Donald trump’s Russia problem still looms over all of us like those in-laws who overstayed their welcome on Thanksgiving.
So how did we get here?
Here is a good read from Mother Jones that might shed some light on that question.
The Field Negro education series continues.
” The Trump-Russia scandal—with all its bizarre and troubling twists and turns—has become a controversy that is defining the Trump presidency. The FBI recently disclosed that since July it has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia, as part of its probe of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election. Citing “US officials,” CNN reported that the bureau has gathered information suggesting coordination between Trump campaign officials and suspected Russian operatives. Each day seems to bring a new revelation—and a new Trump administration denial or deflection. It’s tough to keep track of all the relevant events, pertinent ties, key statements, and unraveling claims. So we’ve compiled what we know so far into the timeline below, which covers Trump’s 30-year history with Russia. We will continue to update the timeline regularly as events unfold. (Click here to go directly to the most recent entry.) Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a tip or we’ve left anything out.
1986: Donald Trump is seated next to Russian Ambassador Yuri Dubinin at a lunch organized by Leonard Lauder, the son of cosmetics scion Este Lauder, who at the time is running her cosmetics business. “One thing led to another, and now I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin” in partnership with the Soviet government, Trump later writes in his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal.
January 1987: Intourist, the Soviet agency for international tourism, expresses interest in meeting with Trump.
July 1987: Trump and his then-wife, Ivana, fly to Moscow to tour potential hotel sites. Trump spokesman Dan Klores later tells the Washington Post that during the trip, Trump “met with a lot of the economic and financial advisers in the Politburo” but did not see Mikhail Gorbachev, then the USSR’s leader.
December 1, 1988: The Soviet Mission to the United Nations announces that Gorbachev is tentatively scheduled to tour Trump Tower while the Soviet leader is visiting New York and that Trump plans to show him a swimming pool inside a $19 million apartment.
December 7, 1988: Trump welcomes the wrong Gorbachev to New York—shaking hands with a renowned Gorbachev impersonator outside his hotel.
December 8, 1988: President Ronald Reagan invites Donald and Ivana Trump to a state dinner, where Trump meets the real Gorbachev. According to Trump’s spokesman, the real estate mogul had a lengthy discussion with the Soviet president about economics and hotels.
November 5, 1996: Media reports note that Trump is trying to partner with US tobacco company Brooke Group to build a hotel in Moscow.
January 23, 1997: Trump meets with Alexander Lebed, a retired Soviet general then running to be president of Russia, at Trump Tower. Trump says they discussed his plans to build “something major” in Moscow. Lebed reportedly expressed his support, joking that his only objection would be that “the highest skyscraper in the world cannot be built next to the Kremlin. We cannot allow anyone spitting from the roof of the skyscraper on the Kremlin.”
2000: Michael Caputo, who later runs Trump’s primary campaign in New York during the 2016 race, secures a PR contract with the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media to burnish Russian President Vladimir Putin’s image in the United States.
2005: Trump reportedly signs a development deal with Bayrock Group, a real estate firm founded by a former Soviet official from Kazakhstan, to develop a hotel in Moscow and agrees to partner on a hotel tower in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Trump works on the projects with Bayrock managing partner Felix Sater, a Russian American businessman. The New York Times will later publish a story revealing Sater’s criminal record, which includes charges of racketeering and assault.
November 22: Trump Vodka debuts in Russia, at the Moscow Millionaire’s Fair. As part of its new marketing campaign, Trump Vodka also unveils an ad featuring Trump, tigers, the Kremlin, and Vladimir Lenin.
At the Millionaires’ Fair, Trump meets Sergey Millian, an American citizen from Belarus who is the president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce in the USA (RACC). Subsequently, Millian later recounted, “We met at his office in New York, where he introduced me to his right-hand man—Michael Cohen. He is Trump’s main lawyer, all contracts go through him. Subsequently, a contract was signed with me to promote one of their real estate projects in Russia and the CIS. You can say I was their exclusive broker.” According to Millian, he helped Trump “study the Moscow market” for potential real estate investments.
December 17: The New York Times publishes a story about Felix Sater’s controversial past, which includes prison time for stabbing a man with a margarita glass stem during a bar fight and a guilty plea in a Mafia-linked racketeering case. The article characterizes Sater as a Trump business associate who is promoting several potential projects in partnership with Trump.
December 19: In a deposition, Trump is asked about his plans to build a hotel in Moscow. He says, “It was a Trump International Hotel and Tower. It would be a nonexclusive deal, so it would not have precluded me from doing other deals in Moscow, which was very important to me.”
April: Trump announces he is partnering with Russian oligarch Pavel Fuks to license his name for luxury high-rises in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. But Fuks ultimately balks at Trump’s price, which the Russian business newspaper Kommersant estimated could have been $200 million or more.
July: Billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev, a Russian oligarch, buys a Palm Beach mansion owned by Trump for $95 million, despite Florida’s crashing real estate market and an appraisal on the house for much less. Trump bought the property for $41.35 million four years earlier. Rybolovlev goes on to give conflicting explanations for why he bought the property.
September 15: Donald Trump Jr. speaks at a real estate conference in Manhattan, where he says “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets…We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Date unknown: Trump’s team reportedly invites Sergei Millian to meet Trump at a horse race in Florida, where, according to Millian, they sit in Trump’s private suite at the Gulfstream race track in Miami. “Trump team, they realized that we have a lot of connection with Russian investors. And they noticed that we bring a lot of investors from Russia,” Millian told ABC News in a 2016 interview. “And they needed my assistance, yes, to sell properties and sell some of the assets to Russian investors.” Millian says that following this meeting with Trump, he works as a broker for the Trump Hollywood condominium project in Miami, selling a “nice percentage” of the building’s 200 units to Russian investors.
May 10: Jody Kriss, a former finance director at Bayrock, files a lawsuit against the company. The suit alleges that Bayrock financed Trump SoHo with mysterious cash from Kazhakstan and Russia and calls the building “a Russian mob project.” (The complaint notes that “there is no evidence that Trump took any part in” Bayrock’s interactions with questionable Russian financing sources.)
Date unknown: Bayrock’s Sater becomes a senior adviser to Trump, according to his LinkedIn profile. Though Trump later claims he would not recognize Sater, Sater has a Trump Organization email address, phone number, and business cards.
May 29: Emin Agalarov, a Russian pop star and the son of billionaire real estate developer Aras Agalarov, releases a music video for his song “Amor.” In the video, he pursues Miss Universe 2012, Olivia Culpo, through dark, empty alleys with a flashlight. Following the video’s release, representatives of Miss Universe, which Trump at the time owns, discuss with the Agalarovs holding the next pageant in Moscow. The Agalarovs persuade them to host Miss Universe at a concert hall they own on the outskirts of Moscow.
June 18: Following the Miss USA contest in Las Vegas, Trump announces that he will bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow.
He also wonders if Putin will attend the pageant, and if Putin might “become my new best friend?”
June 21: Vladimir Putin awards Rex Tillerson, now Trump’s secretary of state, with Russia’s Order of Friendship. As the CEO of Exxon Mobil, Tillerson had developed a long-standing relationship with the head of Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft, dating back to 1998.
October 17: In an interview with David Letterman, Trump says, “I’ve done a lot of business with the Russians,” noting that he once met Putin.
November 5: In a deposition, Trump is asked about a 2007 New York Times story outlining the controversial past of Felix Sater. Trump replies that he barely knows Sater and would have trouble recognizing him if they were in the same room.
November 8: Trump, in Russia for the Miss Universe pageant, meets with more than a dozen of Russia’s top businessmen at Nobu, a restaurant 15 minutes from the Kremlin. The group includes Herman Gref, the CEO of the state-controlled Sberbank PJSC, Russia’s biggest bank. The meeting at Nobu is organized by Gref—who regularly meets with Putin—and Aras Agalarov, who owns the Nobu franchise in Moscow.
– According to a source connected to the Agalarovs, Putin asks his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, to call Trump in advance of the Miss Universe show to set up an in-person meeting for the Russian president and Trump. Peskov reportedly passes on the message and expresses Putin’s admiration for Trump. Their plans to meet never come to fruition because of scheduling changes for both Trump and Putin.
November 9: Trump spends the morning shooting a music video with Emin Agalarov.
-The Miss Universe pageant takes place near Moscow. A notorious Russian mobster, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, attends the event as a VIP, strolling down the event’s red carpet within minutes of Trump. At the time, Tokhtakhounov was under federal indictment in the United States for his alleged participation in an illegal gambling ring once run out of Trump Tower. Emin Agalarov performs two songs at the pageant.
November 12: Trump tells Real Estate Weekly that Miss Universe Russia provided a networking opportunity: “Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room,” he says. The same day, two developers who helped build the luxury Trump SoHo hotel meet with the Agalarovs to discuss replicating the hotel in Moscow. Aras Agalarov, whose real estate company secured multiple contracts from the Kremlin and who once received a medal of honor from Putin, later claims he and Trump signed a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow following the pageant
March 6: Trump gives a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference and boasts of getting a gift from Putin when he was in Russia for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. “You know, I was in Moscow a couple months ago, I own the Miss Universe pageant, and they treated me so great,” Trump said. “Putin even sent me a present, beautiful present, with a beautiful note.”
May 27: At a National Press Club luncheon, Trump says, “I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directlywith President Putin, who could not have been nicer.”
September 29: Trump praises Putin during an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly: “I will tell you, in terms of leadership he is getting an ‘A,’ and our president is not doing so well.”
November 10: At a Republican presidential primary debate, Trump says of Putin that he “got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes, we were stablemates.”
December 10: Retired General Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who was reportedly forced out in 2014, attends and is paid $30,000 to speak at Russia Today’s 10th anniversary dinner in Moscow, where he is seated next to Putin.
December 17: Putin praises Trump in his year-end press conference, saying that he is “very talented” and that “he is an absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it today. He says that he wants to move to another level relations, a deeper level of relations with Russia…How can we not welcome that? Of course, we welcome it.” Trump calls the praise “a great honor” from “a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.” He adds, “I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other toward defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.
February 17: At a rally in South Carolina, Trump says of Putin, “I have no relationship with him, other than that he called me a genius.”
March 21: In an interview with the Washington Post, Trump identifies Carter Page as one of his foreign policy advisers.
March 30: Bloomberg Businessweek reports on Page’s past advising of Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas company. Page tells Bloomberg Businessweek that after Trump named him as an adviser, positive notes from his Russian contacts filled his inbox. “There’s a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation” in terms of easing US sanctions on Russia, Page explained.
April 26: The Washington Post reports that Paul Manafort, then Trump’s convention manager (who would later be promoted to campaign chairman), has long-standing ties to pro-Putin Ukrainian officials. Between 2007 and 2012, Manafort worked as a political consultant to Putin ally Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Russia part. He helped Yanukovych remake his image following the Orange Revolution and mount a successful bid for the Ukrainian presidency.
April and May: The DNC’s IT department contacts the FBI about unusual computer activity and hires cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike to investigate. In May, Crowdstrike determines that hackers affiliated with Russian intelligence infiltrated the DNC’s network.
June 14: The Washington Post reports that Russian hackers penetrated the DNC’s computer network.
June 15: Guccifer 2.0, an online persona that US intelligence officials link to Russia’s military intelligence service, takes credit for the DNC hack and posts hacked DNC documents. Guccifer will go on to post additional hacked documents—from the DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and purportedly from the Clinton Foundation—at least nine more times in the months leading up to the election. (Some reports contest that the documents came from the Clinton Foundation itself.)
July 7: Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page criticizes US sanctions against Russia during a speech at the New Economic School in Moscow. Politico later reports that Page asked for and received permission from Trump’s then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to speak at the Moscow event.
July 18: The Washington Post reports that the Trump campaign worked with members of the Republican Party platform committee in advance of the Republican National Convention to soften the platform’s position related to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The platform reportedly included a provision that promised to provide arms to Ukraine in its fight against Russia, but Trump campaign staffers encouraged the committee to jettison this language.
– Trump surrogate Sen. Jeff Sessions meets with with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, on the sidelines of a Republican National Convention event put on by the conservative Heritage Foundation.
July 22: WikiLeaks publishes nearly 20,000 hacked DNC emails, in advance of the Democratic National Convention. Some of the emails indicate that DNC officials favored Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders.
July 24: Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, appears on ABC’s This Week, where he is asked whether there are connections between the Trump campaign and the Putin regime. Manafort says, “No, there are not. And you know, there’s no basis to it.”
July 25: Trump tweets about the hacked DNC e-mails.
July 26: US intelligence agencies tell the White House they now have “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the DNC hack. This is reported by media outlets but not publicly confirmed by intelligence agencies.
– In an interview with NBC News, Obama says hacks are being investigated by the FBI, but that “experts have attributed this to the Russians.” He notes, “What we do know is that the Russians hack our systems. Not just government systems, but private systems. But you know, what the motives were in terms of the leaks, all that—I can’t say directly. What I do know is that Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin.”
July 27: Trump encourages Russia to hack Clinton’s emails, saying during a news conference, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you’ll probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” At the same event, he declares, “I never Putin. I don’t know who Putin is.”
July 31: On ABC’s This Week, Trump again denies knowing Putin, saying, “I have no relationship with him.” Trump also denies that his campaign played any role in getting the Republican Party to soften its platform on arming Ukraine.
– On Meet the Press, Manafort denies that he or anyone within the Trump campaign worked to change the platform.
Sen. Jeff Sessions defends Trump’s efforts to cultivate a friendship with Russia during an appearance on CNN: “Donald Trump is right. We need to figure out a way to end this cycle of hostility that’s putting this country at risk, costing us billions of dollars in defense, and creating hostilities.”
Late July: The FBI launches a counterintelligence investigation into contacts between Trump associates and Russia. There is no public confirmation of this investigation at the time, but FBI Director James Comey later confirms the investigation in a March 2017 hearing before the House intelligence committee.
August 5: Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks, asked by the Washington Post about Carter Page’s July speech in Moscow, downplays his role as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, saying he “does not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.”
– Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone writes an article for Breitbart in which he denies that Russia was behind the DNC hack. He argues that Guccifer 2.0 has no ties to Russia.
August 6: NPR confirms the Trump campaign’s involvement in encouraging the Republican Party to soften its platform’s pro-Ukraine position on Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
August 14: The New York Times reports that Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau has discovered Manafort’s name on a list of “black accounts” compiled by ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin ally. The tallies show undisclosed payments designated for Manafort totaling $12.7 million between 2007 and 2012, the years that Manafort worked for Yanukovych as a political consultant. (Manafort denies receiving any illicit payments.)
August 17: Trump receives his first classified intelligence briefing as the GOP nominee for president. He brings Michael Flynn with him to the meeting, which includes discussion of the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was interfering in the US election.
August 19: Manafort resigns from the Trump campaign.
August 29: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pens a letter to the FBI, asking the bureau to investigate the possibility of election-tampering by Russia in the upcoming presidential election. “I have recently become concerned that the threat of the Russian government tampering in our presidential election is more extensive than widely known,” Reid writes. “The prospect of a hostile government actively seeking to undermine our free and fair elections represents one of the gravest threats to our democracy since the Cold War and it is critical for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use every resource available to investigate this matter thoroughly.”
August 30: House Democrats send a letter to FBI Director James Comey calling on the bureau to investigate ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and any impact these ties may have had on the hacking of the DNC and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
September 5: The Washington Post reports that US intelligence agencies, including the FBI, are investigating possible plans by Russia to disrupt the presidential election.
– Putin and Obama have a tense meeting at the G20 summit in China, where they discuss Syria, Ukraine, and cybersecurity. In December, Obama will tell reporters that he confronted Putin about Russia’s alleged interference in the election and told him to “cut it out.”
September 7: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggests publicly for the first time that Russia may be responsible for the DNC hack, pointing to Obama’s July statement that “experts have attributed this to the Russians.” Clapper adds that “the Russians hack our systems all the time.
September 8: Trump responds to Clapper’s comments in an interview with RT, the English language arm of a Russian state-controlled media conglomerate, casting doubt on whether Russian hackers were responsible for the DNC hack. “I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out,” Trump says. “Who knows, but I think it’s pretty unlikely.”
Jeff Sessions meets with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in his Senate office. He is the only one of the Senate armed services committee’s 26 members to meet with the ambassador in 2016. The meeting occurs days after Putin and Obama’s tense G20 meeting.
September 22: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, release a statement about Russia’s interference in the US election. “Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election,” they said”We believe that orders for the Russian intelligence agencies to conduct such actions could come only from the very senior levels of the Russian government.”
September 23: Yahoo News reports that US intelligence officials are investigating whether Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page discussed the possible lifting of US sanctions on Russia and other topics during private communications with top Russian officials, including a Putin aide and the current executive chairman of Rosneft, who is on the Treasury Department’s US sanctions list. Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller claims that Page “has no role” in the Trump campaign and says that “we are not aware of any of his activities, past or present.”
September 25: In a CNN interview, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway denies that Page is affiliated with the Trump campaign. “He’s certainly not part of the campaign that I’m running,” she said.
In response to a question about Page’s possible connections to Russian Conway says, “If he’s doing that, he’s certainly not doing it with the permission or knowledge of the campaign,” She adds, “He is certainly not authorized to do that.”
September 26: Page takes a leave from the campaign.
– During the first presidential debate, Clinton brings up the allegations that Russia orchestrated the DNC hack. Trump responds: “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia. 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, okay?”
October 1: Roger Stone tweets: [Go to link]
October 7: US intelligence agencies issue a joint release saying they are “confident” the Russian government interfered in the US election, in part by directing the leaking of hacked emails belonging to political institutions like the DNC. This is the first official government confirmation that Russia orchestrated the hacking and leaks during the election.
-Late on Friday afternoon, a leaked video of Trump boasting of groping and kissing women without their consent is published by the Washington Post. Half an hour later, WikiLeaks begins to release several thousand hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
October 9: During the second presidential debate, Clinton accuses Trump of benefiting from Russian hacking and other interference in the election. Trump responds, “I don’t know Putin. I think it would be great if we got along with Russia because we could fight ISIS together, as an example. But I don’t know Putin.”‘ [More here for the rest of the timeline all the way to March 24, 2017]
Congrats to Mother Jones for doing a terrific job of journalism.
FOX VIEWS please take note.
*Pic from cnn.com
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