“THE BEST PEOPLE” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATES THROUGH JAN. 2, 2018

Many thanks to readers who made the Trump-Russia Timeline on BillMoyers.com the site’s #1 most popular post in 2017. It’s reassuring to know that so many people still care about facts. Without an informed electorate, democracy cannot survive.

Next week’s update will include the Bannon-Trump falling out and the breaking news about Trump’s previously unreported efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation.

The theme for this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline update comes from Trump himself:

“I Hire Only The Best People”

One of Trump’s best people — George Papadopoulos — has achieved an important new prominence in the scandal. Previously, The New York Times had reported that Papadopoulos helped Trump draft his first major foreign policy address. Here are the newest bombshells about Papadopoulos from the Times.

1) The April 27, 2016 speech was Trump’s “signal” to Russia.

2) In May, Papadopoulos boasted about Russia’s “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

3) In July, after the release of Clinton’s emails, Australian officials “passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts,” alerting the US that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information from a Russian source.

The Larger Context

Now follow these 15 steps to the finish line:

#1: In March 2016, Papadopoulos is 28 years old and has no foreign policy experience. Nevertheless, he lands a spot on Trump’s national security team and learns that Trump wants improved relations with Russia. A week later, he’s having conversations with a Russian intermediary. Ten days after that, he meets with a Russian who says she’s Putin’s niece.

#2: At a meeting with Trump and the national security team on March 31, 2016, Papadopoulos tells the group about his Russian contacts and says that he can arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin or their representatives. Reportedly, Trump hears him out, telling the team that he “doesn’t want to go to war over Ukraine.”

#3: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who chaired the meeting, later testifies that he knew of no contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. The Trump campaign’s lies about “no contacts with Russia” become pervasive.

#4: In April, Papadopoulos’ contact says the Russians had obtained “dirt” on Clinton, specifically thousands of emails that could help Trump win the election.

#5: Meanwhile, Papadopoulos helps Trump draft his first major foreign policy address — the “signal” that he’d get tougher with NATO allies while seeking “an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia.” Attending a VIP reception before that April 27 speech are Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

#6: In May, while drinking at a London bar with an Australian diplomat, Papadopoulos spills the beans on Russia’s “dirt.”

#7: During the summer, Papadopoulos hears from Sergei Millian, founder of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce. Millian has boasted about his importance in bringing wealthy Russians into a Trump real estate project in Florida and about his efforts to develop business opportunities for Trump in Russia. Continuing into the fall, Millian and Papadopoulos exchange messages and meet in Manhattan. Some of their email communications go to Jared Kushner — who later fails to produce those messages in response to a Senate Judiciary Committee request.

#8: In early June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. embraces the prospect of a meeting with Russians who promise “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. “I love it,” he declares in an email.

#9: At about the same time, Jared Kushner assumes control of Trump’s digital campaign and retains Cambridge Analytica, whose CEO contacts WikiLeaks about sharing Clinton-related emails. Later in June, the Kremlin-linked online persona Guccifer 2.0 releases the first batch of hacked DNC documents. At the end of July, WikiLeaks disseminates 20,000 hacked documents.

#10: After the WikiLeaks release of Clinton’s emails, Australia’s ambassador to the US directs Papadopoulos’ May revelation to the FBI. (So much for the GOP red-herring talking point about the origins of the FBI investigation. It wasn’t the infamous Steele dossier after all; it was intelligence from Australia and other concerned US allies.)

#11: At the Republican convention in July, Trump campaign aides defeat a platform plank that would have toughened the US position supporting rebel forces in Ukraine.

#12: After Trump wins the election, Papadopoulos exchanges messages with Millian, who says he knows a billionaire interested in developing a Trump Tower in Moscow: “I know the president will distance himself from business, but his children might be interested,” Millian reportedly writes.

#13: According to a whistleblower, on Inauguration Day, national security adviser Mike Flynn promises that Trump will “rip up” US sanctions on Russia. During his first week as president, Trump turns to the task of doing exactly that.

#14: Meanwhile, at a Manhattan hotel in late January 2017, pro-Putin lawmaker Andrii Artemenko and Trump’s longtime business associate Felix Sater give Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen a proposed plan for Ukraine that would eliminate US sanctions. Cohen is tasked with delivering the plan to Flynn.

#15: On Feb. 14, Flynn — another of Trump’s “best people” — resigns. Since then, he has pled guilty to lying about his Russian contacts and has become a cooperating witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Reportedly, Trump’s lawyers are preparing to attack Flynn’s credibility, as they already have Papadopoulos’. That’s a standard defense tactic, but when the defendant himself is a notorious serial liar, it becomes a suicide mission.

Here’s the list of this week’s new entries in the Timeline:

  • June 15, 2013: The Agalarovs — and Ike Kaveladze — Meet With Trump in Las Vegas [revision of previous entry]
  • Nov. 8-10, 2013: The Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow [revision of previous entry]
  • April 27, 2016: Trump Delivers First Major Foreign Policy Speech [revision of previous entry]
  • Mid-May 2016: Papadopoulos Tells Australian Diplomat That Russians Have “Dirt” On Hillary Clinton
  • Summer 2016: Millian Contacts Papadopoulos
  • November-December 2016: Millian Business Proposal to Papadopoulos
  • Early December 2016: Russians Arrest Cybersecurity Expert[revision of previous entry]
  • Jan. 20, 2017: Millian Attends VIP Events At Inaugural
  • Dec. 26, 2017: Flynn’s Brother Asks Trump to Pardon Mike Flynn
  • Dec. 27, 2017: Trump Lawyers Plan To Attack Flynn’s Credibility
  • Dec. 27, 2017: Mueller Reportedly Focusing On Trump Campaign Data Operation
  • Dec. 28, 2017: Another Trump Interview with The New York Times
  • Dec. 31, 2017: Nunes Readies For Fight Against Mueller
  • Jan. 2, 2017: Trump Tweets

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