The Russian government, at the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, waged a sustained influence operation in the United States in support of Donald Trump’s campaign for president. Major questions remain about the degree of interaction between Trump associates and Russian operatives.
Here’s what we know so far based on news reports, public statements and the U.S. government’s unclassified report on Russian election interference.
Follow POLITICO’s guide to Trump’s Russia ties for the latest breaking news and developments as the story unfolds.
June 18: Trump writes on Twitter: “The Miss Universe Pageant will be broadcast live from MOSCOW, RUSSIA on November 9th. A big deal that will bring our countries together!”
Trump, who owned the pageant at the time, adds later that day: “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?”
Oct. 17: Trump says in an interview with David Letterman he has conducted “a lot of business with the Russians.”
“Well I’ve done a lot of business with the Russians,” Trump says. “They’re smart and they’re tough.” Trump goes on to say that Putin is a “tough guy” and that he’s met him “once.”
Nov. 9: The Miss Universe pageant is held in Moscow. Trump attends.
Nov. 10: Trump writes on Twitter: “I just got back from Russia-learned lots & lots. Moscow is a very interesting and amazing place! U.S. MUST BE VERY SMART AND VERY STRATEGIC.”
September: An FBI agent informs a tech-support contractor at the Democratic National Committee that it may have been hacked. The contractor is not sure if the caller is really an FBI agent or if the call is legitimate.
Oct. 14: Trump appears to cast doubt on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russian-backed separatists were behind the downing of civilian airliner, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
“That’s a horrible thing that happened,” Trump says. “It’s disgusting and disgraceful but Putin and Russia say they didn’t do it, the other side said they did, no one really knows who did it, probably Putin knows who did it. Possibly it was Russia but they are totally denying it. … But they’re saying it wasn’t them. The other side says it is them. And we’re going to go through that arguing for probably for 50 years and nobody is ever going to know. Probably was Russia.”
Nov. 10: Trump says at a GOP debate that he got to know Putin “very well because we were both on ’60 Minutes,’ we were stablemates, and we did very well that night.” He adds: “If Putin wants to go and knocked the hell out of ISIS, I am all for it, 100 percent, and I can’t understand how anybody would be against it.”
Dec. 10: Michael Flynn attends Russia Today’s 10th anniversary dinner. He participates in a paid speaking engagement and sits just two seats from Putin.
Dec. 17: Russian President Vladimir Putin praises Trump, then the front-runner in the Republican primary, at his year-end news conference.
“He is a very flamboyant man, very talented, no doubt about that. But it’s not our business to judge his merits, it’s up to the voters of the United States,” Putin says. “He is an absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it today. He says that he wants to move to another level relations, a deeper level of relations with Russia … How can we not welcome that? Of course, we welcome it.”
Trump responds with praise of his own.
“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond,” Trump says in a statement. “I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.”
Feb. 17: “Putin called me a genius,” Trump says at a campaign event in South Carolina. According to PolitiFact, Trump would repeat the claim “three times in April, in a May interview on CNN, at a June rally in California, twice in July, and at an August town hall in Ohio.”
March 19: John Podesta’s staff is told incorrectly by another Clinton campaign staffer that an email instructing him to change his password is legitimate. The action allows Russian hackers into Podesta’s account.
March 21: When asked who his foreign policy advisers are (in an interview with The Washington Post), Trump names, among others, Carter Page. Page is an American banker who had lived in Moscow for three years.
March 22: Billy Rinehart, a former DNC employee working for the Clinton campaign, receives what he thinks is a legitimate email telling him to change his password. He enters his information, unwittingly giving Russian hackers access to his account.
March 28: Trump hires Paul Manafort to help lead his delegate-gathering efforts. Manafort had worked recently as a senior adviser for pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
April 27: Trump delivers his first major foreign policy address in Washington.
He calls for better relations with Russia in the speech: “We desire to live peacefully and in friendship with Russia and China. We have serious differences with these two nations, and must regard them with open eyes, but we are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests. Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism. I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia, from a position of strength only, is possible, absolutely possible. Common sense says this cycle, this horrible cycle of hostility must end and ideally will end soon. Good for both countries. Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out. If we can’t make a deal under my administration, a deal that’s great — not good, great — for America, but also good for Russia, then we will quickly walk from the table. It’s as simple as that. We’re going to find out.”
Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak is seated in the front row.
May 18: James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, says at a Washington event there are “some indications” of cyberattacks aimed at the presidential campaigns.
Early June: At a meeting of foreign policy experts with the Indian prime minister, Page praises Putin as a stronger leader than Obama, according to The Washington Post.
June 14: The DNC announces it has been the victim of an attack by Russian hackers.
June 15: A hacker going by the name Guccifer 2.0 posts documents stolen from the DNC, including the Democrats’ plan of attack against Trump. Trump releases a statement accusing the DNC of being behind the hack “as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader.”
June 21: Guccifer 2.0 posts documents stolen from the DNC on Clinton’s vulnerabilities as well as potential responses to lines of attack.
July 7: At a speech in Moscow, Page criticized the United States and other Western democracies. “Washington and other Western powers have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change,” Page said.
POLITICO later reveals that Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski approved the trip.
Week of July 18: Three Trump national security advisers — Page, J.D. Gordon and Walid Phares — meet with Kislyak in Cleveland. They told him they hoped to see improved relations with Russia.
July 18: The Republican National Convention adopts the official Republican Party platform, with the following language on Ukraine: “We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies, against Russia unless and until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored. We also support providing appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine and greater coordination with NATO defense planning. … We will not accept any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force, in Ukraine, Georgia, or elsewhere, and will use all appropriate constitutional measures to bring to justice the practitioners of aggression and assassination.”
The Washington Post reports the same day: “The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.”
Gordon, one of Trump’s national security advisers, would later tell CNN that he opposed efforts to add language that was more aggressively pro-Ukraine because he believed that would have been inconsistent with Trump’s public statements on the matter.
July 20: Sen. Jeff Sessions, an early Trump endorser who led his national security advisory committee, meets with Ambassador Kislyak and a group of other ambassadors at a Republican National Convention event.
July 22: WikiLeaks publishes about 20,000 emails stolen from the DNC. The emails appeared to show a preference for Hillary Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders among DNC leadership.
July 24: DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigns amid the controversial fallout from the email dump.
July 25: The FBI announced it was investigating the DNC hack and stated that “a compromise of this nature is something we take very seriously.” That same day, The Daily Beast reported: “The FBI suspects that Russian government hackers breached the networks of the Democratic National Committee and stole emails that were posted to the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks on Friday. It’s an operation that several U.S. officials now suspect was a deliberate attempt to influence the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, according to five individuals familiar with the investigation of the breach.”
July 26: Intelligence officials inform the White House that they have “high confidence” that Russia is behind the DNC hacks.
July 27: Trump calls on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails from the private server she used as secretary of state.
“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said at a news conference. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Pence releases a statement the same day, which his staffers say was drafted before Trump’s comments.
“The FBI will get to the bottom of who is behind the hacking,” Pence said. “If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences.” But he went on to say there should be increased focus on the contents of the hacks and what they exposed about the Democratic Party.
Obama, in an interview with NBC, says of the DNC hacks: “I know that experts have attributed this to the Russians.”
July 31: An interview airs on ABC in which Trump says of Russia’s annexation of Crimea: “But you know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also.” Trump also says in the interview that he was not involved in efforts to defeat an amendment to the Republican platform that would have added more aggressively pro-Ukraine language.
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Paul Manafort says that the effort to block the pro-Ukraine amendment “absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign. … No one, zero.”
August 8: Trump ally and friend Roger Stone tells a group of Florida Republicans that he has “communicated with Assange.”
“I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation but there’s no telling what the October surprise may be,” Stone says.
Aug. 12: Guccifer 2.0 releases the cellphone numbers and email addresses of almost all of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, apparently with documents stolen from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The digital security firm ThreatConnect announces that day that another site posting leaked documents, DC Leaks, appears to be linked to Russian intelligence services. The site’s documents also mostly targeted Democrats, but it also had emails stolen from campaign staffers for noted Russia hawks GOP Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
Aug. 14: The New York Times publishes an exposé on Ukrainian documents that appeared to show that $12.7 million in cash was earmarked for Manafort by the Russia-aligned Party of Regions.
Aug. 17: Trump receives his first classified intelligence briefing. It is later reported by NBC that Trump received information at the briefing about “direct links” between the Russian government and the email hacks. Trump names Kellyanne Conway as his campaign manager and Steve Bannon as campaign chief executive in a move that appears to push Manafort to the background.
Aug. 19: Manafort resigns.
Aug. 21: Long-time Trump friend and confidant Roger Stone writes on Twitter: “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary”
Sept. 5: The Washington Post reports that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are investigating “a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions.”
Obama holds what he calls a “candid, blunt and businesslike” meeting with Putin at the G-20 Summit in China. The two meet for about 90 minutes, and Obama says afterward: “We’ve had problems with cyber intrusions from Russia and other countries in the past.” But he declines to comment on “specific investigations.”
Sept. 7: Clapper reiterates Obama’s point that experts believe Russia is behind the DNC hack.
Trump praises Putin at an NBC forum, saying Putin had an 82 percent approval rating in Russia and adding: “He’s been a leader far more than our president has been a leader.”
Trump also once again noted that Putin had complimented him.
“I think when he calls me brilliant I’ll take the compliment, but it’s not going to get him anywhere,” Trump said.
Sept. 8: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Moscow is watching the presidential campaign closely and is willing to improve ties with the U.S. whoever wins, but says, in reference to Trump’s praise, that Russia will wait to see the winner’s rhetoric “after they are elected.”
“We hope that after the end of the [U.S.] election campaign, we will see Washington’s political will towards building good relations,” he said. The government-owned Russian News Agency TASS also reported on Peskov’s comments: “He also said the Kremlin paid more attention to the statements made by the candidates than to those of the outgoing president.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, a prominent Trump surrogate, meets in his Senate office with Kislyak.
Trump tells the Kremlin-backed Russia Today in an interview that “it’s probably unlikely” Russia is interfering in the election.
“I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out,” Trump says. He adds that foreign interference in the election would be “inappropriate.”
In an interview with CNN, Pence says that “it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country.”
Sept. 13: Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, lodged a formal complaint with the U.N. over one U.N. official’s condemnation of Trump and some populist leaders in Europe.
Sept. 26: Foreign policy adviser Carter Page steps down from the Trump campaign.
At the first presidential debate, Trump tries to cast doubt on reports that Russia was behind the DNC hacks. He says: “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK? You don’t know who broke into DNC. But what did we learn with DNC? We learned that Bernie Sanders was taken advantage of by your people, by Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Look what happened to her. But Bernie Sanders was taken advantage of. That’s what we learned. Now, whether that was Russia, whether that was China, whether it was another country, we don’t know, because the truth is, under President Obama we’ve lost control of things that we used to have control over.”
Oct. 3: Stone writes on Twitter: “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp”
Oct. 4: Julian Assange makes a 3 a.m. EST announcement via video saying WikiLeaks will publish new information on the presidential election “every week for the next 10 weeks.”
Oct. 7: WikiLeaks dumped a trove of emails hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s personal email account. The release came just hours after a tape emerged in which Trump bragged about groping women by the genitals. The emails were widely covered in the American media, and the Republican National Committee touted them as evidence of “who Hillary Clinton really is.”
The Obama administration accuses Russia of deploying hackers to interfere in the presidential election. A statement from Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, says hacked documents posted on DC Leaks, Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks appear linked to Russian intelligence and accuses “Russia’s senior-most officials” of directing the hacks.
Oct. 9: Trump cites WikiLeaks in the second presidential debate to accuse the DNC of rigging the Democratic primary against Sen. Bernie Sanders. Clinton is also asked at the debate about purported excerpts from a paid speech she gave released by WikiLeaks.
Clinton responds, in part: “But, you know, let’s talk about what’s really going on here, Martha, because our intelligence community just came out and said in the last few days that the Kremlin, meaning Putin and the Russian government, are directing the attacks, the hacking on American accounts to influence our election. And WikiLeaks is part of that, as are other sites where the Russians hack information, we don’t even know if it’s accurate information, and then they put it out. We have never in the history of our country been in a situation where an adversary, a foreign power, is working so hard to influence the outcome of the election. And believe me, they’re not doing it to get me elected. They’re doing it to try to influence the election for Donald Trump.”
“She doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking,” Trump responds. “Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know nothing about Russia. I know — I know about Russia, but I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia. I don’t deal there. I have no businesses there. I have no loans from Russia.”
Oct. 10: “I love WikiLeaks,” Trump says at a Pennsylvania rally. He specifically cites some of the hacked emails to attack Clinton.
Oct. 11: Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta warns there may be a tie between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks.
“I think it’s a reasonable assumption to — or at least a reasonable conclusion — that Mr. Stone had advance warning and the Trump campaign had advance warning about what Assange was going to do,” Podesta tells reporters, referencing Trump friend and ally Roger Stone.
Oct. 12: Stone tells a Florida TV station that he has “back-channel communication” with Assange.
“I do have a back-channel communication with Assange, because we have a good mutual friend,” Stone says. “That friend travels back and forth from the United States to London and we talk. I had dinner with him last Monday.”
He denies ever having spoken to Assange himself, or having met with him.
Oct. 19: At the third and final presidential debate, Clinton comments that Putin backed Trump because he “would rather have a puppet as president of the United States.”
“No puppet, no puppet, you’re the puppet,” Trump responds.
“It’s pretty clear you won’t admit that the Russians have engaged in cyberattacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do, and that you continue to get help from him because he has a very clear favorite in this race,” Clinton replies.
Oct. 31: The New York Times publishes a story with the headline, “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link To Russia.”
Nov. 8: Trump is elected President of the United States.
Nov. 9: The Russian parliament bursts into applause at news of Trump’s victory.
Nov. 10: A senior Russian diplomat, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov, tells Interfax news agency that there “were contacts” between the Russian government and the Trump campaign during the election campaign. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later tells the Associated Press that the contacts were “quite natural, quite normal” and took place with both campaigns.
The Trump campaign issues a firm denial.
“It never happened,” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks tells AP. “There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”
Nov. 18: Trump names Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.
Nov. 28: In an interview with Time magazine, Trump continues to express doubt that Russia attempted to interfere in the election. He says: “I don’t believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say, ‘Oh, Russia interfered.’ Why not get along with Russia? And they can help us fight ISIS, which is both costly in lives and costly in money. And they’re effective and smart. It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey. I believe that it could have been Russia and it could have been any one of many other people. Sources or even individuals.”
December: Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner met with Kislyak at Trump Tower. The White House declined to provide POLITICO with the exact date of the meeting.
Dec. 4: Putin praises Trump again in a TV interview: “Trump was an entrepreneur and a businessman. … Because he achieved success in business, it suggests that he is a clever man.”
Dec. 7: The Time magazine interview is published.
Dec. 8: Former Trump adviser Carter Page appears in Moscow, The New York Times reports. Page tells a Russian state-run news agency that he is there to meet with “business leaders and thought leaders.”
Dec. 15: Putin sends Trump a letter stressing that the U.S. and Russia play an important role “in ensuring stability and security of the modern world,” and expresses his hope that Trump will “restore the framework of bilateral cooperation in different areas as well as bring our level of collaboration on the international scene to a qualitatively new level.”
Dec. 23: Trump releases the Dec. 15 letter from Putin and says in a statement that the letter was “very nice” and that Putin’s thoughts are “so correct.” Trump adds: “I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path.”
Dec. 26: Oleg Erovinkin, a former KGB official who was suspected assisting a former British spy in compiling a dossier alleging Trump ties to Russia, is found dead in the back seat of his car in Moscow.
Dec. 29: Obama orders the ejection of 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the country and imposes sanctions on two Russian intelligence services as retaliation for the election-interference campaign.
Flynn has a series of phone calls with Kislyak. He would later acknowledge that it was possible they discussed the newly imposed sanctions, but he “couldn’t be certain.” According to The New York Times, the phone calls came after Kislyak was brought to the State Department and informed of the sanctions, and became “irate and threatened a forceful Russian response.”
Dec. 30: Putin announces he will not retaliate against the U.S. expulsions. His foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, had recommended Russia respond with similar expulsions.
Trump writes on Twitter: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”
Dec. 31: Trump tells reporters at Mar-a-Lago that “hacking is a very hard thing to prove.”
“So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation,” Trump adds.
Jan. 3: Trump writes on Twitter: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”
Jan. 4: Trump writes on Twitter: “Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’ – why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!”
Jan. 6: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases an unclassified report expressing the conclusion of the CIA, FBI and NSA about Russian election interference: “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments. We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”
The report concludes that DC Leaks, Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks all obtained the hacked documents via Russian government-backed hackers.
That same day, Clapper, FBI director James Comey and CIA director John Brennan brief Trump at Trump Tower on the intelligence community’s findings.
Trump tells The New York Times the Russia controversy is a “political witch hunt.”
Trump releases a statement saying the hacks had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election” and says that “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying” to hack the government and other institutions.
He writes on Twitter later that night: “Gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee allowed hacking to take place.The Republican National Committee had strong defense!”
Jan. 7: Trump writes on Twitter: “Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think that it is bad! We….. have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and…. both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!”
Jan. 10: Sessions states under oath at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
CNN reports that both Trump and Obama had been briefed on claims that Russia possessed compromising personal and financial information about Trump based on “memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work U.S. intelligence officials consider credible.”
Soon after, BuzzFeed publishes a dossier that was compiled by former British intelligence professional Christopher Steele with unverified allegations that Trump associates had colluded with Russian operatives and that the Russian government had compromising information about Trump. The implication was that Trump and Obama had been briefed about the information in the dossier.
Trump writes on Twitter: “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”
Jan. 11: Trump writes on Twitter: “Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is ‘A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.’ Very unfair! … Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING! … I win an election easily, a great “movement” is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS. A sorry state! … Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
At a news conference at Trump Tower, Trump calls the reports “fake news” but also says for the first time that he believes the election-related hacks were conducted by Russia. But he is quick to add: “And I have to say this also, the Democratic National Committee was totally open to be hacked. They did a very poor job.”
Trump also says during the news conference: “If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia. Russia can help us fight ISIS, which, by the way, is, No. 1, tricky. I mean if you look, this administration created ISIS by leaving at the wrong time. The void was created, ISIS was formed. If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That’s called an asset, not a liability. Now, I don’t know that I’m gonna get along with Vladimir Putin. I hope I do.”
Also at the news conference, incoming press secretary Sean Spicer calls the BuzzFeed report “highly salacious and flat-out false” and called BuzzFeed’s and CNN’s reporting “a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks.” Incoming Vice President Mike Pence labels the reports “fake news,” and accused certain media outlets of an “attempt to demean the president-elect and our incoming administration.”
Jan. 13: Spicer tells reporters that Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak involved only the logistics of setting up an eventual call between Trump and Putin.
Trump says in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he is open to lifting sanctions against Russia if the country proves helpful on other fronts: “If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?”
Jan. 15: Pence tells CBS News that, according to his conversation with Flynn, Flynn and Kislyak “did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”
Jan. 17: Putin dismisses the dossier as “false.”
Jan. 22: The Wall Street Journal reports: “U.S. counterintelligence agents have investigated communications that President Donald Trump’s national security adviser had with Russian officials, according to people familiar with the matter.”
Jan. 23: Spicer reiterates that Flynn’s call with Kislyak did not touch on sanctions.
Jan. 26: Acting attorney general Sally Yates briefs White House Counsel Don McGahn on Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak.
Feb. 2: Nikki Haley, Trump’s U.N. ambassador, condemns Russia’s occupation of Crimea at the U.N. Security Council and pledges that the U.S. “Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine.” Haley also stated the U.S. wants better relations with Russia.
Feb. 4: Trump defends Putin in an interview with Fox News, saying, “I do respect him,” and, when pressed on allegations that Putin has been behind certain atrocitites, Trump responds: “What, you think our country’s so innocent?”
Feb. 8: The Senate confirms Sessions as attorney general in a 52-47 vote.
Feb. 9: The Washington Post reports that Flynn did, in fact, discuss U.S. sanctions in his phone calls with Kislyak, contrary to Flynn’s and the administration’s previous statements.
Feb. 13: Flynn resigns.
Feb. 14: The New York Times reports that “members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.”
Feb. 15: CNN reports: “High-level advisers close to then-presidential nominee Donald Trump were in constant communication during the campaign with Russians known to US intelligence, multiple current and former intelligence, law enforcement and administration officials tell CNN. President-elect Trump and then-President Barack Obama were both briefed on details of the extensive communications between suspected Russian operatives and people associated with the Trump campaign and the Trump business, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.”
Feb. 16: Trump again calls the Russia controversy “fake news” and said that the Times story from Feb. 14 was “a joke.”
Trump also states: “I have nothing to do with Russia. I told you, I have no deals there, I have no anything. Now, when WikiLeaks, which I had nothing to do with, comes out and happens to give, they’re not giving classified information.”
He also says: “I’m here today is to tell you the whole Russian thing, that’s a ruse. That’s a ruse. And by the way, it would be great if we could get along with Russia, just so you understand that. … I didn’t do anything for Russia. … If we could get along with Russia, that’s a positive thing. … I would love to be able to get along with Russia. … If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”
Asked if anyone who advised his campaign had contacts with Russia during the election, Trump responds: “No. Nobody that I know of.”
Feb. 20: The Russian ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, passes away in New York.
Feb. 21: Trump releases a statement praising Churkin and expressing “the condolences of the American people to the Russian people and government.”
Feb. 28: The Washington Post reports that the FBI was prepared to pay the former British intelligence operative, Christopher Steele, to continue his work, indicating the Bureau found him credible.
March 1: The Washington Post reports that Sessions did speak with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, appearing to contradict his past statements.
March 2: As congressional Democrats call for Sessions to resign and even some Republicans say he should recuse himself from an investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Trump announces he has “total confidence” in the attorney general.
Sessions announces he will recuse himself from any investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
March 3: CNN reports on additional meetings that took place between Trump associates and Kislyak.
Trump posts an old picture of Sen. Chuck Schumer eating doughnuts with Vladimir Putin on Twitter and writes: “We should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!”
Trump later tweets an article about Nancy Pelosi having met with Kislyak, who she said she hadn’t met, and writes: “I hereby demand a second investigation, after Schumer, of Pelosi for her close ties to Russia, and lying about it.”
Kislyak cancels plans to attend the March 4 Gridiron Dinner.
March 4: Trump accuses Obama of having ordered a tapping of the phones at Trump Tower during the campaign, writing in a series of tweets: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism! … Just out: The same Russian Ambassador that met Jeff Sessions visited the Obama White House 22 times, and 4 times last year alone. … Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW! … I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election! … How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
Obama denied the allegations through a spokesman. Comey asks the Justice Department to reject the claim, but no rejection is issued. The claims appeared to be based on a talk radio segment and a Breitbart article about the talk radio segment. The White House declines to offer any evidence to back up the claims, and the next day calls on Congress to investigate and says it will not comment further.
Trump ally Roger Stone writes on Twitter that he “never denied perfectly legal backchannel to Assange who indeed had the goods on #CrookedHillary.”
He later deletes the tweet.
March 6: In a press gaggle, Spicer declines to say what the source was for Trump’s wire-tapping allegation and presents no evidence to back it up.
March 8: When asked if Trump is the target of a counter-intelligence investigation, Spicer responds: “I think that’s what we need to find out.” He later says: “There is no reason to believe that he is the target of any investigation.”
March 9: When asked if Trump agrees with Sen. Ben Sasse’s declaration that Assange belongs in jail, Spicer demurs and suggests reporters speak with the Department of Justice.
CNN reports that the FBI’s counter-intelligence team continues to investigate “computer server connection between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank.”
March 10: Senior administration officials discussing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s upcoming visit decline to comment on allegations that the Russians are interfering in European elections.
Cory Bennett, Kenneth P. Vogel, Isaac Arnsdorf, Michael Crowley, Edward-Isaac Dovere, Annie Karni and Shane Goldmacher contributed to this report.