About thebellyofthebeast

Adjunct professor at Northwestern University's School of Law and its Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, contributing editor to ABA "Litigation" and "The American Lawyer," and author of "The Lawyer Bubble - A Profession in Crisis (2013), "The Partnership - A Novel" (2010), "Crossing Hoffa - A Teamster's Story" (2007) (A "Chicago Tribune" Best Book of the Year), and "Straddling Worlds: The Jewish-American Journey of Professor Richard W. Leopold" (2008). Recently retired after 30 years at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Graduated from Harvard Law School (magna cum laude) and Northwestern University (combined B.A./M.A. in economics, with distinction and Phi Beta Kappa).


This video is one of the many reasons Trump wants to end special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Watch it. A British public-service broadcaster conducted an undercover investigation of an important player in the Trump-Russia scandal: Cambridge Analytica.

For context, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and select these five names on the Timeline filter: Cambridge Analytica, Steve Bannon, Facebook, the Mercer Family, and Brad Parscale. Here’s a small sample of what emerges:

JUNE 2014: Steve Bannon had figured prominently in the creation of Cambridge Analytica. He even chose the firm’s name. Funding came from a $15 million investment by conservative mega-donor Robert Mercer. Thanks to the firm’s arrangement with a Russian-American academic in Great Britain, Cambridge Analytica becomes the beneficiary of Facebook’s massive data leak. Fifty million user profiles make their way to Cambridge Analytica’s voter targeting and messaging operation.

JULY 2014: An American attorney advising the firm warns that the company’s structure and activities could violate laws prohibiting foreign influence in US elections.

BEGINNING IN JUNE 2015 AND CONTINUING THROUGH AUGUST 2017150 Million Americans see social media content from a Russian-government linked troll farm. Among other media vehicles supporting Trump’s election, Russians are buying geographically-targeted political ads on Facebook.

MID-MAY 2016: Bannon introduces the Trump campaign to Cambridge Analytica. The campaign is all-ears.

JUNE 2016: Jared Kushner takes control of Trump’s digital campaign and hires Cambridge Analytica. With the assistance of embedded Facebook employees, the campaign’s digital director, Brad Parscale, takes special pride in targeting and messaging particular voters. Around the same time, Cambridge Analytica’s president asks WikiLeaks to share stolen Hillary Clinton emails so his firm can help disseminate them.

AUGUST 2016: Cambridge Analytica board member Rebekah Mercer (Robert’s daughter), tells the firm’s president to contact WikiLeaks about making the Clinton emails more searchable.

AUGUST 2016: Having verified the previously reported data leak, Facebook warns Cambridge Analytica not to use the data.

NOV. 10, 2016: Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismisses as “crazy” the idea that Facebook could have influenced the election outcome. But two days later, a Russian politician close to Putin claims that he colluded with Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign to do exactly that — tip the election in Trump’s favor.

MARCH 16, 2018: Facebook admits to the 2014-2015 data leak of private user profiles and suspends Cambridge Analytica from its platform.

Then came the bombshell.

MARCH 19-20, 2018: Channel 4, a British public-service broadcaster, airs an undercover investigation that videotapes Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix explaining the firm’s methods for manipulating elections in foreign countries, including the use of bribes and sex workers (“beautiful Ukrainian girls”) to entrap politicians.

In the video, Nix says that he has met Donald Trump “many times.” Discussing Cambridge Analytica’s role in Trump’s 2016 election victory, Nix adds, “We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting. We ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy.”

If American democracy is worth a 20-minute investment of your time, watch the March 20, 2018 video.

Here is a complete list of entries in this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline update:

LATE 2013: Bannon and the Beginning of Cambridge Analytica

JUNE 2014: Mercers Invest in Cambridge Analytica

JUNE 2014: Massive Facebook Data Leak Underway; Cambridge Analytica in Contact With Russians

MARCH 31, 2016: Trump Meets With Foreign Policy Advisers (revision of previous entry)

SPRING 2016: Stone Reportedly Knows That WikiLeaks Has Clinton Emails

JULY 24, 2016: Pompeo Tweets and Deletes

AUGUST 2016: Facebook Lawyers Warn Cambridge Analytica

WEEK OF OCT. 17, 2016: Stone Sends Weekly Memos to Trump

JAN. 6, 2017: Trump Receives Intelligence Briefing; Meets Comey for the First Time (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 11, 2017: Prince Meets With Putin Associate in the Seychelles (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 14, 2017: Sessions Says That He Has Not Lied About Trump Campaign Contacts With Russia (revision of previous entry)

MARCH 5, 2018: Prostitute Claims to Have Audio Recordings (revision of previous entry)

MARCH 12, 2018: Sater Is Still an FBI Source

MARCH 12, 2018: GOP Leader Announces End of House Intelligence Committee Investigation

MARCH 12, 2018: Trump Embraces GOP House Intel Committee Report

MARCH 12-13, 2018: Theresa May Blasts Putin; Tillerson Agrees; Trump Fires Tillerson

MARCH 13, 2018: Democrats Rebut GOP House Intelligence Committee Report; Republicans Backtrack

MARCH 14, 2018: Theresa May Expels 23 Russians; Putin Counters

MARCH 15, 2018: Mueller Has Subpoenaed Trump Organization

MARCH 15, 2018: Russia Has Hacked Into Critical US Infrastructure

MARCH 15, 2018: Trump Imposes New Russian Sanctions

MARCH 15, 2018: GOP Senators Ask for Another Special Counsel

MARCH 16, 2018: Sater Hits Interview Circuit

MARCH 16, 2018: Facebook Suspends Cambridge Analytica Over Data Leak

MARCH 16, 2018: Sessions Fires McCabe; Trump Tweets

MARCH 16, 2018: McCabe Has Memos; Responds to Firing

MARCH 17, 2018: Dowd Says Rosenstein Should End Mueller Probe

MARCH 17, 2018: Trump Tweets About Russia Investigation, McCabe, Comey, and Mueller

MARCH 18, 2018: Trump Tweets About Russia, McCabe, Comey, and Mueller Continue

MARCH 19, 2018: GOP Mostly Silent on Trump Attacks on Mueller; Graham: “The Beginning of the End”

MARCH 19-20: Cambridge Analytica Exposé Airs on British TV


Trump fires Rex Tillerson; members of a complicit GOP Congress lead another whitewash of Trump’s Russia problems; Pennsylvania voters in a deep red district repudiate the Republican candidate in a special election; and students nationally show their elders how to speak truth to power. This week, the events through Wednesday alone make last week seem like a distant memory. But it’s worth remembering one that received little media attention.

Way back then, a botched porn-star payoff, former Trump aide Sam Nunberg’s cable news circus act, typical Trump-style hype over North Korea, and a vile rally in Pennsylvania swamped cable news networks. But last week’s most important and underreported story involved Erik Prince. He may find himself among Trump’s many aides and allies who have been caught lying about their contacts with Russia.

In this week’s update of the Trump-Russia Timeline, Prince earns a Timeline name filter and this descriptive “pop-up” bubble:

Erik Prince is the founder of the Blackwater private security firm (now known as Academi). He is also a $250,000 donor to the Trump campaign and the brother of Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. In 1990, Prince worked as an intern for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). In January 2017, he reportedly met in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev and representatives of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

Now Go To The Timeline

For Prince, the key date is Jan. 11, 2017 How and why did he meet with Kirill Dmitriev on a remote sovereign archipelago in the Indian Ocean? Increasingly, the answer appears to be “backchannel.”

DEC. 1, 2016: Jared Kushner secretly suggests to the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak the creation of a backchannel through which the Trump administration and the Kremlin can communicate directly and privately without US intelligence monitoring the conversations. To Kislyak’s astonishment, Kushner proposes using the Russian embassy as a venue.

DEC. 15, 2016: Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, and Jared Kushner meet secretly in New York with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, who broke diplomatic protocol by failing to inform President Obama’s State Department about his visit.

JAN. 11, 2017: Erik Prince meets with Dmitriev in the Seychelles. According to later reporting by The Washington Post, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan had arranged the meeting.

NOV. 30, 2017: Erik Prince tells the House Intelligence Committee that his January 11 meeting with Dmitriev was happenstance. Prince says that he had traveled to the Seychelles “to meet with some potential customers from the UAE for the logistics business” of which he is chairman. “After the meeting,” he continues, “they mentioned a guy I should meet who was also in town to see them, a Kirill Dmitriev from Russia, who ran some sort of hedge fund.” Prince says he then met Dmitriev in the hotel bar, and they chatted about a variety of topics for “a maximum of 30 minutes.” The next day, he repeated the story on MSNBC.

However, according to subsequent reporting by The Wall Street Journal, George Nader had attended Prince’s meeting in the Seychelles with the Emirati delegation. Prince hadn’t mentioned him to House investigators, and now Nader has a different version of what happened.

George Who?

JAN. 17, 2018: En route to a Mar-a-Lago celebration of Trump’s first year in office, federal agents detain Nader and greet him with a search warrant, a grand jury subpoena, and many questions. Nader agrees to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

MARCH 6, 2018: The Washington PostThe New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal report that Mueller has evidence of backchannel discussions in the Seychelles prior to Trump’s inauguration. Apparently, Nader’s finger points directly at Erik Prince.

According to The New York Times, “[George] Nader represented the crown prince [Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan] in the three-way conversation in the Seychelles, at a hotel overlooking in the Indian Ocean, in the days before Mr. Trump took office. At the meeting, Emirati officials believed Mr. Prince was speaking for the Trump transition team, and a Russian fund manager, Kirill Dmitriev, represented Mr. [Vladimir] Putin, according to several people familiar with the meeting….”

If Nader is telling the truth, Prince faces exposure for lying to Congress.

MARCH 8, 2018: Completing the loop, Prince has agreed to hold a fundraiser for Russia’s favorite US congressman, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

Both Mike Flynn and George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying about their secret dealings with Russia. Will Erik Prince follow in their footsteps? Members of Team Trump keep insisting that they have nothing to hide. Yet one-by-one, they keep getting caught in prevarications about the same subject: the Trump Team’s communications with Russia before Trump became president.

And if you’re wondering whether an incoming president-elect’s attempt to establish a backchannel for communications with a foreign adversary are illegal, the answer is yes. So is lying about it to federal investigators. The larger question is why Trump wanted one.

Here’s a complete list of this week’s Timeline updates:

NOV. 8-10, 2013: The Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow

JANUARY 2015: Goldstone and Emin Agalarov Meet Trump in NYC

NOVEMBER 20, 2016: Trump Considers Romney for Secretary of State: Russians Resist

DEC. 13, 2016: Trump Rejects Romney; Nominates Tillerson—a ‘Gift’ for Putin (revision of previous entry)

DEC. 15, 2016: Bannon, Flynn and Kushner Meet Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi; Nader Nearby (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 11, 2017: Prince Meets With Putin Associate in the Seychelles (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 30, 2017: Mueller Interviews McGahn

NOV. 30, 2017: Prince Testifies Before House Intelligence Committee

DEC. 1, 2017: Prince Reiterates His Story on the Seychelles Meeting: “That Was That”

JAN. 17, 2018: Adviser to Crown Prince Detained at Dulles

FEB. 27, 2018: Hicks Admits to “White Lies”; Says Emails Hacked; House Intelligence Committee Gets “Bannon’ed” (revision of previous entry)

MARCH 1, 2018: Trump Cyber Nominee Says Russians Don’t Expect US Response to Attacks

MARCH 5, 2018: Former Trump Aide Threatens to Defy Mueller, But Doesn’t

MARCH 5, 2018: Prostitute Claims to Have Audio Recordings

MARCH 5, 2018: Wyden Follow Up With NRA

MARCH 6, 2018: Coats Says US Lacks Coherent Strategy to Address Russian Interference

MARCH 6, 2018: Trump Equivocates on Russian Meddling

MARCH 6, 2018: GOP Congressmen Call for Special Prosecutor

MARCH 6, 2018: Mueller Has Evidence of Backchannel Discussions in the Seychelles

MARCH 8, 2018: Trump Talking to Witnesses

MARCH 8, 2018: Manafort Trial Date Set in VA Case

MARCH 8, 2018: Prince to Host Fundraiser for Rohrabacher

MARCH 11, 2018: Trump Tweets After NYT Report on Legal Team


This week’s update brings the total number of Trump-Russia Timeline entries to almost 1,000. When I created the Timeline in February 2017, there were 25. The hits keep coming, and the best is yet to come.

For a while, it appeared that Brad Parscale’s appointment as the manager of Trump’s 2020 campaign would be last week’s biggest addition to the Trump-Russia Timeline. But then Hope Hicks resigned the day after testifying that she told “white lies” for Trump, who berated her for such candor.

So much has already happened this week that it’s easy for forget those bombshells. That would be a mistake.

Brad Parscale

Around 2011, Parscale had begun creating web designs for Trump family businesses. In early 2015, he was working alone from his home in San Antonio when he received a message: Donald Trump was planning to run for president and needed a website. Parscale offered to do the job for $1,500.

Eventually, he became the Trump campaign’s digital director. Facebook and Twitter embedded their employees in his organization, and by the end of 2016, the campaign had paid Parscale’s firm more than $90 million.

Where does Parscale fit in the broader Trump-Russia scandal? Here’s a little context:

June 2015: According to special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian entities behind one prong of the election interference project, Russia’s exploitation of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media begins.

June 16, 2015: Trump announces his candidacy. Within a month, he is boasting about his relationship with Putin’s oligarchs, praises the Russian dictator, and makes clear that he thinks the US should soften its position on Russian sanctions.

June 9, 2016: Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort meet with Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Six weeks earlier, other Russians had told George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, that they possessed Clinton’s stolen emails.

September 2016: Wikileaks contacts Donald Trump Jr. who, in turn, tells Parscale, Steve Bannon, and Jared Kushner about it. Meanwhile, Trump confidant Roger Stone claims repeatedly to be in communication with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. (Go to the Timeline and click on Stone’s name.) Through the election, Trump himself praises publicly WikiLeaks’ disclosures — all of which target Clinton.

January 2017: After the election, Parscale, Rick Gates, and other former Trump aides form a large, pro-Trump non-profit organization: “America First Policies.”

July 2017: After receiving a request to appear before the House Intelligence Committee, Parscale issues a statement saying that he is “unaware of any Russian involvement in the digital and data operations of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.”

Meanwhile, Facebook still denies that it has any evidence of Russian political ad purchases on its platform. In September, it finally begins to come clean.

Jan. 5, 2018: Parscale tweets:

Kushner and Eric? And now Parscale is managing the 2020 Trump campaign. Friends taking care of friends.

Hope Hicks

Hicks stole Parscale’s spotlight: She admitted to telling “white lies” for Trump and resigned the next day. Go to the Trump-Russia Timeline, and click on her name. Here’s a sample of what’s there:

July 2016; Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page informs Hicks about his trip to Russia.

September 2016: Hicks receives an email from Don Jr. about his contact with WikiLeaks.

November 2016: Hicks denies that there were any contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign.

March 2017; Hicks issues a statement trying to explain away Jared Kushner’s secret meeting with a Russian banker in December 2016.

May 2017: Hicks is a member of Trump’s core group as he decides to fire FBI Director James Comey and then initially lies about his reasons for doing so.

July 2017: As Trump participates in crafting Don Jr.’s misleading statement about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians promising “dirt” on Clinton, Hicks is there.

Hicks seems to know more than where some bodies are buried. She may have held a shovel that helped put them there.

Here is a complete list of entries for this week’s update to the Trump-Russia Timeline:

APRIL 2015: Trump and Torshin at NRA Convention

EARLY 2015: Trump Campaign Retains Parscale

APRIL 26, 2016: Papadopoulos Learns That Russians Have ‘Dirt’ on Hillary Clinton and Can Help Disseminate It (revision of previous entry)

OCT. 13, 2016: The Atlantic: Stone and WikiLeaks Communicate Directly

OCT. 30, 2016: WSJ: Internal FBI Feud Over Clinton Investigation

NOV. 8, 2016: Election Day Troubles (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 9, 2016: WikiLeaks Sends Message to Stone

NOV. 10, 2016: Zuckerberg Rejects “Crazy Idea” that Facebook Affected Election

JAN. 5, 2017: Intelligence Chiefs Brief Obama on Trump and Russia

MARCH 2017: Kushner Companies Gets Big Loans; SEC Drops Inquiry

OCT. 27, 2017: US Attorney Dana Boente Resigns; Later Gets New FBI Job (revision of previous entry)

FEB. 27, 2018: Trump Tweets

FEB. 27, 2018: Parscale Named Trump’s 2020 Campaign Manager

FEB. 27, 2018: Hicks Admits to “White Lies”; House Intelligence Committee Gets “Bannon’ed”

FEB. 27, 2018: Trump Dragging Feet on Disrupting Russian Interference Efforts

FEB. 27, 2018: Kushner Suffers Security Clearance Downgrade and Other Woes

FEB. 27-28, 2018: Trump Attacks Sessions Again; Sessions Counterpunches

FEB. 27-28, 2018: Mueller Eyes Trump’s Russian Connections and Hicks’ Denials

FEB. 28, 2018: Manafort Trial Date Set

FEB. 28, 2018: Hicks Announces Resignation

MARCH 3, 2018: Mueller Investigating UAE Election Influence

MARCH 4, 2018: Putin: Russia Will Never Allow US to Extradite Accused Russians

MARCH 5, 2018: Trump Tweets Another Lie About Russia Investigation




Two major news stories intersected, but most of the media missed the collision. The Parkland High School shooting brought new scrutiny to the NRA’s position on assault weapons. And Rick Gates’ guilty plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller led many pundits to focus on how Gates’ cooperation could bolster the case against former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort. The Trump-Russia Timeline reveals a connection between the seemingly separate stories about the NRA and Gates. That connection could become key.

Start with Gates

Certainly, Rick Gates’ plea creates pressure on Manafort to flip and, presumably, testify against Trump. But Gates’ testimony alone could also worsen the legal jeopardy facing Trump (and Jared Kushner and Don Jr.). When it comes to Trump, Gates might know as much as Manafort, and perhaps more.

Go to the Trump-Russia Timeline, click on Rick Gates, and you’ll find more details about the following entries:

2006: Gates joins Manafort’s consulting firm and begins a decade-long relationship as his confidant.

March 2016: Manafort joins the Trump campaign. Gates goes with him and remains Manafort’s right-hand man.

A month ago, I urged a watchful eye on the FBI’s interest in whether Russians funneled campaign contributions to Trump through the NRA. Accepting campaign contributions from a foreign adversary is illegal. How might Gates fill out that picture? Here’s a start:

May 19-22, 2016: Trump, Don Jr. and Torshin at the NRA. Gates is copied (along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort) on emails communicating the request of a top Putin ally — Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of Russia’s central bank — to meet with Trump at the NRA’s annual convention in Nashville. Torshin has to settle for dinner with Don Jr.

Now go to the Timeline, click simultaneously on both Rick Gates and Alexander Torshin. and draw your own conclusions from uncontested facts.

There Could Be Much More

But Gates alone may have more to say about a lot of other Trump-Russia things. Returning to Gates’ entries on the Timeline:

May 21, 2016: Papadopoulos Pushes Russia Meeting. Manafort forwards to Gates an email that he received from George Papadopoulos, who is pushing the Russians’ request for a direct meeting between Putin and Trump.

Timeline entries for June 9, 2016 (“Don Jr., Manafort, Kushner Meet With Russian Lawyer”) and July 14, 2016 (“Trump Campaign Successfully Changes GOP Platform on Ukraine”) do not yet show up as involving Gates. But his proximity to Manafort makes them candidates for future inclusion. Meanwhile, Gates does appear in these entries:

Aug. 19, 2016: Manafort Resigns From Trump Campaign; Gates Remains. After Manafort leaves the campaign amid controversy over increasing media attention to his exploits with Ukraine’s pro-Putin president, Gates moves over to the Republican National Committee and remains in Trump’s inner circle.

Jan. 20, 2017: Gates Remains in Trump Orbit. After the election, Gates becomes a consultant to the presidential transition, including the inauguration committee. After the inauguration, Gates and the Trump campaign’s digital director, Brad Parscale, help raise $25 million for a new pro-Trump group, “America First Policies.”

In short, Gates has a continuity of experience with Trump that Manafort doesn’t. As a cooperating witness for Mueller, Gates could be especially potent.

Here’s a complete list of this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline update:

MARCH 19, 2013: Manafort Has Dinner with Rohrabacher

DECEMBER 2016: Suspicious Bank Loans to Manafort

SEPTEMBER 2012: US Law Firm Completes Report on Ukrainian Trial

SEPTEMBER 2016: FBI Has Open “Sub-Inquiries” On Individuals with Trump Campaign Links

SEPTEMBER 2016: Skadden Attorney Communicates With Gates and “Person A”

OCT. 21, 2016: FBI Seeks FISA Warrant on Carter Page (revision of previous entry)

OCTOBER 2017: Trump’s Bodyguard Gets RNC Job

FEB. 1, 2018: Gates Lies to Mueller

FEB. 2, 2018: Mueller Issues Criminal Information Against Rick Gates

FEB. 7, 2018: US Forces Attacked in Syria; Russian Oligarch Involved

FEB. 14, 2018: Lawyer Connected to Manafort and Gates Agrees to Guilty Plea Guilty

FEB. 16, 2018: Mueller’s DC Grand Jury Issues Superseding Indictment Against Manafort

FEB. 18, 2018: Former Russian Troll Farm Employee Arrested

FEB. 19, 2018: Mueller Looking at Kushner’s Finances

FEB. 19, 2018: Trump Blames Obama for Russian Meddling

FEB. 20, 2018: Trump Tweet-storm About Russia and Obama Continues

FEB. 21, 2018: Trump Tweets

FEB. 22, 2018: Trump Tweets As NRA Takes Heat

FEB. 22, 2018: New Charges Against Manafort and Gates

FEB. 23, 2018: Gates Pleads Guilty; Manafort Professes Innocence

FEB. 24, 2018: Democratic Rebuttal To Nunes Memo Released

FEB. 24, 2018: Trump Lies About Democratic Response to Nunes Memo

FEB. 26, 2018: GOP House Leaders Refuse to Investigate Trump Finances


Last week in brief: bad for Trump; worse for Kushner; busy for the Trump-Russia Timeline.

At the end of the week, special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury charged 3 entities and 13 Russian nationals with orchestrating an attack on American democracy. The resulting media coverage eclipsed more important news from a few days earlier: US intelligence chiefs warned Congress and the nation that Putin is still at it — trying to undermine the 2018 midterm elections.

But the really big news is Trump’s continuing indifference to it all, coupled with his endless efforts to distort the truth into something more pleasant for him.

Does It Really Matter?

In a Feb. 14, 2018 appearance, Vice President Mike Pence had a simple message for the audience: US intelligence agencies had found that none of Russia’s efforts had any impact on the 2016 election. For emphasis, he repeated the lie.

The truth: In their Jan. 6, 2017 report on Putin’s widespread influence campaign, the heads of America’s intelligence apparatus said that their agencies did not make any assessment of the impact that Russia’s activities had on the election outcome.

Then on Feb. 16, 2018, special counsel Mueller eliminated any doubt about the seriousness, sophistication, and success of Russia’s efforts to help Trump win. Mueller’s grand jury indicted a Russian-government linked troll farm, two of its funding entities, and 13 Russian nationals for conspiring against the United States “for the purpose of interfering with the US political and electoral system, including the presidential election of 2016.” Social media became Russia’s weapons of choice in the battle against democracy.

Referring to the indictment, Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster said, “[T]he evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain.” The last line of defense for Trump’s claim of presidential legitimacy — that he won the election “fair and square” — now lies in the dustbin of history.

“No Collusion — No Impact”? No Way

Responding to the indictment, Trump lied again. He said that it somehow proved “no collusion” between Russia and the Trump campaign, as well as “no impact” on the election outcome. Neither claim withstands even minimal scrutiny. Lawyers choose their words carefully, and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein is no exception.

“There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity,” Rosenstein said. “There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.” (emphasis supplied) Identifying allegations that aren’t in an indictment is a far cry from vindicating the Trump-Pence claims.

No collusion? The Russia indictment focuses only on Russia’s side of the election-interference transaction. Future indictments will reveal the complete roster of players on the US side. More importantly, they won’t use the red-herring word “collusion.” As Mueller well knows, the relevant legal concepts are conspiring, aiding, abetting, and obstructing.

Impact on the outcome? Functionally, the Russians became Trump’s biggest SuperPac. Putin’s favored candidate lost the US popular vote by almost 3 million ballots and prevailed in the electoral college only because he won three key states by fewer than 80,000 votes out of more than 136 million cast. Bottom line: His presidential victory carries a permanent asterisk. Trump will never be able to prove that he could have won without unlawful help from a foreign adversary.

Someday, Trump’s tweets about the Russia indictment — like so many others — will come back to haunt him and those mounting vigorous defenses based on his false claims.

And Then There’s Kushner…

The indictment, together with news that Mueller’s team had interviewed Steve Bannon for more than 20 hours, could mean special trouble for Jared Kushner. Bannon hates Kushner. The Russia indictment focuses on the defendants’ successful social media efforts. That puts a new spotlight on Trump’s son-in-law, who ran the digital campaign.

For those following the Trump-Russia Timeline, that spotlight was always there. Go to the Timeline and click on Jared Kushner’s name. Or, if you prefer, take a look at the stand-alone Kushner Timeline — made especially for him. He earned it.

Here’s the complete list of this week’s new/revised entries:

NEW: MAY 27, 2013: Trump Contemplating Presidential Bid in 2016

JULY 2013: Internet Research Agency Formed in Russia

APRIL 2014: The “Translator Project” Begins

JUNE 4-26, 2014: Russians Visit US

APRIL TO JUNE 2016: Russians Buy Pro-Trump Ads

JUNE 2016: Russians Get Voter Targeting Info

JUNE TO NOVEMBER 2016: “Translator Project” in Full Swing

NOV. 12, 2016: Russian Interference Campaign Continues

APRIL 2017: Trump Tells McGahn to Get Comey’s Help on Russia

MAY 9, 2017: Internal Trump Team Clash After Comey Firing

MAY 17, 2017: Rosenstein Names Former FBI Director Robert Mueller Special Counsel (revision of previous entry)

JULY 25, 2017: Trump Continues Attacking Sessions on Twitter; Wants Sessions’ Resignation (revision of previous entry)

SEPT. 13, 2017: Russians Realize They Have Been Busted; Destroy Evidence

NEW: DEC. 19, 2017: Prigozhin Added to Sanctions List

FEB. 13, 2018: US Intelligence Chiefs Warn About Russian Interference in 2018

FEB. 13, 2018: Sekulow Using His Radio Show To Defend Trump

FEB. 13, 2018: Mueller Has More For Manafort

FEB. 14, 2018: Pence Lies About US Intelligence Findings

FEB. 15, 2018: Bannon and Trump Frame Permissible Questions for Congress

FEB. 16, 2018: Grand Jury Indicts Internet Research Agency and Russian Nationals

FEB. 16, 2018: Trump Claims Indictment Exonerates Him

NEW: FEB. 17, 2018: Trump Tweets About Indictment

NEW: FEB. 17, 2018: Trump Tweets About Indictment

NEW: FEB. 17, 2018: Trump Retweets Facebook’s Defense

NEW: FEB. 17, 2018: Florida Suffers Tragedy; Trump Tweets

NEW: FEB. 17, 2018: McMaster Speaks; Trump Tweets

NEW: FEB. 18, 2018: Trump Tweets Russians Are “Laughing Their Asses Off”

NEW: FEB. 18, 2018: LA Times: Gates Agrees to Plea Deal


The motivation for Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) persistent efforts to obstruct the Trump-Russia probe became clearer last week. Specifically, we learned that on Dec. 23, 2016, Nunes gave an interview to Newsweek. At best, it will certainly land him in an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller. At worst, well…

When Nunes spoke with Newsweek, he was on the executive committee of Trump’s presidential transition team. Here’s what he said about his relationship with national security-designate Mike Flynn:

“This guy was one of the best intelligence officers in several generations…. Flynn is extremely smart. He really is top notch… I talk to Flynn virtually every day, if not multiple times a day. Seldom there’s a day that goes by that I don’t talk to Flynn, and especially right after the campaign, directly.” (emphasis supplied)

Now go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on Mike Flynn. Here’s what was happening with him around the time of Nunes’ interview:

Late November 2016: Flynn tells senior Trump advisers that he has scheduled a meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Dec. 1, 2016: Flynn, Kislyak, and Jared Kushner meet privately, and Kushner reportedly suggests to Kislyak the possibility of establishing a secret back-channel through which the Trump administration could communicate directly with the Kremlin — and without the knowledge of US intelligence officials.

Mid-December 2016: Flynn, Kushner, and Steve Bannon meet with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, who reportedly arranges a January meeting in the Seychelles islands between Trump supporter Erik Prince (Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos’s brother) and a Russian close to Putin.

Dec. 22, 2016: Flynn lobbies Kislyak directly (and, perhaps, illegally) about Russia’s upcoming UN vote on Israeli settlements. (Flynn later lies to federal investigators about it.)


Dec. 28-31, 2016: Flynn speaks with certain members of Trump’s transition team about his discussions with Kisylak. The topic is President Obama’s new sanctions against Russia for its interference in the US election. Kislyak tells Flynn that Putin will not retaliate for the sanctions, (Flynn later lies to federal investigators about his conversations with Kislyak.)

Jan. 4, 2017: Flynn tells the transition team’s chief legal counsel (and White House counsel-designate) Don McGahn that Flynn is under federal investigation for his lobbying activities on behalf of entities connected to the Turkish government.

To follow the action from this point, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline, click on Devin Nunes, and discover his publicly known efforts to obstruct and undermine the Trump-Russia investigation. His fears of where the truth could take him personally are well-grounded.

Members of Congress have immunity from criminal liability for acts that are an integral part of their legislative duties. But such “speech or debate” immunity provides no protection for whatever Nunes may have done while serving on Trump’s transition team. Nor could it protect him from charges that he obstructed justice in connection with the investigation of such wrongdoing.

Russian Interference

Another important and under-reported story of the week was lost in Nunes’ nonsense over his distracting attack on the FBI. On Jan. 10, 2018, Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a report detailing how Putin operates as he seeks to undermine Western democracy.

Among the highlights of the 200-page report:

  • Putin’s goal: Amass personal wealth and power
  • Means and methods:
    • Control internal government intelligence agencies
    • Dismiss the truth as “FAKE NEWS”
    • Spread disinformation
    • Operate without meaningful legislative oversight
    • Sow division among Western allies
    • Exploit explosive issues to divide Americans 

Sound familiar? The report notes that Trump has stood “practically idle” in dealing with Putin’s ongoing attacks on American democracy.

One more thing: With Rachel Brand’s resignation on Feb. 9, 2018, Trump’s path to undermining Mueller’s investigation got a lot easier.

Here’s a complete list of the latest Trump-Russia Timeline updates:

EARLY JULY 2016: Steele Contacts FBI About His Trump Findings (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 8, 2016: Election Day Troubles (revision of previous entry)

DEC. 23, 2016: Nunes Talks to Flynn Daily

JAN. 10, 2018: Senate Report: Putin’s Attacks on Democracy

FEB. 2, 2018: Nunes Moves Inquiry To State Dept.

FEB. 5, 2018: House Intelligence Committee Votes to Release Response to Nunes Memo

FEB. 5, 2018: Trump’s Lawyers Don’t Want Him to Testify

FEB. 6, 2018: Tillerson: Russia Already Meddling in 2018 Midterms

FEB. 8, 2018: Grassley Says Release of Don Jr. and Other Transcripts Will Take Weeks

FEB. 8, 2018: Trump Tweets

FEB. 9, 2018: Democrats Rebut Grassley/Graham Criminal Referral on Steele

FEB. 9, 2018: Rachel Brand Resigns

FEB. 9, 2018: Trump Objects to Releasing Democrats’ Rebuttal to Nunes’ Memo

FEB. 10, 2018: Trump Tweets



For weeks, the media focused on Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) memo. On Feb. 2, it landed with a thud and crushed a key GOP talking point. As wrangling continues over the Democrats’ rebuttal, the controversy is working for Trump: Nunes has obscured far more important developments in the Trump-Russia Timeline. In that respect, he’s a recidivist.

First Things First: Killing a GOP Talking Point

Trump and his GOP allies have been pushing the false narrative that the Trump-Russia investigation began as a partisan conspiracy. They base their claim on this sequence of events:

  • After Trump clinched the GOP nomination in 2016, conservative Republicans funding Fusion GPS’s anti-Trump opposition research bowed out and Democrats stepped in.
  • Fusion hired former British MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele, a widely respected specialist on Russia.
  • Steele started digging and provided Fusion with raw intelligence that became known as the Steele dossier.
  • Some of Steele’s material became part of the FBI’s Oct. 21, 2016 FISA warrant application to surveil a former Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page.
  • From there, the theory goes, the FBI was off to the races on a Trump-Russia investigation that became a partisan “witch hunt.”

Nunes’ memo killed the Trump/GOP talking point. It’s true that, on Oct. 21, 2016 — after Page had left the Trump campaign — the FBI sought and the FISA court issued a warrant to surveil Page. It’s also true that some of Steele’s material was part of the application for that warrant.

But neither Steele nor Page started the FBI investigation. As Nunes’ memo concedes, George Papadopoulos did:

“The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016….”

July v. October. Nunes missed the GOP’s talking point target by three months. For the facts surrounding Christopher Steele’s role in the Trump-Russia story, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on his name. Steele is an American patriot — and he’s not even a US citizen.

The Important Stuff

To understand the facts surrounding how and why the FBI’s investigation began, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on Papadopoulos’ name. Look at what Papadopoulos — then one of only five Trump foreign policy advisers — began doing in March 2016. Look at what he told an Australian diplomat in May 2016, namely, that Russia possessed stolen Clinton emails.

Now click on Carter Page — another of Trump’s five foreign policy advisers in March 2016. This week’s Timeline update revises the first entry for Page (Apr. 8, 2013) to add this:

“On Aug. 25, 2013, Page writes a letter boasting, ‘Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda.’”

Finally, go to the Timeline and click on Devin Nunes to see that his latest farce is reminiscent of earlier antics. In March 2017. he personally delivered to Trump documents allegedly supporting Trump’s tweet that President Obama had “wire tapped” Trump Tower during the campaign. The documents did no such thing. Nothing could because Trump’s claim was bogus from the beginning. Eventually, even congressional Republicans admitted it.

In fact, the supposed bombshell documents that Nunes gave Trump had come from a White House lawyer whom Nunes knew well, Michael Ellis. Until a week earlier, Ellis had served as general counsel of Nunes’ House Intelligence Committee.

As I write this post, Nunes threatens another sideshow relating to his investigation into a State Department envoy — and more memos. The search for partisan conspiracies should focus on Nunes.

The Real Trump-Russia News

Meanwhile, three far more important themes run through this week’s Timeline update, starting with Trump’s persistent preference for personal loyalty over love of country and the rule of law. As calls to “cleanse” the FBI morph into a purge, add the following events to a litany that begins with Trump’s January 2017 request for former FBI Director James Comey’s loyalty:

May 9, 2017: After firing Comey, Trump asks Acting Director Andrew McCabe how he voted in the 2016 election.

December 2017: As Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein meets with Trump prior to Rosenstein’s congressional appearance, Trump asks him if he is on Trump’s “team.”

January 29, 2018: After weeks of Trump’s withering assaults, McCabe resigns. He wasn’t on Trump’s team.

That leads to the second theme in this week’s update: It’s becoming clearer why Trump might want inside help from federal law enforcement officials investigating him. A new witness has emerged in special counsel Robert Mueler’s obstruction of justice investigation.

July 7-9, 2017: As The New York Times breaks the story about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting among Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, Mark Corallo — a spokesperson for Trump’s legal team — is on a conference call with Trump and Hope Hicks. The topic is what to tell the media about the Trump Tower meeting. The easy answer would have been “the truth.” That didn’t happen. Corallo has now emerged as a potentially important witness.

Why the continuing Trump cover-up of all things Russian? The answer leads to the third theme, which centers on the most underreported story of the week.

January 29: Trump refuses to impose the sanctions on Russian election interference under a law that passed Congress with nearly unanimous bipartisan support. A few days earlier, top Russian intelligence officers had been in the US meeting with their US counterparts, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

Trump/Nunes attacking the FBI; Trump refusing to impose new sanctions for Russia’s election interference; the media obsessing over Trump’s shiny objects.

All in all, Putin had a good week. The country? Not so much.

Here’s a complete list of this week’s Timeline updates:

APRIL 8, 2013: Russians Attempt to Recruit Page (revision of previous entry)

LATE JULY 2016: FBI Formally Opens Investigation Into Possible Collusion (revision of previous entry)

OCT. 21, 2016: FBI Seeks FISA Warrant On Carter Page

MAY 9, 2017: Trump Fires Comey; Asks McCabe How He Voted (revision of previous entry)

JULY 7, 2017: NY Times Prepares Story on June 9, 2016 Meeting With Russians

JULY 8, 2017: White House Scrambles to Deal with Forthcoming NYT Story; Trump Supervises Media Response

JULY 8, 2017: Donald Trump Jr. Releases First Statement

JULY 8, 2017: Spokesperson for Trump’s Legal Team Offers Different Version of June 9 Meeting

JULY 9, 2017: Trump-Hicks-Corallo Conference Call

JULY 2017: Nunes’ Aide Sends Staffers to Contact Steele (revision of previous entry)

SEPT. 28, 2017: Senators Are Concerned That Trump May Not Enforce New Russia Sanctions (revision of previous entry)

EARLY DECEMBER 2017: Trump Asks Rosenstein If He Is On Trump’s “Team”

JAN. 11, 2018: Trump Calls FBI Agent’s Text “Treason”

WEEK OF JAN. 22, 2018: CIA Director Pompeo Meets With Russian Counterpart; Other Russian Intel Chiefs Also in US

JAN. 24, 2018: Justice Department Cautions Against Release Of Nunes Memo; Trump Erupts (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 28, 2018: Wray Reviews Nunes’ Memo

JAN. 28, 2018: White House Still Wants Nunes’ Memo Released

JAN. 29, 2018: White House Dismisses DOJ Concerns About Nunes’ Memo

JAN. 29, 2018: McCabe Steps Down As FBI’s Deputy Director

JAN. 29, 2018: Trump Defies Congress on Sanctions; CIA Director Says Russian Interference Will Continue

JAN. 29, 2018: DOJ Warns Against Releasing Nunes’ Memo

JAN. 29, 2018: House Intelligence Committee Votes to Release Nunes’ Memo; Nunes Revises Memo Before Sending It To White House

JAN. 29, 2018: Trump Wants Nunes’ Memo Released

JAN. 30, 2018: NBC: Trump Talks About Prosecuting Mueller

JAN. 31, 2018, Schumer Wants Answers Relating to Russian Spy Visit to US

JAN. 31, 2018: FBI Issues Public Statement On Nunes’ Memo

FEB. 2, 2018: Trump Tweets

FEB. 2, 2018: Nunes’ Memo Goes Public; Undermines Trump and GOP Position

FEB. 3, 2018: Trump Tweets

FEB. 3, 2018: Democratic Rebuttal Blasts Nunes Memo

FEB. 5, 2018: Trump Tweets