Trump’s Russian Connections, A Handy Timeline
During the presidential campaign, it struck me as odd how often Donald Trump was talking about Russia, because for the last 20 years we haven’t paid much attention to Russia. The country ranks 30th as a trading partner both for imports and exports and hasn’t factored much in day to day American life. Sure, the country is aggressive and still dangerous (Georgia / Ukraine!), but it rarely took up more than a few news cycles. Then, suddenly, Trump was talking Russia all the time, especially heaping praise on Putin. Weird.
Then came the election hacking scandal, the Michael Flynn scandal, and lots of dead or imprisoned Russian agents. I wanted to understand for myself what happened when and why.
Below is a timeline I pulled together with linked sources. Once the timeline was in place, major threads became clear—many connected to lifting Russian sanctions (Look at Trump’s April 2016 foreign policy speech delivered with the Russian Ambassador in attendance). Several more threads connect Trump with Bayrock an alleged Russian mob money laundering operation. The timeline is best read in chronological order, but I’ve presented it reverse-chronologically so I can easily update it. I’ll let you come up with your own theories. If I’ve missed anything important, please let me know in the comments. Let’s keep pulling at threads.
Feb 24, 2017 Republican congressman Darrell Issa suggests a special prosecutor should investigate Trump’s Russia connections.
The New Yorker files a long story detailing the history of covert election-relation Russian influence attempts and goes into Putin’s motivations for favoring Trump.
Feb 20, 2017 Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, one of the men who first introduced Trump to Russia, dies unexpectedly of a heart attack.
Feb 18, 2017 The New Yorker published a in-depth profile on former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. It concludes: “This story is bigger than Mike Flynn,” the senior military intelligence official said. “Who told Mike to go do this? I think somebody said, ‘Mike, you’ve got some contacts. Let them know it’s gonna be all right.’ Mike’s a soldier. He did not go rogue.”
07:08:12 AM Trump tweets, “This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign.”
Feb 13, 2017 Michael Flynn resigns as National Security Advisor.
Feb 11, 2017 Business Insider publishes a list of Russia-related campaign events alleged in the Steele dossier to events that have now been verified.
Feb 9, 2017 The Washington Post reports NSA head Michael Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before taking office.
Feb 7. 2017 According to the New York Times, a back-channel plan for lifting US sanctions on Russia was delivered to Michael Flynn by Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, Felix H. Sater, a shadowy Bayrock-connectd businessman, and Andrii V. Artemenko, a Ukrainian polititian tied to Paul Manafort. The plan hopes to oust the Ukrainian president Petro O. Poroshenko with intelligence from top Putin aides. [ed. note: Lifting Russian sanctions has been the apparent motive of many people who surround Trump.]
Feb 5, 2017 Trump creates a moral equivalence between the US and Russia during a pre-superbowl interview with Bill O’Reilly. Here’s a Chicago Tribune story on this. For reference, this is how Putin deals with opponents: Russia killing political opponents. Journalists killed by the Russian state. An activist falls mysteriously ill.
Feb 3, 2017 Report that the Kremlin is in the midst of a major FSB purge of officials who might have leaked information related to hacking the American elections. This includes Sergei Mikhailov, deputy chief of the FSB’s Center for Information Security and his counterpart Dmitry Dokuchayev as well as Ruslan Stoyanov, head of Kaspersky Lab. This purge seems to be widespread with several high level officers arrested.
Feb 2, 2017 The Treasury department eases Obama’s Russian sanctions making it easier for American companies to get techology products into Russia.
Jan. 30, 2017 Trump fires acting attorney general Sally Yates over her refusal to enforce his travel ban.
Jan 26, 2017 Acting attorney general Sally Yates tells the White House national security adviser Mike Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador during the transition and is vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Flynn denied discussing sanctions to Mike Pence who repeated his denials on air.
Jan 23, 2017 At his first press conference Sean Spicer is asked about Michael Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador. Spicer denies Flynn talked about sanctions.
Jan 17, 2017 Anthony Scaramucci, aide to President-elect Donald Trump and founder of SkyBridge Capital, discussed possible joint investments with the head of a Russian sovereign wealth fund. In an interview with TASS Scaramucci criticised sanctions against Russia. Trump has suggested he could ease the sanctions on Russia if the Kremlin cooperates on his policy priorities.
Jan 13, 2017 06:11:13 AM Trump tweets, “Totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans — FAKE NEWS! Russia says nothing exists.“
Jan 11, 2017 07:31:31 AM Trump tweets, “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”
07:13:40 AM Trump tweets, “Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is “A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.” Very unfair!”
Several days after being briefed by the heads of the NSA, FBI and CIA, Trump finally admits that Russians hacked the DNC releasing their emails. “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but we also get hacked by other countries and other people”
Jan 6, 2017 The DNI releases a report on Russian hacking.
Dec 30th, 2016 Rather than retaliating against the American sanctions as had been signaled, Russia says it will do nothing and invites the children of American diplomats to the Kremlin.
Trump later tweets 02:41:33 PM “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he was very smart!”
December 26, 2016 Oleg Erovinkin, a top adviser to Igor Sechin, the CEO of the Russian oil giant Rosneft is found dead in his Lexus. Sechin is a central figure in the Steele dossier and a close friend of Rex Tillerson. The dossier states that Sechin met with Carter Page in July 2016.
Dec 25, 2016 General Michael Flynn and Ambassador Sergey Kislay exchange texts. Between the 25th and the 29th they would speak at least 5 times.
Dec 15, 2016 09:24:29 AM Trump tweets, “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?”
Dec 14, 2016 Former Trump surrogate Jack Kingston shows up in Moscow telling a Russian audience they can expect sanctions to be lifted.
Nov 8, 2016 On the morning of the American election an official at the Russian consulate in New York is found dead. Sergei Krivov was found with blunt force trauma to the head.
Donald Trump wins in an upset election few predicted.
Oct 15 2016 A FISA court issues a warrant to investigate two Russian banks— Alfa and SBC. Three members of the Trump team are included in the warrant.
Oct 7, 2016 An Access Hollywood outtake from 2005 shows Trump making lewd comments about women. The US government says it is confident Russia hacked the DNC.
Oct 2, 2016 Trump advisor Roger Stone predicts a release of Russian hacked emails on Wikileaks before they are released. He later says he has a Wikileaks backchannel.
Sept 26, 2016 Trump misdirects on the Russian hacks, “She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
Sept 23, 2016 US intelligence starts to probe Carter Page as a possible backchannel to Russian intelligence.
Sept 13, 2016 Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin defends Trump and other far right candidates supported by Moscow.
Sept 2016 Fake news supporting Trump and demeaning Clinton much of it produced by Russian-backed actors are microtargeted on Facebook using data from Cambridge Analytica. The Trump campaign spent 5M/week on this targeting during the last weeks of the campaign hitting many millions of users. More on Cambridge Analytica. [Info on the amount of Facebook payments, and the type of material targeted came from two sources within Facebook]
Congressional leaders are briefed on a computer backchannel between the Trump camp and Russia’s Alfa bank. More than 2700 lookup messages were passed. The FBI couldn’t find an explanation.
Aug 20, 2016 Paul Manafort resigns.
Aug 15, 2016 Donald Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort’s name shows up in ledgers that show 12.7 M in cash payments by pro-Russia elements in Ukraine. More on Manafort’s deep Russian ties.
In an interview, Michael Flynn says the state-run Russia Today is no different than CNN. He also discusses being seated next to Putin at a Russia Today dinner.
Time Magazine article detailing Trump’s deep business ties w/ Russia and Russians despite his denials. To be clear Trump doesn’t seem to own property in Russia despite attempt to build there, the connections are financial.
July 27, 2016 Trump at a press conference, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing.”
July 25, 2016 06:31:22 AM Trump tweets “The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me”
July 22, 2016 Wikileaks releases 20K DNC emails.
July 21, 2016 Trump accepts the Republican nomination.
July 11, 2016 Trump staffers exclude anti-Russia pro-Ukraine language from the GOP platform. Frank Mermoud, helped shepherd this. He’s connected to Russia via Cub Energy, a Black Sea oil and gas company. He’s on the board of the US Ukraine Business Council.
July 2016 Alleged meeting between Carter Page and Igor Sechin to discuss the sale of 19% of Russian oil giant Rosneft in return for a lifting of sanctions. [This is an unconfirmed Steele dossier allegation. 19.5% of Rosneft is sold to an unknown buyer in Dec.] Carter Page travels to Moscow in July and gives a speech critical of US policy. More on this trip.
Felix Sater visits Trump Tower and donates to the Trump campaign. Trump denies he would recognize Sater if they were in the same room.
June 20, 2016 The Steele dossier begins to circulate in Washington making multiple allegations. It continues to be updated through Dec. The FBI gets a portion of the document in July.
June 14, 2016 The Washington Post breaks the story of the DNC hack alleging Russian involvement. A complete timeline of the email hacking story.
June 8, 2016 Romanian-registered DCLeaks.com begins posting stolen DNC emails. The emails came from GRU according to US intelligence.
June 2016 The FBI seeks warrant from a FISA court to monitor Russian banks. The application which named Trump, is rejected. The FBI petitions again in July and is again rejected.
May 6, 2016 Andrew Napolitano, a Fox news contributor, alludes to Russia releasing 20K DNC emails implying knowledge of the hack.
April 27, 2016 Richard Burt writes a major foreign policy speech for Trump. Burt is on the board of Alfa-Bank, the largest commercial bank in Russia, and an investment fund with a large position in Gazprom. When he wrote the speech Burt was a paid lobbyist for Russia. This was Trump’s first major foreign policy speech. Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak—in a break of protocol—attends the speech.
April 2016 A Baltic state intelligence agency gives the CIA Director John Brennan with a tape of a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into the US presidential campaign. A joint counter-intelligence taskforce was created comprised of the FBI, CIA, NSA, Treasury Department and DNI.
March 30, 2016 Carter Page joins the campaign and starts promoting lifting sanctions. This profile details his deep Russia ties.
March 28, 2016 Paul Manafort is hired by Trump to head delegate wrangling. After the nomination he becomes campaign chair. Manafort has an apartment in Trump tower and has deep ties with Russian interests especially within the Ukraine.
March 27, 2016 Trump calls NATO obsolete.
March 19, 2016 APT28 gets access to John Podesta’s gmail account.
Dec 31, 2015 Russia’s national security plan defines NATO as a threat.
Dec 17, 2015 Putin begins praising Trump in public.
Sept 2015 Ukrainian steel magnate Victor Pinchuk’s foundation becomes the single largest outside donor to Donald Trump’s private charity in 2015.
Late 2015 British spies see information from Democratic party emails circulating within Russia and warn their US counterparts. The hacking scandal slowly starts to unwind.
July 2015 Hackers breach the DNC and stay in the network for at least 11 months.
June 16, 2015 Donald Trump announces he’s running for president.
May 2014 Trump told a press luncheon that he “spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer”. A year earlier, he told MSNBC: “I do have a relationship and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today.”
March 2014 The Obama administration imposes sanctions on Russia for it’s annexation of Crimea and entry into Ukraine. The Russian reaction to sanctions.
Nov 9, 2013 Trump partners with Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov to host the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Trump later attends the pageant. He doesn’t meet Putin, but brags, “almost all the oligarchs were in the room.” Trump ties to the pageant were cemented by the pop star son of one of the oligarchs.
July 2013 The Trump Toronto opens with funding from Russian partners in the midst lawsuits from 38 investors. This article in American Interest takes a hard look at Trump’s financing during this period.
Jun 1, 2013 Michael T. Flynn gives an address to the Main Intelligence Agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (the GRU). He later hosts GRU officers at the American embassy.
April 16, 2013 Federal agents burst into an apartment at Trump Tower as part of a larger raid that rounded up 29 suspected members of two global gambling rings with operations allegedly overseen by a supposed Russian mob boss named Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. Later in Nov, Tokhtakhounov attends the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and is photographed w/ Trump. The FBI raids were part of money laundering investigation run by Russian organized crime: Helly Nahmad, an art dealer who lives in Trump Tower was also arrested.
Feb 2013 The Russian government seizes key buildings in Crimea. This was part of a political crisis that several months earlier and would continue through 2014 when Russian troops entered Ukraine.
Apr 2012 Julian Assange begins broadcasting on Russia Today (RT), the state-run broadcasting network.
Aug 30, 2011 Rex Tillerson negotiates a multi-billion-dollar deal between ExxonMobil and the Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil company.
Jan 2012 Bayrock announces units in the Trump Soho will be auctioned amid rumors of financial distress.
Sept 2010 Bayrock founder Tevfik Arif was Turkey on suspicion of running prostitute ring on $60m luxury yacht. After the arrests, Turkey deported nine Russian and Ukrainian women, including two under the legal age of consent. A reporter who looked at investigative materials claims the Arif’s organization provided escort services with girls as young as 13. The prostitution charges were later dropped and the records were changed to record that the women were above the age of 18.
Unrelated to Russia, but interesting. Trump tries to woo Muammar al-Qaddafi as an investor.
Sept 2008 Donald Trump Jr. says Trump businesses were seeing “”see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” Note this is not direct investment from Russia, but rather financing that originates in Russia or from Russian people. My assumption is that Bayrock became one of Trump’s top financiers after his credit with traditional US banks dried up.
July 2008 Trump sold a mansion for 95M to a Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for a profit of roughly 50M. This was a curious transaction in that the house was listed as unlivable and many say Dmitry Rybolovlev never set foot in the house.
Oct 15 2007 Trump praises Putin on Larry King
Sept 2007 Trump is photographed w/ Felix Sater at a Trump SoHo launch party. Sater changes the spelling of his name to Satter. Years later the Bayrock group is accused of being a front for an international money laundering scheme.
Aug 30, 2005 Trump bids for Denver’s Union Station with the Bayrock Group.
2003 Trump starts doing business with the Felix Sater/The Bayrock Group. He is first introduced to Tevfik Arif and felon Felix Sater by a leasing agent for Trump Tower. The Bayrock Group arranged for the Trump Organization to become involved in the Camelback, Ocean Club and Merrimac developments and to have these developments marketed under the Trump brand. Trump began a series of Bayrock deals that culminate in the Trump Soho. The Trump Soho deal eventually becomes embroiled in a RICO lawsuit. [ed. note Read the first Forbes story. Nuts.]
2002 The Bayrock group is based in Trump Tower. Bayrock is founded by Tevfik Arif
2001 On the Howard Stern Show, a gossip columnist banters with Trump about Russian prostitutes.
1999 Rex Tillerson meets Vladimir Putin for the first time as Exxon makes a deal with Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft.
1990 Not related to Russia, but this Vanity Fair profile is helpful in understanding Trump. It speaks of his presidential ambitions and alleges he keeps a book of Hitler’s speeches by his bed.
“Donald is a believer in the big-lie theory,” his lawyer had told me. “If you say something again and again, people will believe you.”
“One of my lawyers said that?” Trump said when I asked him about it. “I think if one of my lawyers said that, I’d like to know who it is, because I’d fire his ass. I’d like to find out who the scumbag is!”
Jan 1987 Trump is invited to Russia after being seated next to Ambassador Yuri Dubinin at a social event. Dubinin was part of group of Russian officials meeting American business leaders. This group included future UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin. A few months later Trump and Ivana were flown to Russia by the Soviet agency for international tourism, Intourist. He talks of building a hotel next to the Kremlin.
1978 Not related to Russia, but helpful in understanding how Trump became Trump: This is a Village Voice profile on his rise.
“Trump won’t do a deal unless there’s something extra — a kind of moral larceny — in it. He’s not satisfied with a profit. He has to take something more. Otherwise, there’s no thrill.”