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Every Russia story Trump said was a hoax by Democrats: A timeline

President Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during their meeting at the White House on May 10. (Russian Foreign Ministry via AFP)

There have been twists and turns over the past year in the saga of President Trump’s alleged ties to Russia and Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election to help Trump win.

Yet one thing has remained consistent: Trump blames the Democrats, not the Russians.

Trump says the latest reports of ties between his staff and Russians are the Democrats’ attempt to undermine his presidency. But a look at his comments over the past year shows Trump used the same explanation for every new development in stories involving Russia, the election and his staff.

In this timeline, we took a look at all the developments in the Trump-Russia controversy that Trump has blamed on Democrats. We will update the timeline as necessary.

The Facts

May 2016: U.S. government says there are indications of attempted cyberattacks on 2016 presidential elections.

James R. Clapper Jr., then the director of national intelligence, said his agency had seen indications of attempted cyberattacks on the campaigns. He did not say whether the attempted attacks were successful, whether foreign or domestic hackers were behind the attacks, or which campaign networks were targeted.

June 2016: Russians are blamed for cyberattacks on U.S. campaigns; Trump blames both the Democratic National Committee and Russians for hacks.

June 14: DNC officials and independent security experts concluded that Russian government hackers breached the committee’s computer network, gaining access to its database of opposition research on Trump and all email and chat traffic, according to The Washington Post. Russia denied the allegations.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said he hoped Russia can find Hillary Clinton's emails on July 27, 2016. (Video: Reuters)

June 15: A hacker identifying only as “Guccifer 2.0” took credit for the DNC breach. Yet that day, Trump said the DNC hacked itself:

“This is all information that has been out there for many years. Much of it is false and/or entirely inaccurate. 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. Too bad the DNC doesn’t hack Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing emails.”

July 2016: More hacked DNC emails released; Trump invites Russia to meddle in the campaign.

WikiLeaks released nearly 20,000 emails from the DNC database. Trump, then the GOP presidential nominee, urged Russian hackers to obtain Clinton’s private emails that had been deleted.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. … They probably have them. I’d like to have them released.”

Trump later said he was joking. He rejected allegations that Russians targeted DNC or that the Russians were attempting to help Trump get elected. He blamed Democrats for fabricating Russian ties to Trump because they were embarrassed about WikiLeaks — even though the previous month, he said the DNC hacked itself.

August-October 2016

August: As the GOP presidential nominee, Trump began receiving intelligence briefings this month. Trump reportedly was briefed on cybersecurity and the Russian government’s attempts to interfere in the elections, according to NBC News.

Over the next three months, Trump repeatedly denied Russian involvement, blamed the hacks on Democrats and praised WikiLeaks.

Sept. 8: Trump’s interview with Larry King aired on RT, a state-funded Russian television network. Trump said it was “pretty unlikely” that Russians were disrupting the elections, which he deemed an “inappropriate” act.

“I think it’s probably unlikely. I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out. Who knows? But I think that it’s pretty unlikely. But, you know, who knows?” If Russia were involved, Trump said he hopes “somebody’s going to be able to find out so they can end it because it would not be appropriate at all.”
Here are the key moments from the first 2016 presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Sept. 26: In the first presidential debate, Trump refused to blame Russia.

“I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. 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, okay? You don’t know who broke into DNC.”

Oct. 7: U.S. intelligence agencies released a joint statement saying they were “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.”

Oct. 10: In the second presidential debate, Trump again refused to blame Russia.

“I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are — she doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia is because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia.”

Oct. 19: In the third and final presidential debate, Trump again refused to blame Russia. When pressed, Trump generally condemned the concept of foreign influence on the election.

Moderator Chris Wallace: The top national security officials of this country do believe that Russia has been behind these hacks. Even if you don’t know for sure whether they are, do you condemn any interference by Russia in the American election?
Trump: By Russia or anybody else.
Wallace: You condemn their interference?
Trump: Of course I condemn. I don’t know Putin. I have no idea.

December 2016-January 2017: Presidential transition

Dec. 9: The CIA concluded that Russia intervened in the presidential election to help Trump win the presidency, The Post reported.

Dec. 11: President-elect Trump called The Post’s report “ridiculous,” and an excuse made up by Democrats.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. I don’t know why, and I think it’s just — you know, they talked about all sorts of things. Every week, it’s another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the electoral college. I guess the final numbers are now at 306. She’s down to a very low number. No, I don’t believe that at all.” (“Fox News Sunday”)

Dec. 12: Trump tweeted this, even though the hacking was brought up throughout the election.

Dec. 28: Trump said Americans should move on from Russia allegations, and distanced himself from the Obama administration’s plans to impose sanctions on Russia for alleged interference.

“I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of the computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind of security we need.”

Jan. 6: The U.S. Intelligence Community released a declassified report concluding that Russians influenced the election in an effort help Trump get elected. Obama and Trump are briefed on this report.

Jan. 10: CNN and BuzzFeed report about a dossier alleging Trump-Russia ties. The dossier was first reported by Mother Jones. Trump responds that night on Twitter: “FAKE NEWS — A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”

Key moments from President-elect Donald Trump's question-and-answer session with reporters (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Jan. 11: Trump said for the first time that he thinks Russia was behind the DNC hack.

“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”

But later in that same news conference, he backed away from his statement. In subsequent tweets, Trump blamed Democrats and even Republican opponents.

Question: Mr. President-elect, you said, just now, that you believe Russia indeed was responsible for the hacking of the DNC and John Podesta’s emails, et cetera.
Trump: All right, but you know what, it could have been others also.

Jan. 20, 2017: Inauguration Day. 

February 2017

Feb. 13: National security adviser Michael Flynn is fired  after reports that he misled the White House about the nature of his communications with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

(For more, see The Fact Checker’s complete timeline of Flynn’s firing.)

Feb. 16: Trump blamed Democrats for making up the story, even though White House press secretary said Flynn was let go because he no longer had the trust of the president and vice president.

March-April 2017: Trump continued to call Russia stories a hoax conjured by Democrats.

“The Russia story is a faux story. And it started, really, before the election was over, before November 8th. And it was at a very low level, and it never picked up any steam until after the election because the Democrats are using that faux — or fake — Russia story in order to make themselves feel better for losing an election that’s very hard for a Democrat to lose.” (April 28, Washington Examiner)
“It’s impossible for Republican to win. And not only did I won I won easily. So they made up this Russia thing to try and deflect because they’re embarrassed by what happened. The Russia is a phony — what do you see is the Russia story? The Russia story. And you see all of these other phony stories. (April 28, Fox News)

May 2017: More news emerges about Trump and his team’s interactions with Russians. Trump’s rhetoric remains the same.

May 2: In a rare public appearance since Election Day, Clinton blamed her defeat on Russian interference and Comey’s actions days before the election.

Trump’s response:

May 9: Trump fired James B. Comey as director of the FBI. While the White House initially said Trump was acting on the recommendations of the Justice Department, Trump later said he fired Comey because of the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the election — a made-up story and a Democratic excuse.

“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. … So everybody was thinking, they should have won the election. This was an excuse for having lost an election.” (NBC News)

(For more, see The Fact Checker’s timeline of all of the White House’s explanations for firing Comey.)

May 26: The Post reported that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, discussed with the Russian ambassador the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between the Kremlin and the Trump transition team.

Trump’s response:

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"The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story - RUSSIA. Fake news!"
in a tweet
Thursday, February 16, 2017
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"Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!"
in a tweet
Sunday, February 26, 2017
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"Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News."
in a tweet
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
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"The Democrats are using that faux — or fake — Russia story in order to make themselves feel better for losing an election that’s very hard for a Democrat to lose.”
in an interview with the Washington Examiner
Friday, April 28, 2017