The name of one country continues to dominate US politics and headlines: Russia.
But, the months-long saga has so many chapters and intertwined characters, it's pretty impossible to keep everything straight at this point. To help keep track of what exactly's going on in Washington D.C. (and Russia), we compiled a timeline of the Russia scandal. In order to fully understand the issue, we have to go all the way back to beginning. Troubling news about potential Russia involvement in the 2016 presidential election first surfaced last summer, and the story's been slowly unfolding since then.
Of course, a lot as has changed since last summer — Donald Trump is now president of the United States and Hillary Clinton is no longer in politics — but the thing that remains the same is everyone still has a lot of unanswered questions about Russia.
This story was originally published on May 11, 2017.
Facebook tells congressional investigators that a Russian firm with a history of pushing Russian propaganda bought ads targeting voters during the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post reports.
The Washington Post reports Michael Cohen, a Trump attorney and Trump Organization executive vice president, asked Russian President Vladimir Putin's top press aide for help with a development plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential election. A report the day before said a real estate developer reportedly said Putin would say "great things" about Trump if he came to Moscow to talk about the deal.
An email from a Trump aide, Rick Dearborn (who's now President Trump's deputy chief of staff), about plans to set up a meeting between Trump campaign officials and President Putin was just uncovered, CNN reports.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller impaneled a Washington, D.C. grand jury in recent weeks to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, The Wall Street Journal reports. The development signals that Mueller will likely subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses.
Special counsel Robert Mueller asked the White House to preserve documents related to the 2016 meeting Donald Trump Jr. took with a Russian lawyer, CNN reports.
The White House confirms President Trump and President Putin had a second undisclosed conversation during the G20 economic summit in Germany earlier in July. The White House claims the exchange was only pleasantries and small talk.
The Secret Service responds after President Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, questioned why the agency would have allowed Donald Trump Jr. to meet with a Russia lawyer and others during the 2016 election if it was "nefarious" on ABC's This Week. In a statement to Reuters, the Secret Service says: "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."
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, tells reporters he's inviting Donald Trump Jr. to publicly testify before the committee, saying he will subpoena Donald Jr. if necessary. The oldest Trump son previously said he was willing to testify.
The email Donald Trump Jr. received in June 2016 offering him damaging information on Hillary Clinton is published by The New York Times. The email clearly states that it "is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump" and the documents would "incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father." Donald Jr. responded, "I love it."The oldest Trump son says in a statement that he thought the documents offered were political opposition research.
The New York Times reports that before meeting with a Russian lawyer, Donald Trump Jr. was told in an email that the damaging information about Hillary Clinton offered to him was part of the Russian government's plan to help his dad win the presidency.
The Hill reports four of the seven personal memos former FBI Director James Comey wrote after his meetings with President Trump contained classified information. Comey shared at least one of his memos with a friend (who then leaked them to the public), but it's unclear whether that specific document contained classified information.
Donald Jr., the president's oldest son, met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 election after the lawyer alleged to have potentially damaging information about Clinton, The New York Times reports. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were also reportedly at the Trump Tower meeting.The next day, Donald Jr. confirms that he was approached about information regarding Clinton, but a spokesperson for Putin says the Russian president doesn't know the lawyer.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a Republican opposition researcher (who's now dead) attempted to obtain the emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign which U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russians stole. The researcher implied he was working with Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser under investigation by the FBI, but Flynn has not commented on the allegations.
Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, retroactively submitted forms to the Justice Department disclosing his work for foreign interests. According to The Washington Post, the forms show that Manafort's firm received $17.1 million from a pro-Russian political party in the Ukraine. Reports about these previously undisclosed payments led to Manafort leaving the Trump campaign last August.
The Washington Post reports Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser, was questioned by the FBI for about 10 hours before the special counsel was appointed to oversee the probe. Page reportedly denied that he was a middle man for Russia and the Trump campaign.
The Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, will return to Russia, BuzzFeed News reports, citing three anonymous sources. His meetings with Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner, and Michael Flynn are under scrutiny in the FBI's and Congress' investigations.
ABC News reports Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who's leading the FBI's Russia probe after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, has told colleagues he may need to recuse himself from the investigation as well.NBC News' Katy Tur also tweets a photo of a memo from Trump's 2020 chief strategist sent to 2016 campaign staff asking them to preserve their records. The memo said, "Although I am confident that there was no wrongdoing by the Committee or otherwise, it is important that no documents or other materials relating to the Committee's work are destroyed, lost, or otherwise become unavailable to the congressional committees or the Special Counsel."
The Washington Post reports Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating President Trump for possible obstruction of justice, signaling a major shift in the investigation that previously only focused on Trump's campaign.President Trump responded by tweeting the following morning that any collusion with Russia is a phony story.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate intel committee, denying colluding with Russia in any way. He also says he doesn't recall having had a third undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador as former FBI director James Comey reportedly suggested in a closed hearing June 8.Sessions refuses to discuss any of his private conversations with President Trump, and Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich accuses him of impeding the investigation.
Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee, confirming previous reports that Trump did ask for his loyalty and say he hoped Comey could let the Flynn investigation go.Comey also says he believes he was fired because of the federal Russia probe, though he doesn't think it's his place to determine whether or not the president is guilty of obstruction of justice. He said he's confident Special Counsel Mueller will carry out a thorough investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, and Comey expects Mueller to look into whether or not Trump obstructed justice.
The New York Times reports Comey told Attorney General Jeff Sessions he didn't want to be left alone with President Trump the day after the commander-in-chief reportedly asked Comey to stop the FBI's investigation into a former Trump adviser.
During an interview with NBC's Megyn Kelly, Russian President Vladimir Putin claims the 2016 presidential election hack was done by the US intelligence community. Putin also denies having any information he could use to blackmail President Trump.
Despite previously claiming Russia played no role in the Democratic National Committee hack, President Vladimir Putin says that “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers could have been involved. He still denies that the state played a part in the hacking, The New York Times reports.British Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage is a "person of interest" in the FBI's Russia probe because of his relationships with people close to President Trump and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, The Guardian reports.
ABC News reports House and Senate committees asked President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to testify, although he said he refused. The Senate Select Intelligence Committee voted in favour of allowing its chairman to subpoena Cohen, but a subpoena hasn't been issued.
Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, is a focus of the Russia probe due to his meetings with the Russian ambassador in December, according to The Washington Post.
The Washington Post reports President Trump previously asked top intelligence officials to publicly deny that his campaign colluded with Russia. The director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, both refused.
The New York Times reports President Trump told Russian officials that former FBI Director James Comey was "a real nut job" and that firing Comey took "great pressure" off him during a meeting on May 10.An unnamed "senior White House adviser" is a "significant person of interest" in the Russia investigation, according to a report by The Washington Post. Anonymous sources close to the situation say it's an adviser still in the White House.Members of Congress briefed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tell McClatchy DC the investigation is also looking into whether the president's administration attempted to cover up a scandal.
Reuters reports Trump campaign advisers exchanged at least 18 calls and emails with Russian officials that were previously undisclosed during the presidential election. Six of the exchanges were with the Russian ambassador, and all are now included in the federal probes into Trump-Russia ties.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed President Trump didn't share classified info with Russia. He even offered to hand over transcripts of Trump's conversations with Russia’s foreign minister to Congress, according to The Associated Press.
Trump takes to Twitter to defend his actions. He writes, "As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism."
It's discovered that Israel provided the classified intel President Trump disclosed to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister the week before. Although the Israeli ambassador to the United States told The New York Times the country would continue to work with the U.S. on counterterrorism, it raises concerns that the U.S.-Israel diplomatic relationship could be compromised.
The New York Times also reports the president asked former FBI Director James Comey to stop the investigation into Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in February. According to a memo Comey wrote after the meeting, President Trump told him, "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."
The Washington Post reports President Trump showed "highly classified information" to Russian officials in a meeting at the White House. The intel, provided by a U.S. intelligence-sharing partner and shared with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, was "so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government," according to The Post.The morning after the news broke, Trump took to Twitter to defend his actions. He wrote, "As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism."
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe tells the Senate Intelligence Committee, "The work of the men and women continues despite any changes in circumstance, any decisions. So there has been no effort to impede the investigation to date. Simply put, sir, you cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing."
He also says the agency's focus on potential ties to Russia is a "highly significant investigation" after White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claims its "one of the smallest things that they've got going on their plate."
President Trump fires FBI Director James Comey. A memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein claims he was terminated because he overstepped his authority, treated Hillary Clinton unfairly, and made the FBI look bad.
Democratic senators call for an independent investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged Russian ties.
Former acting attorney general Sally Yates testifies before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, confirming she knew Flynn talked to the Russian ambassador about the U.S. sanctions imposed on Russian officials, saying she informed a White House lawyer Flynn was lying.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes recuses himself from the investigation after the House Ethics Committee released a statement saying it would investigate allegations that “Nunes may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information, in violation of House Rules, law, regulations, or other standards of conduct.”
Comey confirms in a House Intelligence Committee hearing that the FBI is 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."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuses himself from the federal investigation into Russia after it was revealed he met with the Russian ambassador twice during the presidential election, which he didn't disclose during his confirmation hearing.
During Session's Senate confirmation hearing to become attorney general, he says he "did not have communications with the Russians."
FBI Director Comey also tells a Senate panel the GOP was hacked by Russians, but the none of the stolen documents were leaked online. In his testimony, he says the hacking was "directed at state-level organisations, state-level campaigns, and the RNC, but old domains of the RNC, meaning old emails they weren't using. None of that was released."
U.S. intelligence agencies release a report saying the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election and Guccifer 2.0 was a "persona" used by Russian military intelligence.
It reads: "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump."
A joint statement from the Department Of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security says, "Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organisations."
Informal Trump adviser Roger Stone alludes that WikiLeaks will release more documents soon in a tweet with the hashtag #LockHerUp.
CNN reports the FBI and Justice Department are investigating Paul Manafort's firm as part of a probe into alleged corruption by the former President of Ukraine (who led the pro-Russian political party that paid Manafort millions in secret payments).
Manafort denies receiving millions of dollars in "undisclosed cash payments" from a pro-Russian political party while consulting in the Ukraine from 2007 to 2012, which The New York Times reported the day before.
Trump says at a press conference, "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," seemingly asking the foreign nation to hack his presidential opponent.
Private cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike announces on its website that it responded to a breach in the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) computer network and identifies two networks associated with the Russian government as the attackers. CrowdStrike says the groups — confusingly named "Cozy Bear" and "Fancy Bear" — "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."
However, a person that goes by "Guccifer 2.0" claims to be behind the DNC attack, also alleging they gave DNC documents to WikiLeaks, though experts are skeptical and no one is sure who's behind the name.
Then-presidential candidate Trump says in a statement, "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."