A “Russia-gate” Timeline.
This is a bit of a read, but a careful reading of it is very disturbing.
2007–2012 (at least): Future Trump Campaign head Paul Manafort engages in lobbying efforts on behalf of pro-Russia parties and interests in Ukraine. These organizations later destabilized the country and are believed to be closely tied to Russian intelligence operations. These activities legally obligated to Manafort to register as a foreign agent, but he did not do so.
July 2012: Obama appoints Michael Flynn as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
August 25, 2013: In a letter to a book reviewer Carter Page touts his expertise by describing himself as, for the last half year, an “informal advisor” to the Kremlin on energy matters. He will later deny having been any kind of advisor to Russia.
November 2013: Trump visits Moscow as part of his Miss Universe Pageant conducted there. Discussions on a Trump Tower Moscow project start.
January 2014: Alferova Yulya, an advisor to Russia’s Minister of Economic Development, tweets the following.
April 2014: Flynn announces retirement as Director of the DIA about a year earlier than expected. Reports indicate he was forced out due to an abusive management style.
Mid-2014: FBI begins investigation of Paul Manafort for potential criminal activity related to representation of Russian interests in Ukraine.
August 2014: Flynn retires from the military. He and his son establish the Flynn Intel Group, a consulting firm providing intelligence services for business and governments.
June 16, 2015: Trump formally declares his candidacy for President at a rally at Trump Tower in New York City.
August 2015: Michael Cohen, AMI (the parent company for The National Enquirer) President David Pecker, and Donald Trump meet to plan how to kill stories of women reporting sexual misconduct on Trump. Trump asked “What can you do to help my campaign?” as the meeting started. Pecker then offered that the National Enquirer would likely hear from women seeking to sell such stories and that when they were approached he would contact Cohen so they could arrange a way to silence the women until after the election.
September 2015: In a radio interview Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, suggests Trump meet with the President of Russia in New York City during his visit for the United Nations General Assembly. Cohen subsequently claims his public comments had been spontaneous and had not been discussed within the campaign. After flipping to cooperate with Mueller Cohen admits he conferred Trump about contacting the Russian government before reaching out to gauge Russia’s interest in such a meeting. Thus, Trump was directing subordinates to contact Russians on behalf of his campaign as early as Fall 2015. That particular meeting never took place.
September/October 2015: Felix Sater, (a Russian immigrant previously convicted for a stock fraud scheme on behalf of the Russian Mafia), and Michael Cohen, begin work to license a deal to build a Trump Tower Moscow.
October 12, 2015: Felix Sater emails Cohen that the Russian VTB Bank would finance a Trump Tower Moscow deal. VTB Bank is sanctioned by the United States.
October 28, 2015: Trump personally signs a letter of intent for the Trump Tower Moscow project. The third Republican debate takes place later that day.
November 3, 2015: Felix Sater sends Michael Cohen an email that includes the following:
Sater goes on to say, “My next steps are very sensitive with Putin’s very, very close people. We can pull this off.”
November 2015: A representative of the Russian government reaches out to Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen offering to provide the Russian government’s help to the campaign while benefiting Trump financially. The Russian suggested the arrangement could provide “political synergy” that “could have a phenomenal impact not only in political but in a business dimension as well.” Cohen declines because he already has connections to the Russian government through his work attempting to close a deal on Trump Tower Moscow. However, this constitutes clear communication by the Russian government to the Trump Campaign that they would like to help Trump’s Campaign.
July 2015: Future convicted Russian spy Maria Butina asks Trump whether if elected President he will continue the Obama’s sanctions against Russia. Trump’s answer includes “I know Putin and I’ll tell you what, we get along with Putin . . . I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin . . . I don’t think we’d need the sanctions.” It’s a surreal video with Trump claiming Obama gets along with no one whereas he can get along with everyone.
December 2015: Flynn is paid $45,000 to speak at a gala dinner for Russia Today, an often virulently anti-American propaganda arm of the Russian government. Flynn is a guest of honor sitting at the same table as the Chief RT Editor and Putin. Afterwards, Flynn continues to make semi-regular appearances on RT as a guest commentator often favoring closer American cooperation with Russia. In 2015 Flynn also received over $11,000 in payment from a Russian cybersecurity company in 2015 that U.S. intelligence experts believed was involved Russian espionage.
January 15, 2016: Michael Cohen emails Dmitry Peskov, a top aide and spokesman for Putin, requesting assistance “to secure land and permits” for the Trump Tower Moscow project.
January 20, 2016: Peskov’s office responds to Cohen by phone. Cohen outlines the Moscow project and asks for assistance to move it forward. Cohen later testifies to Congress that he never heard back from Peskov. Cohen’s lie was to support false claims by Trump, and the campaign, that he abandoned the Trump Tower project by early January 2016, before the Iowa caucuses.
January 21, 2016. Felix Sater tells Cohen the President of Russia called about the Trump Tower deal.
February 1, 2016: Trump places second in the Iowa caucus.
February 2016: Michael Flynn officially becomes an adviser to the Trump Campaign.
Early March 2016: George Papadopoulos is appointed as a Foreign Policy Advisor to the Trump Campaign. He is quickly contacted (on March 14th) by a Joseph Mifsud who has high connections to the government. Mifsud introduces Papadopoulos to a Russian woman, named Olga Polonskaya, who is falsely identified as Putin’s niece. She promises to provide the Trump Campaign with thousands of Hillary Clinton emails damaging to her campaign. Papadopoulos spends much of the Summer attempting to arrange meetings between the Trump Campaign and these Russians for this purpose.
March 2016: Paul Manafort joins Trump campaign to coordinate delegates for the upcoming Republican National Convention. Per a later report in The Guardian Paul Manafort secretly met with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London around the time he joined the Trump Campaign. The alleged March 2016 meeting was just a few months before Wikileaks first releases Clinton emails stolen by the Russian GRU (see July 22, 2016 entry below).
Spring 2016: Trump discusses with Michael Cohen possible travel to Russia in the summer of 2016 to close the Trump Tower Moscow deal. Cohen takes steps to clear dates for such travel.
March 24, 2016: Trump Foreign Policy Advisor George Papadopoulos meets with Joseph Mifsud and Russian agent Olga Polonskaya. Papadopoulos emails the Trump Campaign Supervisor stating the meeting was to “to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.” While not making a commitment to meet, the Campaign Supervisor responded “great work.”
March 31, 2016: Papadopoulos attends a National Security Meeting led by Donald Trump. At the meeting Papadopoulos informs the group he has made connections to facilitate a meeting with Putin. Trump tweets a picture of the meeting that includes Papadopoulos (second chair to the left of Jeff Sessions).
April 2016: Trump Former Policy Advisor George Papadopoulos has a series of emails with Mifsud and Polonskaya. Papadopoulos requests Mifsud set up “a potential foreign policy trip to Russia.” The Mifsud responds “This is already been agreed. I am flying to Moscow on the 18th for a Valdai meeting, plus other meetings at the Duma,” the Russian legislature. Polonskaya responds, “I have already alerted my personal links to our conversation and your request. … As mentioned we are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump. The Russian Federation would love to welcome him once his candidature would be officially announced.”
April 26, 2016: Trump Former Policy Advisor George Papadopoulos meets Mifsud for breakfast at a London hotel. During this meeting, the Mifsud tells Papadopolous that he had just returned from a trip to Moscow where he had met with high level Russian government officials. Mifsud tells Papadopoulos that on that trip he learned the Russians obtained “dirt” on then-candidate Clinton. Mifsud tells Papadopoulos “They [the Russians] have dirt on her”; “the Russians had emails of Clinton”; “they have thousands of emails.”
May 3, 2016: Trump becomes the presumptive Republican nominee after his remaining challengers withdraw from the contest.
May 4–6, 2016: Michael Cohen and Felix Sater discuss a possible trip to Russia, with Trump, to close the Trump Tower Moscow project. They debate whether it would be better for Trump to visit before or after the Republican National Convention in July. On May 5, Sater relays a message that a Russian official would like to invite Cohen to the “Davos of Russia” in June where he would be introduced to Putin and/or Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Cohen agrees to the trip and continues to update Trump on the plans through June.
May 2016: George Papadopoulos meets with an Australian ambassador in a bar and over drinks tells him the Russians have thousands of hacked emails of Hilary Clinton damaging to her campaign. The Aussie diplomat later passes the story to American officials. This is what provided the initial basis to investigate potential Trump Campaign collusion with the Russians, not the Steele Dossier.
Late May 2016: Trump clinches enough delegates to secure the Republican nomination.
May 21, 2016: Papadopoulos emails Paul Manafort, informing him “Russia has been eager to meet Mr. Trump for quite sometime and have been reaching out to me to discuss.” Manafort forwards the email to future co-indictee Rick Gates (see October 30, 2017 entry). “We need someone to communicate that [Donald Trump] is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”
May through Mid-August 2016: George Papadopoulos pursues what his Statement of Charges he will later plead guilty to describes as an “off the record” meeting between one or more Campaign representatives and “members of President Putin’s office.”
June 3, 2016: Rob Goldstone emails Donald Trump Jr., to set up a meeting with Russians who want to help the Trump Campaign by providing dirt on Hillary Clinton. The email reads:
Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.
The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.
This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin.
What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?
I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.
Trump Junior responds the same day as follows:
Thanks Rob I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer. Could we do a call first thing next week when I am back?
June 6, 2016: Rob Goldstone again emails Trump Junior to coordinate the meeting with Russians that will be held three days later. The email reads:
To: Donald Trump Jr.
Subject: Re: Russia — Clinton — private and confidential
Let me know when you are free to talk with Emin by phone about this
Hillary info — you had mentioned early this week so wanted to try
to schedule a time and day Best to you and family Rob Goldstone
Trump Junior responds by arranging a phone call with Goldstone and Emin Agalarov. Less than an hour after that call Trump Junior calls a phone with a blocked phone number. It is known that his father has a blocked phone number. Subsequent emails over the next few days confirm time and attendees for the meeting.
June 7, 2016: At a campaign rally Trump promises to give a major speech the following week outlining how the Russians gave money to Clinton to get preferential treatment. The speech never happens. Many view it as evidence Trump had advance knowledge of the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting discussed below. As discussed below, Trump Junior asked the Russians specifically for that kind of information.
June 9, 2016: Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, and Trump’s son-in law Jared Kushner, secretly meet with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower. The person who helped set up the meeting, Rob Goldstone, told Trump Jr., in an email that the Russian government wanted to provide him damaging information on Hillary Clinton to help his father’s campaign. Kushner originally failed to include the meeting in his security clearance disclosure form but later amended it to include the existence of the meeting. It is later revealed Trump Jr., specifically requested from the Russians financial documents showing money went into Clinton Campaign coffers that dodged tax laws. Trump Jr., suggested the possibility of more favorable treatment for Russia under a Trump administration in the exchange. The existence of the meeting would remain secret for over a year (see entries below beginning July 8, 2017 for the dishonest responses of the Trump Administration news of the meeting initially broke).
Shortly after the meeting Trump Junior makes another call to a blocked phone number. It is known that his father has a blocked phone number.
June 9, 2016: Later in the day after his son met with the Russian lawyer Donald Trump tweets to Hillary Clinton: “Where are your 33,000 emails that you deleted?”
June 14, 2016: Rod Goldstone emails a client (who was in the June 9 meeting) a CNN article about Russian hacking of Democratic National Committee emails describing it as “eerily weird” considering what was discussed in the June 9 meeting with Trump Jr. (see above). Yet Trump Jr., denies there was any discussion at the meeting regarding hacked emails. The Washington Post first reports that Russians hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails. Michael Cohen finally stops working with the Russians get a Trump Tower project built in Moscow. Cohen and Trump later falsely claim the deal was killed six months earlier in January (see November 29, 2018 entry below)
June 19, 2016: after several email and Skype exchanges with the Russian Connection, George Papadopoulos emails Campaign Chairman Corey Lewandowski), with the subject line “New message from Russia” The emails state: “The Russian ministry of foreign affairs messaged and said that if Mr. Trump is unable to make it to Russia, if a campaign rep (me or someone else) can make it for meetings? I am willing to make the trip off the record if it’s in the interest of Mr. Trump and the campaign to meet specific people.”
June 20, 2016: Corey Lewandowski is fired as Trump Campaign Manager and replaced by Paul Manafort, who is later convicted for being a major international finance criminal (see multiple entries below).
July 2016: It is reported that Michael Flynn is one of those being considered as Trump’s Vice-Presidential candidate. Flynn later confirms he submitted vetting documents to the campaign for the potential appointment.
July 2016: In a visit approved by the Trump Campaign, Carter Page travels to Russia to give a Putin friendly speech criticizing United States policies towards Russia. Endorsing Russia’s own propaganda points, Page condemned the United States for its “often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption, and regime change.” The controversial Steele Dossier claims Page met with Russians who offered compromising material on Clinton for the Trump Campaign.
July 7, 2016: Paul Manafort emails Oleg Deripaska, a Russian aluminum industry billionaire with whom Manafort had previously done business, offering to provide private briefings on the Trump Campaign. Manafort’s email said, “If he needs private briefings we can accommodate.”
July 11 and 12 2016: In an effort pushed by Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign compels removal from Republican Party Platform of a provision calling for arming Ukraine against Russian aggression.
July 18, 2016: Flynn is a keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention, delivering a fiery speech and leading a chant to “lock her up” in regards to Hillary Clinton.
July 19, 2016: Donald Trump is formally made the Republican nominee for President.
July 19, 2016: Trump promotes Paul Manafort to Head Campaign Manager.
July 22, 2016: Wikileaks releases 20,000 Clinton emails that are devastating to her campaign. Wikileaks received these emails from Guccifer 2.0, an arm of the Russian GRU. The leaks, just three days before the Democratic National Convention, are weaponized to disrupt the party. They include evidence the DNC favored Clinton over Bernie Sanders, creating a split in the party just as it was attempting to unite. DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is quickly compelled to resign and ramifications blister the party and Clinton Campaign throughout the election.
Per the subsequent indictment of Roger Stone (see January 25, 2019 entry below) after this release:
“a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information Wikileaks had regarding the Clinton Campaign. Stone thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging materials from Wikileaks.”
July 24, 2016: Donald Trump Jr. appears on CNN’s “State of the Union” and strongly attacks the “moral compass” of anyone suggesting the Russians sought to help the Trump campaign, calling such assertions “lie after lie.” He apparently did not remember his meeting just the month before set up for exactly that purpose. Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort appears on ABC’s This Week where George Stephanopoulos asked him “Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you or your campaign and Putin and his regime?” Manafort responded, “No, there are not. That’s absurd. And you know, there’s no basis to it.”
July 25, 2016: Roger Stone emails Jerome Corsi with the subject line, “Get to Julian Assange.” The body of the message reads, “Get to Julian Assange at Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending Wikileaks emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” Corsi forwards Stone’s email to a friend in London, Ted Malloch. Trump tweets denying any investments in Russia.
This tweet is what finally tells Felix Sater the Trump Tower Moscow deal is off.
July 27, 2016: At a rally Trump declares “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” According to an indictment released July 13, 2018 (see entry for that date below), the Russian GRU increased their efforts to do exactly as Trump suggested later the very same day. The relevant part of the indictment reads:
on or about July 27, 2016, the [Russian GRU] Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton's personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton Campaign."
Late July 2016: According to testimony from FBI Director James Comey, the FBI begins an investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The investigation is prompted by reports from Australian diplomats about George Papadopolous bragging in the bar about getting dirt on Clinton from Russians. The FBI is not even aware of the Steele Dossier yet.
July 29 2016: Russian operative Konstantin Kilimnik emails Paul Manafort a cryptic message saying he just met a man who gave Manafort “the biggest black caviar jar several years ago.” Investigators believe “black caviar jar” is a reference to money. Kilimnik said he and caviar man talked for five hours and that Kilimnik had important messages to relay to Manafort. Kilimnik asked Manafort when they could meet. Manafort replied, “Tuesday would be best.” The Tuesday would be August 2d, see the entry for that below.
July 31, 2016: Roger Stone emails Jerome Corsi with the subject line, “Call me MON.” The body of the email reads in part that Ted Malloch “should see Julian Assange.”
Also July 31, 2016: In an ABC interview Candidate Trump speaks the Russian party line in regards to that nation’s invasion of Crimea stating, “You know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.”
August 2, 2016: Corsi responds to Roger Stone by email. Corsi states: “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.… Time to let more than [ Clinton Campaign chairman (John Podesta)] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke — neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.”
Also August 2, 2016: Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and Rick Gates secretly meet with Russian operative Konstantin Kilimnik (who will later be indicted with Manafort for a variety of international business crimes) in a private cigar room a few blocks from Trump Tower (666 5th Avenue, a building owned by Jared Kushner). Mueller prosecutors would later say the meeting goes to the “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating” and that “what happened at that meeting — is of significance to the special counsel.” At the meeting Manafort handed over to Kilimnik Trump Campaign polling data and discussed possible resolutions for the Ukraine crisis. Mueller prosecutors would later allege that Manafort breached his cooperation agreement with them by lying about what occurred at this meeting. The meeting was so secret the three participants left via separate doors.
August 4, 2016: Roger Stone emails Sam Nunberg stating he had dinner with Wikileaks head Julian Assange the night before. American intelligence has since concluded that Wikileaks was a tool for Russian intelligence to leak its hacked Clinton emails. Two weeks later Stone denies the dinner ever really happened, claiming it was said in “jest.”
August 5, 2016: Stone publishes an article in Breitbart fully endorsing the GRU/Guccifer cover story that Guccifer is just a lone hacker. In an article entitled “STOP BLAMING RUSSIA,” Stone writes: “It doesn’t seem to be the Russians that hacked the DNC, but instead a hacker who goes by the name of Guccifer 2.0 . . . Guccifer 2.0 is the real deal.” In fact, Guccifer 2.0 is the Russian GRU (see July 13, 2018 entry below). In addition, Stone tweets “Hillary lies about Russian Involvement in DNC hack -Julian Assange is a hero.”
August 8, 2016: Roger Stone tells a group of Republicans in Florida “I actually have 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.”
August 12, 2016: The Russian GRU, in the persona of Guccifer 2.0, tweets to Roger Stone: “thanks that u believe in the real #Guccifer2.″
August 13, 2016: Stone tweets to Wikileaks and Guccifer that it is “Outrageous” that Twitter has suspended Guccifer’s account. Later in the day Stone tweets that Guccifer is a “HERO.” Guccifer is the Russian GRU (see July 13, 2018 entry below).
August 15, 2016: The NY Times reports potentially illegal off-book secret payments to Manafort from pro-Russia groups in Ukraine. In addition, the Campaign Supervisor (later identified as Sam Clovis) tells Papadopoulos that “I would encourage you” and another foreign policy advisor to the Campaign to “make the trip, if it is feasible.” That would be the secret trip described by Papadopoulos in June. Notwithstanding this approval, the trip is never taken.
Also August 15, 2016: Roger Stone exchanges Twitter Direct Messages with the Russian GRU proxy Guccifer. Guccifer started the DMs:
“thank for writing back . . . do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted?? On August 17thGuccifer added, please tell me if i can help anyhow . . . it would be a great pleasure to me.” On or about September 9, 2016, Guccifer 2.0, referred to a stolen document posted online and asked the person [Stone], what do think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign? The person [Stone] responded, [p]retty standard.”
August 17, 2016: Candidate Donald Trump receives his first classified briefing. While the contents of the meeting are not known it is reasonable to believe he may have received some notice regarding Russian hacking, Guccifer 2.0, DCLeaks, and Wikileaks, considering that was the subject of public release in early October (see October 7, 2016 entry below). Guccifer DMs Roger Stone on Twitter: “I’m pleased to say that u r great man and I think I gonna read ur books please tell me if I can help u anyhow it would be a great pleasure to me.”
August 18, 2016: Roger Stone denies he ever had dinner with Julian Assange claiming his email to Sam Nunberg bragging about it was “in jest.” Stone denies he has ever met or spoken to Assange.
August 19, 2016: Trump abruptly fires Manafort who had become his campaign manager only the month before. He hires Steve Bannon, the head of the racist alt-right Breitbart.com, to replace him to replace him. After Trump’s election Bannon would be retained in the Trump Administration as Chief Strategist.
August 21, 2016: Roger Stone tweets “Trust me, it will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary”
August 2016: Trump campaign drops Carter Page as a foreign policy advisor. A later FBI investigation of him includes issuance of FISA warrant which requires that a Federal judge conclude there is probable cause Page acted on behalf of another nation against the security interests of the United States.
August 27, 2016: Randy Credico, a radio talk show host, friend of Roger Stone, and sometimes intermediary between him and Wikileaks texts Stone stating that he is hosting Julian Assange on his show who “has kryptonite on Hillary.”
August 29, 2016: In a radio interview Roger Stone predicts that we will “see from WikiLeaks and other leakers the nexus between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation.” He claims Assange has a “smoking gun” that will lead to “handcuff time” for Clinton.
September 2016: Flynn’s consulting company is hired by a company owned by the Chair of the Turkish-American Business Council, which is an arm of the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey, to do lobbying work. Flynn’s company is paid over $500,000. This makes Flynn a foreign agent but he does not register as one as required by law.
September 8, 2016: Future Attorney General Jeff Sessions meets with Russian Ambassador (and suspected spy) Kislyak. He later claims to have not had any meetings with Russians.
September 9, 2016: In a radio interview Roger Stone says he expects “Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks people to drop a payload of new documents on Hillary on a weekly basis fairly soon. And that, of course, will answer the question of exactly what was erased on that email server.”
September 13, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 releases a cache of DNC documents.
September 14, 2016: An email is sent to Trump, his son and others in the campaign purporting to provide a link to a website and decryption key to access Russian hacked Clinton emails.
September 18, 2016: Stone emails Randy Credico, “please ask Julian Assange for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30 — partiuclarly on August 20, 2011.” The request is likely for materials related to the Uranium One deal.
September 20, 2016: As later reported by The Atlantic, WikiLeaks contacts Donald Trump Jr., by Twitter Direct Message warning of an anti-Trump PAC and offering information on who it is behind it.
September 21, 2016: Trump Jr., responds to the WikiLeaks contact thanking them and saying he will ask around about it. This starts 10 months of back and forth between WikiLeaks and Trump Jr.
October 1, 2016: Randy Credico texts Stone saying “big news Wednesday . . . now pretend u don’t know me . . . Hillary’s campaign will die this week.”
October 2, 2016: Trump Campaign Advisor Roger Stone tweets “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #WikiLeaks.” The message is widely seen as reflecting Stone’s advance knowledge of the October 7 release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks. Stone texts Credico concerned at rumors the planned Wikileaks release is being delayed. Credico responds that he thinks it is still on but that the Clinton Campaign is trying to stop it.
October 3, 2016: WikiLeaks again contacts Trump Jr., asking him to push a story about Clinton saying she wished WikiLeaks could get drone struck. Trump Jr. responds saying “Already did that earlier today. It’s amazing what she can get away with.” Trump Jr., further asks “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?” Roger Stone tweets “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp.”
Also October 3, 2016: Roger Stone writes “a supporter involved in the Trump Campaign” stating that he talked to Assange last night and “the payload is still coming.” Stone receives and email from a reporter with “connections to a high-ranking Trump Campaign official” asking asking what Julian Assange has and stating “hope it’s good.” Stone assures him it is.
October 4, 2016: Julian Assange has a press conference but does not release any new Clinton Campaign materials as expected. A high-ranking Trump Campaign official asks about the status of future releases from Wikileaks. Stone answers that Assange has “serious security concerns” but that Wikileaks will release “a load every week going forward.”
October 5, 2016: Roger Stone tweets that a “payload” is coming from WikiLeaks.
October 7, 2016: The director of national intelligence and the head of the Homeland Security release a joint statement warning of Russian efforts to meddle in the election and that WikiLeaks is part of that effort, describing WikiLeaks as essentially an agent of the Russian government. DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 are also mentioned as Russian agents.
Also October 7, 2016: Within hours after the release of the “Access Hollywood Tape” (the notorious “grab them by the pussy” tape where Trump brags of getting away with sexually assaulting women), WikiLeaks distracts from that Trump damaging scandal by releasing thousands of emails hacked by the Russian GRU from John Podesta. Jerome Corsi later recounts that Roger Stone contacted him earlier in the day with advance knowledge of the Access Hollywood Tape, asking Corsi to contact Wikileaks to counter the story with another email leak. According to Corsi, Stone said, “You know this Billy (Bush) is going to be dropped and Assange better get going. Why don’t you get to your buddy Assange and tell him to start.” Corsi claims he could not do what Stone asked because he had no contacts to Assange. However, it is clear that Stone was seeking assistance to make happen exactly what did happen.
October 10, 2016: At a rally Donald Trump proclaims “I love WikiLeaks.”
October 11, 2016: Donald Trump’s son, Trump Jr., delivers a paid speech in Paris to a group supporting Russian interests.
October 12, 2016: WikiLeaks messages Donald Trump Jr., stating: “Hey Donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us,” Linking wlsearch.tk, claiming it would provide a trove of stolen documents. “There’s many great stories the press are missing and we’re sure some of your follows will find it, Btw we just released Podesta Emails Part 4.” Trump Jr., promptly tweeted to the world “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!” In an interview with NBC, Roger Stone, while denying collusion with Wikileaks, says, “I have back-channel communications with WikiLeaks.”
October 14, 2016: Trump Jr., tweets out the link WikiLeaks provided him two days earlier:
Also on October 14th Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence is directly asked if the Trump Campaign is “in cahoots” with WikiLeaks. Pence replies “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
October 2016: JD Gordon, the Trump campaign’s National Security Director until just two months before, attends a Styx concert and celebrates his birthday with soon to be convicted Russian spy Maria Butina.
November 8, 2016: Donald Trump is elected President. Clinton decisively wins the popular vote, by almost 3 million total votes and by 2.1%, but Trump decisively wins the electoral college 304 votes to 227.
November 10, 2016: In a post-election meeting President Obama warns President-elect Trump against hiring Michael Flynn.
November 11, 2016: Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks flatly and broadly denies any foreign contacts at all during the Trump campaign. She sweepingly states “It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.” This broad denial has been disproven many times over.
November 18, 2016: Ignoring Obama’s warning, Trump offers and Flynn accepts to serve as National Security Advisor in the new administration.
November 28, 2016: President elect Trump tells Time Magazine that he does not believe the Russians meddled in the election at all. He states: “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.’” He belittles U.S. intelligence conclusions regarding DNC hacking: “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
December 1, 2016: Jared Kushner meets with Russian Ambassador/spy Kislyak to ask about setting up a secure communications line between the Trump camp and the Russian Embassy in Washington. The meeting is not initially disclosed on Kushner’s Security Clearance application forms.
December 13, 2016: Jared Kushner meets with the Chairman of a Russian owned bank that is under sanction by the United States Government. The meeting is arranged by Russian Ambassador/spy Kislyak. The meeting is not initially disclosed on Kushner’s Security Clearance application forms.
December 18, 2016: Kellyanne Conway appears on “Face the Nation” and flatly denies any contacts by the Trump campaign with any Russians seeking to meddle in the campaign, going so far as to declare any such claims “undermine our democracy.” [Edited to eliminate interruptions but not substantive content].
JOHN DICKERSON: Did anyone involved in the Trump campaign have any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election?
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Absolutely not. And I discussed that with the president-elect just last night. Those conversations never happened. I hear people saying it like it’s a fact on television. That is just not only inaccurate and false, but it’s dangerous. And — and it does undermine our democracy.
December 28 2016: As rumors of sanctions swirled, Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak contacts Flynn and they discuss Russian sanctions under a Trump administration. Flynn later denies the conversation even happened. Then he denied it discussed sanctions. Both were lies, the call was recorded because Kislyak, being a Russian spy, was under United States surveillance.
December 29 2016: In response to Russian hacking of the DNC, and other meddling in the U.S. election, Obama imposes sanctions on Russia that included expelling 35 Russian diplomats. A Russian reprisal is expected. Senior Trump Transition Advisor K.T. McFarland responds quickly coordinating transition team efforts to undermine the sanctions with the Russians. She seeks to ease tensions with the Russians who (in an email) she said “has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him [Trump].” The email, forwarded to other key transition team members, urged contacting the Russians to deescalate Russian response to the sanctions to prevent a tit-for-tat exchange that would prevent President Trump from improving Russian relations. That day Flynn has at least five more calls with Sergey Kislyak aimed at muting the expected Russian retaliation.The calls were recorded because Kislyak, being a Russian spy, was under United States surveillance. These calls arguably violated the Logan Act.
December 30, 2016: Putin announces (surprisingly at the time) that there will be no Russian retaliation for the U.S. sanctions.
December 31, 2016: Trump casts doubt on the Russia hacking story accepted by U.S. intelligence stating “it could be somebody else.” Over the next week Trump continues to cast aspersions at U.S. intelligence conclusions regarding the Russia hacking at one point stating in a Tweet that it might have been done by a 14 year old.
January 6, 2017: President-elect Trump receives a classified briefing from by John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director; James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and the commander of United States Cyber Command and acting FBI Director James Comey. These intelligence officers outline in detail the overwhelming evidence of Russia meddling in the election. Notwithstanding this Trump for weeks continues to cast doubt on the possibility of Russia meddling. After the formal briefing Comey stays behind and privately briefs Trump on the Steele Dossier.
January 10, 2017: Attorney General nominee (previously Trump campaign surrogate) Jeff Sessions testifies at his confirmation hearings that “I did not have communications with the Russians.” Senator Leahy asked the following question: “Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Sessions directly answered “No.”
Also, Buzzfeed publishes the “Steele Dossier” compiled by the former British Intelligence Officer. It alleges the Trump Campaign colluded with Russians to impact the election and that Trump was otherwise compromised to the Russians for reasons that included potential sexual blackmail.
January 11, 2017: Trump is directly asked in a press conference the following question. “Can you stand here today, once and for all, and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?” Trump directly answers “no.”
Around January 11, 2017: Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater and associate of Donald Trump, secretly meets in the Seychelles islands with Russian officials close to Putin to set up a back channel for communications between the Kremlin and the Trump Transition Team. The UAE apparently arranged the meeting with Lebanese businessman George Nader. Prince later testifies to the House Intelligence Committee that this planned meeting was by chance, over a few beers, and discussed matters unrelated to the Trump Administration. This story begins to break a year later when Nader is questioned by, and cooperates with, Mueller’s team.
January 12, 2017: The Washington Post breaks the story of the late December phone calls between Flynn and Kislyak.
January 13, 2017: Trump tells the Wall Street Journal he is open to lifting the sanctions against Russia. Sean Spicer is asked about the WaPo article and says there was but one call between Flynn and Kislyak, on the 28th of December, that was merely an exchange of Christmas greetings and logistical coordination for an upcoming call with President-elect Trump.
January 15, 2017: Vice President-elect Mike Pence appears on Face the Nation to strongly deny that sanctions had ever been discussed, in what Pence claimed was the one and only one call between Flynn and Kislyak:
MIKE PENCE: I talked to General Flynn about that conversation and actually was initiated on Christmas Day he had sent a text to the Russian ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in the airplane crash that took place. It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation. They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.
JOHN DICKERSON: So did they ever have a conversation about sanctions ever on those days or any other day?
MIKE PENCE: They did not have a discussion contemporaneous with U.S. actions on —
JOHN DICKERSON: But what about after —
MIKE PENCE: — my conversation with General Flynn. Well, look. General Flynn has been in touch with diplomatic leaders, security leaders in some 30 countries. That’s exactly what the incoming national security advisor —
JOHN DICKERSON: Absolutely.
MIKE PENCE: — should do. But what I can confirm, having spoken to him about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.
JOHN DICKERSON: But that still leaves open the possibility that there might have been other conversations about the sanctions.
MIKE PENCE: I don’t believe there were more conversations.
JOHN DICKERSON: Okay. Okay. Okay. Let’s move on. Okay. Got it —
MIKE PENCE: I can confirm those elements were not a part of that discussion.
John Dickerson directly asked Pence, “Just to button up one question, did any advisor or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?” Pence replied, “Of course not. And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Chris Wallace asked Mike Pence, “So, I’m asking a direct question: was there any contact in any way between Trump or his associates and the Kremlin or cutouts they had?” Pence replied, “Of course not. Why would there be any contacts between the campaign?”
January 20, 2017: Trump is sworn in as President.
January 22, 2017: Wall Street Journal reports Flynn is under investigation by counterintelligence officials for his communication with Russian officials.
January 24, 2017: Flynn is interviewed by the FBI and lies about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador.
January 26, 2017: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates gives a “forceful warning” to the White House Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn lied about his conversations with Russians, that he did discuss the embargo with them, and that Flynn was a significant security risk because the Russians could use those lies to blackmail him. Yates told the administration this information was being provided so appropriate action could be taken. McGahn almost immediately informs President Trump that the Flynn has been caught lying to the FBI.
January 27, 2017: White House Counsel McGahn meets with Yates again claiming to be perplexed why DOJ would care about members of the executive branch lying to each other. Yates again emphasizes that Flynn is a security risk. McGahn asks to review evidence against Flynn at DOJ. Yates says she will check to see if that can be done.
January 27, 2017: Former Trump Campaign Foreign Policy Advisor George Papadopoulos is interviewed by the FBI. He lies during this interview and later pleads guilty to doing so (see October 30, 2017 entry). Papadopoulos falsely tells the FBI that he met Mifsud before joining the Trump team. The first meeting was after and was because Papadopoulos told the Mifsud he joined the Trump team. Papadopoulos falsely told the FBI the Mifsud was a nothing even though he knew Mifsud had high connections to the Russian Government. He falsely states he never met other Russian officials Mifsud introduced him to. He falsely stated he met Olga Polonskaya before starting with the Trump Campaign and falsely characterized their emails as amounting to “Just, “Hi, how are you?” “That’s it.”
January 27, 2017: The day after Sally Yates first warned White House Counsel about Flynn Trump requests and has dinner with FBI Director Comey. During the dinner Trump demands a pledge of loyalty from Comey. Comey refuses but does promise to be honest with him. Trump will later fire and publicly demonize Comey.
January 30, 2017: Sally Yates has her third conversation with White House Counsel regarding Flynn, advising McGahn that he can look at the evidence the DOJ has and inviting him to come over to look at it. He apparently never does. That night Trump fires Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, supposedly for refusing to defend his travel ban.
February 8, 2017: When questioned by the media, Flynn twice directly denies having any conversations regarding sanctions with Russian officials. Per James Comey’s contemporary notes, White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus directly asks the FBI Director whether there is a FISA warrant on Mike Flynn. While redacted, it appears Comey did tell the Chief of Staff that Flynn was under a FISA warrant.
February 9, 2017: WaPo reports intelligence sources confirm Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russians. A Flynn spokesman now says that while Flynn “had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
February 10, 2017: Trump says he is unaware of any reports that Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador. The statement is a lie. As reflected above, Trump was advised that Flynn lied about these conversations to the FBI by White House General Counsel McGahn on January 26th. White House officials declare that Flynn has Trump’s full confidence.
February 13, 2017: In an MSNBC interview, Kellyanne Conway twice emphatically declares that “General Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president.” A few hours later Trump requests Flynn’s resignation and gets it. The NY Times reports there are separate investigations into the payments to Flynn associated with the Russian Times gala speech.
February 14, 2017: Trump meets with Comey and asks Comey to drop the investigation related to Flynn saying “I hope you can let this go.” Comey writes a memo memorializing the conversation shortly after the meeting as “part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation.”
February 15, 2017: Trump describes Flynn as “a wonderful man” who was “treated very, very unfairly” by the “fake media.”
Feb. 16, 2017: George Papadopoulos is interviewed by the FBI again. His attorney attends the meeting with him and pledges his client’s cooperation.
Feb. 17, 2017: Papadopoulos deactivates his Facebook account. It had included information about his conversations with the Russians. The FBI undoubtedly viewed this as a betrayal of his promised cooperation the day before.
February 20, 2017: White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign, stating, “This is a non-story because to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place, so it’s hard to make a comment on something that never happened.”
March 1, 2017: Sessions makes a statement responding to reports he met with the Russian ambassador in his office, relevant because he indicated in his confirmation hearings (see January 10th above) that he had not spoken to Russians at all. Sessions acknowledges meeting with Russian ambassador Kislyak but says it had nothing to do with the campaign, that it was solely in his capacity as a Senator. He directly states “I have never met with any Russian to discuss issues of the campaign.” At around this time the NY Times subsequently reports that President Trump ordered his top lawyer (Donald McGahn) to direct Attorney General Sessions to not recuse himself from the Russia investigation. When McGahn was unsuccessful Trump erupted in anger because he wanted Sessions to protect him from the investigation.
March 2, 2017: Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuses himself from any decisions related to investigation of the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia to interfere in our election.
March 4, 2017: Roger Stone tweets “Never denied perfectly legal back channel to Assange who indeed had the goods on #CrookedHillary.” Less than an hour later Stone deletes the tweet.
March 7, 2017: Flynn files a request to retroactively be identified as a foreign agent. Flynn will later stipulate this application included numerous lies (see December 1, 2017 entry).
March 9, 2017: Sean Spicer denies Trump knew Flynn acted as a foreign agent before hiring him (note: Obama’s warning to Trump prior to Trump’s hiring him discussed above). VP Mike Pence says the revelations are “an affirmation of the president’s decision to ask General Flynn to resign.”
March 20, 2017: FBI Director Comey testifies before Congress that the FBI is investigating possible collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia in regards to Russian interference in the United States elections.
March 2017: Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tells the NY Times that he never met with Russians as a representative of the Trump campaign. Trump Jr. told the Times:
“Did I meet with people that were Russian? I’m sure, I’m sure I did. But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form.”
This statement was a lie. As discussed above Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer in June. The meeting was set up in advance, and Trump Jr. was told in advance the meeting was to pass on information from the Russian government damaging to Hillary Clinton because the Russian government wanted to help his father’s campaign. When further asked if he had any discussions related to American policy Trump Jr. said “A hundred percent no.” That statement was also false. Even accepting his account of the meeting as completely true, Trump Jr. now says they discussed American policy issues that complicated Russian adoptions.
March 30, 2017: WSJ reports that Flynn has offered to testify in exchange for immunity.
March 31, 2017: Trump again defends Flynn in a tweet describing the investigations as a “witch hunt” against Flynn. The tweet also supports Flynn’s request for immunity even though with regards to the Hillary Clinton investigation Trump suggested immunity was only sought by guilty people.
April 27, 2017: The Pentagon announces an investigation into whether Flynn improperly accepted money from foreign governments without the required approval.
April 28, 2017: Attorney General Sessions specifically extends his recusal to the investigation of Flynn.
May 3, 2017: FBI Director Comey again testifies before Congress that the FBI is investigating possible collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia in regards to Russian interference in the United States elections and that nothing has changed. When Senator Franken asks if Trump’s tax returns would be material to the investigation, Comey responds “that’s not something Senator that I’m going to answer.”
May 8, 2017: Yates testifies to Congress disclosing for first time that Flynn was interviewed by the FBI on January 24th. She also states she cannot comment how that interview went but at the time Flynn was lying to the Vice-President, Sean Spicer and to the American public about the matter. Just after Yates’ testimony Trump goes on a four tweet rampage. Trump’s tweets, among other things declares “the Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax.” That would be the story the FBI Director had twice told Congress was under an active FBI investigation, the second time less than a week before.
May 9, 2017: Trump fires the FBI Director, Comey, who is investigating Trump. Trump’s termination letter claims Comey told him three times that he was not under investigation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is involved in firing the man heading the Russia investigation despite recusing himself from decisions related to that investigation. CNN Reports federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of Flynn.
May 10, 2017: Whitehouse spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders states Comey was fired because the FBI had lost confidence in him claiming “countless” members had so advised the Whitehouse.
May 10, 2017: In a meeting with a group of Russians Trump states that he fired Comey because “he was crazy, a real nut job.” He also tells the Russians “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” This representation of the conversation reportedly comes from the White House’s own document summarizing the conversation.
May 11, 2017: New Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe in sworn testimony before the Senate contradicts the Whitehouse claim of widespread disenchantment with Comey within the FBI. McCabe stating, “I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard. I have the highest respect for his considerable abilities and his integrity” and asserting that Comey enjoyed “broad support within the FBI and still does to this day” so “the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep, positive connection to Director Comey.”
May 11, 2017: Trump contradicts repeated statements from his staff and Vice President Pence on the reasons and process behind firing Comey that Trump fired Comey based on recommendations from his Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General rooted in Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation. In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt Trump stated he decided to fire Comey before receiving those recommendations and cited the “Russia thing” as a reason for firing Comey.
I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.
This is the second statement from Trump suggesting he fired Comey to stop the Russia investigation, a reason that suggests obstruction of justice.
May 12, 2017: Trump tweets “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” The tweets sets off a firestorm of questions of whether such tapes exist, which Trump refuses to answer for six weeks. The tweet prompts Comey to leak contents of his meetings with Trump where Trump sought a loyalty oath and urged Comey to drop the Flynn investigation.
May 2017: Shortly after designating him Acting Director of the FBI Trump asks Andrew McCabe who he voted for. McCabe answers that he didn’t vote but later describes the conversation as “disturbing.” Trump would later heavily criticize McCabe because his Democrat wife in 2015 accepted money for her Virginia state office legislature campaign from a PAC run by a close friend of Hillary Clinton.
May 16, 2017: The NY Times reports that on the day after Flynn was fired Trump met with Comey and asks Comey to drop the investigation related to Flynn saying “I hope you can let this go.” The Times says Comey wrote a memo memorializing the conversation shortly after the meeting as “part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation” and that he shared the memo with close associates in the FBI. The Times reports it has not seen the memo but that a Comey associate read parts of it to their reporter.
May 17, 2017: The Department of Justice announces that former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been appointed as a Special Prosecutor to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” Trump is told of the appointment in a meeting that includes his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump blows up at Sessions calling him an “idiot” for recusing himself from the Russian investigation and suggests he should resign. Sessions drafted a resignation but Trump rejected it, convinced by aides it would cause more problems fresh after firing Comey. Even so, stinging criticism by Trump of his Attorney General would continue for many more months until Trump finally fires Sessions shortly after the midterm elections.
May 18, 2017: Trump describes Mueller’s appointment as Special Prosecutor, made by his own Deputy Attorney General, as the “greatest witch hunt in history.” It is a term he will repeat many times in the coming months.
June 8, 2017: Comey again testifies to Congress. He testifies that in a January 27 meeting the President excused others from the room (to include the Vice President and Head of the DOJ) and demanded a pledge of loyalty to him. Comey testifies he dodged making that pledge. Comey also testifies that in a February 14 meeting Trump asked him to drop the Flynn investigation. Comey describes being so uncomfortable with the President’s conversations, and so uncertain as to the President’s honesty, that he began keeping contemporaneous notes of their conversations. Comey acknowledges providing the contents of one of those memos to a friend to leak to the press. Comey confirms that he did tell Trump that he personally was not a target of the investigation, though members of his campaign clearly were.
June 2017: Only about a month after his appointment President Trump tries to fire Special Prosecutor Mueller. Trump ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. McGahn refused, arguing it would be disastrous to Trump’s Presidency and threatened to resign if pushed. The President backed down. As discussed below, Trump and his people would later repeatedly deny that the President even ever considered fired Mueller.
June 27, 2017: Paul Manafort finally files to retroactively be recognized as a foreign agent.
July 8, 2017: NY Times reports that Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer known for opposing the Magnitsky Act which blacklists Russian human rights abusers. Putin countered by banning adoptions of Russian children by Americans. The meeting was not previously disclosed. Trump Jr., initially responds by claiming the meeting was all about the adoption issue. This dishonest response would later become the focus of investigation itself as questions arose as to who wrote it. It would later be reported that President Trump himself dictated it (see July 31 entry below) overruling recommendations of White House counsel for a more forthcoming response. It would later be reported (see February 1, 2018 entry below) that White House Counsel urged Mark Corallo urged are more forthcoming response arguing the emails between Trump Jr, Kushner and the Russians would eventually come out. In a conference call Hope Hicks allegedly said the emails“will never get out.” This left Corallo with the belief that Hicks may be obstructing justice, so he made contemporary notes about it and resigned less than two weeks later (see July 20 entry).
July 9, 2017: Trump Jr. admits that before the meeting he was told it was to discuss negative information the Russians wanted to pass on about Hillary Clinton. He claims they did not actually have such information, but wanted to talk about adoptions instead. Trump Jr. admits to being interested in getting negative information about Clinton from the Russians, but says he didn’t actually get any.
July 10, 2017: The NY Times Reports Trump Jr. received an email from the person setting up the meeting stating the purpose of the meeting was to get material as part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, by damaging Hillary Clinton.
July 11, 2017: Trump Jr. tweets what he claims is a complete record of the emails setting up the meeting. Even though the move was clearly aimed at preempting an identical release by the NY Times, the contents are shocking. They show that before the DNC hack of Clinton emails were widely known (though it had happened) that Russians were seeking to help the Trump campaign. One email said: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
July 14, 2017: In yet another leak related to the Trump Jr., meeting with Russians it is revealed the meeting also included a “former” Russian counter-intelligence agent. For all practical purposes the meeting included a Russian spy.
July 16, 2017: President Trump’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow appears on ABC’s “This Week” and attempts to the blame Kushner’s and Trump Jr’s meeting on the Secret Service saying, “if this was nefarious, why did the Secret Service allow these people in.” The Secret Service responds basically by calling Sekulow a liar stating, “Donald Trump, Jr. was not a protectee of the USSS in June, 2016. Thus we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time."
July 19, 2017: In an interview with the NY Times Trump attacks even his own appointments who are associated with the investigation, continuing his intimidation tactics and smears at whoever crosses him regarding the Russian investigation. He first throws Attorney General Jeff Sessions under the bus saying that he should not have recused himself from the Russian investigation and that “if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.” Trump goes on to suggest that Sessions recused himself because he gave “bad answers” at his confirmation hearing (as discussed above Sessions lied about not meeting with Russians). Trump expresses anger the decision to appoint a Special Prosecutor then went to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Trump belittles Rosenstein because he’s “from Baltimore” and “there are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any.” In May Trump gushed at his wisdom in appointing Rosenstein saying “he’s highly respected. Very good guy, very smart guy. And the Democrats like him. The Republicans like him.” Perhaps Trump’s most chilling statements came in regards to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Trump stated Mueller investigating his personal and business finances was a “red line” Mueller had better not cross. When asked directly if he would fire Mueller if he crossed that line, Trump stated “I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
July 20, 2017: Media sources report that Special Prosecutor Mueller is running across that “red line” and is investigating Trump’s finances. Other media reports indicate Trump’s attorneys are researching Trump’s ability to pardon members of his family and even himself. In a move widely seen as appeasing Russia, it is reported that Trump has ordered an end to U.S. support for anti-Asaad rebels. In other news, White House Counsel Mark Corallo, who was overruled in attempting to get a more forthcoming response to the Kushner/Trump Jr meetings with Russians, resigns citing concerns over whether the Trump team was telling him the truth. Robert Mueller would later seek to interview Corallo (see February 1, 2018 entry below).
July 21, 2017: Trump attorneys are reported to be investigating means to attempt to discredit attorneys hired by Special Prosecutor Mueller by alleging conflict of interests. The conflict of interests suggested, such as having privately donated to the Clinton campaign, are not legally conflicts of interest. Sean Spicer resigns as White House Press Secretary because Trump decided to hire Anthony Scaramucci to the job.
July 22, 2017: The Washington Post reports U.S. intelligence intercepted communications between Russian Ambassador Kislyak and his superiors in Moscow describing conversations with Jeff Sessions where they discussed campaign related matters. This contradicts Sessions’ claims first that he never met with any Russians, and afterwards that no meetings discussed any campaign related matters (see January 10 and March 1 above). Trump responds on Twitter condemning the leak of this information while contradicting himself by claiming it is “fake news.” The tweet also confirms (the previously deemed fake news) report that Trump has been researching the Presidential pardon power declaring “all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon.” For the record, not all agree with that.
July 24, 2017: Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner releases a statement before participating in a closed door meeting with Congress about the Russia issue. His statement claims he didn’t read the part of the email stating the purpose of the June 9, 2016 meeting was to get highly sensitive information from the Russian government damaging to Clinton’s campaign as part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign. He claims to have arrived late, and was so bored with the actual discussion of Russian adoptions, that he emailed his Secretary asking her to call him to give him an excuse to leave. Kushner’s statement also says “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector. I have tried to be fully transparent.” His claim to have not relied on Russian funds for to finance his business is later proven false by the release of additional documents related to the “Paradise Papers” (See November 5, 2017 entry). These connections were also not disclosed on Kushner’s Security Clearance applications.
July 25, 2017: Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort voluntarily testifies behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee. He provides contemporaneous notes he made regarding the June 2016 meeting with Trump’s son, Trump’s son-in-law and Russians who said they set the meeting up to help the Trump campaign get dirt on Clinton.
July 26, 2017: The FBI conducts a predawn raid on Paul Manafort’s home executing a search warrant. In a pair of tweets a few hours after the raid, Trump criticizes his Attorney General Jeff Sessions for not firing the Acting Director of the FBI.
July 27, 2017: By an overwhelming 98–2 vote the Senate passes a bill to prevent President Trump from unilaterally reversing sanctions against Russia. The same bill had previously passed the House by an incredible 419–3 vote. A more clear statement that Congress does not trust the President in regards to foreign policy, particularly in regards to Russia, is not possible.
Also July 27, 2018: Former Trump Campaign Foreign Policy Advisor George Papadopoulos is arrested at Dulles Airport. He later pleads guilty to lying to the FBI regarding the Russia investigation.
July 28, 2017: Trump fires Reince Priebus as his Chief of Staff replacing him with the former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. Priebus was probably Trump’s primary connection, in terms of personal relationships, with Congress. The firing comes shortly after newly hired White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci called a reporter launching tirade of unbelievably obscene criticism of Priebus and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Scaramucci described Priebus as “a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.” Bannon probably got the worst of it though, as in regards to him Scaramucci said, “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock.”
July 31, 2017: The Washington Post reports President Trump dictated the initial false statement from his son, Trump Junior, that his June 9, 2016 meeting with Russians was about the adoption of Russian children. The report states President Trump overruled advisors who recommended a more forthcoming (and honest) statement to get ahead of the story. Trump’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, had previously flatly denied that the President had any role in drafting the statement saying, “I wasn’t involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the President.” In other news, Trump fires newly appointed Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci after only ten days on the job. To get the job Scaramucci had divested himself from his business and taking it destroyed his marriage with his wife filing for divorce. That night a giddy Trump tweeted “A great day at the White House!”
August 1, 2017: Asked whether President Trump was involved in drafting the initial and deceptive response to reports related to the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting, Presidential Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders states President Trump “certainly didn’t dictate, but he — like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestions like any father would do.” It would later be revealed that Trump’s attorneys admitted to Mueller that Trump did dictate the letter (see June 2, 2018 entry below).
August 3, 2017: Media reports that Special Prosecutor Mueller has empaneled a grand jury for his investigation of Russia meddling in the election. Reuters reports the grand jury has subpoenaed information related to Trump Jr’s June 2016 meeting with Russians set up to collude with Russians regarding dirt on Hillary Clinton. CNN reports the investigation is focusing on financial ties between Trump, and his associates, with Russians connected to Russian “spy agencies.” This would cross the “red line” against Mueller’s investigation Trump declared on July 19th (see above). A bipartisan group of Senators submits a bill to limit Trump’s ability, either directly or through surrogates, to fire Special Prosecutor Mueller. At a rally in West Virginia Trump declares the investigation is, “totally made up” and a “complete fabrication,” designed to be an excuse for Hillary losing the election.
August 8, 2017: The President’s attorney, John Dowd denies that the President ever considered firing Mueller. Dowd declares “that’s never been on the table, ever.”
August 9, 2017: The Washington Post reports the FBI conducted a predawn raid at former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort’s home on July 26th. The agents came with a search a warrant to seize documents and other materials.
August 10, 2017: Trump denies he ever considered firing Mueller stating “I haven’t given it any thought.”
August 22, 2017: Glenn Simpson, the CEO of Fusion GPS (the company which sponsored the Steele Dossier research) testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee behind closed doors. The transcript of the testimony is finally released to the public on January 9, 2018 (see entry below for that date below).
August 25, 2017: Trump pardons Sheriff Joe Arpaio who had been criminally convicted for contempt of court because he defiantly refused to end racist profiling practices the court had ordered he stop. Many argued the purpose of the pardon included sending a message to witnesses who might be flipped against the President in the Russian investigation to stay with him because he will protect them with the pardon power.
August 27, 2017: The Washington Post reports that the for much of the Presidential Campaign Trump was in active negotiations, and other efforts, with the government of Russia to build a Trump Tower Moscow. This is the first the American people hear of Trump’s works during the campaign to build the Trump Tower in Moscow. Trump would later falsely claim the project was well publicized.
September 7, 2017: Trump Jr., is interviewed by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He reportedly told the committee he met with Russians to get information regarding Hillary Clinton’s fitness to be President. He is repeatedly asked whether his father had advance knowledge of the June 9, 2016 meeting, and denies that his father did (see e.g. p. 29 of the transcript). When explicitly asked, he denies taking any participants in the meeting to see his father. When asked why his father the very next day said dirt was coming out soon on Clinton he claimed that’s just the way his father talks. CNN Reports Special Prosecutor Mueller seeks to interview White House staffers regarding inconsistent statements made about the President’s contribution to initial explanations for his son’s meeting with the Russians (see July 31, 2017 entry above).
September 18, 2017: CNN Reports that at various times from 2014 to early 2017, former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort was under electronic surveillance pursuant to a FISA warrant due to his suspicious ties to Russians. The surveillance was suspended for part of 2016 due to lack of evidence, but started again later. Manfort’s communications, and those of Russians also being surveilled, raised concerns among investigators that “Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign.” This is clearly related to the investigation of collusion by the Trump campaign with Russians that former FBI Chief Comey said started in late July 2016, not much more than a month after the June 9, 2016 secret Trump Tower meeting (see above entries). The period included when Manafort was known to be still talking to President Trump even after no longer being formally involved in the campaign, but CNN did not know if the surveillance included conversations between Manafort and Trump. Manafort’s home was also the subject of a Mueller investigation search warrant (see July 26 entry above). Approval of FISA warrants means a Federal judge determined there was probable cause that Manafort was knowingly assisting a foreign power in a way hostile to the United States.
September 19, 2017: The NY Times reports Federal Prosecutors have advised Paul Manafort to expect an indictment.
September 24, 2017: The media reveals Jared Kushner used private email for White House business, the same thing Trump Campaigners were shouting “lock her up” for about Hillary Clinton. Sarah Huckabee Sanders later dismisses the violation as “very limited” only about 100 times. The “lego porn” story of how the media discovered the private email account may be the most hilariously entertaining part of RussiaGate.
September 28, 2017: The House Select Committee on Intelligence sends Jared Kushner an angry letter expressing concern that it found out about Kushner’s private email account from the news media rather than from Kushner in his closed interview with the Committee. The letter asks Kushner to confirm he has provided all responsive documents to the Committee.
October 5, 2017: George Papadopoulos accepts a plea agreement wherein he pleads guilty to a Statement of Offense prepared by the government. He agrees the Statement of Offense “fairly and accurately” describes his conduct related to the alleged offenses. The plea agreement is not revealed until October 30th.
October 10, 2017: Asked directly if he is considering firing Robert Mueller Trump says “no, not at all.”
October 27, 2017: CNN Reports that the grand jury Mueller convened is about to indict on criminal charges. The report suggests someone could be in custody as early as Monday, October 30th.
October 30, 2017: A 12-count indictment against Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates is released charging them with conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, and multiple counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. The indictment alleges Manafort and Gates acted as agents for pro-Russian parties and elements of the Ukrainian government (tied to former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych). They received millions in payments from the pro-Russia elements and then “in order to hide the Ukraine payments from United States authorities . . . laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts.” They then lied about it to investigators as recently as February of this year and did not report the income on their taxes. While Manafort left the Trump campaign last Fall, his alleged co-conspirator Rick Gates continued working with the Trump Administration until at least this Spring.
Trump responds quickly to the news with a pair of tweets arguing the indictments have nothing to do with the election and (as is typical) attempting to deflect attention to Hillary Clinton.
Manafort and Gates are arraigned before a Federal judge and enter not guilty pleas.
Also October 30, 2017: News breaks that former Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos secretly pled guilty to charges of lying to the FBI during Mueller’s investigation (see January 27, 2017 entry). Papadopoulos is known to have encouraged Trump to meet with high ranking Russian officials during the campaign. The DOJ releases the Statement of Offense to which Papadopoulos pled guilty. The Statement of Offense details Papadopoulos repeatedly meeting with and communicating with a Joseph Mifsud and Olga Polonskaya to get thousands of emails containing dirt on Hillary Clinton. The Statement of Charges also detail Papadopoulos’ months long communications with high ranking officials of the Trump Campaign to arrange a meeting with Trump Campaign officials (including Donald Trump himself). They also show the Trump Campaign approved the idea of Papadopoulos secretly meeting with Russian Government officials on behalf of The Campaign, even if such meetings never happened. For a timeline specific to Papadopoulos click HERE.
November 5, 2017: NBC Reports Mueller’s investigation of Michael Flynn includes potential money laundering and conspiracy for kidnapping against him and his son. The report cites sources claiming Flynn met with Turkish officials regarding plans to forcibly remove Turkish dissident Fethullah Gulen from the United States in September 2016. Turkey’s President Erdogan blames Gulen for a failed coup attempt against him and has unsuccessfully sought his extradition from the United States. A variety of media sources report on the “The Paradise Papers,” a review of documents showing that Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, has connections with Russians business that he misleadingly did not disclose during his confirmation process. The papers also detail business connections with Russians not disclosed by, and previously denied by, Jared Kushner.
November 6, 2017: An interview with Natalia Veselnitskaya, one of the Russians at the June 9 2016 meeting with Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, reveals Trump Jr., specifically requested from the Russians financial documents showing money went into Clinton Campaign coffers that dodged tax laws. Trump Jr., suggested the possibility of more favorable treatment for Russia under a Trump administration in exchange.
Early November 2017: Jared Kushner is interviewed by Mueller’s team. The questions are thought to focus on communications related to Michael Flynn’s late December 2016 contacts with the Russian Ambassador. Flynn will later be convicted for lying about those communications (see December 1, 2017 entry below).
November 13, 2017: A report from The Atlantic details contacts between Donald Trump Jr., and WikiLeaks even as the campaign was denying any such connections (see September/October 2016 entries above).
November 14, 2017: Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies to Congress. He had previously said under oath that he did not believe any surrogates for the Trump campaign had contacts with Russians. His statement then was “I did not, and I’m not aware of anyone else that did, and I don’t believe it happened.” He was confronted with the March 2016 meeting he attended where George Papadopoulos discussed his contacts with Russians. He now suddenly remembers the meeting, but doesn’t remember any details, except the detail that he “wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government, or any other foreign government, for that matter.” He said he would happily have reported the meeting had he remembered it previously.
November 19, 2017: Randy Credico texts Roger Stone concerned at a request from the House Intelligence Committee asking him to testify. Stone responds, “Stonewall it. Plead the fifth. Anything to save the plan . . . Richard Nixon.” The next day Credico responds to the Congressional invitation, declining the request for a voluntary interview. The Committee subsequently subpoenas Credico.
November 23, 2017: Media reports indicate Michael Flynn’s attorneys have notified President Trump’s attorneys that they can no longer share information regarding the investigation. This strongly suggests Flynn is cooperating with the investigation and potentially coming to a plea agreement. It also suggests Trump is a target of the investigation.
November 28, 2017: Credico receives a subpoena to compel his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. He promptly informs Stone of the subpoena.
December 1, 2017: Former Trump Campaign Advisor and Director of National Intelligence Michael Flynn is indicted and pleads to guilty to making false statements to the FBI in the course of its investigation of potential Trump Campaign collusion with the Russians to interfere in the election. Flynn is convicted of two counts of knowingly making false statements to the FBI as he simultaneously enters into a plea agreement. The plea agreement includes a stipulation that government drafted representations of fact in a Statement of Offense are true. The stipulations include that Flynn UNDER THE DIRECTION of an unnamed “senior official of the Presidential Transition Team” had contacts with Russian Ambassador and spy Kislyak (see late December 2016 entries). The nature of these contacts were to secretly negotiate deals between the United States and Russia on immediate foreign policy without the consent or knowledge of the administration still in power. They were direct negotiations with the Russians to not respond to Obama’s sanctions and to delay a vote or vote against a UN Security Council resolution regarding Israel, decisions Russia secretly agreed with the Trump Transition Team to do. Flynn called this unnamed “senior official” of the transition team more than once, and received instructions for further requests to make of the Russians. Per the stipulations, Flynn called this “senior official” at Mar-a-Lago and that this “senior official” was “with other senior members of the Presidential Transition Team.” Media reports indicate the “senior official,” with other senior officials at Mar-a-Lago, is Jared Kushner who was interviewed by Mueller’s team just a few weeks prior. He also previously answered questions to Congressional committees under oath. Mueller has effectively connected the dots I discussed 6 1/2 months ago. Flynn’s plea agreement requires his full cooperation with Mueller’s investigation as it includes this statement:
[Flynn] shall cooperate fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly with this Office and other Federal, state and local law enforcement authorities identified by this Office in any and all matters to which this Office deems cooperation relevant.
Also December 1, 2017, Stone tells Randy Credico that he should do a “Frank Pentangeli” before the House Intelligence Committee to avoid contradicting Stone’s testimony. Frank Pentangeli is a character in the film The Godfather: Part II, who testifies before a congressional committee claiming not to know
critical information that he does in fact know.
December 2, 2017: The NY Times reports on emails sent on December 29, 2016 by Senior Trump Transition Advisor K.T. McFarland coordinating transition team efforts to undermine the sanctions with the Russians. She sought to ease tensions with the Russians on who (in an email) she said “has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him [Trump].” The email, forwarded to other key transition team members, urged contacting the Russians to deescalate Russian response to the sanctions to prevent a tit-for-tat exchange that would prevent President Trump from improving Russian relations. Flynn would make those contacts and then lie to the FBI about them. In sworn testimony to Congress for her confirmation as Ambassador to Singapore, McFarland claimed she could not recall ever being involved with communications with Flynn about talking to Russians.
Also December 2, 2017: Trump tweets that he had to fire Flynn because he lied to the FBI.
The tweet suggests possible obstruction of justice if Trump knew Flynn lied when he pressured Comey to “let it go” regarding the investigation of Flynn the day after Trump fired Flynn. Put simply, Trump was pressuring the FBI to end an investigation of a man Trump knew had committed a felony.
December 3, 2017: In one of many such denials, Trump tweets a flat denial that he ever asked Comey to back off the Flynn investigation. He smears Comey and the media for lying about this.
Trump’s denial would later be contradicted by his own attorney, Rudy Giuliani (see July 8, 2018 entry).
December 4, 2017: White House counsel Donald McGahn acknowledges telling President Trump that Flynn told the same story to the FBI that he told to Pence and Spicer. Thus, Trump knew when he pressured Comey to drop the investigation that Flynn had lied to the FBI. Trump’s personal attorney John Dowd falsely claims it is impossible for the President of the United States to obstruct justice.
December 17, 2017: Asked directly if he is considering firing Robert Mueller Trump says “no, I’m not.”
December 20, 2017: White House lawyer Ty Cobb releases a statement saying that for five months the White House has persistently and emphatically said there is no consideration of firing Special Counsel (as Trump at the secretly tried to do in June).
December 23, 2017: Trump tweets these two not so veiled threats at Andrew McCabe, the Deputy Director of the FBI. At this time McCabe was scheduled to retire in March, but Trump would have him fired at the end of January (see below).
December 24, 2017: In a heartwarming Christmas Eve exchange series of texts Randy Credico (who has apparently flipped by then, though Roger Stone doesn’t know it) twice urges Stone to “be honest with the FBI.” Stone replies, “I’m not talking to the FBI and if your smart you won’t either.”
December 27, 2017: The Washington Post reports on plans by Trump Administration lawyers to attack the credibility of Michael Flynn, by branding him a liar, if he makes accusations getting to close to the President as part of his plea agreement deal to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. If so, this would awkwardly conflict with Trump’s repeated defenses of Flynn’s character describing him as a “wonderful man” treated unfairly by the “fake media” (see e.g. February 15 and March 31, 2017 entries above).
December 30, 2017: The New York Times reports that in May 2016 Trump Campaign advisor George Papadopoulos met in a London bar with an Australian diplomat and over drinks bragged that the Russians had thousands of hacked emails from Hillary Clinton that would be damaging to her campaign. Two months later those emails leaked on Wikileaks. The story suggests a source of evidence for Trump Campaign collusion with the Russians other than notorious Steele Dossier which Trump has repeatedly labeled as bogus. Simply put the FBI had other sources of information justifying their opening the investigation of the Trump Campaign.
January 2, 2018: In a day filled with bizarre and dishonest tweets, some of which themselves call into question Trump’s mental fitness to be President, Trump also Tweets a demand that the Department of Justice prosecute and jail former Clinton aide Huma Abedin and former FBI Director James Comey.
James Comey is a potential witness against Trump having accused him of demanding a loyalty pledge and urging Comey to drop the investigation of Flynn even though Trump knew Flynn was guilty. Trump’s demand that the Comey be jailed smacks of witness tampering/intimidation. The reference to right wing nut job “deep state” conspiracy theories is also a concerning comment on his mental fitness to be President.
January 3, 2018: The Guardian Reports that it obtained a copy of Michael Wolff’s upcoming book Fire and Fury that includes an interview with former Chief White House strategist Steve Bannon where Bannon describes the June 9, 2016 Kushner/Trump Jr., meeting with Russians as “unpatriotic” and “treasonous.” Bannon argues they should have contacted the FBI when the meeting was being arranged stating:
“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.
Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
Even more significantly, Bannon also said there was “zero chance” that Kushner and Trump Jr., did not walk the Russians up to the next floor to meet Donald Trump. If Bannon is to be believed Trump met with those Russians on June 9, 2016 and Trump, his son and son-in-law have been lying about it since.
Later in the day Trump releases a statement blasting his former friend and Chief Strategist stating that when Bannon “was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.” Trump belittled Bannon’s role in his campaign and his Presidency, saying Bannon “had very little to do with our historic victory and was rarely in one-on-one meetings with the President. He also said Bannon as Trump’s Chief Strategist “spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was.”
One thing Trump didn’t do was deny any of the specifics of what Bannon said to include that Kushner and Trump Jr., likely had the June 9, 2016 Russians meet the future President.
Contrast this with Trump’s parting comments about Bannon when he left the Administration in August.
January 4, 2018: Trump sends cease and desist letters to Steve Bannon, author Michael Wolff, and the publisher of his book and Henry Holt & Co., to stop publication of the book Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House. The letters also demand they issue an apology to President Trump for the supposedly untrue and defamatory comments in the book.
January 9, 2018: For weeks Trump and some Republican lawmakers (and conservative media such as Fox News) have claimed that the “fake” Steele Dossier prompted the FBI’s Russia investigation. The smearing of Fusion GPS, which funded the Steele’s research, led its representatives to beg that Congress release the full transcript of Fusion CEO Glenn Simpson’s August 22, 2017 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the matter. Senator Dianne Feinstein released a lightly redacted full transcript today stating:
“The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves. The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice.” — Senator Feinstein.
In the transcript Simpson recounts how Steele insisted on going to the FBI with his research because they feared Donald Trump was being blackmailed by the Russians. They viewed it as a national security issue and described the desire to tell the FBI as a matter of “citizenship” outside their contract to research (see generally linked transcript pp. 158–176). The possibility of a major American Presidential candidate being blackmailed by the Russians was obviously a huge concern. However, when Steele contacted the FBI he discovered they were already aware of the concern because the FBI had other intelligence about this matter from an “internal Trump campaign source.” The FBI believed Steele’s “information might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization.” While Simpson did not reveal that human source during his testimony he did say it was someone other than one of Steele’s sources. CNN reports the “human source” was George Papadopoulos and his bragging in a bar to an Australian diplomat (See December 30, 2017 entry above). Simpson also said Steele severed his relationship sometime shortly after October 31, 2016 because “out of concern that he didn’t know what was happening inside the FBI and there was a concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people.” This concern was rooted in the announcement by Comey that the FBI was reopening the investigation against Clinton. For all of Trump’s allegations, the FBI was investigating potential Russia collusion before Steele went to him with his dossier. George Papadopoulos’ drunken bragging to an Australian diplomat was the trigger for the investigation.
January 16, 2018: Having accepted an invitation to voluntarily testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Steve Bannon attends the closed meeting and refuses to answer any relevant questions. The Committee then issued a subpoena converting the testimony from voluntary to compulsory. Under attorney advice Bannon continued to refuse to answer any relevant questions. Bannon’s attorney claimed he was refusing to answer under an order from the White House that one lawmaker described as a White House gag order. Bannon cited no specific privilege for his refusal to testify setting the stage for potential referral for criminal Contempt of Congress charges. Separately, Bannon acknowledged he has been served a different subpoena to testify to Special Prosecutor Mueller’s Russia investigation grand jury. The next day it is reported that Bannon has struck a deal with Mueller’s team whereby he will be voluntarily interviewed rather than testifying before a grand jury. This indicates that Bannon has agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation.
January 23, 2018: Many news sources report Mueller seeks to interview President Trump. Many believe this suggests the investigation is entering a final phase. There are rumors that the indicted Rick Gates is looking to cut a deal with Mueller. The Washington Post reports that in May 2017 Trump asked then newly appointed acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe who he voted for in the 2016 election. McCabe answered that he did not vote but found the conversation “disturbing.” A week after this report Trump has McCabe fired (see below). Sarah Sanders did not deny that Trump asked the question but characterized it as just making small talk. Trump first denied asking the question before later saying it was a “very unimportant question.”
January 25, 2017: The NY Times Reports (and is quickly confirmed by numerous other media outlets include Fox News) that in June 2017 (see entry above) Trump tried to fire Mueller. Trump ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller but backed down when McGahn refused and threatened to resign. Trump promptly dismissed the report as “Fake News” and “typical New York Times fake stories.” He said this even though every other major media outlet confirmed the story. As detailed above the report contradicts numerous prior statements by Trump has his spokespeople flat saying that President never considered firing Mueller.
January 29, 2017: Per CNN Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe is removed from office. He was scheduled to retire in March but uses accumulated leave time to leave early and still qualify for retirement. McCabe was long criticized by Trump (see entries above) because his wife took money from a PAC run by a friend of Hillary Clinton’s for her own political campaign for a state legislative seat in Virginia in 2015 and because McCabe may have been involved in some of the decisions related to starting the FBI’s Russia investigation. Also on this day, Trump refuses to impose Russia sanctions mandated by Congress (see July 27, 2017 entry above).
January 30, 2018: The House votes to release the “Nunes Memo.” The memo is a four paged classified partisan document put together by Republicans. It accuses the FBI of abusing FISA warrant procedures by using the Steele Memorandum to justify a warrant against Carter Page.
January 31, 2018: The FBI releases a report criticizing the “Nunes Memo” for “material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.” Both the FBI Director, Trump appointed Christopher Wray, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, had requested Trump not release it because of the precedent it would set for releasing classified information and because they claim it makes false attacks on the FBI. In December, when Rosenstein asked Trump to not release the memo Trump demanded to know where the investigation was going and asked are you “on my team?”
February 1, 2018: The New York Times reports Mueller is seeking to interview former White House Counsel Mark Corallo regarding conversations related to the Trump Team response to news leaking of the Kushner/Trump Jr, June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians offering to share dirt from Hillary Clinton’s emails. The initial response was a dishonest claim that the meeting was just to discuss the Russian adoption issue (see July 8, 2017 entry above). Corallo urged a more forthcoming response arguing the more indicting emails would come out (unknown to Team Trump the NY Times already had them). Hope Hicks allegedly responded that the emails “will never get out.” Corallo immediately feared this suggested obstruction of justice on Hicks’ part. He made contemporaneous notes and resigned less than two weeks later (see July 20, 2017 entry).
February 2, 2018: The Nunes Memo is released. Its primary allegation is that the FBI and DOJ used the Steele’s information as part of the basis to get FISA warrants against Carter Page without informing the court of Steele’s supposed political bias against Trump. The most significant note of the memo might be its acknowledgement that the FBI opened its investigation of the the Trump Campaign, not because of the Steele Dossier, but because it received word of the George Papadopoulos’ bragging to an Australian diplomat about getting hacked Clinton email dirt from Russians on behalf of the Trump Campaign. While the response by most to the memo’s release is a collective yawn, Trump treats it as definitive proof of his persecution declaring:
“I think it’s a disgrace. What’s going on in this country, I think it’s a disgrace. A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that.”
The Memo describes Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as only having a minor role in the chain of approval for the Carter Page FISA warrant, but Trump nonetheless starts hinting the Memo may be a basis to fire Rosenstein. When asked if he would use the Memo to dismiss the top DOJ official overseeing the Russian investigation Trump responded “You figure that one out.”
February 3, 2018: In a development largely overshadowed by fallout from the Nunes Memo, K.T. McFarland, who coordinated Flynn’s response to suppress the Russian sanctions (that Flynn was later convicted for lying about), withdraws her name to be Ambassador to Singapore. [See December 29, 2016 and December 2, 2017 entries above]. While very actively involved in coordinating Flynn’s communications, in her sworn confirmation hearings she claimed she could not recall being doing so. This duplicity made the Senate unwilling to confirm her unless she submitted to additional questioning and she withdrew her nomination rather than face a new round of questions from the Senate.
The Washington Post, the New York Times and Adam Schiff (the ranking minority member on the House Intelligence Committee) all contradict the central allegation of the Nunes Memo. The central allegation was that the FBI and DOJ failed to inform the FISA court of Steele’s political motivations when seeking the warrant against Carter Page. WaPo reports that its sources make clear:
The Justice Department made “ample disclosure of relevant, material facts” to the court that revealed “the research was being paid for by a political entity.”
Similarly, Schiff states the Nunes Memo claim in this regard is “not accurate” and that the FISA court was advised that “the research was being paid for by a political entity.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray sends a letter to the rank and file that in part says:
“Talk is cheap. The work you do is what will endure.
We speak through our work. One case at a time. One intelligence product at a time. One decision at a time . . . I’m determined to defend your integrity and professionalism every day.
Remember: keep calm and tackle hard.”
February 9, 2018: In a surprise move Trump refuses to release the Democratic Memo rebutting the Nunes Memo. The Democratic Memo had unanimously passed the House Intelligence Committee, but Trump claimed it compromised intelligence to release it.
February 16, 2018: Mueller’s grand jury returns indictments against 13 Russians and 3 Russian organizations for interfering in the American Presidential election. The indictment alleges the Defendants’ “operations included supporting the presidential campaign on then-candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton.” The indictment also states the Defendants “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign” without revealing they were Russians. The indictment alleges specific violations of FARA, wire and bank fraud, and identity theft (to allow them to pose as real Americans). One of the Russian social media accounts was Twitter account @Tenn-GOP which claimed to be the “Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans.” Both Kellyanne Conway and Trump Jr. followed that Russia meddling account and retweeted from it. Trump Jr., retweeted from it at least three times (before Twitter suspended the account) to include retweeting Russian propaganda of voter fraud in Florida. The Russian organized pro-Trump efforts included campaign rallies on Trump’s behalf and creating fake accounts feigning to be enemies of Trump (such as one called “Blacktivist”) and making posts that served as a basis to attack Antifa and the left. Mueller also secured the conviction by guilty plea of a California man who helped the Russians steal identities.
February 18, 2018: Word breaks that Manafort former assistant and co-indictee Rick Gates will plead guilty and agree to testify against former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. This would be the fourth conviction Mueller has secured in his investigation. Notwithstanding the convictions Trump, launches into a bizarre Twitter storm meltdown that includes exploiting the tragedy of the mass school shooting in Parkland Florida to tweet that the FBI should stop investigating him.
February 20, 2018: Mueller indicts Alex Van Der Zwaan, a lawyer who worked with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates on behalf of pro-Soviet interests in the Ukraine. The indictment charges Van Der Zwaan of lying to the FBI regarding communications he had with Gates and an unidentified “Person A” that included secretly recorded calls with Gates and Person A. The indictment also alleges Van Der Zwaan deleted emails sought by the Special Counsel. The communications at issue were in September 2016 just after Manafort left the Trump Campaign and while Gates was still with the Trump Campaign.
February 22, 2018: Mueller releases a new 32 count indictment against Manafort alleging and detailing additional counts of tax fraud, money laundering and bank fraud totaling tens of millions of dollars.
February 23, 2018: As widely anticipated Rick Gates strikes a plea agreement and pleads guilty to multiple counts for conspiracy to defraud the United States and making false statements. Manafort’s long term right hand man who stayed with the Trump Campaign and the administration after Manafort left. Gates agrees that a government drafted Statement of Criminal Information spells out facts and allegations that are true. The Criminal Information Gates stipulates to completely sells out Manafort as it details wide ranging schemes to defraud the United States, money launder, bank fraud and tax fraud. Gates admits to making false statements even after originally indicted in late October 2017 and the Criminal Information seems to indicate Manafort did too. The criminal enterprises detailed in the Criminal Information, and in the Superseding Indictment filed the day before, include many instances of these crimes being committed while Gates and Manafort were working for the Trump Campaign and while Gates was working in the Trump Administration. As is typical, the plea agreement requires that Gates “shall cooperate fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly with this Office and other Federal, state and local law enforcement authorities identified by this Office in any and all matters to which this Office deems cooperation relevant.”
Just a couple of hours after Rick Gates pleads guilty (see above) Mueller issues yet another superseding indictmentagainst Manafort detailing additional allegations of money laundering, bank fraud and sponsoring foreign lobbyists without the required disclosures.
February 24, 2018: The heavily redacted “Schiff Memo,” the Democratic rebuttal to the Nunes Memo, is released. The Schiff Memo details numerous justifications for the FISA warrants on Carter Page unrelated to the Steele Dossier. It also notified the judge of Steele’s potential bias stating that the person hiring Steele was “likely looking for information that could be used to discredit” Trump. The Schiff Memo also points out that the FBI’s investigation of Carter Page started before the FBI received the Steele Memo and the FISA warrant was not requested until two months after Page stopped working for the Trump Campaign. The Schiff Memo states that in subsequent FISA warrant extensions the DOJ provided the judge “multiple independent sources that corroborated Steele’s reporting,” but the specifics of that are so redacted as to be worthless. Trump nonetheless has the hutzpah to claim the Schiff Memo vindicates him.
February 27, 2018: Jared Kushner’s top secret security clearance is revoked, downgraded to a lower level. The Washington Post reports at least four nations (including China) sought to manipulate Kushner via his “business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.” WaPo further reports that “H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report.” CNN Reports that Mueller’s investigation includes potentially compromising business relations Trump had with Russia during his campaign. In closed testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, Hope Hicks refuses to answer questions related to events after Trump became President, but does acknowledge telling “white lies” to the American people. For an example of some of Hicks lies see November 11, 2016 entry.
February 28, 2018: The day after admitting to telling “white lies” on behalf of the President, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks resigns.
March 3, 2018: The New Yorker publishes a wide ranging article providing detail into how Chris Steele did the work associated with his controversial dossier. The article also reports that Steele prepared a second dossier that asserted Trump rejected Mitt Romney for Secretary of State because the Russians made clear they didn’t want it to be Romney.
March 5, 2018: Former Trump Campaign aide and Roger Stone protege Sam Nunberg declares that he has received a subpoena from Mueller’s Grand Jury but that he will refuse to appear. Numberg goes so far as to declare “Let them arrest me.” Nunberg says the subpoena requests emails and any other correspondence related to Donald Trump, Hope Hicks, Steve Bannon, Michael Cohen, Corey Lewandowski and Roger Stone. Declaring the subpoena “ridiculous,” Nunberg tells MSNBC that “Trump may have done something during the election. I don’t know what it is.” In later interviews Nunberg would say he believes Mueller has something on Trump on issues related to Trump’s businesses. He also directly said he believes Carter Page colluded with Russians.
March 6, 2018: Trump finally acknowledges the Russians meddled in the 2016 election and pledges to stop it for the next election.
March 7, 2018: The New York Times Reports that Trump has been talking to witnesses interviewed by Mueller’s team about their testimony, acts which raise questions about witness tampering.
March 8, 2018: The Washington Post Reports that Mueller is gathering evidence that Erik Prince secretly met with Russians in the Seychelles islands around January 11 2017 (see entry above) as part of planned meeting to arrange a back door communications channel between Russia and the Trump Transition Team. This would conflict with testimony by Prince before the House Intelligence Committee that the meeting was coincidental and just discussed trivial matters over a few beers. Key information is provided by George Nader, a Lebanese business man who helped arrange the meeting and is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
March 9, 2018: The judge in Paul Manafort’s case orders him to be confined to his house and monitored by GPS bracelets. The judge states:
“The Defendant is a person of great wealth who has the financial means and international connections to flee and remain at large, as well as every incentive to do so. Specifically, given the nature of the charges against the defendant and the apparent weight of the evidence against him, defendant faces the very real possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison”
March 12, 2018: Republicans running the House Intelligence Committee investigation ends its investigation declaring there is no evidence of collusion. Texas Republican Representative Mike Conway, leading the investigation states “We found no evidence of collusion, and so we found perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meetings . . . or just inadvertently being in the same building.” The Republicans defy the entire intelligence community, and the Mueller indictments, in stating that while the Russians sought to create chaos in our elections they did not seek specifically to favor Donald Trump.
March 13, 2018: Mere hours after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson strongly condemns Russia for a chemical attack on British soil, Trump fires him. In another demonstration of his characterless nature, Tillerson is advised of the firing by public tweet. Trump appoints CIA Director Mike Pompeo as the new Secretary of State.
March 15, 2018: Trump finally imposes some sanctions on Russia for meddling in the election, to include the Russians indicted by Mueller. The NY Times reports that Mueller has subpoenaed records from the Trump Organization related to Russia.
March 17, 2018: As Trump had frequently urged, the Department of Justice fires formers FBI Director Andrew McCabe just 26 hours before his retirement. McCabe had already been effectively fired by taking terminal leave (see above). The effect of the hurried firing was to deny McCabe any pension for his 21 years of service. Trump giddily tweets about the firing while again leveling allegations at the FBI’s leadership.
McCabe fires back with a strong statement describing his firing as part of a larger effort “to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals” as “part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation.” As discussed above, McCabe had committed the sin against Trump of backing James Comey’s accounts and attracted Trump’s ire because McCabe’s Democrat wife in 2015 accepted money for her unsuccessful Virginia state office legislature campaign from a PAC run by a close friend of Hillary Clinton. Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, took McCabe’s firing as an argument to fire Mueller stating, “I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier.” Dowd first says he made that statement officially, on behalf of Trump, but then later claims it was just a personal statement. It should be noted that both Comey and McCabe are potential witnesses in the Mueller investigation and that one interpretation of this is that Trump is attempting to intimidate them.
March 18, 2018: Shortly after receiving a list of questions from Mueller Trump launches a Twitter storm attacking the Mueller investigation, saying it should never have started and falsely claiming Mueller’s team are all “hardened Democrats.” Mueller himself is a life long Republican, as is Rosenstein who appointed him.
Other tweets continued to attack McCabe. Republicans in Congress begin expressing concern that Trump may fire Mueller. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says Trump’s doing so would “would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.” Also, The Washington Post reports that Trump required senior staff members to sign broad non-disclosure agreements, going so far as to extend past Trump’s term of Presidency, and stipulating liquidated damages of $10 million for each violation.
March 22, 2018: Trump’s lead attorney for the Russia investigation, John Dowd, resigns.
March 27, 2018: Mueller files a Sentencing Memorandum with the court for Van der Zwaan. This document details communications, some of which were recorded, between Gates, Manafort and a Russian intelligence agent. The Sentencing Memorandum said:
That Gates and Person A were directly communicating in September and October 2016 was pertinent to the investigation. Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel’s Office assess that Person A has ties to Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016. During his first interview with the Special Counsel’s Office, van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with GRU.
It should be noted that while Manafort left the Trump Campaign the month before September 2016, Gates was still very much in it (as Deputy Campaign Manager) and remained part of the Trump Campaign and Trump Administration until Spring 2017. Thus, Trump’s Deputy Campaign Manager in the fall of 2016 was knowingly in cahoots with a Russian Intelligence Officer. As discussed above, Gates has already reached a plea agreement with Mueller and is fully cooperating with the investigation. The Washington Post describes this as Mueller drawing “his most direct line to date between the Trump campaign and Russia” yet.
March 28, 2018: The New York Times reports that Trump and his lawyers considered pardoning Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn as Mueller was building cases against both. The timing suggests the pardons may have been aimed at preventing Mueller from gaining leverage against Manafort and Flynn to compel their cooperation against Trump. Such a purpose would arguably be obstruction of justice.
April 2, 2018: Mueller’s team files a brief in response to a motion filed by Manafort to dismiss his indictment on grounds Mueller’s charges do not relate to the campaign and therefore were beyond the scope of his authority as Special Counsel. Of perhaps more interest is an attachment to that brief. The heavily redacted attachment is an August 2, 2017 previously secret memo from Rosenstein to Mueller further detailing the scope of his investigation. The non-redacted portion contributes to the brief because Rosenstein expressly states the following allegations related to Manafort were within the scope of Mueller’s investigation:
• Allegations that Paul Manafort:
o Committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States, in violation of United States law;
o Committed a crime or crimes arising out of payments he received from the Ukrainian government before and during the tenure of President Viktor Yanukovych.
That’s the comparatively small substantive portion un-redacted to support the specifics of this brief. Beyond that the brief itself states in footnote 3:
The August 2 Scope Memorandum is classified and contains confidential and sensitive law enforcement information that cannot be publicly disclosed. The portions of the memorandum quoted in the text are not classified. A copy of the memorandum, redacted to protect against the disclosure of classified and sensitive law enforcement information . . .
If you look at the memo you can see it states “The following allegations were within the scope of the investigation at the time of your appointment and are within the scope of the order.” After that is a LOT of redacted stuff. Only the comparatively small portion relating to Manafort is un-redacted. So there is a whole lot more there, with presumably many more specific names, and specific allegations, we do not know about, for which evidence existed supporting allegations that Mueller was authorized to investigate.
April 3, 2018: Dutch Attorney Alex van Der Zwaan is sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $20,000 for lying to Mueller’s team, attempting to conceal or destroy evidence, and assisting Manafort and Gates in their money laundering schemes. See February 20, 2018 entry above.
Also, The Washington Post reports Mueller has advised Trump’s attorneys that while Trump is not a “target” of the investigation that he is a “subject.” This means the investigators do not have a current intent to indict him but that the President is very much personally under investigation. The transition from subject to target can be a very short one. Mueller’s team also told Trump’s lawyers that he is preparing a report about the president’s actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice.
April 7, 2018: Sam Nunberg mentor, and former Trump Campaign Advisor Roger Stone, attempts to address his conflicting accounts about colluding with Russian agent Wikileaks while he was in the Trump Campaign. He melts down on CNN, claiming his prior statements were the ravings of man poisoned by . . . polonium. When asked if he will present medical records as evidence, he says the American people don’t care about his health issues.
April 9, 2018: The FBI executes a series of search warrants against the offices of Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. While implicated in the Russia investigation, Cohen is best known for being the attorney who arranged the Hush Agreements and payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. The warrants were not directly obtained by Mueller’s team but rather by the United States Attorneys Office for the Southern District of NY on referral of information from Mueller. The search warrants were related to potential criminal conduct associated with the Stormy Daniels issue, and not necessarily the Russia investigation. Even though Mueller’s office did not seek or secure the search warrants, Trump declares the search warrants part of Mueller’s “witch hunt.” Trump called the search warrants a “disgraceful situation” and an “attack on our country.” He again attacked his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from an investigation that Sessions himself was a potential target of. When asked if he plans to fire Mueller Trump refuses to answer.
Also April 9, 2018, Stone emails threatening to kill Randy Credico and his little dog too. Stone writes, “You are a rat. A stoolie. You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying [to] Rip you to shreds.” Stone also says he will “take that dog away from you.” Credico has a support dog that he actually took into the grand jury when he testified. Stone concluded, “I am so ready. Let’s get it on. Prepare to die [expletive].”
April 10, 2018: Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders states Trump has the legal authority to fire Mueller without going through Rosenstein. Equally significant, she said the Administration has researched the question. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledges Facebook is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
April 13, 2018: McClatchy reports that Mueller’s team has evidence that Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen visited Prague in late August or early September 2016. If true, this would be of great significance for two reasons. First, it would corroborate a key part of the maligned “Steele Dossier” which said Cohen travelled to Prague to meet with Russians to coordinate their support for Trump’s campaign (and attacks on Hillary Clinton). Second, Cohen has flatly denied ever going to Prague and much of Trump’s debunking the Steele Dossier as discredited and fake hinges on Cohen’s never being there as fact.
April 20, 2018: The Democratic National Committee files a lawsuit against the Trump Campaign, numerous individuals associated with it, Russia and Wikileaks for colluding together to elect Trump by harming Clinton. READ THE LAWSUIT HERE. Read my summary of the lawsuit here. The lawsuit does a good job of laying out potential criminal statutes violated and the facts supporting such allegations.
Also on April 20: Somewhat redacted copies of Comey’s contemporary memos are released to the media. The memos show a President obsessed over leaks, the Steele Dossier pee-pee claims, and loyalty. At one point the President suggests the solution to leaks is “putting reporters in jail” to compel them to reveal sources. The president said: “They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk.” The President also told Comey he could not have been with prostitutes while in Russia for the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant because he didn’t spend the night there. The claim he did not spend the night in Russia is later proven false.
April 28, 2018: The Senate Judiciary Committee votes 14–7 to advance a bill designed prevent Trump from being able to fire Mueller. Four Republicans vote in favor of the bill. However, Senate Majority Leader McConnell has pledged to not allow the bill to come to the floor for a vote by the full Senate.
April 30, 2018: The New York Times publishes a list of questions Mueller wants to ask Trump. The questions quite clearly focus on potential obstruction of justice and Russia collusion.
May 1, 2018: Trump tweets regarding the NYT’s report listing questions Mueller wants to ask him.
I had no idea the NYT’s list was authentic until Trump himself “leaked” that fact with this tweet. Trump’s claim that the list had “no questions on Collusion” is a flat out lie. I count at least 14 questions related to possible collusion with Russia.
Trump also tweeted this gem.
For the record, that legal conclusion is flat out false. Obstruction of justice does not require any underlying crime.
CNN Reports the questions were not actually drafted by Mueller. Rather they were drafted by Trump’s attorneys after talking to Mueller with Mueller disclosing to them general areas of interest. Thus, the leak the President complains of would have to come from his side.
May 2, 2018: Trump again tweets about the list of questions published by the NYTs describing the obstruction of justice questions as a “setup & trap” that violate his Article 2 powers as President to fire anybody.
Giuliani also told Hannity that Trump fired Comey for reasons related directly to the Russia investigation. Giuliani said:
“He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation. He’s entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that, and he couldn’t get that. So he fired him, and he said, ‘I’m free of this guy.’”
May 16, 2018: The Senate Intelligence Committee releases a bipartisan statement concluding Russia attempted to intervene in the election on the side of Trump. Republican Senator and Chairman of the committee Richard Burr joins with Democrat Vice-Chairman Mark Warner to directly state “The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.” This bipartisan statement directly contradicts the House Intelligence Committee claim that Russians only sought to create chaos, without favoring one side or the other.
The Senate Intelligence Committee also released thousands of pages of Committee testimony from participants in the notorious June 9, 2016 meeting with Russians who had promised to provide dirty on Hillary Clinton. Most key elements of the testimony had already leaked, however an additional fact regarding Donald Trump Junior’s actions before and after the meeting prompted much speculation. Trump Junior called a phone with a blocked phone number immediately before and after the meeting. In his testimony he claimed to not remember who he called. The natural speculation is that he called and filled in his father, which would indicate President Trump’s early and on going involvement in efforts to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russians. Even when directly asked if he could remember if the call was, or was not, to his father Trump Junior claimed he could not remember. While Junior claims he does not remember who he called, it’s all but certain Mueller knows who those calls were to.
May 17, 2018: The Wall Street Journal reports Mueller secured a sixth conviction and another cooperating witness against Manafort. Jeffrey Yohai was a business associate of Manafort’s and until divorcing last year the husband to one of Manafort’s daughters. The Wall Street Journal Reports Yohai entered a guilty plea in January that remains under seal as he has been cooperating with the Mueller team since. The WSJ says Yohai plead guilty to a variety of bank and real estate fraud matters and that pursuant to his plea bargain is required to fully cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. If the WSJ report is true this would be the second close associate of Manafort to turn against him.
May 19 and 20, 2018: Donald Trump goes on an incredible weekend Twitter rant by even his standards. Over the course of nine paranoid and heavily delusional tweets Trump accuses the FBI of “infiltrating” his campaign, demanded the release of confidential sources, again randomly attacked Hillary Clinton, Andrew McCabe’s wife, the DNC, Podesta, used the term “witch hunt” four times and repeatedly made the false claim no collusion has been found. Trump concluded with a tweet demanding investigation of his investigators and stating that he would directly order this be done.
The rant was set off by news reports that an FBI informant met with members of Trump’s campaign and with Russians members of the campaign, such as George Papadopoulos, were secretly meeting with. It was part of the FBI’s investigation of Trump Campaign contacts with Russians triggered by George Papadopoulos’ bragging to an Australian diplomat about how he was getting dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians. Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein finesses the potential Constitutional crisis generated by Presidential meddling in DOJ investigation by referring the question to the DOJ Office of Inspector General.
June 2, 2018: The New York Times publishes a leaked letter sent by Trump’s attorneys to Special Prosecutor Mueller in January spelling out the President’s case and arguing why they think the President should not be interviewed by Mueller’s team. The stunning letter admits that the President “dictated” the deceptive letter issued immediately after news of Trump Jr’s June 9, 2016 meeting with Russians broke. This is in contradiction to numerous statements from Presidential attorney Jay Sekulow and White House Press Spokesperson Sarah Sanders who repeatedly denied the President’s involvement in preparing the letter. The letter also argued that it is Constitutionally impossible for the President to obstruct justice because as the Chief Executive that would amount to obstructing himself.
June 4, 2018: Government attorneys file a motion to revoke Paul Manafort’s bail on grounds he has used his freedom to attempt to illegally, and in violation of his bail condition, influence witnesses. The government argues this is part of a pattern of misconduct aimed at improperly influencing his trial by Manafort during his bail and that the only solution is incarceration.
June 8, 2018: Trump flees a G7 Summit meeting after a series of contentions conversations and tweets with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany and Great Britain. On his way out Trump argues the G7 should readmit Russia (kicked out of the then G8 after it invaded Crimea).
Also June 8, 2018: Mueller issues a new superseding indictment against Manafort adding a new name to the indictment list in Russian intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik. The indictment of Kilimnik brings the total indictments from Mueller’s “witch hunt” to 20, including five convictions. Manafort and Kilimnik are accused of what has become the usual array of charges associated with conspiracy to defraud the United States, FARA reporting violations, money laundering and tax evasion. However, the new indictment also charges Manafort and Kilimnik with obstruction of justice via witness tampering. In particular, they are charged with corruptly attempting to persuade two witnesses with intent to influence, delay or prevent testimony in violation of 18 USC 1512. This witness tampering is alleged to have occurred recently, in February and April of this year. These very serious alleged crimes were while Manafort was out on bail. They are the basis for the government motion to revoke his bail (June 4 entry above).
June 12, 2018: In the criminal case against one of the Russian shell companies involved in meddling in the election, Mueller files a Motion for a Protective Order against certain discovery. The motion states:
“Public or unauthorized disclosure of this case’s discovery would result in the release of information that would assist foreign intelligence services, particularly those of the Russian Federation, and other foreign actors in future operations against the United States . . . The substance of the government’s evidence identifies uncharged individuals and entities that the government believes are continuing to engage in interference operations like those charged in the present indictment.”
June 13, 2018: ABC News reports that Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has released his legal team and is expected to cooperate with the Mueller investigation.
June 15, 2018: The judge revokes Paul Manafort’s jail for attempted witness tampering. He is promptly removed from the courtroom by U.S. Marshals to the jail holding area.
July 3, 2018: The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence releases its assessment of the American intelligence community’s early January 2017 conclusions that the Russians meddled in the American election and did so with the intent to damage the Clinton Campaign and help the Trump Campaign. The SSCI basically endorses the conclusions of the intelligence community. They find the methods and procedures involved were transparent, debated internally, not subject to partisan interference and well founded.
July 8, 2018: Contradicting many prior denials by Trump (see e.g. December 3, 2017 entry) Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani says Trump did ask Comey to go easy on Michael Flynn.
July 13, 2018: Mueller releases Indictments against 12 Additional Russians. All 12 are members of the Russian GRU Units 26165 and 74455, both set up for this purpose of meddling in the American election. The indictment states:
The object of the conspiracy was to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Another purpose was even more nefarious. The Russian GRU agents attempted to hack state voter records. In the words of the indictment:
The object of the conspiracy was to hack into protected computers of persons and entities charged with the administration of the 2016 US. elections in order to access these computers and steal voter data and other information stored on these computers.
Both conspiracies succeeded. The hacks into Democratic and Hillary Campaign computers resulted in the theft of tens of thousands of emails and other documents that were then used in a weaponized manner to great effect against the Clinton Campaign. The indictment alleges the Russian GRU released the emails first through the GRU created fronts of “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0.”
The indictment alleges the Russian GRU, acting as Guccifer 2.0, funneled the stolen information for Wikileaks to release. Wikileaks at least knew the material was stolen, and volunteered to the Russian GRU that it would be better means of releasing the information than Guccifer. The indictment alleges Wikileaks and Guccifer coordinated the release to information to most damage the Clinton Campaign and thereby help the Trump Campaign.
As for the stealing of voter data, the indictment alleges the GRU successfully hacked at least one states stealing information on about 500,000 voters that included their, names, addresses, partial social security numbers, dates of birth, and drivers license numbers.
The indictment also states an unnamed candidate for Congress requested and received stolen information about his/her opponent from Guccifer. An indictment against this person seems likely.
July 16, 2018: Trump has a summit with Russian President Putin in Helsinki. As he arrives the President of the United States takes to Twitter to trash the “foolishness and stupidity” of the United States, which he blames for the poor state of relations between the countries. In addition, on the first working day after Special Counsel Mueller indicted 12 Russian GRU agents for attacking the American election process, Trump communicates to Putin that the indictments were all just part of a “Witch Hunt.”
At a press conference following their meeting (see transcript), Trump more than doubles down on these themes. With a smiling Putin standing right next to him Trump describes the Mueller investigation, that just indicted 12 Russian GRU agents, as “a disaster for our country.” Trump was directly asked who he believed, Putin or his own Intelligence agencies, on the question of Russia interference in the 2016 election. This was the question:
REPORTER AP: President Trump you first. Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is, who do you believe? My second question is would you now with the whole world watching tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you want him to never do it again?
In response to this Trump incoherently babbled about Hillary Clinton’s supposed 33,000 missing emails (there aren’t nearly that many missing, most were recovered from other servers), and repeatedly asked why the FBI did not seize the Democratic National Committee’s computer server (a private firm examined the server and gave the results to the FBI). Within this babble, the closest Trump came to answering the question was to side with Putin over America’s intelligence agencies.
Trump: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me, and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be . . . I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today and what he did is an incredible offer he offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer.
Trump used the phrase “no collusion” three times in the press conference. His final words at the press conference were, “witch hunt.”
There was a moment of honesty in the press conference. Putin was asked whether he wanted Trump to win the election and whether he directed any of his officials to help Trump win. Putin responded, “Yes, I did.”
July 21, 2018: Frustratingly heavily redacted copies of the FISA warrant applications for Carter Page were released to the NY Times under the Freedom of Information Act. They show four different Republican appointed judges approved all four warrants and renewals issued. The FBI affidavits directly state the FBI believes Carter Page acted as an agent of the Russian government in “collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government” to “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.” For more detail, read my article “Mining For Nuggets In The Carter Page FISA Warrant Applications.”
July 26, 2018: Michael Cohen claims Candidate Trump received advance notice of the notorious June 9, 2016 meeting (see that date above) with Russian agents to get dirt on Hillary Clinton because the Russians wanted to help the Trump Campaign.
July 31, 2018: The first trial of Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort begins on charges of bank fraud and tax evasion. Manafort’s attorneys indicate they plan to defend him by blaming Manafort’s underling, Rick Gates, for everything.
August 5, 2018: Following news reports that he is concerned his son may be in legal jeopardy for his role in the June 9, 2016 meeting (see above) Trump tweets that this meeting with Russians “was a meeting to get information on an opponent,” claiming such meetings are “totally legal.”
August 13, 2018: The prosecution rests its case in the first trial of Paul Manafort. In this final day, emails with Jared Kushner were entered into evidence. The emails establish that Manafort was still working with the Trump Team, months after supposedly leaving it, and months after Trump and his team knew that Manafort was under investigation for his illicit financial dealings with Russian spies. At issue is just good old fashioned bribery in exchange for political favors. Manafort “sold” to people he needed money from his recommendations for positions in the Trump Administration. Manafort supposedly left the Trump team in mid-August 2016 after newspaper reports of his shady dealings and investigation of it emerged. Over three months later, on November 30, 2016, Manafort emailed Jared Kushner recommending Federal Savings Bank chair Stephen Calk be appointed as Secretary of the Army. Calk had just given Manafort a $16 million loan from the bank that violated bank policy. Calk previously discussed with Manafort jobs he would like in the Trump Administration, listing 29 possible jobs, to include the Secretary of the Army job Manafort recommended him for. The bank lost almost $12 million on the loan. In response to the recommendation from Manafort, Kushner responded, “On it!” Calk would ultimately not receive the job.
August 14, 2018: Former high ranking Trump aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman appears on MSNBC and claims Trump had advance knowledge of Wikileaks releases of Clinton emails. She also claims Mueller’s team has talked to her. Her appearance is for the release of her book, Unhinged, wherein she details a number of scandals at Trump White House. She later releases tapes of her being fired by General Kelly, and a subsequent call with Trump where he claims to have not known anything about it.
August 15, 2018: Trump revokes the security clearance of Former CIA Director John Brennan. The move is widely seen as retribution for Brennan’s negative comments regarding Trump since leaving public service. Trump’s move is the first in a series of security clearances he is threatening to revoke to include Former FBI Director James Comey, Former National Security Director James Clapper, Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. As various annotations in this timeline indicate, many of these people are potential witnesses against Trump in the Russia collusion investigation and Trump’s application of this “enemies list” could be viewed as an effort to intimidate them. Over a dozen former high level intelligence chiefs sign a letter condemning Trump’s action as having nothing to do with national security and describing it as simply “an attempt to stifle free speech.”
August 16, 2018: Omarosa Manigault-Newman appears on MSNBC, again releasing a tape. This one of call between her and Lara Trump (Eric Trump’s wife). Lara offers Omarosa a $180,000/year job in the Trump 2020 Campaign in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement. Omarosa regards the offer as hush money and turns the offer down.
Also, Trump links his pulling the security of Former CIA Director John Brennan, and plans to revoke more, to the Russia investigation saying “I call it the rigged witch hunt, (it) is a sham. And these people led it!” Blowback from the action against Brennan is powerful. Retired Admiral William McRaven writes a strong letter condemning Trump’s “McCarthy-era tactics” and stating “I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.” McRaven commanded the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014 and orchestrated the SEAL raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Also, in a pair of tweets Trump blames former Deputy Attorney Bruce Ohr for giving the FBI the Steele Dossier. Trump claims Ohr’s wife, who does work for Fusion GPS, gave it to him, and he gave it to the FBI.
August 17, 2018 Trump states that he plans to “very quickly” revoke the security clearance for Bruce Ohr. Ohr’s only connection is that his wife is employed by Fusion GPS which hired Christopher Steele who did the “Steele Dossier.” Trump blames Bruce Ohr for supposedly giving the Steele Dossier to the FBI. Ohr’s job requires a security clearance.
August 18, 2018: The New York Times reports that White House Counsel Donald McGahn has been a cooperating witness in the Mueller investigation, partially because he feared Trump was setting him up as the fall guy for obstruction of justice charges. In June 2017 Trump ordered McGahn to fire Special Counsel Mueller, but McGahn refused (see entries above).
August 21, 2018: Paul Manafort is found guilty by a jury on eight counts of 18 against him. A mistrial was declared due to hung jury on the remaining ten charges. Manafort was found guilty of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of hiding foreign bank accounts.
Also, Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleads guilty as part of a plea bargain to 8 counts. Two of the counts include campaign financing violations related to hush money payments to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. Cohen states the violations were made “in coordination with and at the direction of” President Trump. The Statement of Offense, that Cohen basically confesses to, details a stunning process of deliberate collusion between the Trump Campaign and AMI (the parent company of the National Enquirer) to suppress negative stories about Trump. Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, appears on MSNBC and strongly suggests Cohen has knowledge that Trump knew in advance, and encouraged Russian computer hacking. Davis suggests Cohen will be happy to discuss what he knows with Special Prosecutor Mueller. It should be noted that Cohen previously said that Trump knew of the Trump Tower meeting with Russians in advance and approved it (see July 26, 2018 entry above).
August 23, 2018: Trump attacks Jeff Sessions in an early morning interview with Fox News. Trump claims he only hired Sessions for his campaign loyalty, says Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation meant he did not take over and lead the agency he is in charge of, and says he wished he picked someone else to be Attorney General. Such attacks are not unusual, what is unusual is that this time Sessions fires back stating, “While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
Rudy Giuliani reveals that Trump asked about pardoning Manafort during the trial. Giuliani claims they talked the President out of it until at least after the election. This strange breach of attorney/client privileged information is widely seen as a signal to Manafort to stand firm so that the President can pardon him when it is more politically expedient to do so.
AMI President David Pecker (see above entry) is reported to have testified to investigators under a grant of immunity about his role in paying off women to silence them about their affairs with Trump. Pecker thus represents another close associate who turns on Trump. AP reports Pecker had a cache of “catch and kill” agreements for celebrities that Pecker used to influence and gain favors from them.
Cohen Attorney Lanny Davis continues to suggest his client has information that Trump new in advance of Clinton email releases, and that Trump had advance knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting. However Davis repudiated the claim that that Cohen visited Prague in late August or early September of 2016 to collude with Russians (see April 13, 2018 above). That Cohen did so was a key charge in the Steele Dossier. If accepted as true, it would be the first specific discrediting of anything in the Steele Dossier.
The New York Times reports that attorneys for State of New York are investigating whether payments made by the Trump Organization to Karen McDougal violated state criminal law. It should be noted that Trump cannot pardon state convictions.
August 29, 2018: Less than two weeks after it is revealed White House Counsel Don McGahn has been cooperating with the Special Prosecutor (see August 18, 2918 entry above) Trump announces by the dreaded termination tweet that McGahn will be leaving after Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court.
August 31, 2018: George Papadopoulos files a “sentencing memorandum,” essentially a brief, seeking leniency because of the value of his cooperation to the FBI. He states that he told the FBI that in the March 31, 2016 National Security Meeting (see entry for that date above) that in regards to his suggestion that Trump meet with Putin during the campaign, Trump nodded in approval and Jeff Sessions “appeared to like the idea and stated the campaign should look into it.” This contradicts Sessions’ sworn testimony to Congress where he claimed to have pushed back on the idea. The sentencing memorandum also states that Papadopoulos told the FBI “he was unaware of anyone in the campaign knowing of the stolen Hillary Clinton emails prior to the emails being publicly released.” However, this was in the section of memorandum captioned “George Papadopoulos Lied to the FBI.”
Samuel Patten pleads guilty to violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and enters into a full cooperation agreement with government investigators. Patten’s Statement of Offense details a scheme whereby he worked with Manafort protege Rick Gates, and a straw purchaser, to illegally funnel foreign money to then President-elect Trump’s Inauguration Committee. Patten also admits to lying in his testimony to Congress regarding these matters. The plea agreement was actually struck with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, but the issue was originally referred to them by Special Prosecutor Mueller’s office. Patten’s Statement of Offense expressly states that it does not include “all the facts known to the parties concerning the charged offense and covered conduct.” While the Statement of Offense suggests many more charges could have been brought, the plea agreement reduces it to a single count for the FARA violation. This suggests Patten has provided very useful information to the government that we don’t know about yet.
September 4, 2018: CNN and other media outlets report on shocking revelations from advance copies of Bob Woodward’s soon to be released book, “Fear: Trump in the White House.” The book quotes inner Trump aides as stealing documents from Trump’s desk to protect national security from his dangerous impulses, with General Kelley describing the Trump Presidency as “crazy town.” Trump attorneys are described as desperately attempting to convince him to not submit to an interview with Mueller because he could not do so without perjuring himself. To illustrate this to the President they engage in a mock interview with him, which he fails.
September 5, 2018: The New York Times publishes a stunning anonymous editorial from “a senior official in the Trump administration” entitled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration: I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” The editorial generally backs the allegations in Woodward’s book. The editorial claims “many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” It describes the President as amoral with impulses that are generally “anti-democratic.” The writer claims Trump’s instability led to “early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment” to remove the President, but they decided to work within rather than precipitate a Constitutional crisis. As if to confirm the allegations of the editorial that the President is unhinged, Trump responds by falsely tweeting that the author is guilty of treason.
September 7, 2018: George Papadopoulos is sentenced to 14 days in prison and a year of supervised release.
September 14, 2018: Manafort pleads guilty to two counts related to his second trial. Those counts are for Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice. The second of those is related to his efforts to tamper with witnesses while his trials were pending. In addition, Manafort stipulates that all the facts alleged by the government are true. The deal includes a cooperation agreement requiring Manafort’s cooperation in regards to whatever prosecutors want to ask about. Here’s a screenshot of part of the relevant material.
September 21, 2018: The New York Times reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested secretly taping President Trump to gather evidence of his instability so he could be removed under the provisions of the 25th Amendment. Rosenstein supposedly did this in the Spring of 2017 in the turmoil following Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. The Times also claims Rosenstein discussed with associates gathering support to remove Trump pursuant to the 25th Amendment. The Times notes that Rosenstein strongly denies the story. The report prompts immediate speculation that it could provide political cover for Trump to finally fire Rosenstein and replace him with someone who would terminate the Mueller investigation.
October 2, 2018: The New York Times reports on an extensive scheme of tax fraud used by Trump’s father, Trump, and his siblings in the 1990s. The report bursts Trump’s self made man story, reporting that his father funneled him over $400 million in current dollars, much of it through fraudulent tax schemes.
October 19, 2018: The Mueller team unseals a new indictment against a Russian named Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova. The 38 page criminal complaint details extensive Russian troll farm social media meddling efforts in both the 2016 and upcoming 2018 midterm elections. “Project Lakhta”, as the Russians called, employed hundreds of people, with a budget of tens of millions of dollars, that since 2014 operated with the stated goal “to spread distrust towards candidates for political office and the political system in general.” Khusyaynova acted as the Chief Accountant for the operation, paying those considerable bills. The depth, breadth and sophistication of the Russian troll farm efforts is detailed with dozens of examples of social media posts, memes, and often incredibly detailed instructions given employees on how to be most effective in advancing that stated purpose. This indictment does not seem to move the investigation closer to the team around Donald Trump.
November 6, 2018: In midterm elections Democrats take control of the House of Representatives pledging to use their new subpoena power to investigate the President. Obstruction of investigations by Devin Nunes will no longer be possible.
November 7, 2018: The day after midterm elections, Trump fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions’ resignation letter directly states “at your request, I am submitting my resignation.” Trump’s firing is largely seen as retribution against Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, thus allowing Rosenstein to appoint Special Counsel Mueller. Many harbor concerns the firing is a precursor for greater plans to fire Mueller, or an effort to appoint a new AG who will reign in the investigation. Trump appoints Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General. In August 2017 Whitaker wrote an Op Ed for CNN endorsing Trump’s position on the scope of the Mueller investigation even using Trump’s favorite phrase, “witch hunt.” Whitaker stated:
The President is absolutely correct. Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing . . . investigating Donald Trump’s finances or his family’s finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else. That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel . . . If he were to continue to investigate the financial relationships without a broadened scope in his appointment, then this would raise serious concerns that the special counsel’s investigation was a mere witch hunt.
Whitaker also tweeted this:
November 9, 2018: Russia responds to a DNC lawsuit charging Russia with hacking its computers by arguing that it is immune to any such lawsuit on grounds the hacking was a military attack. The Wall Street Journal reports that if Trump were not a sitting President he would have been indicted with Michael Cohen for campaign financing fraud related to the hush payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal arranged through The National Enquirer.
November 12, 2018: Roger Stone protege, and Birther conspiracy theorist, Jerome Corsi, publicly states he has been advised by Mueller’s team that they plan to indict him. Corsi suggests he is the victim of a “perjury trap” from a Department of Justice “run by criminals.”
November 16, 2018: The government inadvertently leaks the existence of sealed criminal indictments against Wikileaks head Julian Assange. While the existence of such indictments is known, the indictments themselves remain under seal, so the specific charges remain unknown.
November 20, 2018: President Trump submits written answers to questions posed by the Mueller team. The questions and answers deal only with potential Russian collusion and not with obstruction of justice or other potential charges. The questions and answers are not immediately made public.
November 23, 2018: Roger Stone protege, Jerome Corsi, states that he is in plea bargain negotiations with Mueller’s Special Prosecutor Office.
November 26, 2018: A scheduled joint status report for Paul Manafort was expected to be routine. Instead it is a blockbuster. In the joint status report the government asserts Manfort has breached his plea agreement, and committed additional crimes, by lying to the FBI and the special counsel’s office on a variety of matters. The defendant’s part of the report denies those allegations claiming Manafort provided “truthful information.” Both sides agree there is no longer any reason to delay sentencing. As to what the government asserts Manafort lied about, and what evidence they have he lied, the joint status report does not say. However, the government does say it “will file a detailed sentencing submission to the Probation Department and the Court in advance of sentencing that sets forth the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies, including those after signing the plea agreement.”
Also November 26, 2018: Jerome Corsi announces he will not sign a plea agreement with Mueller.
November 27, 2018: The Guardian reports that Paul Manafort secretly met with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London around the time he joined the Trump Campaign. The March 2016 meeting was just a few months before Wikileaks first releases Clinton emails stolen by the Russian GRU. It is also revealed that Manafort’s attorney briefed Trump’s attorneys about questions from Mueller’s team and answers provided while Manafort was supposedly cooperating with the Special Counsel’s office.
Also November 27, 2018: Jerome Corsi claims Roger Stone contacted him earlier in the day with advance knowledge of the Access Hollywood Tape (see October 7, 2016 entry above), asking Corsi to contact Wikileaks to counter the story with another email leak. According to Corsi, Stone said, “You know this Billy (Bush) is going to be dropped and Assange better get going. Why don’t you get to your buddy Assange and tell him to start.” Corsi claims he could not do what Stone asked because he had no contacts to Assange. However, it is clear that Stone was seeking assistance to make happen exactly what did happen.
Also November 27, 2018: Jerome Corsi releases to the media a draft Statement of Offense prepared by Mueller’s team for him to sign as part of the plea bargain deal he rejected. The Statement of Offense sets forth facts evidencing collusion between Trump Campaign Advisor Roger Stone and Wikileaks, which in turn was getting the information from the Russian GRU. Further, it is clear Corsi and Stone knew the materials were stolen, or hacked. I have provided a translated version of the Statement of Offense.
November 28, 2018: CNN reports it has received insight into two answers Trump gave to Mueller’s questions on November 20th. Citing “two sources familiar with the matter” CNN says the President claimed he did not have advance knowledge of the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting and that Roger Stone never told him about Wikileaks. Knowingly false answers to the Special Prosecutor would be a felony. Trump did hedge that the answers were to the best of his recollection. Trump states that a pardon of Manafort is still under consideration. Trump says, it’s “not off the table. It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?”
November 29, 2018: Michael Cohen pleads guilty to telling Congress three lies in testimony Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. The Criminal Information filed with the plea agreement details the lies as follows:
- Cohen lied when stating the project ended in January of 2016, before the Iowa caucuses, when in fact discussion for the project continued with the Russians into June 2016. Those discussions included Trump and undesignated family members of Trump.
- Cohen lied when he told Congress he never travelled to Russia regarding the potential deal and lied when he told Congress he never considered asking Trump to travel to Russia regarding the deal. In fact, Cohen agreed to travel to Russia in May 2016 to continue discussions related to the deal and took steps to plan for Trump to travel there too.
- Cohen lied when he told Congress he never recalled any Russian government response or contact regarding the Trump Tower Moscow project. In fact, Cohen knew he did receive responses from the press Secretary for the President of Russia and talked to others about those contacts.
The criminal information states Cohen:
“made the false statements to (1) minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual-1 (Trump) and (2) give the false impression that the Moscow Project ended before the Iowa caucus and the very first primary, in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.
The bolded part is important because it admits the lies were to obstruct the Russia investigation. That would constitute obstruction of justice and if Trump was involved with it conspiracy to obstruct justice.
In addition, it was also reported that one of the questions Mueller asked, and that Trump answered (see November 20, 2018 update above), was what conversations he had with Cohen regarding the Moscow Trump Tower project. If the President continued his previous public story, that the project ended in January 2016, then this would be felony false statements.
Trump responds by calling Cohen a “weak person” and liar who is lying to get a reduced sentence. Trump falsely claims “everybody knew about” the Trump Tower Moscow project because “it was very public” and “written about in all the newspapers.” That statement is a lie. The negotiations as they were done were kept secret. The existence of such project was not revealed until an August 27, 2017 report by the Washington Post (see entry that date above), almost a year after the election.
November 30, 2018: Cohen’s attorneys release a sentencing memorandum pleading for leniency. Much of the plea for leniency is based on Cohen acting with the full knowledge and direction of President Trump in his illegal conduct. There are even hints that Cohen’s false statements to Congress were coordinated with the Trump Administration.
December 3, 2018: Trump posts two tweets commending Roger Stone for not cooperating with Mueller and attacking Michael Cohen for doing so. The tweets specifically urge that Cohen serve a “full and complete sentence” for his crimes. The tweets are seen by many as amounting to witness tampering and obstruction of justice.
December 4, 2018: Mueller releases a frustratingly heavily redacted sentencing memorandum for Michael Flynn. Technically it’s two documents. A sentencing memo, and a heavily redacted addendum. The addendum would have the real interesting information if we could see it, which we can’t. However, I believe the major takes from what we can see are:
- Flynn’s assistance has been so helpful that Mueller recommends he receive no prison time. That is highly unusual and suggests an exceptional level of cooperation and value from the information provided by Flynn.
- Flynn’s assistance is for the Special Prosecutor’s Russia collusion investigation and at least two more criminal investigations that are completely redacted.
- Quote from an un-redacted portion of the addendum: “[Flynn] has also assisted the SCO investigation concerning links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign . . . on a range of issues including interactions between individuals of the Presidential Transition Team and Russia.” Redacted material follows this. This strongly suggests Russia collusion is still a central part of the investigation and part of the substantial assistance provided by Flynn.
- That so much was redacted suggests Mueller still has much information he has to protect in the interest of the ongoing multiple criminal investigations alluded to. This indicates the investigations could still be a long way from done.
December 7, 2018: The Department of Justice releases two sentencing memorandums for Michael Cohen. One from the Special Prosecutor’s Office and one from the SD of New York. You can read both here. They are both bad for the President.
Between the two, the one from the SCO is more generous for Cohen. While not being as direct as the one from the SDNY in accusing the President of crimes, it should nonetheless be chilling and concerning. The SCO is clearly thankful for the truthful and useful testimony provided by Cohen. It spells out four areas where he has been of particular assistance.
1. Information about Cohen’s “own contacts with Russian interests during the campaign and discussions with others in the course of making those contacts.” Cohen “provided information about attempts by other Russian nationals to reach the campaign” including one seeking a meeting with Trump that “could have a phenomenal impact not only in political but in a business dimension as well.” Russians were appealing to Trump politically, and with money, and he was listening.
2. Cohen provided “useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by his regular contact with Company executives during the campaign.” That means there are other witnesses that Mueller has certainly gone to. “Matters core to the investigation” is Russian collusion.
3. “Cohen provided relevant and useful information concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017 -2018 time period.” There are some very nervous employees, and perhaps former employees, of the President.
4. “Cohen described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries.” Put simply, this means Cohen explained who he coordinated his perjury with. Combine that with #3.
For all this the SCO is generous and recommends a lenient sentence that includes any time served and concurrent running of sentences.
The SDNY is less generous. They discuss the seriousness of Cohen’s crimes that include tax fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations, and his systematic efforts to conceal them. They recommend a substantial jail sentence only slightly below the guidelines.
The key statement occurs after detailing the campaign finance violations. The SDNY states, “as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1 [Trump].” That is not from Cohen or his attorneys. That is a statement by the United States Attorneys Office asserting the President of the United States was a conspirator to commit felonious campaign financing fraud.
December 12, 2018: Trump former personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen is sentenced to three years in prison for bank fraud, tax evasion, lying to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow project, and the campaign finance violations related to hush payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. He is directed to report to prison on March 6th. At the sentencing hearing , Cohen’s lawyers said he started cooperating because he feared Trump would stop the Mueller investigation. The attorney for the Mueller’s office told the judge that Cohen told the truth. Speaking for himself, Cohen strongly attacked Trump:
“I take full responsibility for each act that I pled guilty to, the personal ones to me and those involving the President of the United States of America . . . I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the fateful day that I accepted the offer to work for a famous real estate mogul whose business acumen I truly admired. In fact, I now know that there is little to be admired . . . it was my own weakness, and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light . . . I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass. My weakness can be characterized as a blind loyalty to Donald Trump . . . For months now the President of the United States, one of the most powerful men in the world, publicly mocks me, calling me a rat and a liar, and insists that the Court sentence me to the absolute maximum time in prison. Not only is this improper; it creates a false sense that the President can weigh in on the outcome of judicial proceedings that implicate him . . . history will not remember me as the villain of this story.”
Also December 12, 2018: The SDNY announces a prior settlement agreement with AMI, the parent company for the National Enquirer, which made the hush money payment to Karen McDougal. The government agreed to not prosecute in exchange for AMI’s cooperation. AMI states that it made the payment to McDougal with the:
“principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”
AMI further states the payment was made “in concert” with “a candidate’s presidential campaign” in order to “ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 election.” The conspiracy started in August 2015 when Cohen, AMI President David Pecker, and “at least one other member of the campaign” met to arrange the plans to silence women reporting Trump sexual misconduct discovered by The National Enquirer.
This defeats a claim advanced by some in support of Trump that the payments to McDougal and Stormy Daniels were not necessarily to help the Trump Campaign, but to protect his business brand or shield his family from embarrassment.
December 13, 2018: As part of a plea agreement Russian spy Maria Butina pleads guilty to conspiring to secretly work as a Russian agent in the United States. The plea agreement and attached Statement of Offense detail how Butina worked with prominent Republican activist Paul Erickson to infiltrate high levels of a receptive National Rifle Association to establish “back channel communications” with high ranking Republican politicians and the Trump Administration. Butina answered to a Russian mobster billionaire oligarch named Alexander Torshin. Erickson assisted Butina in drafting a “Description of the Diplomacy Project” pitching the idea to Torshin of creating this back channel. Torshin approved and funded the project, which prior to Butina’s arrest, was quite successful in arranging meetings with important Republicans, to include members of Trump’s family. Erickson’s indictment is expected soon and others may be coming as well.
Also December 13, 2018: The Wall Street Journal reports that Donald Trump himself was the “at least one other member of the campaign” in the August 2015 meeting with Michael Cohen and AMI (the parent company to the National Enquirer) President David Pecker to set up the conspiracy to silence women who reported sex scandals about Trump. The WSJ states that Trump asked “What can you do to help my campaign?” as the meeting started. Pecker then offered that the National Enquirer would likely hear from women seeking to sell such stories and that when they were approached he would contact Cohen so they could arrange a way to silence the women until after the election.
Also December 13, 2018: The Wall Street Journal also reports the United States Attorneys Office for Manhattan is investigating the finances associated with Trump’s inauguration. WSJ reports the investigation “partly arises out of materials seized in the federal probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s business dealings.” The investigation focuses on whether “top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions, or to influence official administration positions.” You know, good old fashion bribery, one of the crimes listed in the Constitution as a basis for impeachment.
December 14, 2018: Cohen appeared on ABC in an interview with George Stephanopoulos. In addition to accusing Trump of acting with knowledge of the illegality of the Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal payments, Cohen was directly asked if he believed Trump was telling the truth in the Russian investigation. Cohen directly answered “no,” without further elaboration.
December 17, 2018: Roger Stone reaches a settlement in a defamation case brought by Guo Wengui (also known as “Miles Kwok”), a Chinese billionaire living in exile in New York City. Stone had falsely claimed on InfoWars that Wengui had been convicted of financial crimes in the United States and had made illegal donations to the Hillary Clinton Campaign. In the settlement Stone apologizes for relying on fellow Trump Campaign Advisor Sam Nunberg in making the allegations. The settlement requires Stone to publicize the apology on InfoWars, Facebook, Instagram and as advertisements in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.
Also December 17, 2018: On the eve of Michael Flynn’s sentencing hearing indictments are filed against two of his associates for FARA violations and lying about it. The indictment alleges the named defendants, Bijan Rafiekian and Kamil Alptekin, engaged in lobbying in the United States directed at extraditing a Turkish citizen, Fethullah Gulen, to Turkey. Turkish President Erdogan regards him as the leader of a failed coup attempt. Flynn is (identified as “Person A” in the indictment) and his company (identified as “Company A”). The indictment describes Flynn as writing an editorial on behalf of the Turkish government on election day. The indictment details the involvement of Flynn’s company, and his associates, as working with the government of Turkey to conceal their illegal lobbying efforts even after Flynn was serving as National Security Director.
Also December 17, 2018: The Washington Post releases a report prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee detailing Russian efforts to use social media to influence the election. The report details the efforts by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) that amongst other things says:
“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump. Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.”
December 18, 2018: On the morning of Michael Flynn’s sentencing hearing President Trump again meddles in the judicial process by tweeting his support.
It doesn’t help. The sentencing hearing goes awful for Flynn. The judge gave no consideration to belated suggestions by Flynn’s attorneys hinting a prosecutorial misconduct. Flynn directly admitted that he lied and knew he was lying when he did it. The judge emphasized the seriousness of Flynn’s crimes and hinted that he was strongly considering prison time. He asked if Flynn could have been charged in the indictment filed the day before (see above) and would had significant exposure. The prosecution answered “yes.” At one point the judge launches a blistering attack against the highly decorated general:
“All along, you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the President of the United States. That undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably you sold your country out.”
It gets worse. The judge later twice asked if Flynn could have been charged with treason before walking those comments back.
The judge repeatedly suggested Flynn delay sentencing until his cooperation was complete. At first Flynn declined but the judge gave him a recess to talk it over with his attorneys. His attorneys, realizing the hearing, was a disaster wisely accepted the opportunity to put some distance between it and Flynn’s sentencing. The sentencing was delayed with a status report set for March. In my view the delay to wait for Flynn’s full cooperation could be quite lengthy. I expect Flynn may testify in several trials.
Also December 18, 2018: CNN releases a copy of the Trump Tower Moscow Letter of Intent signed personally by Donald Trump. Previously, Trump had suggested it was not signed by him but by Michael Cohen. On the Sunday before this Rudy Giuliani appeared on CNN and directly said:
“It was a real estate project. There was a letter of intent to go forward, but no one signed it.”
When confronted with the signed letter Giuliani engaged in what has become the typical Trump administration gas lighting of the American people. Giuliani denied that he had ever said the letter was not signed. “I don’t think I said nobody signed it” declared Giuliani. Giuliani’s lies could subject him to disciplinary action from the State Bar.
In the course of representing a client, a lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of fact or law to a third person.” — New York Rule of Professional Conduct 4.1.
December 27, 2018: The McClatchy Report claims Mueller has electronic evidence that Michael Cohen’s cell phone was detected in Prague in late August or early September of 2016. McClatchy also claims four sources advising that an unstated Eastern European intelligence agency intercepted calls between Russian leaders during this period describing Cohen meeting with them in Prague. This is the second time McClatchy has reported claims Mueller has proof placing Cohen in Prague (see April 13, 2018 entry above), but this report provides much more detail regarding the nature and sources of the alleged proof. If true, a trip by Cohen to Prague would be a major corroboration of the Steele Dossier which first asserted this happened. Cohen took to Twitter to deny the McClatchy Report while still coyly saying “Mueller knows everything.”
It should be noted that Mueller’s team informed the judge at Cohen’s sentencing that he has been truthful and helpful.
December 29, 2018: Time Magazine reports Paul Manafort was heavily indebted to Russian spy/oligarch Victor Boyarkin and that Boyarkin was essentially blackmailing Manafort for access to Trump and for American policy changes while Manafort was serving as Trump Campaign Chairman. Time quotes Boyarkin as saying, “He owed us a lot of money and he was offering ways to pay it back.” It should be noted that Manafort was instrumental in eliminating anti-Russian provisions from the Republican Party platform at the Republican National Convention (see July 11 and 12, 2016 entry above).
January 4, 2019: Mueller’s grand jury receives a six month extension to its original 18 month charter that was about to expire.
January 8, 2019: In another bizarre twist Manafort’s attorneys filed under seal their rebuttal to government claims Manafort lied while he was supposed to be a cooperating witness. However, the judge ordered his attorneys to post a redacted version publicly. They did, and that’s when things got weird. This is it. While you can’t see the redacted text, it was somehow electronically preserved. You can copy and then paste the redacted portions into a different document. I copied it all, redactions included, and now un-redacted, for you to see. There’s some interesting stuff in the stuff you weren’t supposed to see, and one ginormous collusion bombshell.
That bombshell occurs in regards to conversations Manafort, as Chairman of Trump’s Campaign, had with. Kilimnik is a Russian spy. He has already been indicted by Mueller as a co-conspirator with Manafort in conspiracies to defraud the United States, FARA reporting violations, money laundering, bank and wire transfer fraud and tax evasion and witness tampering while Manafort was on bail. Manafort employed Kilimnik in his company to lobby for pro-Russian candidates in the Ukraine.
Manafort’s brief claims he didn’t intentionally lie to the government, but that he was often asked questions about conversations from years ago, when he was very busy being a presidential campaign manager, and involved in many communications. This included secret talks Manafort had with Kilimnik regarding a Ukraine peace plan. Mueller asserts Manafort lied about those discussions. In a redacted portion Manafort’s brief says:
“In fact, during a proffer meeting held with the Special Counsel on September 11, 2018, Mr. Manafort explained to the Government attorneys and investigators that he would have given the Ukrainian peace plan more thought, had the issue not been raised during the period he was engaged with work related to the presidential campaign. Issues and communications related to Ukrainian political events simply were not at the forefront of Mr. Manafort’s mind during the period at issue and it is not surprising at all that Mr. Manafort was unable to recall specific details prior to having his recollection refreshed. The same is true with regard to the Government’s allegation that Mr. Manafort lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign.”
Notably, Mueller likely insisted this be redacted because he didn’t want Trump to know he knew about it yet. Mueller did not want out that he had such strong evidence of collusion.
To summarize. The Russians were meddling in the election via both a disinformation campaign on social media and hacking Clinton/DNC emails to release in a weaponized fashion with the intention of helping the Trump Campaign. That’s not really even disputed now. Trump’s Campaign manager was working with the Russians, by providing them campaign polling data. This assisted the Russian efforts in targeting their social media campaign and timing the release of emails.
Also January 8, 2019: Natayla Veselnitskaya is indicted on obstruction of justice charges, in a case unrelated to Mueller’s investigation, involving allegations of money laundering against various Russians. She is accused presenting to the court an exculpatory document that she falsely represented as independently made. In fact, Veselnitskaya herself was involved in the drafting documents, working with the Russian prosecutor’s office to do so. Natayla Veselnitskaya is the Russian “lawyer” who secretly met with Trump Junior, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016. While the case for which she is indicted is unrelated to that, the indictment spells out Natayla Veselnitskaya’s strong connections to the Russian government, something she previously denied having. The indictment alleges facts supporting the contention that Trump Junior, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort were secretly meeting with agents of the Russian government, and not just private citizens, as originally maintained.
January 11, 2019: The New York Times reports that in mid-2017 the FBI began a counterintelligence and criminal investigation into whether actions by President Trump suggested he was “working on behalf of Russia against American interests.” The article states that “counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security.” The investigation also included whether Trump’s firing of Comey was to impede the Russia investigation and thereby constitute obstruction of justice. The obstruction investigation was merged into the on going counterintelligence investigation.
January 12, 2019: The Washington Post reports that in a departure from the practices of prior Presidents, Trump has a pattern of going through extraordinary means to conceal details of his conversations with Putin. The extraordinary means included seizing the notes of his interpreter in talks with Putin. As a result, there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s multiple interactions with Putin.
January 15, 2019: Mueller files a heavily redacted listing of lies his office asserts Manafort told when he was supposed to be cooperating. It also itemizes the evidence supporting claims of lies. Unfortunately the document’s extensive redactions make it almost incomprehensible, however, a couple of notable items are discernible.
First, Manafort’s misconduct included the period while he was Trump’s Campaign Manager. One part of the filing states “in the summer of 2016 Manafort had been instrumental in setting up the [redacted] and having [redacted] run it.” More partially redacted sentences continue, that while difficult to read, suggest a $19 million payment to someone for something was involved. Another section discusses conversations Manafort had in with Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik that started early August 2016. That part reads, “Beginning on August 2, 2016, and continuing until March 2018, Manafort and Kilimnik communicated about a [large sections of redaction].” While the redactions conceal the nature of these communications it is revealed that some were “in person.” Manafort officially worked for the Trump Campaign starting in March 2016, and promoted to Campaign Manager on June 20, 2016, serving in that capacity until August 19, 2016.
However, Mueller’s filing also makes clear Manafort was still working with the campaign and administration well after that. Per the filing “on May 26, 2018, [redacted] texted Manafort and asked him: “If I see POTUS one on one next week am I ok to remind him of our relationship?” Manafort responded to the text, “[y]es” and “[e]ven if not one on one." Manafort still had considerable influence in the administration into 2018. The government asserts, “In addition to this documentary evidence, Gates has told the government in debriefings that in approximately January 2017, Manafort told Gates that he was using intermediaries, including [redacted] to get people appointed in the Administration. Manafort said he was talking to [several lines redacted] up through approximately February 2018 (the time of Gates’ guilty plea).” Notably, Trump has tried to wash his hands of Manafort, claiming he only worked for him for a few months. In fact, Manafort was still working with the Trump administration, apparently to include influencing appointments, into 2018.
In this large section regarding “Manafort’s Contact With The Administration.” There are some large blocks of redacted testimony here, and I suspect some of it involves specific allegations of Manafort coordinating his lies to the grand jury with specific members of the administration. There is reference to a Word document where Manafort was discussing his grand jury testimony with someone in the administration. If so, witness tampering and subordination of perjury charges against members of the administration could follow.
January 16, 2019: Trump’s “attorney” Rudy Giuliani appears on CNN and basically says the Trump Campaign may have colluded with Russia but Trump didn’t. It has degenerated to the last line of defense. Giuliani went so far as to say, “I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign. I said the President of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the President of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspiring with the Russians to hack the DNC.” That is not the only crime that can be committed here, but still this admission is incredible. This admission somehow didn’t prevent Giuliani from calling the investigation a “witch hunt” in the same interview. Giuliani’s remarkable defense for Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort sharing campaign polling data with Russian spies was: 1) That such polling data given to everyone anyway (which is not true, campaign polling data is some of the most highly kept secrets of campaigns), and 2) Everybody knows campaign polling data is very inaccurate, so what does it matter?
January 17, 2019: BuzzFeed reports that Donald Trump personally directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow project. Per the report, Mueller already knew about Trump’s subornation of perjury from other sources and Cohen merely corroborated it when he began cooperating. This is not a case of just Trump’s word vs. Cohen’s.
However, later that night Mueller’s spokesman issues a rare repudiation of the BuzzFeed story. The Mueller release states, “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.” So far, BuzzFeed is standing by their story, claiming their sources are close to the investigation and solid. However, no other news media has been able to confirm or corroborate BuzzFeed’s claim.
January 20, 2019: Ace Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani breaches attorney/client privilege to tell the New York Times that Trump told him Trump Tower Moscow discussions were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won.” Extending the timeline of discussion through the election has startling implications. In the words of the NY Times:
“The new timetable means that Mr. Trump was seeking a deal at the time he was calling for an end to economic sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration. He was seeking a deal when he gave interviews questioning the legitimacy of NATO, a favorite talking point of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. And he was seeking a deal when, in July 2016, he called on Russia to release hacked Democratic emails that Mr. Putin’s government was rumored at the time to have stolen.”
It also means Trump continued negotiating with the Russians for the business deal well after he started receiving classified briefings from American intelligence agencies about the Russian election meddling efforts.
In other Sunday morning news circuit interviews, Giuliani also said that Trump may have talked to Cohen about his testimony to Congress, but claimed that would not break any laws.
January 23, 2019: Counsel for Michael Cohen announces that due to threats against him and his family from President Trump he will not testify to Congress on February 7th as previously scheduled. The statement read, in part:
“Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Mr. Cohen’s continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date.”
January 24, 2019 Roger Stone is indicted and arrested for multiple counts of lying to Congress and witness intimidation. The lying to Congress was all about collusion as the indictment alleges Stone, often acting at the direction of high ranking Trump Campaign officials, worked with Wikileaks to acquire and coordinate releases of Clinton Campaign emails and documents to maximum damaging effect. Randy Credico and Jerome Corsi acted as intermediaries for Stone with Wikileaks. The witness intimidation charge relates to Stone’s efforts to alter the testimony of his associate, Randy Credico. Stone went so far as to threaten even Credico’s dog and life. The indictment describes an email from Stone to Credico that says, “I am so ready. Let’s get it on. Prepare to die [expletive].”
January 27, 2019: Jerome Corsi appears on CNN and states that the facts asserted in Roger Stone’s indictment about him are accurate and that he is willing to testify to that effect in court.
January 30, 2019: Mueller files a brief in a discovery dispute (see June 12, 2018 entry above) with Concord LLC, one of the GRU shell companies the Russian Internet Agency used to meddle in the election. Concord sought release of sensitive information that might be used in its prosecution. Pursuant to a prior protective order, Mueller said officers of the corporation can see it when they come to the United States to look at it and be subject to prosecution. The sensitive materials include sources and methods that led to the indictment of Concord and could lead to the later indictment of unnamed individuals or entities. One argument against providing this Russian company the sensitive information in Russia, was that non-sensitive information, given to Concord’s defense counsel was, in violation of the protective order, given to Concord in Russia. Concord then selectively, deceptively, and fraudulently altered and leaked versions of these documents in an effort to discredit the Mueller investigation. Put simply, people in America are still working with Russians to obstruct Mueller’s investigation.
January 31, 2019: CNN Reports that Trump Juniors mysterious phone calls to blocked phone numbers around the time of the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians, were not to his father.
February 4, 2019: In yet another investigation of potential Trump corruption, prosecutors for the Southern District of New York subpoena the Trump inauguration committee for records. The investigation appears to focus on whether foreign sources contributed to the committee, which is illegal. This would be similar to the scheme Samuel Patten already pled guilty to (see August 31, 2018 entry above).
February 5, 2019: Trump uses his State of the Union address to attack the Russia investigation. Trump states:
“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way! We must be united at home to defeat our adversaries abroad.
Many compared the comments to Nixon’s 1974 State of the Union where he called for an end to the Watergate investigations saying: “I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough.”
February 6, 2019: Newly installed House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Democrat Adam Schiff, Adam Schiff announces a sweeping investigation of potential foreign influence in the Trump Campaign and administration. Schiff states the investigation will pertain “to any credible allegations of leverage by the Russians or the Saudis or anyone else.” The Committee also voted to turnover 50 transcripts from its investigation to the Mueller team.
In addition, Republican political operative, and boyfriend to convicted Russian spy Maria Butina (see December 13, 2018 update above) is indicted by a Federal grand jury in South Dakota on fraud charges related to a chain of nursing homes.
February 7, 2019: Trump responds to the Adam Schiff’s announcement regarding the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation with a three tweet rampage. The Birther complained of “Presidential harassment” and (yet again) a “witch hunt.”
February 13, 2019: The judge in Manafort’s case rules he intentionally lied multiple times when he was supposed to cooperating with prosecutors. The lies include statements about his communications Kilimnik, which included the allegations of lying about the August 2, 2016 meeting discussed above. The judge rules “the Office of Special Counsel is no longer bound by its obligations under the plea agreement, including its promise to support a reduction of the offense level in the calculation of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for acceptance of responsibility.”
February 15, 2019: Mueller files a sentencing recommendation in the Manafort case recommending that he be jailed for 20–24 years.
Also February 15, 2019: Mueller files a brief in the Roger Stone case arguing that Stone’s case is related to Mueller’s prior case indicting 12 Russian GRU agents because both cases “are a part of the same alleged criminal event or transaction.” Put simply, Mueller alleges that Stone’s illegal acts are part of the same criminal transactions done by the Russian GRU. I discuss this significant development more thoroughly here.
February 17, 2019: Trump again attempts to intimidate the Mueller investigation calling out Mueller by name and stating his “investigators should be in jail.”
February 18, 2019: Roger Stone Instagrams a potential threat and insulting post about the judge in his case. It includes a picture of the judge with crosshairs to the side.
Before the day is done Stone deletes the post and “humbly” issues a formal apology to the court.
February 19, 2019: The judge Stone’s case orders that he appearing on February 21st to show cause as to why he should not have his bail revoked or his gag order modified.
Also February 19, 2019: A lengthy New York Times report details extensive efforts by Trump to obstruct the Russia investigation, or as the time puts it, “multiple ham-handed efforts by the president to carry out a dual strategy: publicly casting the Russia story as an overblown hoax and privately trying to contain the investigation’s reach.” The efforts included asking Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitacker to compel Southern District of New York Attorney General Geoffrey Berman (who was appointed by Trump) to un-recuse himself from the investigation. The efforts also included an unstated Trump attorney in the Summer of 2017 contacting attorneys for Manafort and Flynn regarding potential pardons.
Also February 19, 2019: The House Oversight Committee releases a report detailing secret “efforts inside the White House to rush the transfer of highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation of the Atomic Energy Act and without review by Congress as required by law — efforts that may be ongoing to this day.” The Interim Staff Report describes Michael Flynn working on the project early on and failing to disclose his conflict of interest of his employment by the company that would gain from the technology transfer. This could explain part of the additional criminal investigations, described in Flynn’s sentencing memorandum, that Flynn has provided information on since cooperating with the Mueller team. Those pushing the plan continued to do so, and to keep in contact with Flynn, after he left the administration. As late as March 2, 2017 Derek Harvey, a member of Trump’s National Security Council, stated “I speak with Michael Flynn every night” in regards to the issue. Other names potentially implicated in the report include, K.T. McFarland (see Feb 23, 2018 entry above), Thomas Barrack, President Trump’s personal friend of several decades and the Chairman of his Inaugural Committee, and Manafort protege Rick Gates. Jared Kushner is named as the person primarily pushing the effort at this time. The Committee states it is “now launching an investigation to determine whether the actions being pursued by the Trump Administration are in the national security interests of the United States or, rather, serve those who stand to gain financially as a result of this potential change in U.S. foreign policy.”
Also February 19, 2019: Former FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s releases his book, “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump.” In the book (and interviews preceding its release) McCabe describes discussion within the FBI, and even a few members of the cabinet, of potentially invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power after he fired James Comey. McCabe also explains how the FBI launched an counterintelligence investigation related to Trump to determine if he was a Russian asset after Trump twice stated he fired Comey to end the Russia investigation. McCabe also disclosed that he advised the “Gang of Eight” of the counterintelligence investigation and that none of them, including the Republicans, objected. In the words of McCabe, “No one objected. Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds and not based on the facts.” In an interview with Anderson Cooper the former Director of the FBI says that “it’s possible” Trump is a Russian asset.
February 21, 2019: The judge in Stone’s case conducts a hearing related to his threatening Instagram post. Stone takes the stand to apologize but it does not go well as the judge finds his testimony “not credible” and that “he couldn’t keep his story straight.” The judge enhances the gag order stating Stone can no longer speak about publicly about the case at all. The judge also states, “Today I gave you a second chance. This is not baseball, you don’t get a third chance.”
February 27, 2019: Michael Cohen publicly testifies to the House Oversight Committee. In a preliminary statement Cohen describes Trump as a racist, a conman, and a cheat and he then details the facts in support of that. In his testimony Cohen describes how Trump received advance notice of Wikileaks drops from phone calls from Roger Stone. Cohen claims Trump attorneys reviewed and edited his false testimony to Congress, including Jay Sekulow. When asked the last time he spoke to Trump or his representatives Cohen indicated it was a couple months after the FBI raided his home and office. When asked what the subject of that conversation was, Cohen answered that he could not speak to that because it was the subject of an investigation by the Southern District of New York (suggests to me it was obstruction of justice related to a pardon discussion). When then asked if there were any other criminal investigations of the President, not yet publicly disclosed, that he knew of, Cohen answered that there were. He said he could not comment further on that either. Cohen presented two checks, made out to him, to compensate him for his hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. The earlier check, in March 2017 was from the Trump Real Estate Company and signed by Donald Trump Jr., and the Company’s CFO, Allen Weisselberg. Cohen explained how this was all done under President Trump’s direction. When asked if this was a conspiracy involving President Trump, Trump Jr., Weisselberg, and himself to commit corporate fraud by “cooking the books,” Cohen answered that it was.
March 7, 2019: Michael Cohen sues Donald Trump claiming breach of contract related to an agreement to indemnify Cohen for legal fees related to the investigation. Judge T.S. Ellis sentences former Trump Campaign Manager to 47 months in prison for convictions by jury related to bank and tax fraud. The sentence attracts controversy as it is well below sentencing guidelines for the offenses. However, Manafort faces another round of sentencing from a less sympathetic judge in a week.
March 13, 2019: In a complicated sentencing decision (some serving concurrent, some not) the judge in Manafort’s second case adds nearly four additional years for his time prison. She does give credit for time served, sending Manafort to just under seven more years in jail. The State of New York indicts Manafort alleging mortgage fraud and other crimes. If convicted the state-based prosecution would not be subject to a Presidential pardon.
March 15, 2019: Mueller and attorneys for Rick Gates once again jointly file a request to further delay his sentencing for crimes he was convicted for over a year ago. The reason for the delay is “Gates continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations.” The repeated delays in Gates’ sentencing suggest he is still providing very valuable assistance about something very important.
March 18, 2019: ProPublica reports that former Republican National Committee Finance Chairman Elliott Broidy was the target of a very intrusive search warrant and raid last August. Broidy is perhaps best known to the public for his $1.6 million hush agreement, procured by Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, relating to Broidy’s affair with Playboy model Shera Blanchard, which helped her secure an abortion after Broidy made her pregnant. However, the list of matters for which Broidy is under investigation is extensive, and includes influence peddling access to Trump for foreigners. His 2009 bribery conviction did not preclude him from being the Vice Chairman of the Trump Victory Committee, the Vice Chairman of the Trump Inauguration Committee, and until as recently as April 2018, the Deputy Finance Chairman for the Republican National Committee. The ProRepublica report lists many other names for which the search warrant sought evidence related to Broidy. Among them, Rick Gates (see entry above). The various investigations of Broidy may be one case for which Rick Gates is still providing valuable cooperation. In the meantime, add Elliott Broidy to the indictment watch list.
March 19, 2019: Nearly 900 pages of often heavily redacted documents seeking search warrants against Michael Cohen are released. The documents show Mueller’s focus on Cohen started much earlier than previously known as Mueller sought a search warrant of Cohen’s emails in July 2017, just two months after his appointment to Special Counsel. Redactions are to protect ongoing investigations. Highlights of the release include:
- Page 38 of the first document starts a section entitled “The Illegal Campaign Contribution Scheme.” What follows are 18 1/2 pages that are completely redacted. While Cohen plead guilty to an illegal campaign scheme related to paying off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal this massively redacted section makes clear investigations of others for illegal campaign schemes continues.
- Cohen was paid nearly $600,000 for “business consulting” by a company run by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who is close to Putin. These payments were from January through August 2017, while Trump was President.
March 22, 2019: Mueller completes his report and turns it over to Attorney General Barr. The DOJ states that Mueller is not recommending any further prosecutions by the Special Counsels Office, though other prosecutors (such as the Southern District of New York) could. Barr notifies Congress by the letter below.
March 24, 2019: Attorney General William Barr submits a letter to Congress summarizing the results of Mueller’s investigation. The letter quotes Mueller’s report as saying “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” While largely exonerating the President, and his campaign, of Russia collusion Barr’s letter suggests Mueller’s report was less determinative on the question of obstruction of justice as Mueller decided “not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgement” on the obstruction question. Again quoting the Mueller Report the Barr letter states, “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Barr’s letter then states that Mueller’s report spells out the evidence for and against obstruction leaving to him (the Attorney General) to decide if obstruction of justice happened. Barr then states that he and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein determined the evidence was not sufficient to establish obstruction of justice against the President.
March 27, 2019: A Federal Prosecutor states that Mueller’s grand jury is “continuing robustly” its work. Presumably this work, while not involving alleged collusion with Russia, might involve campaign financing fraud and other Trump business related potential crimes. The prosecutor’s statement was made in the context of a hearing regarding a foreign government owned mystery company subpoenaed by the grand jury. The company contested the subpoena and was found in contempt. It has been paying a fine of $50,000 per day and earlier in the week had its appeal to the United States Supreme Court denied a hearing. The subpoena is not mooted by Mueller’s completion and the prosecutors still want the company to produce to the grand jury what was subpoenaed.
April 3, 2019: The New York Times reports that some of Mueller’s investigator’s are frustrated by Attorney General Barr’s summation of the Mueller Report stating the actual findings are more troubling for the President than reflected in Barr’s summation. The Times claims to have interviewed these investigators who declined to provide specifics as to how the actual report is less favorable to Trump than publicly revealed to date.
April 4, 2019: The Washington Post reports that members of Mueller’s team say the report spells out evidence for obstruction of justice that is “alarming and significant.” WaPo also states summaries of the report were written by Mueller’s team needing minimum or no redaction so as to allow for immediate public release. Members of Mueller’s team are reported to be frustrated that Barr used his own summary instead which they regard as misleading.
April 10, 2019: Attorney General Barr testifies to Congress that “some spying” on the Trump Campaign occurred but that he won’t say it was not properly predicated. He says he is investigating that question. Directly asked to provide any evidence of spying, Barr refused. Asked whether the Mueller investigation was a “witch hunt” Barr said he would not characterize it, saying “it is what it is.”
April 11, 2019: Wikileaks leader Julian Assange is arrested and hauled out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he had been holed up for seven years. The British said he was arrested “on behalf of the United States.” Ecuadorian officials invited the police in to arrest him citing his “bad behavior.” Shortly after his arrest an indictment is released that belies Assange supporter claims that he is being persecuted merely for publishing classified documents. The indictment charges Assange with helping Chelsea Manning crack passwords to hack government computers.
Also April 11, 2019: Attorney Greg Craig, formerly White House Counsel in the Obama Administration, is arrested and indicted on charges he lied about assistance he provided to Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort when committing some of his crimes.
April 12, 2019: Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentences Sam Patten to probation. The judge followed the recommendations of prosecutors for no prison time. The leniency was based on the value of Patten’s contributions to several ongoing but still undisclosed investigations. Patten had pled guilty on charges related to setting up a straw buyer to illegally funnel foreign (Russia again) money to Trump’s inaugural committee (see August 31, 2018 entry above). His plea agreement included a requirement for full cooperation and his cooperation apparently greatly impressed prosecutors who continue their investigations.
April 18, 2019: A moderately redacted version of the Mueller Report is released by Attorney General Barr. While the report exonerates the President of any criminal conspiracy with Russia, it nonetheless describes a Presidential Campaign that was aware of and appreciated the assistance of this hostile foreign power. In the words of the report:
“the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
Mueller’s investigation absolves the Trump Campaign of collusion because the investigation concludes the Campaign reached no meeting of the minds with Russians to coordinate activities. The Report also details myriad contacts that Trump and the campaign had with Russians that were publicly denied.
On obstruction, while Mueller declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgement,” it is clear he believes Trump committed numerous acts rising to criminal obstruction of justice and that the pattern of these acts is damning evidence. Mueller did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgement because the binary choice there is to decline or initiate prosecution, and Mueller could not initiate prosecution due to DOJ policy forbidding indictment of a sitting President. The obvious implication is that if Mueller had the binary choice to initiate or decline prosecution, he would have made the choice to initiate.
Trump was desperate from the beginning. When he first heard of the investigation he depressingly sat back in his chair and said, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” He immediately blamed Sessions for allowing it to happen.
In general Trump tried to fire Mueller, improperly limit the scope of the investigation, and influence witnesses to not cooperate with the investigation.Mueller spelled out ten instances involving acts by the President that could amount to obstruction.
- The President ‘s Conduct Concerning the Investigation of Michael Flynn — This includes Trump telling then FBI Director Comey to let the Flynn matter go and statements made by Trump encouraging Flynn to not cooperate with investigators.
- The President ‘s Reaction to Public Confirmation of the FBI’s Russia Investigation — This includes Trump’s angry reaction to Attorney General Sessions recusing himself from the investigation, Trump’s directing intelligence officials to make false public statements that he had no connections to Russia, and Trump’s asking Comey to “lift the cloud” from the Russia investigation by publicly stating Trump was not being personally investigated.
- Trump’s removal of Comey as Director of the FBI with the stated intention of doing it to end the Russia investigation. — Trump also attempted to get Rod Rosenstein, and others in the DOJ, to falsely say the decision to terminate Comey initiated within the DOJ, when the decision was in fact, initiated by, and driven by, Trump alone. Others in the administration did advance this false narrative. For example, at the time Sarah Sanders claimed to have heard from “countless members” of the FBI that the rank and file of the FBI had “lost confidence in their director. Under oath, Sanders admitted:
“countless members of the FBI” was a ‘slip of the tongue’ and her claim that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Corney was a comment she made ‘in the heat of the moment’ that was not founded on anything.”
In short, Sanders admitted to the FBI that she lied to the public.
4. The President’s Efforts to Remove the Special Counsel — Just weeks after Mueller was appointed Trump repeatedly ordered White Counsel Don McGahn to have Mueller removed. McGahn refused and prepared to resign rather than do so, telling others that he wanted to avoid a Nixon style “Saturday Night Massacre.” McGahn prepared his letter of resignation and even packed up his office in anticipation of resigning. As discussed below, Trump later ordered McGahn to falsely claim, and to create a false record, stating Trump never ordered him to fire Mueller.
5. The President’s Efforts to Curtail the Special Counsel Investigation — Trump directed Corey Lewandowski to order Attorney General Sessions to unrecuse himself from the investigation so Sessions could limit the scope of the investigation to exclude obstruction of justice. Trump directed that Sessions be told to make the following public statement:
“I know that I recused myself from certain things having to do with specific areas. But our POTUS . . . is being treated very unfairly. He shouldn’t have a Special Prosecutor/Counsel b/c he hasn’t done anything wrong. I was on the campaign w/ him for nine months, there were no Russians involved with him. I know it for a fact b/c I was there. He didn’t do anything wrong except he ran the greatest campaign in American history . . . Now a group of people want to subvert the Constitution of the United States. I am going to meet with the Special Prosecutor to explain this is very unfair and let the Special Prosecutor move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections so that nothing can happen in future elections.”
When Lewandowsky failed to deliver this message to Sessions, Trump ordered Reince Priebus to tell Sessions to resign. Priebus, and other staffers finally talked Trump out of this explaining, “it would be a calamity if Sessions resigned because Priebus expected that Rosenstein and Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand would also resign and the President would be unable to get anyone else confirmed.”
6. The President’s Efforts to Prevent Disclosure of Emails About the June 9, 2016 Meeting Between Russians and Senior Campaign Officials — When news of Trump Junior’s June 9, 2016 secret meeting with Russians, set up to get dirt on Clinton, was reported in the New York Times, Trump directed staff to not discuss the emails setting the meeting up and dictated a misleading letter about the purpose of the meeting. Trump’s people then lied by claiming Trump had no role in that letter.
7. The President’s Further Efforts to Have the Attorney General Take Over the Investigation — Trump tried yet again to have Sessions unrecuse himself, take over the investigation, and limit the scope and activities of the investigation. He threatened to fire Sessions again. Sessions had a resignation letter his pocket, that he kept after Trump nearly ordered him to resign a few months prior.
8. The President Orders McGahn to Deny that the President Tried to Fire the Special Counsel — When the New York Times reported that Trump ordered Don McGhan to fire Mueller, Trump ordered McGahn to dispute the story. Trump also directed McGahn to write a memo documenting that Trump never told McGahn to fire Mueller. McGahn refused, telling Trump he would not do so because the NYT’s story was true. Trump himself did publicly deny the story stating, “Fake news, folks. Fake news. A typical New York Times fake story.”
9. The President’s Conduct Towards Flynn, Manafort, and a Third Person Undisclosed To Protect An Ongoing Matter — Trump made a variety of statements, both public and private aimed at discouraging Flynn and Manafort from cooperating with Mueller investigation. These statements included indirectly and coyly dangling the possibility of pardons to induce them to not cooperate. A third unidentified person is included in this section of the report with several entire pages redacted to protect an ongoing investigation.
10. The President’s Conduct Involving Michael Cohen — Trump knew the Trump Tower Moscow project was being considered by him long after he publicly denied having any dealings with Russia. Trump encouraged Cohen to stick the “party line” that deal was dropped in January 2016, when in fact discussions continued through June 2016. Consistent with that encouragement Cohen drafted testimony to Congress saying the deal was dropped in January 2016. Trump’s attorneys reviewed that draft, making some edits, but keeping the false claims. Citing Cohen, the report states “the President’s personal counsel said ‘his client’ appreciated Cohen, that Cohen should stay on message and not contradict the President, that there was no need to muddy the water.” Trump’s personal counsel refused to be interviewed by Mueller’s office. Afterwards, Trump sent messages of support to Cohen, often effusively praising him. After Cohen’s home and office were the target of a search warrant, Trump made numerous statements aimed at encouraging Cohen to remain loyal and not cooperate with the investigation. For example, Trump tweeted:
“The New York Times and a third rate reporter . . . are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘ flip. ‘ They use nonexistent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”
Giuliani communicated to Cohen, through another party, that “You are ‘ loved’ … Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places.”
Mueller’s Report then goes on to say the following:
“Cohen said that following these messages he believed he had the support of the White House if he continued to toe the party line, and he determined to stay on message and be part of the team. At the time, Cohen’s understood that his legal fees were still being paid by the Trump Organization, which he said was important to him. Cohen believed he needed the power of the President to take care of him , so he needed to defend the President and stay on message.
Cohen also recalled speaking with the President’s personal counsel about pardons after the searches of his home and office had occurred, at a time when the media had reported that pardon discussions were occurring at the White House . . . President’s personal counsel responded that Cohen should stay on message, that the investigation was a witch hunt, and that everything would be fine. Cohen understood based on this conversation and previous conversations about pardons with the President ‘s personal counsel that as long as he stayed on message, he would be taken care of by the President, either through a pardon or through the investigation being shut down.”
That last sentence is rather telling given the known efforts made by Trump to shutdown and limit the investigation.
After Cohen did begin cooperating, and pled guilty Trump’s characterizations of him changed dramatically. Trump described Cohen as a “weak person” who was lying to get “a reduced sentence.” Trump made clear he wanted Cohen to get prison time in a tweet that even threatened Cohen’s family:
“Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time. You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans , Taxis , etc., and not serve a long prison term? He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself, and get his wife and father-in-law (who has the money?) off Scott Free. He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion serve a full and complete sentence."
Trump would go on to call Cohen a “rat” and make multiple other statements suggesting Cohen’s family, and in particular father-in-law, should be investigated.
The Mueller Report goes on to note that “it is important to view the President’s pattern of conduct as a whole” because “that pattern sheds light on the nature of the President ‘s acts and the inferences that can be drawn about his intent.” Mueller then states:
“Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations. The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels. These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony.”
Mueller acknowledges the President largely failed to disrupt the investigation but makes clear that is only because his subordinates refused to obey him.
“The President ‘s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests. Corney did not end the investigation of Flynn, which ultimately resulted in Flynn’s prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI. McGahn did not tell the Acting Attorney General that the Special Counsel must be removed, but was instead prepared to resign over the President’s order. Lewandowski and Dearborn did not deliver the President ‘s message to Sessions that he should confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only. And McGahn refused to recede from his recollections about events surrounding the President’s direction to have the Special Counsel removed, despite the President’s multiple demands that he do so.”
While Attorney General Barr later took it upon himself to decide there as insufficient evidence to support obstruction charges, it is clear Mueller believed there was and that Mueller left that decision to Congress (through potential impeachment) or later prosecutors when the President leaves office. That second option is made clear as Mueller states:
“while the OLC opinion concludes that a sitting President may not be prosecuted, it recognizes that a criminal investigation during the President’s term is permissible. The OLC opinion also recognizes that a President does not have immunity after he leaves office . . . Given those considerations, the facts known to us, and the strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of the criminal justice system, we conducted a thorough factual investigation in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available.”
A report finding that you should be criminally prosecuted after you leave office is not the “total exoneration” the President claims.
One other significant aspect from Mueller’s Report is noteworthy. In an appendix Mueller lists referrals to other prosecutors where his investigation, “identified evidence of potential criminal activity that was outside the scope of the Special Counsel’s jurisdiction established by the Acting Attorney General.”
Fourteen such referrals are listed. All but two are completely redacted to protect from harm to those ongoing investigations. The two unredacted ones involve an investigation of Michael Cohen for wire fraud and another relating to the indictment of Greg Craig (see April 11, 2019 entry above).
In addition, there is a list of cases filed and transferred to other jurisdictions. This includes the indictment against Roger Stone. It also includes another existing case, apparently under seal, that is not identified to protect against harm to an ongoing investigation.
April 26, 2019: Russian spy Maria Butina, who worked with the NRA to infiltrate the Republican Party (see December 13, 2018 entry above), is sentenced to 18 months in prison.
April 29, 2019: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, resigns. His resignation letter cites the rule of law and the need for enforcement of law to be based on non-partisan “credible evidence” because “truth is not determined by opinion polls.”
April 30, 2019: It is revealed that on March 27, 2019 (three days after Barr’s deceptive four page summary of the Mueller Report was released), Mueller wrote to Barr complaining that his summary did not do his report justice. Mueller wrote:
“The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions. There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”
On April 10th Barr testified to Congress that he didn’t know if Mueller supported his conclusions. The day before that Barr had the following exchange with Senator Crist.
CRIST: Reports have emerged recently, general, that members of the special counsel’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter, that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they’re referencing with that?
BARR: No, I don’t.
May 1, 2019: Attorney General William Barr testifies to Senate Judiciary Committee. At the start of the hearing a complete copy of the letter Mueller sent Barr on March 27th is released. The letter is even worse than previously reported. The letter not slams Barr’s four page summary for not capturing “the context, nature, and substance” resulting in “public confusion about
critical aSpects of the results of our investigation,” but also urges Barr to fix the problem by releasing attached summaries that did not need redaction. In regards to his own summaries Mueller said:
“While we understand that the Department is reviewing the full report to determine what is appropriate for public release — a process that our Office is working with you to complete — that process need not delay release of the enclosed materials. Release at this time would alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen and would answer congressional and public questions about the nature and outcome of our investigation.”
At the hearing, Barr attempted to claim Mueller’s disagreement was not as strong as reflected by the letter signed by Mueller. He suggested that the letter, which Barr described as “a bit snitty” was not written by Mueller but by a staffer.
In his testimony, Barr attempted to justify his conclusion of no obstruction, but often contradicted the findings of Mueller’s Report to do so.
May 2, 2019: Barr is a no-show for testimony before the House Oversight Committee, setting the stage for issuance of a subpoena. Barr refuses to testify on the pretext that it was not acceptable for the committee to have attorneys question him. The White House releases a letter accusing Mueller of acting politically in his report by not making a clear decision on obstruction.
May 6, 2019: Hundreds (396 as of this writing and growing) of former Federal prosecutors sign an open letter (posted on Medium) that in part states:
“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”
The letter cites:
-The President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort;
-The President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and
-The President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign (witness tampering and intimidation).
The letter concludes that these are easy calls, “these are not matters of close professional judgment.”
May 8, 2019: Trump asserts executive privilege over the entire Mueller Report. The letter asserting the privilege is rather open in describing it as in retaliation for a scheduled vote to find the Attorney General in contempt of Congress. The House Judiciary Committee votes to hold Attorney General Bar in Contempt of Congress for refusing to honor a subpoena seeking an un-redacted copy of the Mueller Report. The Republican controlled Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenas a resistant Trump Junior to testify. Various reports suggest Trump Junior will plead the 5th Amendment to avoid testimony.
May 10, 2019: It is reported that Trump has continued to ask former White House counsel Don McGahn to lie. Twice over the prior month the White House contacted McGahn and asked him to publicly state Trump did not obstruct justice. As he did before, McGahn declined.
May 16, 2019: The sentencing memorandum for Michael Flynn that I previously described as frustratingly redacted (see December 4, 2018 entry above) is refiled in less redacted form. One of the previously redacted, but now un-redacted, portions reads as follows:
“The defendant assisted the investigation into potential efforts to interfere with or otherwise obstruct its investigation . . . The defendant informed the government of multiple instances, both before and after his guilty plea, where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation. The defendant even provided a voicemail recording of one such communication. In some of those instances, the SCO was unaware of the outreach until being alerted to it by the defendant.”
what follows are 5 1/2 lines of STILL redacted material. Part 2 of the Mueller Report focused on whether Trump personally committed obstruction/witness tampering and rather explicitly did not exonerate him of that. It did not really address whether others in his administration, or Congress, may have obstructed justice or attempted to tamper with witnesses. However, that question clearly seems to have been of interest to Mueller. Since that question is not addressed in Mueller’s Report I can only surmise that it is still a live question in one of the 13 other investigations suggesting by listing spots, but not otherwise explained at the end of his Report. The words are highly suggestive of witness tampering, with Flynn himself apparently reporting contacts that could have affected his “willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation.”
Also May 16, 2019: In a presumably related development, Judge Emmett Sullivan, presiding over the Michael Flynn case issues the following order:
“The government is hereby ORDERED…to file on the public docket in this case by no later than May 31, 2019 an unredacted version of those portions of the [Mueller] report that relate to Mr. Flynn.”
EDIT AND NOTE: I shall continue to update this timeline as events unfold. Check back for the latest.