This article has been updated.
Part of the reason that the ongoing investigations into possible links between Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian actors appear endlessly complex is that new details are reported gradually, over the course of months. That trickle of revelations has the natural effect of clouding the timeline, making it difficult to figure out who knew what and when.
In an effort to simplify, we’ve created the following timeline, which places information about interactions between the Trump team and Russia in the proper chronological order. We’ve included the dates on which each piece of information was reported to give a sense of when the revelations were made. (Those dates are indicated in parentheses after each piece of information.) Significant figures in the investigations are indicated in bold.
Before the election
Dec. 10, 2015
Lt. Gen Michael Flynn is part of a panel discussion in Moscow for the 10th anniversary of government-backed Russia Today, for which he receives payment (The Washington Post, Aug. 15, 2016). Officials notice an increase in communication between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, following the Russia Today event (CNN, May 19, 2017).
British intelligence agencies detect suspicious interactions between Russia and Trump aides that they pass on to American intelligence agencies (The Guardian, April 13, 2017).
March 19, 2016
Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta is sent an email that encourages him to change his email password, likely precipitating the hack of his account (CBS News, Oct. 28, 2016).
During an interview with The Post, Trump lists Carter Page as part of his foreign policy team. Page had been recommended by a son-in-law of President Richard Nixon, New York Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox (WP, March 21, 2016).
Political veteran Paul Manafort is hired to help the Trump campaign manage the delegate process for the Republican National Convention. He is recommended by Trump confidante Roger Stone (New York Times, March 28, 2016). Before joining the campaign, Manafort lobbied on behalf of Oleg Deripaska, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. That deal followed a memo from Manafort in which he offered a plan that could “greatly benefit the Putin Government.” His relationship with Deripaska ended in 2009 (Associated Press, March 22, 2017). Manafort also worked on behalf of the Russia-friendly Party of Regions in Ukraine, helping guide the party’s leader, Viktor Yanukovych, to the country’s presidency. Yanukovych would later be ousted. (WP, Aug. 19, 2016)
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) may have met with Kislyak at a reception at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington before a foreign-policy speech given by Trump (CNN, May 31, 2017).
At a closed-door meeting of foreign policy experts and the prime minister of India, Page praises Putin effusively (WP, Aug. 5, 2016).
Donald Trump, Jr., Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner meet at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-connected attorney named Natalia Veselnitskaya. Veselnitskaya’s efforts to reverse a law passed in 2012 sanctioning Russians suspected of human rights violations at some point drew the attention of the FBI. The meeting was not initially reported to the government by Kushner as required when he took a position with the administration (Times, July 8, 2017). After the meeting was originally reported, Trump, Jr. admitted that the pretext for the conversation was that he believed Veselnitskaya to have information incriminating Hillary Clinton (Times, July 9, 2017).
A hacker calling himself “Guccifer 2.0” releases the Democratic National Committee’s research file on Donald Trump (Gawker, June 15, 2016). News reports already link the stolen data to Russian hackers (WP, June 14, 2016).
At some point this month, the FBI begins investigating possible links between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign (Wired, March 20, 2017).
Page travels to Moscow to give a lecture (NYT, April 19, 2017). The Trump campaign approved the trip (USA Today, March 7, 2017). This trip was likely the catalyst for the FBI’s request for a secret surveillance warrant to track Page‘s communications (WP, May 25, 2017).
July 11 or 12
Trump campaign staffers intervene with the committee developing the Republican Party’s national security platform to remove language call arming Ukraine against Russian aggression. (July 18, 2016).
At an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation as part of the Republican National Convention, Sessions and Kislyak have a brief conversation (WP, March 2, 2017).
Flynn delivers a speech at the Republican convention, joining in the crowd’s “Lock her up!” chant. “If I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth of what she did,” Flynn said, “I would be in jail today” (C-Span, July 18, 2016).
Wikileaks releases emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee (WP, July 22, 2017).
During his last news conference of the campaign, Trump asks Russia to release emails hacked from Clinton’s private server. He later says that he was joking (WP, July, 27, 2016).
Flynn Intel Group, a consulting firm founded by Flynn, signs a contract with Inovo BV, a firm run by a Turkish businessman close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for more than $500,000 (Daily Caller, Nov. 11, 2016).
The New York Times reports on secret ledgers from the Party of Regions showing off-the-books payments to Manafort‘s consulting firm (NYT, Aug. 15, 2016). Those payments were allegedly hidden by passing them through third parties, according to Ukrainian leaders (WP, March 21, 2017).
Stone tweets, “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel” (Aug. 21, 2016).
Stone communicates with Guccifer 2.0 privately over Twitter (Smoking Gun, March 8, 2017).
At some point in September, congressional leaders are briefed about the CIA’s belief that Russia was intervening in the election to benefit Trump (WP, Dec. 9, 2016).
Sessions and Kislyak meet in Sessions’s Senate office (WP, March 2, 2017).
The director of national intelligence and the head of the Department of Homeland Security release an unusual joint statement in which they warn of Russian efforts to meddle in the election and suggest that Russia had a hand in the Wikileaks document releases (DHS, Oct. 7, 2016).
Shortly after the publication of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” video in which Trump discusses sexually assaulting women, Wikileaks releases the first emails from Podesta’s email account. The leaks continue for weeks (WP, Oct. 8, 2016).
Donald Trump, Jr. travels to Paris to give a paid speech to a group that supports Russian interests. After his speech, one of the hosts traveled to Moscow where she discussed the speech with a senior Russian official (ABC, March 2, 2017).
Stone tells a reporter from a local news station in Florida that he has “back-channel communication with [Wikileaks’ Julian] Assange,” though he’d never spoken to Assange directly (CBS, Oct. 12, 2016). Wikileaks later denies the assertion (CNN, March 27, 2017).
During the final presidential debate, Trump says that Putin has no respect for his opponent, Hillary Clinton. She responds, “That’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.”
“No puppet,” Trump replies. “”You’re the puppet.”
Trump then argues that Clinton doesn’t know who’s behind the hacking, if it’s “Russia, China, or anybody else” (WP, Oct. 19, 2016),
An opinion piece supporting the Turkish government runs in the Hill under Flynn‘s byline (The Hill, Nov. 8, 2016).
Trump is elected president.
During the transition
In his Oval Office meeting with Trump, Barack Obama warns the president-elect against hiring Flynn as national security adviser (WP, May 8, 2017).
Trump offers Flynn the job of national security adviser (CNN, Nov. 18, 2016). Trump offers Sessions the job of attorney general. These are two of the first appointments Trump makes (WP, Nov. 18, 2016).
Trump transition team members warn Flynn that his communications with Kislyak will be monitored by American intelligence agencies. To impress upon Flynn the risks of cozying up to the Russian ambassador, the team requests a dossier on Kislyak to share with Flynn. It’s not known if he ever read it (WP, May 5, 2017).
In an interview with Time magazine, Trump denies interference from Russia. “I don’t believe they interfered,” he said. “That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say ‘oh, Russia interfered.'”
He also addressed the hacking: “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey” (Time, Nov. 28, 2016).
The Justice Department informs Flynn that he is under investigation for his unreported lobbying on behalf of Turkey (NYT, May 17, 2017).
Dec. 1 (or 2)
Flynn and Kushner meet with Kislyak at Trump Tower (NYT, March 2, 2017). Kushner proposes setting up a back-channel of communication between the administration and Putin, perhaps going so far as to use secure communications systems at the Russian embassy (WP, May 26, 2017). The FBI believes the conversation may have included a suggestion by the Russians that easing sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump (Reuters, May 27, 2017). Sources close to Kushner indicate the the only focus of the back-channel would be Syria (Fox, May 30, 2017).
Page is back in Moscow to meet with “business leaders and thought leaders” (NYT, Dec. 8, 2016).
Dec. 13 or 14
At Kislyak’s urging, Kushner meets with Sergey Gorkov, chairman of Russia’s government-owned Vnesheconombank and a confidante of Putin. The bank, known as VEB, is under sanction from the U.S. government (NYT, March 27, 2017).
Gorkov apparently flies to Japan, as Putin was visiting (WP, June 1, 2017).
Flynn texts Kislyak to wish him a merry Christmas (NPR, Jan. 13, 2017).
The Obama administration orders new sanctions against Russian organizations and individuals in response to Russian interference in the election. (WP, Dec. 29, 2016).
In a tweet, Trump praises Putin’s decision not to respond in kind to the U.S. sanctions (Dec. 30, 2016).
Jan. 4, 2017
Flynn informs Don McGahn, chief attorney for the transition effort, that he’s under investigation by the FBI (NYT, May 17, 2017).
American intelligence agencies release a report outlining why they believe Russia was behind the campaign hacking (NYT, Jan. 6, 2017). FBI Director James Comey attends a briefing at Trump Tower in which he first informs the president-elect that he isn’t personally under investigation as part of the Bureau’s counter-intelligence case (WP, June 7, 2017).
The Trump transition team announces that Kushner will join the administration as an unpaid senior adviser (Fox, Jan. 9, 2017).
The Senate holds confirmation hearings for Sessions‘s attorney general bid. In that hearing, Sessions is asked what he would do if “anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign.” Sessions replies that “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it” (WP, Jan. 10, 2017).
Outgoing national security adviser Susan Rice asks Flynn to approve an operation in Syria in alliance with Kurdish forces that would extend into Trump’s presidency. The alliance with the Kurds is opposed by the Turkish government. Flynn declines (Miami Herald, May 17, 2017).
At a news conference, Trump discusses the hacking that took place during the election. “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people,” he said (CNBC, Jan. 11, 2017).
On CBS, Pence denies that Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions (CBS, Jan. 15, 2017).
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) sends a list of questions to Sessions, including one that reads, “Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after Election Day?” Sessions responds, “No” (WP, Jan. 17, 2017).
Kushner submits his application for top-secret security clearance, excluding a number of meetings with foreign officials, including the one in December (NYT, April 6, 2017).
Trump is inaugurated.
Flynn is sworn in as national security adviser (WP, Jan. 22, 2017).
The FBI interviews Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak the previous month (NYT, Feb. 14, 2017).
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates receives a breakdown of the Flynn interview and decides to inform the White House about what was said (ABC, May 8, 2017).
Yates meets with McGahn, now White House counsel, and explains what Flynn revealed during the FBI interview and that it contradicts public statements from the vice president, making it possible that the Russians could compromise the national security adviser by threatening to leak that information (ABC, May 8, 2017). McGahn “immediately” briefs Trump on the conversation (Slate, Feb. 17, 2017).
Yates returns to the White House to meet with McGahn again at his request. McGahn asks to review the evidence against Flynn (ABC, May 8, 2017).
Trump called Comey at noon to see if he could come to the White House for dinner. During that meeting, Trump allegedly asks Comey to pledge that he’d be loyal to the president. Instead, Comey offers only his honesty (NYT, May 11, 2017). Comey again tells Trump that the president isn’t under investigation (WP, June 7, 2017).
Trump signs his executive order on immigration (WP, Jan. 27, 2017).
Yates invites McGahn to come to the FBI and review the evidence against Flynn (ABC, May 8, 2017).
Trump fires Yates after she refuses to enforce his immigration ban (NYT, Jan. 30, 2017).
Week of Feb. 6
Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen and business associate Felix Sater partner with a Ukrainian lawmaker on a proposal for easing Russian-Ukrainian tensions, which is delivered to Flynn‘s office. (NYT, Feb. 19, 2017).
Sessions is confirmed as attorney general (Senate, Feb. 8, 2017).
Flynn files a financial disclosure that omits his payment from Russia Today (Daily Beast, April 1, 2017).
Flynn resigns as national security adviser (NYT, Feb. 13, 2017).
During a meeting in the Oval Office, Trump asks Comey to move away from his investigation of Flynn. “He is a good guy,” Trump said, according to a memo drafted at the time by Comey. “I hope you can let this go.” (NYT, May 16, 2017)
In the wake of Trump’s request, Comey tells Sessions that he did not want to be put into a position where the FBI director and Trump were alone, citing concerns about propriety (NYT, June 6, 2017).
At some point after a Feb. 14 New York Times report about communication between Trump staff and Russia during 2016, the White House allegedly asked Comey and McCabe to publicly deny the report (NYT, Feb. 23, 2017). Comey later indicates that he told Trump that such communications between the White House and FBI were inappropriate (NYT, May 18, 2017).
Attorney General Jeff Sessions annouces that he will recuse himself from any Russia investigation after his meetings with Kislyak are revealed (WP, March 2, 2017).
In an interview on NBC, former director of national intelligence James Clapper acknowledges that he had no knowledge of evidence proving that Russia and the Trump campaign colluded during the course of the campaign (NBC, March 5, 2017). He later clarifies that he would not necessarily have known about such evidence and that he was not aware of the FBI’s investigation (Politifact, May 12, 2017).
Comey testifies before the House Intelligence Committee and, for the first time, confirms the existence of the investigation into Russian hacking and possible links to the Trump campaign (WP, March 20, 2017).
Shortly after being confirmed by the Senate as Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats attends a briefing at the White House with several other officials. As it wraps up, Trump asks Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo to remain in the room. During the private conversation that ensued, Trump asks Coats and Pompeo to try and intervene with the FBI to end the investigative focus on Flynn (WP, June 6, 2017).
Trump and Comey speak by phone. Trump asks Comey what can be done to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation. Trump asks Comey to announce publicly that he himself wasn’t under investigation (WP, June 7, 2017).
Flynn amends his financial disclosure report (Daily Beast, April 1, 2017).
April or May
The FBI focuses on Kushner as a person of interest in their investigation as that effort intensifies. (WP, May 25, 2017).
Trump calls Comey to ask what had been done to make it clear publicly that he wasn’t under investigation. Comey suggests he have McGahn speak with the acting deputy attorney general about the issue. It’s the last time the two speak (WP, June 7, 2017).
Comey testifies before Congress (WP, May 3, 2017).
Trump fires Comey, citing the recommendation of Sessions (WP, May 10, 2017). In the letter firing Comey, Trump includes a line saying that he appreciates Comey telling him “on three separate occasions” that he is not under investigation (May 10, 2017). The president later tells NBC’s Lester Holt that the firing was because “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story” (CNN, May 12, 2017). Sources indicate that Kushner was a prominent voice behind the firing (CBS, May 17, 2017).
In a private meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Kislyak, Trump reveals classified information shared with the United States by an ally, later reported to be Israel (WP, May 15, 2017). He also reportedly disparages Comey as a “nut job” to Lavrov and Kislyak and says that he “faced great pressure because of Russia,” which was now “taken off” with the firing of Comey (NYT, May 19, 2017).
Lawyers representing Trump release a statement indicating that the president’s tax returns don’t show income from Russian sources, with a few exceptions (NYT, May 12, 2017).
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appoints former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation (WP, May 17, 2017).