- The FBI is now investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
- The timeline of major, game-changing events that unfolded in the final months of the election coincided with several allegations of conspiracy and misconduct between several Trump associates and Russia, laid out in a dossier compiled by veteran spy Christopher Steele.
- Questions remain about whether the events — such as the change in the GOP platform on Ukraine and the release of hacked DNC emails — were coordinated with the Russians to maximise the damaging effects on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The FBI is now examining whether members of President Donald Trump’s campaign team colluded with Russian officials to undermine Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
The probe into Trump’s ties to Russia are part of the bureau’s broader investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, FBI Director James Comey confirmed during a House Intelligence Committee hearing earlier this week.
CNN reported on Wednesday that the FBI has information to suggest that the Trump campaign “communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”
Suggestions of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the election appear to line up with the timeline of claims made in an explosive but unverified dossier presented by top US intelligence officials to President Donald Trump and senior lawmakers in January that is being increasingly substantiated.
The document includes details about an alleged quid-pro-quo in which Russia agreed to leak the hacked Democratic National Committee emails to WikiLeaks in exchange for the Trump campaign sidelining Russian aggression in Ukraine as a campaign issue. It also alleges that Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, managed the communication between Russia and the campaign.
Recent revelations about Manafort’s ties to Russia placed him at the center of a media firestorm last Wednesday, when the AP reported that he was paid $US10 million in the mid-2000’s to lobby on behalf of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in a way that would “greatly benefit” Russian President Vladimir Putin.
At least five other Trump associates — Jeff Sessions, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Carter Page, and JD Gordon — are now reported to have met with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, in the latter half of 2016 as Russia was allegedly attempting to sway the outcome of the election in Trump’s favour. They have been asked to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and preserve any relevant documents, about contact they may have made with Russians during the election.
Flynn, Page, and Kislyak were named in the dossier as being complicit in the alleged collusion. On Friday, Page, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone volunteered to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into Russia’s election-related meddling.
Comparing Steele’s reports, which were written between June and December of last year, with events that unfolded just before and after the election reveals a series of coincidences that adds to questions surrounding Russia’s interference in the election — and who knew about it.
Carter Page, an early foreign policy adviser to Trump, visits Moscow, the GOP platform is changed, top Trump surrogate then-Sen. Jeff Sessions meets Russia’s US ambassador Sergey Kislyak, WikiLeaks publishes hacked DNC emails, and the FBI opens its investigation into Russia’s interference.
June 20, 2016: The dossier alleges that Trump had been cultivated by Russian officials “for at least five years,” that the Kremlin had compromising material related to “sexually perverted acts” Trump performed at a Moscow Ritz Carlton, and that Trump’s inner circle was accepting a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin on Hillary Clinton.
The flow of intelligence is being facilitated by Paul Manafort, then Trump’s campaign manager, who is using Carter Page as a “liaison” between the campaign and the Kremlin, the dossier says.
July 7, 2016: Carter Page, who served as an adviser “on key transactions” for Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom, travels to Moscow to speak at the New Economic School. There, he gives a speech that is heavily critical of US foreign policy. He stays in Russia for approximately three days.
July 19, 2016: A Russian source close to Igor Sechin, the president of Russia’s state-owned oil company Rosneft, “confided the details of a recent secret meeting” between Sechin and Trump campaign adviser Carter Page while Page was in Moscow in early July.
Sechin “raised with Page the issues of future bilateral energy cooperation and prospects for an associated move to lift Ukraine-related western sanctions against Russia.”
July 11, 2016: GOP platform week kicks off, one week before the start of the Republican National Convention. An amendment to the Republican Party’s draft policy on Ukraine proposing that the GOP commit to sending “lethal weapons” to the Ukrainian army to fend off Russian aggression is softened to “provide appropriate assistance.”
July 22, 2016: WikiLeaks publishes the first set of hacked DNC emails, one day before the Democratic National Convention kicks off in Philadelphia.
The Trump campaign “agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue” in return for Russia leaking the DNC emails to WikiLeaks. The reason for using WikiLeaks was “plausible deniability, and the operation had been done with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team.”
July 19, 2016: Then-Senator Jeff Sessions, along with two Trump campaign advisers JD Gordon and Carter Page, meet Russia’s ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak at the Global Partners in Diplomacy event staged by the Heritage Foundation. “Much of the discussion focused on Russia’s incursions into Ukraine and Georgia,” according to delegate Victor Ashe.
July 27, 2016: Donald Trump holds a press conference in which he asks Russian hackers to “find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
July 31, 2016: Jeff Sessions, who said in 2015 that the west has to “unify against Russia,” goes on CNN and characterises US relationship with Russia as a “cycle of hostility” that needs to be resolved.
Late July, 2016: The FBI opens its investigation into Russia’s interference in the election, and the Trump campaign’s possible role in it.
Paul Manafort resigns amid negative press about his work in Ukraine, and Roger Stone — a top Trump confidant and early campaign adviser — predicts that Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, will “soon” be targeted.
July 31, 2016: Steele writes that the Kremlin has more intelligence on Clinton and her campaign but doesn’t know when it will be released.
August 5, 2016: The chief of Putin’s administration, Sergei Ivanov, expresses doubts about the “black PR” campaign being run by Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, in favour of Trump and against Clinton. Says it’s been managed like “an elephant in a china shop” and advises Kremlin to now “sit tight and deny everything,” but advises Putin that pro-Trump operation will ultimately be successful.
August 5, 2016: Roger Stone writes in Breitbart that “a hacker who goes by the name of Guccifer 2.0,” and not the Russians, hacked into the DNC and fed the documents to WikiLeaks.
August 12, 2016: “Guccifer 2.0” releases files purportedly stolen in a cyberattack on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Guccifer 2.0’s Twitter account is briefly suspended. When it is reinstated, Roger Stone begins a private Twitter conversation with the alleged hacker. Experts soon link Guccifer 2.0 back to Russia and conclude the so-called hacker is the product of a Russian disinformation campaign.
August 14, 2016: The New York Times reports new details about Trump campaign manager Manafort’s involvement with Ukraine. The paper reported that Ukraine leader Yanukovych’s pro-Russia political party had earmarked $US12.7 million for Manafort for his work between 2007-2012. Manafort has said he never collected the payments.
August 15, 2016: Sergei Ivanov, the chief of Putin’s administration who expressed doubts about how the Trump-Russia collaboration was being carried out, is unexpectedly fired by Putin.
August 10, 2016: Steele writes that a “Kremlin official involved in US relations” commented in early August that the Kremlin had been trying to build sympathy for Russia in the US by funding several political figures’ trips to Moscow, including Michael Flynn and Carter Page. The trips were “successful in terms of perceived outcomes,” the official said.
August 15, 2016: Ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in 2014, tells Putin that he’s been funelling “kickback payments” to Paul Manafort. Manafort, who had advised Yanukovych and his pro-Russia political party from 2007-2012, was Trump’s campaign manager at the time.
Yanukovych “sought to reassure” Putin that “there was no documentary trail left behind which could provide clear evidence” of the payments. Putin and other Kremlin officials remained sceptical of Yanukovych’s assurances and feared the payments “remained a point of potential political vulnerability.”
August 19, 2016: Manafort resigns as Trump’s campaign manager after denying that he ever collected any payments that had been earmarked for him in Ukraine.
August 21, 2016: Roger Stone tweets a prediction about Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. “Trust me, it will soon the [sic] Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary”
Trump says he’ll “take” Putin’s “compliments,” Sessions meets privately with Kislyak, and Carter Page takes a “leave of absence.”
September 14, 2016: A Kremlin official “confirms from direct knowledge” that Russia’s US ambassador Sergey Kislyak had been aware of the Kremlin’s interference in the US election, and had “urged caution and the potential negative impact on Russia from the operation/s.”
The official says the Kremlin has further kompromat on Clinton that it plans to release via “plausibly deniable” channels — aka WikiLeaks — after Russia’s mid-September legislative elections. But a growing train of thought inside the Kremlin is that Russia could still make Clinton look “weak” and “stupid” without needing to release more of her emails. It’s decided that Putin himself will have final say over whether further Clinton kompromat is disseminated.
Steele writes another dispatch dated September 14, 2016 detailing the relationship between Putin and Russian oligarchs who control Russia’s Alfa Bank.
September 7, 2016: NBC’s Matt Lauer confronts Trump about his praise of Putin. Trump replies, “Well, I think when he calls me brilliant, I’ll take the compliment, OK?”
September 8, 2016: Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak meet privately in Sessions’ office. An administration official tells NBC in early March — when news of the meeting breaks — that “election-related news” was likely discussed.
Roger Stone tweets foreshadow WikiLeaks’ release of John Podesta emails, Obama publicly accuses Russia of hacking Democrats, and the FBI examines computer server activity between the Trump Organisation and Alfa Bank.
October 12, 2016: Control over the anti-Clinton black PR had passed from the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to the FSB (Federal Security Service, successor to KGB) then into the Presidential Administration (PA) as it gained momentum.
But “buyer’s remorse set in” as Podesta’s emails proved less damaging to the Clinton campaign than Russia had expected. Russians injected further anti-Clinton material into WikiLeaks pipeline “which will continue to surface, but best material already in the public domain.”
October 1, 2016: Roger Stone tweets that “Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done.”
October 5, 2016: Stone tweets “Payload coming. #Lockthemup.”
October 7, 2016: WikiLeaks publishes the first batch of emails hacked from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s inbox — one hour after an Access Hollywood video surfaces of Trump making lewd remarks about women, threatening to derail his campaign.
October 7, 2016: The Obama administration officially, and publicly, accuses Russia of “directing the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organisations” to affect the US election.
October 12, 2016: Stone admits to having “back-channel communication with Assange” through a mutual friend who “travels back and forth from the United States and London.”
A Russian oligarch shows up in North Carolina while Trump is there campaigning, Trump wins the election, Rosneft signs a massive deal, Carter Page travels to Moscow again, Obama issues new sanctions over Russian hacking, and Trump’s lawyer entertains a backchannel peace plan for Ukraine.
November 3, 2016: Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev flies into Charlotte, North Carolina on his private plane. Trump’s plane lands on the tarmac minutes later and parks next to Rybolovlev, whose plane stays in Charlotte for 22 hours afterward. Trump rallies in nearby Concord, NC.
November 8, 2016: Donald Trump wins a dramatic and unexpected victory in the presidential election.
December 7, 2016: Rosneft s
igns a deal to sell 19.5% of shares, or roughly $US11 billion, to the multinational commodity trader Glencore Plc and Qatar’s state-owned wealth fund.
December 8, 2016: Carter Page travels to Moscow to “meet with some of the top managers” of Rosneft, he told reporters at the time.
December 29, 2016: Obama issues new sanctions against Russia, calling Moscow’s “malicious cyber-enabled activities” a “national emergency” aimed at undermining democratic processes. Thirty-five Russian diplomats are expelled from the US. Top Trump adviser and soon-to-be national security adviser Michael Flynn is recorded speaking with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, about the new sanctions and reassures him that the Trump administration will re-evaluate them.
December 30, 2016: Putin announces, unexpectedly and out of character, that Russia will not retaliate against the US for the new sanctions. Says he will wait to see how US-Russian relations develop under the Trump administration before planning “any further steps.” Trump tweets
“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”
January 10, 2017: Top US intelligence officials, including FBI Director James Comey and former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, brief P
resident Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump on the existence of Steele’s dossier.
January 19, 2017: The New York times reports that “intercepted communications” between Trump associates and Russians are being investigated as part of the FBI’s inquiry into Russia’s election meddling.
January 27, 2017: Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, meets with Russian-American businessman Felix Sater and Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko at a Manhattan hotel to discuss a backchannel “peace plan” for Russia and Ukraine. The plan, which was reportedly delivered to then-national security adviser Michael Flynn, involved lifting sanctions on Russia in return for Moscow withdrawing its support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Michael Flynn resigns as national security adviser over his conversations with Kislyak, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuses himself from Russia-related investigations, and the FBI announces it’s been investigating the Trump campaign’s role in Russia’s election interference.
February 13, 2017: Michael Flynn resigns as national security adviser after reports emerge that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak.
March 2, 2017: Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuses himself from the investigation into whether the Trump campaign communicated with Russia after The Washington Post reports that he spoke with Kislyak twice during the election. Sessions had said in his confirmation hearing that he did not have any contact with any Russian officials during the election.
March 4, 2017: Trump tweets, without presenting evidence, that Obama had Trump Tower’s “wires tapped” during the presidential campaign.
March 15, 2017: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, says the committee had not found any evidence to support Trump’s wiretapping claim.
March 20, 2017: FBI Director James Comey says during a House Intelligence Committee hearing that he has “no evidence” to support Trump’s wiretapping claim, and confirms that an investigation into Russia’s election-related meddling includes an examination of contacts between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign.
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