The Entire Trump-Russia Scandal (and What It All Means)
On Tuesday, May 9th, 2017, President Donald J. Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, a move that shook the entire city of Washington (see Jessy Han’s article). Why was this done? Why now? Why weren’t we notified? These are just some of the questions that legislators, the media, and the American people are asking in the aftermath of the firing.
Since the past three days have brought the entire Trump-Russia scandal back into the attention of the American media and people, and rightfully so, I thought now would be an appropriate time to catch you up on everything that’s happened so far.
Michael Flynn, Former National Security Adviser
It was announced Tuesday night that the Senate Intelligence Committee would subpoena Flynn’s business interests, their first subpoena since the 9/11 investigation.¹
In 2013, according to the Washington Post, Flynn met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak (remember this name; he’s mentioned often) on a trip to Moscow.
On December 10th, 2015, Flynn attended the 10th anniversary dinner of Russia Today (commonly known as RT), the propaganda arm of the Russian government. According to the Washington Post, he “was paid more than $45,000 by Russian-government-backed RT for his participation,” and according to POLITICO “[sat] just two seats from Putin.”
On November 18th (just 10 days after being elected President), Trump named Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.
In December, Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner met with Kislyak in Trump Tower, but the “White House declined to provide POLITICO with the exact date of the meeting.”
On December 29th, 2016, according to the Washington Post, “Flynn [placed] five phone calls to Kislyak, who was being monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies. The same day, President Obama [announced] the sanctions. Putin [chose] not to retaliate.” It was revealed by David Ignatius of the Washington Post that Flynn had spoken with Kislyak.
Three days later, Vice President Mike Pence told CBS News that Flynn had told him that he and Kislyak “did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.” In other words: they didn’t discuss sanctions.
On January 24th, Flynn told FBI interviewers that he didn’t discuss sanctions during his meeting with Kislyak, but, according to the Washington Post, that “[contradicted] transcripts from intelligence officials who monitored the calls.
Two days later, acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates [told] the White House counsel that Flynn had discussed sanctions and could be vulnerable to blackmail by Russia.” Four days later, she was fired.
On February 13th, 2017, according to the Washington Post, “Flynn [was] fired after news reports revealed that he mislead Pence.”
On March 7th, 2017, Flynn filed paperwork to register as a lobbyist for Turkey.
On April 25th, 2017, according to the Washington Post, “[t]he heads of the House Oversight Committee say Flynn likely broke the law by failing to disclose foreign income he earned from Russia and Turkey.”
And now Tuesday May 9th, Flynn was subpoena’d by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Paul Manafort, Former Chairman of the Trump Campaign
According to the Washington Post, starting in 2005, “Manafort worked for people with ties to the party of Putin ally and Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych-and for the party itself.”
In 2006, Manafort took Oleg Deripaska, a Russian aluminum tycoon, on as a client. In 2006, according to the Associated Press, Manafort signed a $10 million annual contract with Deripaska to advance Vladimir Putin’s agenda.
On May 19th, 2016, Manafort was appointed as the campaign chairman and chief strategist of the Trump campaign.
On August 14th, 2016, a New York Times report alleged that Manafort received $12.7 million from Yanukovych over a period of seven years (2005–2012), and all of these payments were made secretly, in cash.
On August 19th, 2016, Manafort resigned from his position at the Trump campaign, at Trump’s request.
On March 21st, 2017, according to the Washington Post, “[a] Ukrainian lawmaker [released] documents alleging that Manafort laundered payments from Yanukovych’s party using offshore accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan. Manafort denied receiving those payments.”
Carter Page, Former Foreign Policy Adviser for Trump Campaign
From 2004–2007, Page ran Merrill Lynch’s Moscow office, and served as an adviser to Gazprom, a state-run energy company.
Page was hired by the Trump campaign in March of 2016, and told Bloomberg News around the same time that he owned shares of Gazprom.
On July 7th, 2016, according to the Washington Post, “Page [gave] a speech critical of U.S. policy toward Russia on a Moscow trip that had been approved by Trump’s campaign manager on the condition that Page not formally represent the campaign. While there, Page allegedly met with Igor Sechin, a Putin confidant and chief executive of the energy company Rosneft, according to a dossier cited by Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee.”
On July 18th, 2016, according to POLITICO, “[t]hree Trump national security advisers — Page, J.D. Gordon and Walid Phares — meet with Kislyak in Cleveland. They told him they hoped to see improved relations with Russia.” Here’s a strange interview of his with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes:
Jeff Sessions, US Attorney General
Sessions played a role in the firing of James Comey. He was also an early advocate for and supporter of the Trump campaign, and, at the time, was one of the Senators from the state of Alabama.
On July 18th, 2016, according to the Washington Post, “Sessions [spoke] with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a panel hosted by the Heritage Foundation at the Republican National Convention.”
On September 8th, 2016, Sessions met with Kislyak again, but this time in his Senate office.
On January 10th, 2017, Sessions had this confrontation with Senator Al Franken in a Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to the position of Attorney General:
Although he claimed to have not had relations with Russians, it turns out, however, that he did have relations with the Russians. On March 1st, 2017, “[t]he Post [revealed] Session’s two meetings with Kislyak. The next day, Sessions [reversed] his previous statements and- over Trump’s objection- [said] he would recuse himself from investigations related to the campaign.”
Rex Tillerson, US Secretary of State and Former ExxonMobil CEO
In 1998, Tillerson was appointed as the head of ExxonMobil’s project off the coast of Siberia.
In 2011, according to the Washington Post, “Tillerson and [Igor] Sechin,” the president of the Russian oil company Rosneft “[signed] the first in a series of deals as part of a landmark ‘Strategic Cooperation Agreement’ that involved drilling in the Russian Arctic and the Black Sea. The agreements led to Tillerson having several direct interactions with then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.”
Over the years, through this interaction, Tillerson became very close with Vladimir Putin. In 2012, he was photographed toasted Putin with champagne at a presidential commission on oil and gas in Moscow:
In 2013, Putin gave Tillerson the presidential “Order of Friendship.”
In 2017, his nomination to the position of Secretary of State was approved by the Senate.
Donald J. Trump, President of the United States
In 1987, according to the Washington Post, ‘Trump [visited] Moscow and [toured] various sites in an effort to strike real estate deals in Soviet-era Russia. He [stayed] in a hotel overlooking the Kremlin, and [told] Playboy that Russian jets escorted his own on the way to the airport.”
On June 18th, 2013, according to POLITICO, “Trump [wrote] on Twitter: ‘The Miss Universe Pageant will be broadcast live from MOSCOW, RUSSIA on November 9th. A big deal that will bring our countries together!’ Trump, who owned the pageant at the time, [added] later that day: ‘Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow — if so, will he become my new best friend?’”
Then, on October 17th, 2013, in an interview with David Letterman, Trump said that he’s done “a lot of business with the Russians” and that he met Putin “once.”
In December of 2015, Trump and Putin started a public “bromance.” According to the Washington Post, “Putin [said] Trump is ‘colorful’ and ‘talented.’ Trump [called] the compliment an ‘honor.’ Even as ties to Russia become a campaign issue in 2016, Trump [refused] to renounce Putin: ‘A guy calls me a genius, and I’m going to renounce? I’m not going to renounce him.’”
In July of 2016, Trump called for the Russian government to hack into Hillary Clinton’s email server. “I will tell you this, Russia…”, he said, “if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
On September 7th, 2016, Trump continued his budding friendship with Putin by saying that “he’s been a leader far more than our president has been a leader”, at an NBC forum.
On September 13th, 2016, according to the Associated Press, “Russia lodged a formal complaint … with the United Nations over a top U.N. official’s condemnations of Donald Trump and some European politicians, an intervention that underscores the unusual links between the Republican presidential nominee and the Kremlin.”
On October 7th, 2016, according to POLITICO, “[t]he Obama administration [accused] Russia of deploying hackers to interfere in the presidential election. A statement from Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, says hacked documents posted on DC Leaks, Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks appear [to be] linked to Russian intelligence and accuses ‘Russia’s senior-most officials’ of directing the hacks.”
On November 8th, 2016, Trump was elected President. However, two days later, according to the Washington Post, “a Russian official [told] a reporter in Moscow that the Kremlin had been in contact with Trump’s campaign.”
On January 28th, 2017, “President Trump and Putin [spoke] on the phone for over an hour”, again according to the Washington Post.
On March 23rd, 2017, BuzzFeed News reported that “[o]ne of President Donald Trump’s personal attorneys was… named a lead attorney to [represent] Russia’s largest state-run bank.”
Now, Tuesday Comey was fired. And the next day it was reported by the Washington Post that he had asked for additional resources for the Russian probe immediately before his being fired. Also on Wednesday, he met with Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office. Today, in a series of tweets, Trump threatened Comey and mentioned “tapes” in this quote: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
Democrats have already linked the events of the past few days to Watergate (and for good reason). Nixon’s Watergate scandal is arguably the largest in national history, and resulted in his resignation from the Presidency. It didn’t, however, start that way. Much like the current Russia scandal (#Russiagate?), it started out as a conspiracy-theory that didn’t remotely threaten his political power. However, that changed as a result of the now infamous Saturday Night Massacre. This is when Nixon tried to fire special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. However, his Attorney General resigned in protest. The Deputy did the same. Cox was eventually fired, however, when Solicitor General Robert Bork followed Nixon’s orders. This, and now Trump’s firing of James Comey, are the only times in U.S. history when a President has fired someone investigating something involving them. We now how it ended for Nixon, but will it be the same for Trump?