It took months of lying, obfuscating and obstructing, but the president of the United States has now painted himself into a legal corner from which there can be no escape. This does not translate into impeachment, but Donald Trump has gotten himself into a heap of trouble.
By continuing to not express the slightest concern about the gravest assault on democracy since Soviet spies stole atomic bomb secrets after World War II, by calling the Russia scandal investigations the “greatest witch hunt in American history,” by refusing to cooperate with investigators, and now by shifting blame for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election onto Barack Obama, Trump cannot risk softening his hard line, let alone striking a conciliatory note.
Trump reportedly now begins each day not being briefed by his aides on national and world affairs, but huddling with his criminal defense lawyers. They certainly have told him that any equivocating at this late date — that is, diverging from the position that he is a victim — would expose him to a fusillade of investigative questions he will be unable to answer without further undercutting his precarious legal standing.
The reason Trump has taken this view is by now familiar. He is narcissistic, paranoid and a pathological liar and coward who has a profound disdain for the law. As someone who has never done an honest day’s work in his life and almost always got away with that, he believes that he is smarter than everyone else and wiggling out from under the disaster he has created will be just another deal to be negotiated.
Where Trump’s view hits the big bad brick wall of reality is that being president is not like being a real estate mogul and pussy-grabbing reality TV star, and he is on perilous ground on several fronts:
- Trump’s domestic agenda already is in deep trouble and he risks further alienating the Senate by objecting to its overwhelming vote to toughen sanctions on Russia. The House will take up the Senate bill, although probably not anytime soon, and Trump is no longer assured of its automatic support with a small but vocal faction of Russia hawks openly critical of his fawning appreciation for Putin.
- There are a growing number of state election officials who are concerned that Trump has done nothing to safeguard the 2018 and 2020 elections against further Russian intrusions. Trump could care less, and also has shown no interest in following the lead of European nations who are using bold tactics to expose Russian attempts to sway their voters.
- The longer Trump allows the impression to linger that he is considering dismissing special counsel Robert Mueller the more precarious his position becomes and the closer the U.S. lurches to a constitutional crisis. Mueller, who has assembled a crack team of investigators, is digging ever deeper into how the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow, and if Mueller is dismissed, it is probable that the Senate will simply reappoint him.
And there will be an increasingly stiff price to be paid as that corner becomes tighter.
Considering that we’re talking about Russia here, it is fitting that there is a Dostoevskian aspect to the White House’s newly-minted view that Obama is to blame for his reaction to something that it won’t even acknowledge happened.
This disingenuous defensive tack was trotted out last weekend after The Washington Postpublished a blockbuster story on the former president’s secret struggles to punish Russia for interfering in the election.
The big takeaway of the piece is that while Obama sought to respond with his trademark dispassion, proportionality and caution, those qualities failed him, and he ended up bringing a cap pistol to a gunfight.
Tweets like the one above leave Trump even more exposed legally. This is because he now acknowledges, in his own small-fingered way, that American intelligence agencies were right about Russian interference and, by extension, were right about that interference being for the purpose of getting his Moscow-sympathetic self elected.
This, in turn, makes the kryptonite shot through the scandal even more toxic. That Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia, which may well finally be borne out as his intimate circle of grifters and con artists — including Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone and personal lawyer Michael Cohen — are called onto the carpet by investigators while Vice President Pence, Attorney General Sessions and son-in-law Jared Kushner lawyer up.
All of this (again) begs the question about what Trump will do “next time” since no one can seriously doubt that Putin’s meddling will not have stopped with Trump’s ascendancy. And another question: Will Trump even be around “next time”?
I am gravitating to the view that Trump will not be around “next time” not because he will be impeached, but because he will find a pretext to resign before that happens. That is, if he’s not felled first by fast food.
The Russian plot to elect Donald Trump by interfering in the 2016 presidential election through sabotaging Hillary Clinton’s campaign was an unprecedented assault from America’s greatest foe on the bedrock of its democracy. It is the most explosive scandal since Soviet spies stole atomic bomb secrets over 70 years ago, and may well be considered the crime of the century.
Although the scandal did not explode into view until the latter stages of the 2016 campaign, its roots date back to 1980 when the first two members of Trump’s inner circle who are linked to the scandal got together. As early as 2007, Trump was making clear his affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin. By 2015, U.S. intelligence agencies had become aware of the first tentacles of the plot to interfere in the election, as well as a troubling and increasing number of contacts by Trump’s inner circle with Russians with ties to the Kremlin’s intelligence services.
A timeline of the scandal has slowly come into focus. It remains a work in progress, but this is what is now known:
1980: Roger Stone, future Trump confidante and dirty trickster, founds a lobbying practice with future Trump presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort. Trump is one of the firm’s first clients.
October 1998: Demolition of a vacant building to make way for Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City begins. Trump begins selling units in the skyscraper, which becomes a depository for Russian money.
2000: Stone serves as chairman of Trump’s presidential exploratory advisory committee.
2002: Russian-born Felix H. Stater, a future fixer for Trump who will help him scout business deals in Russia, and his Bayrock Group begin working with Trump on a series of real estate development deals, one of which becomes Trump SoHo.
2004: One third of all Trump Tower units on upper floors are sold to people or limited liability companies connected to Russia or neighboring states.
2005: Trump begins an aggressive 10-year effort to penetrate the former Soviet empire with a one-year deal with developer Bayrock Group, run by Felix Sater, a Russian émigré, felon and Trump associate.
2005: Manafort proposes that he undertake a consulting assignment for a billionaire oligarch friend of Putin to influence politics, business deals and news coverage in the U.S. and Europe to benefit Putin’s government.
February 2006: Two of Trump’s children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, travel to Moscow where they are shown around by Sater.
October 15, 2007: Trump, speaking publicly of Putin for the first of many times, tells Larry King on CNN that Putin “is doing a great job . . . he’s doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia period.”
November 2007: Manafort’s consulting firm receives a $455,000 wire transfer to billionaire industrialist and Ukraine Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s political party for a campaign to improve Putin-backed Yanukovych’s image in the West.
2008: Donald Trump Jr. tells a real estate conference in New York, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. . . . We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” although his father will insist when the first inklings of a scandal appear in 2016 that he has no Russian investments, a claim he will repeatedly make despite substantial evidence to the contrary.
July 2008: Trump sells a Florida residence to a Russian oligarch for $95 million, believed to be the biggest single-family home sale in U.S. history. The oligarch never lives in the house, which is later demolished.
October 14, 2009: Manafort’s firm receives a $750,000 wire transfer from Yanukovych’s political party for the image-enhancement campaign.
January 2010: Sater becomes Trump’s “senior adviser.”
February 2010: Yanukovych is elected Ukraine president.
June 19, 2012: As President Obama meets with Putin, Trump tweets, “Putin has no respect for our president — really bad body language.”
April 8, 2013: Three Russians whom the FBI later accuses of spying on the U.S. discuss recruiting businessman and future Trump campaign aide Carter Page, who has many Russian contacts, to spy for Moscow.
July 8, 2013: Trump terminates a BBC interview when asked about Sater’s mob ties.
October 13, 2013: On The Late Show, David Letterman asks Trump if he had any dealings with Russians. Trump answers, “Well, I’ve done a lot of business with Russians.”
February 22, 2014: Yanukovych flees Ukraine amidst a popular uprising. A handwritten ledger left behind purports to show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments to Manafort’s firm from the deposed president’s political party.
April 17, 2014: Trump tweets that Obama is a weakling compared to Putin. “America is at a great disadvantage. Putin is ex-KGB. Obama is a community organizer. Unfair.”
Summer 2015: Future Trump campaign adviser Michael Flynn makes several trips to the Middle East as an adviser on a project to pursue a joint U.S.-Russia-Saudi business venture to develop nuclear facilities in Saudi Arabia.
June 16, 2015: Trump announces that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination.
September 2015: In a cryptic first sign of the Russian scheme to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, an FBI agent calls the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to warn that its computer network had been hacked by “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government. A DNC tech-support contractor does not take the call seriously.
September 2015: A secretive anti-Trump Republican hires Fusion GPS, a Washington, D.C. strategic intelligence firm, to compile an opposition research dossier on Trump as the Republican presidential primary campaign heats up.
October 11, 2015: Speaking on Face the Nation, Trump brags about sharing air time with Putin on 60 Minutes although they were on separate continents. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Trump says there isn’t enough proof to blame Russian separatists for shooting down a Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine the previous year.
Late 2015: Britain’s GCHQ, which is equivalent to the U.S.’s NSA, first becomes aware of suspicious interactions between individuals connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents. This intelligence is passed on to the U.S. as part of a routine exchange of information.
December 10-12, 2015: Flynn is paid $45,000 by RT, Vladimir Putin’s state propaganda network, for a three-day Moscow trip in which he gives a speech criticizing Obama’s Russia policy and sits at Putin’s table at a banquet.
December 17, 2015: Putin praises Trump and Trump quickly returns the favor, saying “It’s always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected in his own country and beyond.”
Spring 2016: Page, a businessman with extensive Russian ties and previous contacts with Russian intelligence agents, is hired by the Trump campaign as a quick fix for its lack of foreign policy expertise.
April 2016: Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law, accompanied by Flynn, meets with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who is widely considered to be a spy, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., the first of several meetings by Trump associates with Russian officials that are monitored by U.S. intelligence.
April 2016: About the same time as the Mayflower meeting, U.S. intelligence intercepts the first communications among Russians who discuss aggressively trying to influence the presidential election by sabotaging Hillary Clinton.
April 20, 2016: Manafort is named Trump’s campaign manager.
Late April 2016: The DNC’s IT department notices suspicious computer activity and hires private security firm CrowdStrike to investigate.
Early May 2016: Manafort meets in New York with Konstantine Kilimnik, a Ukrainian business associate who served in the Russian army and may be working for Russian intelligence.
May 2016: CrowdStrike determines that highly sophisticated Russian intelligence-affiliated adversaries named Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear are responsible for the DNC hack.
May 2016: An unidentified Democratic client takes over the Fusion GPS contract. Fusion hires Orbis Business Intelligence, a British intelligence firm co-founded by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, to assist it in investigating Russia-Trump connections.
June 2016: Although little noticed and not commented on at the time, Russian-Macedonian hackers begin a fake news campaign to energize Bernie Sanders supporters against Clinton by planting stories that, among other things, she murdered former Bill Clinton aide Vince Foster.
Early June 2016: The CIA concludes in an internal report that Russia is actively engaged in interfering in the presidential election, including the goal of getting Trump elected, not merely disrupting the U.S. political system.
June 15, 2016: A hacker with the online persona Guccifer 2.0 claims credit for the DNC hack and begins posting DNC documents on the Guccifer 2.0 website.
June 15, 2016: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy tells fellow Republican leaders that “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” Dana Rohrabacher is a California Republican. House Speaker Paul Ryan immediately interjects and swears those present to secrecy.
June 17, 2015: The Washington Post publishes a story headlined “Inside Trump’s Financial Ties to Russia and His Unusual Flattery of Vladimir Putin.”
June 20, 2016: Steele delivers the first of a series of reports to Fusion GPS based on several confidential sources. He identifies “Source A” as “a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure,” “Source B” as “a former top level intelligence officer still active in the Kremlin,” and “Source E” as “an ethnic Russian” and “close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump.”
Summer of 2016: U.S. intelligence agencies collect information revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political operatives are discussing how to influence Trump through Flynn and Manafort.
July 2016: Russia escalates a campaign of harassment of American diplomats and intelligence operatives in Russia.
July 5, 2016: FBI Director James Comey rebukes Clinton for being “extremely careless” but recommends no criminal charges in connection with her handling of classified information, including emails on a private server, as secretary of state, ostensibly lifting a cloud from her presidential campaign.
July 6, 2016: Another batch of hacked DNC documents appears on the Guccifer 2.0 website.
July 14, 2016: Another batch of hacked DNC documents appear on the Guccifer 2.0 website.
Mid-July 2016: Working behind the scenes, the Trump campaign rewrites the Republican National Convention platform on Ukraine, removing a pledge to provide lethal weapons in its fight with Russia over Crimea and a call for maintaining or increasing sanctions against Russia.
July 19, 2016: Trump is nominated for president at the convention after he, Flynn and other surrogates declare, in what becomes an oft-repeated campaign theme in the coming weeks, that Clinton should be “in jail” for her use of the private email server.
July 22, 2016: WikiLeaks, which is friendly with Putin, begins releasing 44,000 hacked DNC emails.
July 25, 2016: Trump suggests that the Russians were behind the DNC hack because Putin “likes” him.
July 27, 2016: Trump calls on Russia to hack 30,000 so-called “missing” Hillary Clinton emails.
Late July 2016: The FBI opens an investigation to examine possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia, but its existence is kept secret even from high ranking members of Congress colloquially known as the Gang of Eight, who by law are to be briefed on important intelligence matters.
Late July 2016: The FBI obtains and then renews a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court warrant allowing it to monitor Page, whom it believes is in touch with Russian agents and had been used in previous years by Moscow spies to obtain information.
August 2016: The CIA concludes that unnamed Trump campaign advisers might be working with Russia to interfere in the election by sabotaging the Clinton campaign through a multi-pronged attack personally approved by Putin that includes email hacking, disinformation and false news stories.
August 2016: The CIA informs the White House of Putin’s campaign to interfere in the election. For the next five months, the administration secretly debates dozens of options on how to retaliate, including whether to use CIA-gathered material that would be embarrassing to Putin.
August 2016: CIA Director John Brennan convenes a secret task force with analysts and officers from the CIA, FBI and NSA to keep the White House and senior government officials informed.
August 2016: Manafort meets again with Kilimnik.
Early August: Steele begins sharing his memos to Fusion GPS with an FBI agent assigned to the bureau’s Eurasian Joint Organized Crime Squad.
August 4, 2016: Brennan calls Alexander Bortnikov, director of the FSB, the post-Soviet successor to the KGB, to warn him that election interference will not be tolerated.
August 12, 2016: A batch of hacked Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) documents appear on the Guccifer 2.0 website.
August 14, 2016: Stone engages in direct messages with Guccifer 2.0, according to media reports.
August 15, 2015: Guccifer 2.0 releases hacked DCCC documents on Florida primary elections.
August 15, 2016: Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson arranges a conference call with dozens of state election officials to enlist their support to shore up voting systems in light of the Russian effort. He gets no support.
August 19, 2016: Manafort is forced out as Trump’s campaign manager, ostensibly over concerns about his ties with Russian officials.
August 21, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 releases hacked DCCC documents on Pennsylvania congressional primaries.
Late August 2016: Brennan is so concerned about Trump-Russia links that he initiates urgent, one-on-one briefings with the Gang of Eight.
Late August 2016: Stone boasts that he has communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who he says has materials including “deleted” Clinton emails that would be embarrassing to her.
August 25, 2016: Brennan briefs Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, then the highest ranking Democrat. With Congress in recess, Brennan explains to Reid over a secure phone link that the FBI and not the CIA would have to take the lead in what is a domestic intelligence matter.
Late August 2016: Reid writes to Comey without mentioning the CIA briefing. He expresses great concern over what he calls mounting evidence “of a direct connection between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.”
August 31, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 releases documents hacked from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s personal computer.
September 2016: Intelligence shows that although Republican sites are also being hacked by Russians, only DNC emails are being publicized by WikiLeaks.
September 2016: Aaron Nevins, a Republican political operative with ties to Stone, receives valuable Democratic turnout analyses hacked by Guccifer 2.0 and publishes them online under a pseudonym.
September 5, 2016: Obama, meeting with Putin at a conference of world leaders in Hangzhou, China, tells him that the U.S. knew about the election interference and “[he] better stop or else.” Putin responds by demanding proof and accuses the U.S. of meddling in Russia’s internal affairs.
September 8, 2016: Trump campaign adviser Jeff Sessions meets with ambassador Kislyak in his Senate office.
September 15, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 releases hacked DCCC documents from New Hampshire, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio.
September 16, 2016: Stone declares on Boston Herald Radio that “I expect Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks people to drop a payload of new documents on Hillary on a weekly basis fairly soon.” He says he is in touch with Assange “through an intermediary.”
September 22, 2016: Two other Gang of Eight members — Dianne Feinstein and Representative Adam B. Schiff, the ranking Senate and House intel committee Democrats — release a statement stating that Russian intelligence agencies are “making a serious and concerted effort” to influence the election.
September 23, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 releases hacked documents from DCCC chairman Ben Ray Lujan.
Late September 2016: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, at the behind-the-scenes urging of the Obama administration, is asked to warn state election officials of possible attempts to penetrate their computer systems by Russian hackers. McConnell resists, questioning the veracity of the intelligence.
September 25, 2016: McConnell writes to state election officials. He does not mention the Russian connection, but warns of unnamed “malefactors” who might seek to disrupt elections through online intrusions.
October 4, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 releases documents hacked from the Clinton Foundation.
October 7, 2016: The Obama administration publicly accuses the Russia government of hacking into emails from the DNC and other institutions and individuals.
October 7, 2016: National security adviser Susan Rice summons Kislyak to the White House and gives him a message to relay to Putin about U.S. plans to retaliate for the election inferference.
Late October 2016: The Russians launch a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and send spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials.
October 28, 2016: Comey tells Congress that the FBI is reopening its Clinton investigation because of emails found on a computer belonging to former Congressman Anthony Weiner, whose estranged wife is a top Clinton aide. The Clinton campaign is thrown into crisis only 11 days before the election.
October 30, 2016: Reid writes a letter to Comey angrily accusing him of a “double standard” in renewing the Clinton investigation so close to the election while sitting on “explosive information” on ties between Trump and Russia. Comey’s response, if any, is not known.
October 31, 2016: The Obama administration, using a secure channel to Moscow originally created to avert a nuclear war, warns that the election meddling is unacceptable interference. Russia does not reply until after the election and denies the accusation
October 31, 2016: Mother Jones magazine reports without identifying former British spy Steele by name that he had produced a dossier that concluded Moscow had been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Trump for years and had compromising information on him that could be used as blackmail. The story is little noticed in the flurry of election news.
November 6, 2016: Comey announces that after a intensive review of the “new” emails, they were found to be either personal or duplicates of those previously examined, and that the FBI had not changed the conclusions it reached in July in exonerating Clinton.
November 8, 2016: Sergei Krivov suffers fatal blunt force injuries after calling from the roof of the Russian consulate in New York. Krivov was widely believed to be a counter spy who coordinated efforts to prevent U.S. eavesdropping. Russian officials claim he died of a heart attack.
November 8, 2016: Trump defeats Clinton decisively in the Election College but loses the popular vote in a close race that pundits widely agree was decided by voters who were influenced by Trump’s repeated characterization of Clinton as being a criminal and Comey’s October 28 announcement.
November 9, 2016: Russia’s Parliament erupts in applause when Putin announces Trump’s election victory.
November 10, 2016: Obama, meeting with Trump at the White House, expresses profound concerns about Flynn becoming a top national security aide because of his previous management of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the 2015 trip to Moscow and other Russia ties.
Mid-November 2016: Marshall Billingslea, a former Bush administration national security official, is named to head Trump’s national security transition team. Unlike Trump, he has deep skepticism about Russian intentions and concerns about contacts between Trump aides and Russian officials.
Late November 2016: Obama administration officials provide Billingslea with a CIA file on Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak because of Billingslea’s belief that Flynn is not taking seriously the implications of his contacts with Kislyak.
Late November 2016: Senator John McCain, attending the annual Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, is made aware of the Steele dossier by Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Russia and former Steele protégé.
December 1or 2, 2016: Trump son-in-law Kushner and Flynn meet with Kislyak at Trump Towers. They discuss easing sanctions while Kushner proposes that a secret communications channel be set up between the Trump transition team and Kremlin using Russian diplomatic facilities in the U.S. to shield their discussions from monitoring.
Early December: David J. Kramer, a former State Department official with Russia expertise and staffer at the McCain Institute for International Leadership in Washington, D.C., meets Steele in London at McCain’s behest and obtains a full copy of the dossier. It includes information that there had been discussions between the Trump campaign and Russians about how to pay hackers who penetrated the DNC computer system and how to cover up the operation. Manafort, Page and Stone are mentioned by name.
December 8, 2016: Page visits Moscow to meeting with “business leaders and thought leaders.”
December 9, 2016: Obama orders a comprehensive review of Russian interference in U.S. elections going back to 2008 with the intention of making some of the findings public. They are not.
December 9: McCain meets privately with Comey in his FBI office and gives him a copy of the Steele dossier .
December 13, 2016: A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman terms emerging stories about election-related hacking a power struggle between American security agencies.
December 16, 2016: Obama, in one of his last news briefings, expresses anger that the election “came to be dominated by a bunch of these leaks.”
Mid-December 2016: Kushner meets with Sergey Gorkov, a close associate of Putin and chief executive of Vnesheconombank, a development bank with close ties to Russian intelligence services that had been sanctioned by the Obama administration and one of its executives convicted of espionage.
December 26, 2016: Oleg Erovinkin, believed to be instrumental in helping Steele to compile his dossier, is found dead in the back seat of his car in Moscow in another suspicious death of an individual linked to the scandal.
December 29, 2016: After five months of internal debates, Obama announces modest new sanctions against Russia because of its election interfering, including expelling 35 diplomats and closing two Russian compounds.
December 29, 2017: Flynn talks with Kislyak about easing sanctions.
Early January 2017: The CIA and FBI are said to have “high confidence” that Russia was trying to help Trump through a hacking campaign, while the NSA has only “moderate confidence.” The agencies also believe that Russia gained election board computer access in a number of states.
January 3~5, 2017: In a series of tweets, Trump attacks the integrity of the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered in the election.
January 4, 2017: Flynn tells Trump’s transition team that he is under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign.
January 5, 2017: Obama’s national security director releases a report stating that the CIA, FBI and NSA believe that Russia hacked Democratic email accounts and then passed the emails on to WikiLeaks to try to tip the election to Trump because he would be friendlier to their interests.
January 6, 2017: Comey briefs the president-elect on the contents of the Steele dossier in a meeting at Trump Tower and begins keeping notes on his meetings with Trump.
January 10, 2017: BuzzFeed News publishes a story stating that the Steele dossier has been circulating among elected officials, intelligence agents and journalists.
January 10, 2017: Attorney General nominee Sessions states at a Senate confirmation hearing that he never had communications with the Russians.
January 11, 2017: Former Blackwater boss Erik Prince, working as an emissary for Trump, meets secretly with a man close to Putin in the Seychelles islands in an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and the president-elect.
January 15, 2017: Vice President Pence states on Face the Nation that Flynn, whom Trump has named national security adviser, did not discuss sanctions with Kislyak.
Mid-January 2017: Former Trump campaign manager Manfort tells Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus that the Steele dossier is “garbage” and suggests it was motivated by Democratic activists and donors working with Ukrainian government officials who supported Clinton.
January 20, 2017: Trump becomes president. He insists that the Russia scandal is “fake news” while naming Flynn an other people to key positions in his administration who had secret contacts with Russians involved in the interfering effort.
January 22, 2017: Flynn is sworn in as national security adviser, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.
January 22, 2017: Trump singles out Comey at a White House event, hugs him and declares, “Oh, and there’s Jim. He’s become more famous than me.”
January 24, 2017: Flynn is interviewed by the FBI at the White House, possibly about his contacts with Kislyak.
January 26, 2017: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates tells White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II that misstatements made by Flynn to the Trump administration regarding his meetings with Russians make him vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.
January 27, 2017: Yates, responding to a query from McGahn, says that Flynn could be criminally prosecuted.
January 27, 2017: Trump tells Comey “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” during a private dinner in the Green Room at the White House. Comey, according to a memo he made of the meeting, replies that he can pledge “honesty” but not pledge “loyalty.”
Late January: Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, Sater and Andrii Artemenko, a wealthy oligarch and Ukrainian lawmaker, meet at the Loews Regency Hotel in Manhattan where a “peace plan” for control of Russian-held Crimea is hatched.
Late January: Cohen delivers the “peace plan” to Flynn at the White House, reports The New York Times.
January 30, 2017: McGahn asks Yates if the Trump administration can see the underlying intelligence data about Flynn. She agrees to provide it.
January 30, 2017: Trump fires Yates, allegedly over a matter not related to the scandal — her conclusion that Trump’s Muslim ban is unconstitutional, which is later upheld by the courts.
February 7: Alarmed at reports that Trump plans to ease Russia sanctions, two senators introduce bipartisan legislation to bar the administration from granting sanctions relief without congressional review.
February 13, 2017: Flynn is forced to resign as national security director when it is revealed he misled Vice President Pence about his communications with Kislyak concerning easing Obama administration Russia sanctions.
February 14, 2017: Trump tells Comey in a rivate Oval Office meeting that he wants him to drop the FBI’s investigation of Flynn.
February 15, 2017: White House Chief of Priebus asks Comey and his top deputy, Andrew McCabe, to refute news reports about Trump campaign ties with Russian government officials. They demur.
February 15, 2017: Comey confronts AG Sessions and tells him he doesn’t want to be left alone again with the president.
February 24, 2017: Comey rejects requests from the Trump administration to publicly rebut reports about Trump associates’ contacts with Russians. Trump counters by tweeting that FBI sources are leaking information to the press and demands that stop.
February 26, 2017: Chuck Todd of NBC News notes a pattern in which Trump attacks the press immediately after a new Trump-Russia story breaks.
March 2017: Over the course of five sessions, the FBI questions Page about allegations that he served as a middleman between the Trump campaign and Moscow during the election.
March 2, 2017: Alex Oronov, a naturalized U.S. citizen, dies under unexplained circumstances in his native Ukraine. He reportedly helped set up the late January meeting between Cohen, Sater and Artemenko.
March 2, 2017: AG Sessions recuses himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia-Trump connections after acknowledging that he failed to disclose his own meetings with Kislyak while he was advising the Trump campaign.
March 4, 2017: Trump, reportedly furious that Session recused himself, tweets that Obama ordered the phones at Trump Tower to be wiretapped.
March 5, 2017: Comey asks the Justice Department to deny Trump’s wiretapping claim. Justice refuses and Comey’s request is leaked to the news media.
March 11, 2017: Trump fires New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was conducting several investigations involving Trump associates, including Tom Price, health and human services secretary.
March 17, 2017: Wealthy Russians have invested nearly $100 million in Trump luxury high rises in Florida, according to Reuters.
March 20, 2017: Comey in effect calls Trump a liar in publicly acknowledging for the first time in testimony before Congress that the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interfering includes Trump associates’ contacts with Russians who were working to sabotage Clinton.
March 2017: In the wake of Comey’s testimony, Trump makes separate appeals to Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Admiral Michael S. Rogers, director of the NSA to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. They refuse.
Late March 2017: Flynn offers to be interviewed by investigators for Senate and House committees examining Trump campaign ties to Russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The offer is later withdrawn.
March 30, 2017: Trump asks Comey in a phone call what could be done to “lift the cloud” over him because the FBI investigation was hurting his ability to govern. Comey replies that the FBI and Justice were reluctant to make statements about the president’s status “because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.”
April 2017: The Senate and House intel committees secure access to top-level intelligence from the FBI, CIA, NSA and other agencies on Trump-Russia ties that in theory will enable them to dig deeper.
April 7, 2017: Spanish authorities arrest Pyotr Levashov at the request of U.S. authorities, who believe he is one of the Russia election meddlers who distributed “fake news” to try to influence voters through sendings billions of spambot messages by infecting tens of thousands of computers.
April 8, 2017: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes recuses himself from the panel’s investigation after it is revealed that White House security staffers fed him information in an effort to bolster Trump’s false claim that Obama had personally ordered that his Trump Tower phones be tapped.
April 11, 2017: Trump asks Comey in a phone call when he planned to put out a statement that he was not under investigation. Comey responds that he had passed the request on to his bosses at Justice but had not heard back.
April 25, 2017: House Oversight Committee members assert that Flynn may have violated federal law by not fully disclosing his business dealings with Russians.
April 28, 2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee asks four Trump campaign associates — Flynn, Page, Manafort and Stone — to hand over emails and other records of their dealings with Russians and says it is prepared to subpoena those who refuse to cooperate.
Early May 2017: Comey meets with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to request a substantial increase in funding and personnel to expand the FBI’s investigation in light of information showing possible evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.
Early May 2017: Stone, who is being investigated for his Russia ties, reportedly lobbies the president to fire Comey.
Early May 2017: White House lawyers warn Trump that it would be inappropriate for him to reach out to Flynn, which he tells them he wants to do, because Flynn is under investigation.
May 2, 2017: Trump agrees in a phone conversation with Putin to meet with his foreign minister, who will be meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in coming days. Putin neglects to tell Trump that the Lavrov-Tillerson meeting with be 4,100 miles away in Alaska, while the White House keeps secret the forthcoming visit.
May 2, 2017: Clinton says Comey’s decision to tell Congress of the “new” Clinton emails and WikiLeaks email disclosures helped alter the outcome of the election because people inclined to vote for her “got scared off” while Trump again tweets that the scandal is”phony.”
May 2, 2017: Trump criticizes Comey in a tweet, saying “[He] was the best thing to ever happen to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds.”
May 3, 2017: Comey tells Congress, “It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election” because of his Clinton case disclosure. He says the Russia investigation is continuing.
May 8, 2017: Yates testifies before a Senate subcommittee about the repeated warnings given Trump and his White House legal counsel about Flynn being a security risk and possibly liable for criminal prosecution because of his Russia ties.
May 9, 2017: Trump hires a Washington law firm to send a letter to Senator Lindsey Graham, who says he intends to look into Trump’s extensive business dealings with Russians. Trump claims yet again that he has no connections to Russia.
May 9, 2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee issues a subpoena to Flynn demanding that he turn over records of his interactions with Russians after he refuses to do so. A federal grand in Alexandria, Virginia issues subpoenas to a number of Flynn’s business associates.
May 9, 2017: Trump, who had effusively praised FBI Director Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigations, summarily fires him. He asserts that Comey mishandled the investigations, but it is widely believed that he is trying to quash the bureau’s Russia investigation.
May 9, 2017: Deputy AG Rosenstein, who drafted the Justice Department memo justifying the dismissal of Comey, threatens to resign after the White House portrays him as the mastermind behind the firing.
May 10, 2017: Trump, meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador Kislyak at the White House, boasts about highly classified information from an ally about ISIS he was not permitted to disclose, let alone to an adversary.
May 11, 2017: Testifying before Congress, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe rejects White House assertions that Comey had lost the backing of rank-and-file agents, and says the bureau’s Russia investigation will continue.
May 12, 2017: Trump issues a veiled threat to Comey to not leak any information that he may have and indicates he may have tapes of their conversations.
May 12, 2017: A “close associate” of Comey’s states that the fired FBI director is willing to testify before Congress, but only in an open hearing.
May 15, 2017: The Washington Post publishes a story on Trump’s boast to Lavrov and Kislyak. The White House denies that the president revealed sensitive intelligence.
May 16, 2017: Trump, in early morning tweets, contradicts his aides and appears to acknowledge that The Post story is accurate, while the White House refuses to release a transcript of the Lavrov and Kislyak meeting.
May 17, 2017: In a remarkable offer, Putin says he is willing to provide Congress with a transcript of the meeting. Democrats and Republicans reject the offer.
May 17, 2017: Deputy AG Rosenstein names Robert Mueller, who preceded Comey as FBI director, as special counsel to oversee its Russia investigation. Trump calls the appointment the “greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”
May 18, 2017: FBI and congressional investigators say Flynn and other Trump campaign advisers were in contact with Russians in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the presidential race, according to Reuters.
May 18, 2017: Trump yet again calls the Russia investigation a “witch hunt,” but for the first time equivocates, saying that “I cannot speak for others.”
May 19, 2017: Deputy AG Rosenstein tells members of Congress that Mueller has been given the authority to investigate the possibility of a cover-up.
May 19, 2017: The Washington Post reports that a senior White House adviser close to the president is a “significant person of interest” to investigators.
May 19, 2017: A transcript of the May 10 Lavrov-Kislyak meeting shows that Trump told them that firing “real nut job” Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
May 19, 2017: Russian officials bragged in conversations during the presidential campaign that they could use Flynn to influence Trump and his team, according to CNN.
May 20, 2017: The House Intelligence Committee asks Michael Caputo to submit to a voluntary interview, reports The New York Times. Caputo, who worked for the Trump campaign for six months, had extensive dealings with Kremlin officials in the 1990s.
May 22, 2017: Flynn’s lawyers tell the Senate Intelligence Committee that he is invoking the Fifth Amendment rather than comply with a subpoena to produce documents regarding his contacts with Russians.
May 23, 2017: Brennan, Obama’s CIA director, tells the House Intelligence Committee that the Trump campaign may have been successfully recruited by Russia and said there is evidence of “troubling” contacts between the campaign and Russian officials.
May 23, 2017: Trump retains the services of lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz in connection with the Russia scandal. He previously represented Trump in fraud, divorce and numerous other cases, and has clients with extensive Kremlin ties.
May 30, 2017: Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, says he will refuse to cooperate with the Senate and House intel committee investigations.
May 31, 2017: Clinton, in an interview at Recode’s Code Conference, says she is “leaning” toward believing that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.
June 1, 2017: Shifting from previous blanket denials of Russian involvement, Putin says “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers could have been involved in cyberattacks to help the Trump campaign.
Early June 2017: Mueller is said to be expanding his investigation beyond Trump-Russia ties to include the roles of AG Sessions and Deputy AG Rosenstein in firing Comey.
June 5, 2017: Trump, in a series of tweets, chastises the Justice Department for the troubles plaguing the White House. Sources say the president also is angry at AG Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, which eventually led to Mueller’s appointment.
June 7, 2017: Coats and Rogers, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, refuse to discuss Trump’s efforts to get them to deny the existence of evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.
June 8, 2017: Comey, in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee carried lived on national television, calls Trump a liar and untrustworthy, implies the president has obstructed justice and says he leaked notes of his February 14 meeting with Trump to The New York Times with the intention of getting a special counsel named.
June 9, 2017: Trump says Comey’s testimony vindicates him, accuses the former FBI director of lying and offers to give sworn testimony.
June 11, 2017: Trump calls Comey “cowardly” and vows to find out if he leaked any more sensitive information.
June 12, 2017: A longtime Trump friend says the president is considering whether to fire Mueller as some of Trump’s conservative allies attack the special counsel’s credibility.
June 13, 2017: Trump personal lawyer Kasowitz bragged to friends that he got New York U.S. Attorney Bharara fired after telling Trump “this guy is going to get you,” according to Talking Points Memo.
June 13, 2017: Deputy AG Rosenstein says Mueller will have “full independence” and only he can fire him for cause, while Adam Schiff, the ranking House intel committee Democrat, says Congress would immediately reappoint Mueller.
June 13, 2017: AG Sessions testifies before the Senate intel committee, indignantly denying any collusion with Russia and declining to answer key questions about his conduct and interactions with Trump.
June 14, 2017: In a sharp rebuke to Trump, the Senate votes overwhelmingly to block the president from easing Russia sanctions and to step up sanctions for its election interference.
June 14, 2017: Mueller is investigating whether Trump obstructed justice, reports The Washington Post.
June 15, 2017: VP Pence hires a criminal defense lawyer to assist him in the various investigations.
June 15, 2017: Trump’s transition team general counsel orders team members to preserve documents and other materials related to the Russia investigations because of the possibility some of them are under investigation.
June 15, 2017: Trump tweets that Mueller is “a very bad and conflicted” person.
June 16, 2017: Trump attacks Deputy AG Rosenstein in a tweet for leading a “witch hunt” in acknowledging publicly for the first time that he is under investigation.
Mid-June 2017: Coats and Rogers tell Mueller’s team and Senate investigators that Trump suggested they say publicly there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians.
June 20, 2017: AG Sessions hires a criminal defense lawyer to help him in the various investigations.
June 21, 2017: Jae Johnson, Obama’s secretary of homeland security, tells the House Intelligence Committee the administration feared acknowledging Russian election interference would reveal too much about intelligence gathering and be interpreted as “taking sides” in the race.
June 22, 2017: Trump says in a tweet that he did not tape his meetings with Comey.
June 23, 2017: Trump says in a “Fox & Friends” interview that his tweet hinting at taped meetings with Comey was intended to influence his testimony before Congress.
June 25, 2017: Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, appearing on ABC‘s “This Week,” blames the Obama administration for failing to deal with Russian interference in the election.
June 27, 2017: Manafort reveals that he failed to disclose, as required by law, that his consulting firm received more than $17 million over two years from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s political party before Yanukovych fled to Russia in 2014.
June 29, 2017: Right-wing Republican opposition researcher Peter Smith implied before his death in May that he worked or Flynn, who he says was colluding with Russian hackers trying to obtain the “missing” Hillary Clinton emails, according to The Wall Street Journal, which also states that investigators are looking into Flynn’s role as a possible intermediary.
Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on June 27, 2017, on Kiko’s House, a website featuring commentary by journalist and author, Shaun Mullen. It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Mullen.