Since July 2016, the FBI has been investigating the Russian government’s attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election, including whether President Donald Trump’s campaign associates were involved in those efforts.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election” between Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, according to the U.S. intelligence community. Russian intelligence services gained access to the computer network of Democratic Party officials and released the hacked material to WikiLeaks and others “to help President-elect Trump’s election chances,” the IC said in a report released earlier this year.
At this point, no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign has been made public. It may or may not exist. However, there is an ongoing investigation.
Here we present a timeline of key events in the investigation. We will update this timeline as necessary. For those reading this on a website other than FactCheck.org, please click here for updates.
July — The Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, which is responsible for intelligence collection for the Russian military, gains access to the Democratic National Committee computer network and maintains that access until at least June 2016, when the hacking plot was publicly disclosed. (This is according to a report issued Jan. 6, 2017, by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.)
December — Some social media accounts apparently tied to a Russian online propaganda operation start to advocate for Trump’s election. (This is also according to the DNI report issued Jan. 6, 2017. That report attributed its source to “a journalist who is a leading expert on the Internet Research Agency,” a Russian online propaganda operation.)
Dec. 10 — Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn speaks at RT’s anniversary conference in Moscow. RT is a Russian government-funded TV station once known as Russia Today. Flynn, who would become a foreign policy adviser to Trump during the campaign and national security adviser in the Trump administration, sits next to Putin at the event. In remarks at the event, Flynn is critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy and supportive of working with Russia to battle ISIS. (It’s later learned that he was paid $ 45,000 for his appearance, and failed to report the income on his government financial disclosure forms.)
Feb. 26 — Reuters reports that Flynn “has been informally advising Trump” on foreign policy during the presidential campaign.
March — Russian intelligence services probably begin the cyber operations that resulted in the compromise of the personal email accounts of Democratic Party officials and political figures. (This is according to the Jan. 6, 2017, report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.)
March 21 –– Trump tells the Washington Post that Carter Page, an American businessman who has worked in Russia and now owns a consulting firm called Global Energy Capital, is a member of his foreign policy team. (The Post would later report that the FBI was monitoring Page’s communications as part of its Russia probe.)
March 29 — Trump announces that Paul Manafort, a longtime Republican operative, will be his campaign convention manager. Manafort had worked for more than a decade for pro-Russia political organizations and people in Ukraine — including Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine and a close ally of Putin.
June 14 — The Washington Post reports that hackers had gained access to DNC servers. It is the first public disclosure of the security breach.
June 15 — CrowdStrike, a computer security firm hired by the DNC to investigate the hacking, says that Russia is behind the cyberattack. In a blog post on its website, CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch says that the company “immediately identified two sophisticated adversaries on the network – COZY BEAR and FANCY BEAR.” He wrote that “both adversaries engage in extensive political and economic espionage for the benefit of the government of the Russian Federation and are believed to be closely linked to the Russian government’s powerful and highly capable intelligence services.”
Guccifer 2.0 takes credit in a blog post for hacking the DNC computers and releases a few documents, including the Democratic Party’s 200-page opposition research report on Donald Trump. “The main part of the papers, thousands of files and mails, I gave to Wikileaks. They will publish them soon,” Guccifer 2.0 says in its blog post. (U.S. intelligence would later identify Guccifer 2.0 as the “persona” used by Russian military intelligence to release hacked emails to media outlets and WikiLeaks.)
Trump releases a statement that says: “We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader.”
June 20 — Manafort becomes the Trump campaign manager. He replaces Corey Lewandowski, who was fired.
July 25 – The FBI confirms it has opened an investigation into the hacking of the DNC computer network. “The FBI is investigating a cyber intrusion involving the DNC and are working to determine the nature and scope of the matter. A compromise of this nature is something we take very seriously, and the FBI will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace,” it says in a release.
(James Comey, the FBI director at the time, would later testify that the FBI in late July 2016 began investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump campaign associates were involved in those efforts. The New York Times would later report that Page’s speech in Moscow “was a catalyst for the F.B.I. investigation into connections between Russia and President Trump’s campaign.”)
July 25 — In a tweet, Trump says: “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 27 — At a press conference, Trump says he has “never spoken” to Putin, even though he had said in 2013 “I have a relationship” with Putin. At the press conference, Trump also says he doubts that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC computer network, but invites Russia to find the 30,000 personal emails that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s staff deleted when she left office. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he says. Trump later says he was being “sarcastic” in inviting Russia to find the emails.
July 29 — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announces that its computer network also has been hacked. Several of its House candidates were targets of stolen emails released by Guccifer 2.0.
July 31 — The New York Times reports on Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort’s “business dealings with prominent Ukrainian and Russian tycoons.”
Aug. 8 — Roger Stone, a friend and an informal adviser to Trump, says during a speech to the Southwest Broward Republican Organization that he had “communicated with Assange,” referring to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Stone tells the Republican group, “I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation but there’s no telling what the October surprise may be.”
Aug. 14 — The New York Times reports that Manafort’s name surfaced in a secret ledger that recorded millions of dollars in payments from a pro-Russian party in Ukraine. Manafort’s lawyer, Richard A. Hibey, told the Times that his client did not receive “any such cash payments.”
Aug. 14-17 — Stone exchanges Twitter messages with Guccifer 2.0, which the U.S. intelligence community later publicly identified as the “persona” used by Russian military intelligence to release hacked emails to media outlets and WikiLeaks. The exchange of Twitter messages was initiated by Stone after Guccifer 2.0’s Twitter account was reinstated after being suspended. In one message, Guccifer tells Stone, “please tell me if I can help u anyhow.”
Aug. 19 — Trump removes Manafort as his campaign manager.
Aug. 21 — Stone tweets, “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel,” referring to Clinton’s campaign chairman. (Rep. Adam Schiff would later claim that Stone’s tweet “predicted that John Podesta would be a victim of a Russian hack and have his private emails published.” Stone said the tweet was about Podesta’s business ties with Russia. He said his “friend and colleague Paul Manafort was under attack for his perfectly legal work in Ukraine for a democratic political party. I predicted that Podesta’s business dealings would be exposed.”)
Sept. 8 — Sen. Jeff Sessions meets privately with Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the United States, in the senator’s office.
In an interview that airs on RT, formerly known as Russia Today, Trump says it is “pretty unlikely” that the Russian government was behind the hacks targeting the Democratic Party. “I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out. Who knows? But I think that it’s pretty unlikely,” Trump said. “I hope that if they are doing something I hope that somebody’s going to be able to find out so they can end it, because that would not be appropriate.”
Sept. 26 — At the first presidential debate, Trump discounts reports that Russia is behind the computer hacks targeting Democrats. “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC,” Trump says. “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?”
Oct. 7 — WikiLeaks begins to release Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails.
The Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security issue a joint statement saying that the U.S. intelligence community is “confident” that hacks into the email systems of the Democratic Party and its officials were directed by the Russian government.
Oct. 9 — At the second presidential debate, Clinton notes that “our intelligence community just came out and said in the last few days that the Kremlin, meaning Putin and the Russian government, are directing the attacks … to influence our election.” Trump responds: “I notice any time anything wrong happens they like to say, the Russians, the Russians — she doesn’t know it’s the Russians doing the hacking, maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia.”
Oct. 19 — At the third and final debate, Trump again refuses to accept the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was responsible for stealing emails of Democratic Party committees and officials. “She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else,” Trump says of Clinton.
Oct. 30 — In a letter to FBI Director James Comey, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid criticizes Comey for failing to disclose that his office possesses “explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his advisors, and the Russian government.”
Nov. 8 — Donald J. Trump is elected 45th president of the United States.
Nov. 10 — Trump meets with President Barack Obama at the White House. Obama reportedly warns Trump against hiring Flynn.
Nov. 18 — The president-elect selects Flynn as his national security adviser.
Nov. 28 — Trump reiterates his lack of confidence in the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was responsible for the computer hacks. Trump tells Time magazine, “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
Dec. 1 or 2 — Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and Flynn meet with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, at Trump Tower. (The White House did not acknowledge the meeting occurred until it was disclosed in March 2017. The content of the conversation was not disclosed, but in May 2017 the Washington Post reported that Kushner and Kislyak “discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin.”)
Dec. 9 — The Washington Post reports that the CIA believes the Russians were trying to help Trump win the election. In response, Trump issues a statement that criticizes the U.S. intelligence community. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”
President Obama announces he has ordered a detailed review of Russian hacks during the 2016 campaign.
Late December — Kushner meets with Sergey N. Gorkov, the chief of Vnesheconombank — a Russian state-run bank that had been sanctioned by the Obama administration in 2014 after Russia had annexed Crimea. Under the sanctions, U.S. entities are prohibited from conducting any financial deals with Vnesheconombank. Gorkov was appointed to head the bank by Putin. (The meeting was not revealed until March 2017. At that time, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer explained that “throughout the campaign and the transition, Jared served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials until we had State Department officials up.” But in a statement, the bank said Gorkov met with Kushner in his capacity as the then-chief executive officer of Kushner Companies, his family’s real estate conglomerate.)
Dec. 29 — With less than a month remaining of his time in office, Obama announces “a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election in 2016.” That same day, Flynn speaks with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, about the sanctions — a fact that would not become public until the following year.
Dec. 30 — Putin issues a statement that says Russia will not retaliate against the U.S. for imposing sanctions, citing the incoming Trump administration. “While we reserve the right to take reciprocal measures, we’re not going to downgrade ourselves to the level of irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy,” Putin said. “In our future steps on the way toward the restoration of Russia-United States relations, we will proceed from the policy pursued by the administration of D. Trump.”
In a tweet, Trump praises Putin’s decision, calling the Russian president “very smart!”
Jan. 3 — In advance of a meeting with U.S. intelligence officials about Russia’s interference in the U.S. elections, Trump tweets: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”
Jan. 6 — The Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases a declassified intelligence report that says: “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” The report says Russian intelligence services gained access to the Democratic National Committee computer network for nearly a year, from July 2015 to June 2016, and released hacked material to WikiLeaks and other outlets “to help President-elect Trump’s election chances.”
The DNI report contains no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Intelligence officials brief Trump on their findings. After the briefing, Comey remains alone in the room with the president-elect to brief Trump on what Comey called “some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment” that was “salacious and unverified.” (The details of that information became public on Jan. 10.)
Comey also assures the president that he is not personally under investigation. “That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him,” Comey would later tell the Senate intelligence committee in written testimony prior to his June 8 hearing.
Trump releases a statement about the briefing that says, in part: “While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”
Jan. 10 — At the Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions, Sen. Al Franken asks Sessions: “[I]f there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?” Sessions replied, “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians.” (Sessions would later acknowledge that he had two meetings with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., during the campaign, although he would say neither was related to the campaign.)
CNN reports that Trump received a two-page synopsis of unsubstantiated compromising information that Russian operatives had allegedly gathered about Trump. The FBI presented the two-page synopsis to Trump at the Jan. 6 intelligence briefing on Russia. BuzzFeed publishes the full 35-page unsubstantiated report on Trump, even though the news outlet acknowledges the “allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.”
Jan. 11 — Trump tweets in response to the CNN and BuzzFeed reports: “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
Jan. 12 — The Washington Post reports that Flynn and Kislyak spoke on Dec. 29, the day that the U.S. announced new sanctions on Russia in response to the cyberattacks during the 2016 presidential election. Spicer denies that the call was about U.S. sanctions. “The call centered on the logistics of setting up a call with the president of Russia and the president-elect after he was sworn in,” Spicer said. “And they exchanged logistical information on how to initiate and schedule that call. That was it, plain and simple.”
Jan. 13 — The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence announces that it will investigate “Russian intelligence activities” during the 2016 U.S. election, “including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.”
Jan. 15 — Vice President-elect Mike Pence says Flynn and Kislyak did not discuss U.S. sanctions on Russia. “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,” Pence said.
Jan. 20 — Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.
Jan. 22 — On the same day that Flynn is sworn in as the national security adviser, the Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. counterintelligence agents have investigated Flynn’s communications with Russian officials.
Jan. 25 — The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence announces that it will investigate Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and “any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.”
Jan. 26 — Acting Attorney General Sally Yates meets with White House counsel Donald McGahn in his office. She tells McGahn that high-ranking administration officials, including Vice President Pence, had made statements “about General Flynn’s conduct that we knew to be untrue.” She was referring to administration statements that Flynn did not discuss U.S. sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador. (This would not be disclosed until Yates testified before Congress on May 8.)
Jan. 27 — Trump and Comey privately dine at the White House. Comey says: “[T]he President said, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.’ I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.” At that point, Comey says the president again said, “‘I need loyalty.’ I replied, ‘You will always get honesty from me.’ He paused and then said, ‘That’s what I want, honest loyalty.’ I paused, and then said, ‘You will get that from me.’” Comey also tells Trump that he is not personally under investigation. (Comey gave this account of the meeting in written testimony for his June 8 hearing before the Senate intelligence committee. It was first reported May 11 by the New York Times.)
Jan. 28 — Trump receives a congratulatory phone call from Putin.
Feb. 9 — The Washington Post reports that Flynn “privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials,” citing unnamed current and former officials.
Feb. 13 – Flynn resigns. He acknowledges that he misled Pence and others in the administration about his conversations with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. “I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Flynn says.
Feb. 14 — Trump privately meets with Comey in the Oval Office. Comey says that the president brought up the FBI investigation of Flynn. “He then said, ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.’ I replied only that ‘he is a good guy.’ … I did not say I would ‘let this go,’” Comey recalled. (Comey gave this account of his meeting with Trump in written testimony for his June 8 hearing before the Senate intelligence committee. The account was first reported May 16 by the New York Times. The White House issued a statement at that time saying the Times story is “not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”)
Feb. 15 — A day after Trump reportedly asked Comey to drop the investigation of Flynn, the FBI director tells U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that “he did not want to be left alone again with the president,” according to a New York Times story published June 6. (Comey also confirms the Times account in his June 8 Senate testimony.)
White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus asks FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe if the agency would help the White House knock down news stories about contacts between Trump aides and Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.
March 1 — The Washington Post reports that then-Sen. Sessions “spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States,” including a private meeting in the senator’s office on Sept. 8, 2016. The report contradicts what Sessions told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary during his confirmation hearing.
March 2 — Sessions, now the U.S. attorney general, acknowledges at a press conference that he met with the Russian ambassador and failed to disclose those meetings to the Senate. “In retrospect, I should have slowed down and said, ‘But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times. That would be the ambassador,’” Sessions says. He also announces he will recuse himself “from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.”
March 4 — In a flurry of tweets, Trump accuses Obama of illegally “tapping my phones in October” during the “very sacred election process.” He compares Obama’s actions to Watergate and calls the former president a “bad (or sick) guy!” Trump presents no evidence that Obama was tapping his phones.
March 20 — FBI Director Comey confirms the existence of an FBI investigation at a hearing of the House intelligence committee. Comey tells the committee that the agency is investigating “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
March 22 — Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House intelligence committee, holds a press conference to announce that he had reviewed intelligence reports that show “incidental collection” on some unnamed Trump transition team members had occurred after the election. Nunes, a former Trump transition team member, says he believes the information was legally obtained and was unrelated to Russia, but he says it raises questions about whether the intelligence community was improperly unmasking U.S. citizens whose identities should be protected.
Trump tells Time magazine that the “new information” from Nunes proved he was “right” when he tweeted that Obama was tapping his phones. But it doesn’t, as we reported. Nunes himself said the information he reviewed “doesn’t mean that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.”
March 27 — The New York Times reports that the Senate intelligence committee informed the White House that it wants to question Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, about his meetings in December with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, and Gorkov, the head of Russia’s state-owned bank.
Nunes acknowledges that he went to the White House to review the intelligence reports on the “incidental collection” of information on Trump transition team members.
March 30 — Trump calls Comey and asks what can be done to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation from his administration. Comey told Trump that he was not personally under investigation. “He finished by stressing ‘the cloud’ that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated,” Comey said. “I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.” (Comey gave this account of the meeting in written testimony for his June 8 hearing before the Senate intelligence committee.)
Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, says in a statement that his client is willing to testify before Congress if Flynn receives immunity. “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” Kelner’s statement said.
March 31 — Trump tweets: “Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”
The White House releases a revised financial disclosure form for Flynn that shows he received speaking fees from RT TV, the Russian television network, and two other Russian firms. Flynn failed to report that income when he initially filed his disclosure form in February.
April 6 — Nunes announces he will no longer oversee the House intelligence committee’s Russia investigation.
April 11 — Trump calls Comey. The former FBI director recalls that the president “asked what I had done about his request that I ‘get out’ that he is not personally under investigation.” Comey suggests that Trump contact the acting deputy attorney general to make that request. “He said he would do that and added, ‘Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.’” This would be the last time that the two men spoke. (Comey gave this account of the meeting in written testimony for his June 8 hearing before the Senate intelligence committee.)
The Washington Post reports that the FBI obtained a secret court order last summer under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a member of Trump’s foreign policy team. The Justice Department convinced the FISA judge that Page, who had worked in Russia, “was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia,” the Post wrote.
April 28 – The Senate intelligence committee requests that Flynn turn over any documents relevant to its investigation into the Russian interference with the election. (Flynn declined, and the committee would later subpoena the documents, which Flynn turned over on June 6.)
May 3 — Comey discloses at a Senate judiciary committee hearing that the FBI has “opened investigations on” more than one “U.S. persons” in connection with the FBI investigation into whether the Trump campaign cooperated with Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 campaign. Comey declines to answer if Trump is under investigation. He says FBI investigators are “always open-minded” and will “follow the evidence wherever it takes us.” He says, “I’m not going to comment on anyone in particular, because that puts me down a slope of — because if I say no to that then I have to answer succeeding questions. So what we’ve done is brief the chair and ranking on who the U.S. persons are that we’ve opened investigations on. And that’s — that’s as far as we’re going to go, at this point.”
May 5 — The National Security Agency says in a detailed classified report that the Russian military intelligence operation carried out cyberattacks in 2016 on a company that supplies software for voting machines in eight U.S. states. The report contains no evidence that any votes were changed as a result of the hack. (The NSA report was obtained by The Intercept, an online website that started as a platform for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The report was published on June 5.)
May 8 — Yates testifies at a Senate hearing that she had two in-person meetings and one phone call with McGahn, the White House counsel, to discuss Flynn’s meetings with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. Her first meeting with McGahn was on Jan. 26, as mentioned above.
May 9 – Trump fires Comey. A White House statement said that Trump acted “based on the clear recommendations” of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In a two-and-a-half-page memo, Rosenstein cited Comey’s handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for official government business while she was the secretary of state under Obama. Rosenstein criticized Comey for holding a press conference on July 5, 2016, to publicly announce his recommendation to not charge Clinton, and for disclosing on Oct. 28, 2016, that the FBI had reopened its investigation of Clinton.
May 10 — Trump meets in the Oval Office with Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. The official White House readout of the meeting makes no mention that Kislyak attended the meeting. (It was later reported that Trump made disparaging remarks about Comey and disclosed classified information at the meeting. See the entries for May 15 and May 19.)
CNN also reports the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, issued subpoenas to associates who worked with Michael Flynn on contracts after he left the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014.
The Senate intelligence committee subpoenas Flynn seeking “documents relevant to the Committee’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.”
May 11 – Trump says in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire Comey. The president says he would have fired Comey with or without Rosenstein’s recommendation. “He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation 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 have won.’”
The New York Times reports that Trump allegedly asked Comey for his loyalty at a private dinner meeting on Jan. 27 at the White House. (Comey confirms the Times account in written testimony for his June 8 appearance before the Senate intelligence committee. See the Jan. 27 entry for details.)
May 12 — Trump tweets: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
May 13 — In a Fox News interview with Judge Jeanine Pirro, Trump denies that he asked for Comey’s loyalty. “But I don’t think it would be a bad question to ask,” he adds.
May 15 — The Washington Post reports that during a May 10 meeting with Russian officials Trump discussed classified information about an ISIS terrorist threat involving laptop computers on commercial airlines.
May 16 — The New York Times reports that Israel was the source of the intelligence information that Trump disclosed to Russian officials.
The Times also reports that Trump asked Comey at a Feb. 14 dinner meeting to shut down the FBI investigation of Flynn. (See the Feb. 14 entry.)
May 17 — Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, appoints former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel to investigate any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
May 18 — Trump tweets that the investigation into collusion between his campaign and the Russians “is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
At a press conference with the president of Colombia, Trump denies that he asked Comey to close down the FBI’s investigation of Flynn. “No. No. Next question,” Trump said.
May 19 — The New York Times reports that Trump told his Russian visitors at the May 10 Oval Office meeting: “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job.” Trump also told them, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
The Washington Post reports that federal investigators have “identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest” in the Russia investigation. Six days later, the Post reports that that person is Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. The term has no legal meaning, but is used by law enforcement when identifying someone who may have information of interest to an investigation.
May 22 — The Washington Post reports that “Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.” The paper says the meeting happened in March and that Coats and Rogers denied the president’s request.
May 23 — Coats appears at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and is asked if the Post report on Trump’s request to help him push back against the FBI investigation is accurate. Coats declines to answer. “It’s not appropriate for me to comment publicly on any of that,” Coats said.
Former CIA Director John O. Brennan testifies before the House intelligence committee about the federal investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. In an exchange with Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, Brennan says he does not know if any “such collusion existed,” but he was concerned about contacts between Russian officials and people involved in the Trump campaign.
“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals and it raised questions in my mind, again, whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals,” he said. “I don’t know whether or not such collusion — and that’s your term, such collusion existed. I don’t know. But I know that there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.”
May 26 — The Washington Post reports that Kushner and Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, discussed setting up a secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin at a meeting in early December 2016. (See entry for December 2016.)
May 27 — National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster downplays reports of Kushner discussing so-called back-channel communications with Russia. McMaster says the U.S. has “back-channel communications with a number of countries. So, generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is to communicate in a discreet manner.”
May 31 — The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence issues subpoenas for testimony, documents and business records from Flynn and Michael Cohen, a personal attorney to the president.
June 5 — NSA contractor Reality Winner is charged with leaking classified information about Russia’s hacking activities. It is widely reported that Winner gave The Intercept an NSA report dated May 5 that detailed how the Russian military intelligence operation carried out cyberattacks in 2016 on a U.S. election software company. (See May 5 entry.)
June 6 — Flynn provides more than 600 pages of documents to the Senate intelligence committee, CNN reports. The committee subpoenaed the documents on May 10.
The Washington Post reports that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in a March 22 meeting “if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe.” The report was based on “officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.” Brian Hale, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, issues a statement that said Coats “never felt pressured by the President or anyone else in the Administration to influence any intelligence matters or ongoing investigations.”
June 7 — At a Senate intelligence committee hearing, Sen. Marco Rubio asks National Intelligence Director Dan Coats if he has ever been asked “by the president or the White House to influence an ongoing investigation.” Coats declines to comment, saying it would be inappropriate to answer that question at an open hearing. “I am willing to come before the committee and tell you what I know and don’t know,” Coats says. “What I’m not willing to do is to share what I think is confidential information that ought to be protected in an open hearing, and so I’m not prepared to answer your question.”
At the same hearing, Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, also declines to discuss any conversations he has had with the president. But he adds, “In the three plus years that I have been the director of the National Security Agency, to the best of my recollection I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate.”
Trump announces his intention to nominate Christopher Wray to replace Comey as the FBI director. Wray was an assistant U.S. attorney general in the Bush administration in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal prosecutions division.
Comey submits written testimony to the Senate intelligence committee in advance of his June 8 appearance before the committee. In his testimony, Comey says that he first spoke to Trump on Jan. 6, 2017, at Trump Tower, and he wrote memos after each meeting or conversation. The former FBI director said that he had “nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.” On three occasions, Comey told Trump he was not personally under investigation.
Here are Comey’s impressions of some of the key conversations that he had with the president:
On his Jan. 27 dinner with Trump at the White House, where Trump asked for Comey’s loyalty: “I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because ‘problems’ come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.”
On his Feb. 14 Oval Office meeting about Flynn: “I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. … Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.”
On his March 30 phone call from Trump, in which Comey reassured the president that he was not personally under investigation and Trump asked Comey to find a way to get that information out to the public: “I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.”