for General Flynn’s resignation.” A White House aide adds, “I’m not sure we saw the letter.” Democrats on the House Oversight Committee then post the formal November 28, 2016 transition team message acknowledging receipt of Cummings’ letter. [Added May 22, 2017]

 

 

  • Also on May 19, 2017: Reuters reports on the efforts of White House lawyers to undermine Robert Mueller’s credibility. Specifically, they’re looking at a rule that restricts newly hired government lawyers from participating in matters involving their former employers or former clients for at least one year. By executive order on January 28, 2017, Trump had extended that period to two years; however, the Justice Department can waive the rule. Mueller’s law firm Wilmer Hale represents Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, and the firm says that Mueller personally has not worked with any Trump-related clients. Meanwhile, CNN reports that White House lawyers are also researching impeachment procedures. [Added May 22, 2017]

One thought on “THE TRUMP/RUSSIA TIMELINE — UPDATE THROUGH MAY 22, 2017

  1. Great and comprehensive timeline! One thing I think is missing that is pretty crucial is the Sessions flip. He had 20 years of anti-Russia hawk history up to joining the Trump team. In March of 2015 at the Brussels Forum, he stated “It needs to be clear that Russia knows that there will be a high price to pay if this behavior continues”. One year later, he had done a complete flip.

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