There are two facets of the Russia-Trumpworld points of contact that are interesting. The first is the volume: More than a dozen people who worked with Trump’s campaign or who were close to him personally had meetings, emails or calls with Russians over the year-long span from the end of 2015 to the end of 2016. But the timing is also interesting. The bulk of those contacts happened in the spring and summer of 2016, a period when it looked increasingly like Trump would be the Republican nominee for president.
Below is a chart of where and when people in Trump’s orbit were in contact with Russians, largely adapted from The Washington Post’s presentation of Trump-Russia contacts. Circles are scaled to the number of meetings or the number of individuals or both.
Connecting the dots
Michael Caputo. Campaign communications staff. Caputo was involved in one of the odder points of contact during the campaign. A Russian national named Henry Greenberg reached out to Caputo’s business partner offering to exchange cash for dirt on Trump’s presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton. Caputo passed the information on to Trump adviser Roger Stone, who met with Greenberg. (It’s not clear that Caputo had direct contact with Greenberg.)
Michael Cohen. Attorney. Cohen’s interactions with Russian nationals were related to the effort to develop a new Trump tower in Moscow. While that project extended into mid-2016, Cohen’s known contacts with Russians, including with the weightlifter, happened in late 2015 and January 2016. In January — a year to the date before Trump’s inauguration — Cohen spoke with an assistant to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary about the deal.
There are indications that Cohen spoke with other Russians about the deal in 2016, facilitated by Felix Sater, himself a Russian native. Sater partnered with the Trump Organization on a number of development projects.
Michael Flynn. Campaign adviser. Before Flynn joined the campaign, he attended an anniversary dinner celebrating RT, the Kremlin-backed television network.
Rick Gates. Deputy campaign chairman. Gates joined the Trump campaign with his longtime business partner Paul Manafort in early 2016. In September, after Manafort left the campaign, Gates spoke with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian with whom Gates and Manafort had worked when they were doing political consulting in Ukraine. Kilimnik is believed to have links to Russian intelligence.
J.D. Gordon. Campaign adviser. Gordon worked with the campaign’s foreign-policy advisory team, including advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. In July, he and Page met with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at an event related to the Republican convention.
In September 2016, Gordon met Maria Butina, a Russian national arrested earlier this year on suspicion that she was spying on behalf of Russia. Gordon and Butina met several times socially, including when Gordon invited her to his birthday party in October.
Jared Kushner. Son-in-law. Kushner was one of three senior campaign staffers to meet with Kremlin-linked attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya during a meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016. Also at the meeting was Rinat Akhmetshin, a former counterintelligence officer in the Soviet Union.
Paul Manafort. Campaign chairman. Manafort also attended the Trump Tower meeting. But before that meeting and afterward, he also had regular emails and meetings with Kilimnik. In early May and August 2016, Manafort and Kilimnik met in person. At other points, Manafort talked to Kilimnik over email about his soured relationship with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Carter Page. Campaign adviser. In addition to speaking with Kislyak in July 2016, Page traveled to Moscow where he had a conversation with Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich. In an email to the campaign after that conversation, Page claimed to have gotten information from a number of leaders; he later said that this assertion was a reference to having heard public speeches.
George Papadopoulos. Campaign adviser. Papadopoulos was introduced to a woman claiming to be Putin’s niece in March 2016, shortly after joining the campaign. He was also introduced to a Russian official named Ivan Timofeev with whom Papadopoulos has a series of conversations over several months aimed at setting up a meeting between Trump and Putin.
Jeff Sessions. Campaign adviser. Sessions, then a senator from Alabama, met with Kislyak at least twice: once during the Republican convention and once in his Senate office. Sessions has claimed he doesn’t remember a possible third meeting at a D.C. hotel in April.
Roger Stone. Longtime adviser. Stone, long part of Trump’s circle, didn’t have a formal campaign role. But he did meet with Greenberg after being connected by Caputo. He also had direct conversations over Twitter with a hacker identifying himself as “Guccifer 2.0” — believed to be a false identity used by a Russian intelligence officer involved in 2016 campaign-related hacking.
Ivanka Trump. Daughter. Ivanka Trump reportedly passed the weightlifter’s information on to Cohen.
Donald Trump Jr. Son. Trump Jr. was instrumental in setting up the Trump Tower meeting, including speaking by phone with a developer named Emin Agalarov (according to Agalarov). He also met briefly in May with a Russian official named Alexander Torshin at an event associated with the National Rifle Association’s annual convention that year in Kentucky. Torshin had a close relationship with Butina, the alleged spy.
Most of these contacts involving people close to Trump have been known for some time, part of the slow accretion of information about what happened in 2016. That so many occurred as Trump was ascendant in the campaign can be read in at least one of two ways. One way is that he was becoming an important international figure as he got closer to the presidency, and there was significant outreach as a result.
The other way is the way that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating.