Here’s a look at investigations into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
For details about computer hacking during the campaign, visit 2016 Presidential Campaign Hacking Fast Facts.
Special counsel Robert Mueller and multiple congressional committees are looking into allegations that there was collusion between Russian operatives and Trump associates during the presidential campaign and transition.
Who’s investigating election interference:
FBI – In July of 2016, the FBI launched a counterintelligence investigation into possible links between the Russian government and Trump campaign officials.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence – On January 13, 2017, the committee announced that it was conducting a probe of Russian meddling. The investigation was sparked by a declassified report from the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) that described a multifaceted effort led by Russian President Vladimir Putin to interfere with the election by releasing damaging information about Clinton to help Trump. The committee is led by Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA).
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence – On January 25, 2017, the committee announced that it is investigating Russia’s active measures during the presidential campaign as well as the underlying intelligence that led to the DNI’s conclusions about Russia’s intentions. The committee is led by Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA). ((Nunes stepped away from the probe temporarily after the Ethics Committee announced it was looking into allegations he made unauthorized disclosures of classified information. When Nunes stepped away, Mike Conaway (R-TX) took his place. Even though Nunes said that he was formally stepping away from his role leading the investigation, he continues to review classified intelligence on Russia matters and he still has sway issuing subpoenas.)
The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism – On February 2, 2017, the subcommittee announced that it was conducting an inquiry into Russia’s efforts to influence elections in the US and abroad. The subcommittee is led by Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform – On February 16, 2017, the committee requested information about former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s paid speaking engagements overseas. The committee was questioning whether Flynn violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars government officials from accepting gifts from foreign governments without Congressional approval. After Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May, the committee began looking into the circumstances surrounding the dismissal. The committee is led by Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
The Senate Judiciary Committee – On May 17, 2017, the committee called on the White House and the FBI to turn over all memos related the president’s interactions with Comey. In addition to conducting an oversight investigation of Comey’s dismissal, the committee has held hearings on the Foreign Agents Registration Act and attempts to influence the election. The committee has also interviewed Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. and other witnesses behind closed doors.
Special Counsel – On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead an investigation into Russian interference and related matters that could result in criminal prosecutions.
February 2016 – Michael Flynn, a retired general and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), begins advising Trump on foreign policy matters, according to Reuters. Flynn became a prominent critic of the Obama administration after he was ousted from the DIA in 2014.
March 29, 2016 – Paul Manafort, a veteran GOP consultant, joins the Trump campaign as a strategist to help prepare for the Republican National Convention.
April 27, 2016 – Trump delivers his first major foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak is one of the diplomats in the audience. Trump’s son-in-law and campaign adviser Jared Kushner later says he shook hands with Kislyak at the event.
May 19, 2016 – Manafort is promoted to chief strategist and campaign chairman.
June 3, 2016 – Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. receives an email from Rob Goldstone, a music publicist whose clients include Azerbaijani-Russian singer Emin Agalarov. Goldstone tells Trump Jr. that a Russian lawyer, working on behalf of the Kremlin, wants to pass along incriminating information about Clinton. He explains that Russia and its government want to support Trump by providing opposition research on Clinton. Trump Jr. indicates he is interested in seeing the information and suggests arranging a call.
June 7-8, 2016 – Goldstone sends Trump Jr. another email about setting up an in-person meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who will be flying from Moscow to New York on June 9, to talk to representatives from the Trump campaign at Trump Tower in New York. Trump loops in campaign manager, Paul Manafort and campaign adviser, Jared Kushner.
June 9, 2016 – Manafort, Kushner and Trump Jr. meet with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya. It is unclear what is discussed during the meeting, which was set up as a discussion of Russian-sourced opposition research on Clinton. Trump Jr. later says that Veselnitskaya did not present any valuable information during the meeting. The elder Trump did not participate, according to his legal team.
June 12, 2016 – During an interview on British television, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says that the website has obtained and will publish a batch of Clinton emails.
June 14, 2016 – The Washington Post reports hackers working for the Russian government accessed the DNC’s computer system, stealing oppositional research on Donald Trump and viewing staffers’ emails and chat exchanges. The Kremlin, however, denies that the government was linked to the hack, and a US official tells CNN that investigators have not yet concluded that the cyberattack was directed by the Russian government.
June 15, 2016 – A cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC posts a public notice on its website describing an attack on the political committee’s computer network by two groups associated with Russian intelligence. According to the post, two Russian-backed groups called “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear” tunneled into the committee’s computer system. In response, a blogger called Guccifer 2.0 claims that he alone conducted the hack, not the Russians. Furthermore, Guccifer 2.0 claims to have passed along thousands of files to WikiLeaks. Trump offers his own theory on the origins of the attack: suggesting in a statement that the DNC hacked itself to distract from Clinton’s email scandal.
June 20, 2016 – Trump fires campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who had worked with the team for more than a year. As campaign chairman, Manafort is now the top official overseeing Trump’s White House run.
July 22, 2016 – Days before the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks publishes nearly 20,000 emails hacked from the DNC server. The documents include notes in which DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz insults staffers from the Bernie Sanders campaign and messages that suggest the organization was favoring Clinton rather than remaining neutral. Wasserman Schultz resigns in the aftermath of the leak.
July 25, 2016 – The FBI announces it has launched an investigation into the DNC hack. Although the statement doesn’t indicate that the agency has a particular suspect or suspects in mind, US officials tell CNN they think the cyberattack is linked to Russia.
July 27, 2016 – During a press conference, Trump talks about Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state and calls on hackers to find deleted emails. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” says Trump. Newt Gingrich, a Trump surrogate, defends Trump in a tweet, dismissing the comment as a “joke.”
August 14, 2016 – The New York Times publishes a report that $12.7 million in illegal cash payments to Manafort were listed in a secret ledger linked to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who resigned amid street protests. Manafort had worked as an adviser to Yanukovych and his associates dating back at least a decade.
August 19, 2016 – Manafort resigns as Trump’s campaign chairman.
October-November 2016 – Over the course of a month, WikiLeaks publishes more than 58,000 messages hacked from the account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.
October 6, 2016 – DCLeaks, a self-described collective of “hacktivists” seeking to expose the influence of special interests on elected officials, publishes a batch of documents stolen from Clinton ally Capricia Marshall. DCLeaks is later identified as a front for Russian military intelligence.
October 7, 2016 – The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of National Intelligence on Election Security issue a statement declaring that the intelligence community is “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions.” According to the statement, document releases on websites WikiLeaks and DC Leaks mirror the methods and motivations of past Russian-directed cyberattacks.
December 1, 2016 – Kushner and Flynn meet with Kislyak at Trump Tower. Kushner later describes the encounter as a quick introduction, pushing back on a Washington Post report that the three talked about establishing backchannel communication with the Russians.
December 13, 2016 – Kushner meets Russian banker Sergey Gorkov at Trump Tower. Gorkov is the chairman of Vnesheconombank (VEB), a bank that was sanctioned by the United States after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
January 6, 2017 – The Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases a declassified version of its classified report on Russian meddling. According to the report, hackers did not breach voting machines or computers that tallied election results but Russians meddled in other ways. Putin ordered a multifaceted influence campaign that included spreading pro-Trump propaganda online and hacking the DNC and Podesta. Bracing for a possible Clinton win, Russian bloggers were prepared to promote a hashtag #DemocracyRIP on election night. Paid social media users, aka “trolls,” shared stories about Clinton controversies to create a cloud of scandal around her campaign.
January 10, 2017 – CNN reports that intelligence officials briefed Trump on a dossier that contains allegations about his campaign’s ties to Russia as well as salacious rumors about him. The author of the dossier is a former British spy who was hired by a research firm that had been funded by both political parties to conduct opposition research on Trump.
February 9, 2017 – The Washington Post reports that Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, discussed sanctions with Kislyak during the presidential transition. Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump administration officials said in January that Flynn did not talk about policy when he spoke to the ambassador.
February 13, 2017 – Flynn resigns. In his resignation letter, he explains that, “because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador.”
February 17, 2017 – Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee meet with FBI Director James Comey in a closed-door session. Committee member Marco Rubio says in a tweet that the Senate will conduct a bipartisan investigation into alleged meddling by Putin.
March 1, 2017 – The Washington Post reports that US Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with Kislyak at least twice in 2016. During Sessions’ Senate confirmation hearing, he said under oath that he had no communications with Russians.
March 2, 2017 – Sessions holds a press conference to announce that he is recusing himself from investigations into the Trump presidential campaign.
March 20, 2017 – During a hearing on Capitol Hill, Comey confirms the FBI is investigating links between Russia and members of the Trump campaign.
May 3, 2017 – At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Comey says he believes the Russian government is continuing to meddle in US politics.
May 9, 2017 – Trump fires Comey, citing a memo by Rosenstein that criticized Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation.
May 17, 2017 – Rosenstein appoints Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the election meddling probe.
June 8, 2017- Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee, describing his interactions with Trump dating back to a security briefing with Trump on January 6, 2017. In a statement that Comey released before the hearing, he says Trump asked him to affirm his loyalty during a private dinner. Comey also describes a private conversation with Trump during which the president told him “I hope you can let this go,” referring to the FBI’s investigation into Flynn.
June 13, 2017 – Sessions says that the claim he colluded with Russians is a “detestable lie” during a hearing before the Senate intelligence committee. He declines to answer questions about private conversations he had with Trump regarding the firing of Comey and says he does not remember if he had an informal conversation with Kislyak during the reception at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016.
June 14, 2017 – The Washington Post reports that Mueller is investigating Trump for obstruction of justice. In response to the report, Trump tweets, “They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice.”
July 8-July 11, 2017 – The New York Times publishes a series of stories detailing the June 2016 meeting between Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort, Veselnitskaya and other associates. The meeting first came to light when Kushner filed a revised version of his security clearance application in June 2017. He omitted the meeting on previous versions of the form. When news of the meeting first breaks, Trump Jr. issues a statement explaining that the primary topic of discussion was resuming an adoption program for Russian children. Trump Jr. also says that he did not know the name of the individual he was slated to meet. Further New York Times reporting reveals, however, a chain of emails in which Trump Jr. is promised damaging information about Clinton from Russian government sources, a revelation that contradicts his initial statement. Minutes before the New York Times publishes its story about the misleading statement, Trump Jr. tweets images of the email exchange obtained by the newspaper. The tweets are coupled with a statement in which Trump Jr. says the meeting was short and uneventful, as Veselnitskaya failed to deliver opposition research as promised.
July 21, 2017 – The Washington Post reports that Sessions discussed campaign matters with Kislyak during their meetings, contrary to the attorney general’s testimony that the encounters were not related to the presidential race. The story is based on interviews with unnamed current and former officials who discussed intelligence intercepts. A Justice Department spokeswoman says that she will not comment on a story based on anonymous sources and an uncorroborated intelligence intercept.
July 24-25, 2017 – Kushner issues an 11-page statement in which he denies colluding with Russia during the presidential campaign and transition. He denies reading the email chain from Trump Jr. that set up the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. Kushner claims he arrived late to the meeting and he left early, texting his assistant a request to call his cellphone and give him an excuse to walk out. After issuing the statement, Kushner testifies before two congressional committees behind closed doors.
July 26, 2017 – FBI agents conduct a predawn raid at Manafort’s home in Virginia.
July 31, 2017 – The Washington Post reports that Trump personally dictated the initial statement issued by Trump Jr. about the June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer.
August 1, 2017 – White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders acknowledges that Trump “weighed in” on his son’s statement, “as any father would,” but denies that the president dictated it.
August 3, 2017 – CNN reports that Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas for documents and testimony related to the June 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer.
September 1, 2017 – The New York Times reports that Mueller has obtained an early draft of the president’s letter informing Comey that he was being fired. Trump reportedly dictated his criticisms of Comey to Senior Adviser Stephen Miller, who drafted the letter during a long weekend at the president’s New Jersey golf resort. The original version of the letter was distributed to top officials including Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Don McGahn. According to the New York Times, revisions were made after McGahn suggested a number of cuts, expressing concern about references to private meetings between Trump and Comey.
September 6, 2017 – In a blog post, Facebook announces that more than 3,000 advertisements posted on the social media network between June 2015 and May 2017 were linked to a Russia. The Washington Post reports that the ads are linked to a Russian company called the Internet Research Agency. The DNI has identified the company as a Kremlin-connected organization that employs professional trolls who spread political propaganda on behalf of the Russian government. Approximately $100,000 in advertising was purchased by individuals and groups connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts. The divisive political posts included comments on gun rights, immigration, race issues and LGBT matters, according to Facebook. About one quarter of the ads were targeted specifically to run in certain areas of the country. Additionally, the ads urged users to click “like” on certain political groups, triggering a barrage of incendiary messages in their Facebook news feeds. The social network later reveals that Russia-sourced political messages were viewed by about ten million users.
September 7, 2017 – Trump Jr. answers questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee behind closed doors. During the interview, he says he does not remember details of White House involvement in the crafting of his initial statement in response to the first story about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
September 15, 2017 – CNN and the Wall Street Journal report that Facebook has given Mueller’s team copies of Russia-linked ads and other company records. Mueller issued a search warrant to obtain the material.
September 18, 2017 – CNN reports that the FBI has previously monitored Manafort’s communications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The surveillance started during an FBI investigation into Manafort’s work in Ukraine and was discontinued for lack of evidence at some point in 2016. After the FBI began looking into election interference, investigators resumed collecting Manafort’s communications and continued through the early days of the Trump administration. Both rounds of surveillance receive approval from the secret court that oversees FISA warrants. After taking office, the president spoke to Manafort repeatedly until lawyers for both men told them to stop, according to CNN.
September 20, 2017 – The New York Times reports that Mueller’s team is seeking White House documents divided into 13 categories covering such areas of interest as Comey’s firing, an Oval Office meeting between Trump and Russian officials, and the crafting of Trump Jr.’s initial statement pertaining to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
September 26, 2017 – Longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone appears before the House intelligence committee behind closed doors. After the session, Stone says that he declined to answer a question about his connection to Julian Assange, claiming that he was in contact with the WikiLeaks founder via a third party he would not name. During the 2016 campaign, Stone posted several tweets with the appearance of advance knowledge that WikiLeaks was going to publish hacked emails from the Clinton campaign.
September 27, 2017 – CNN reports that a Russian Facebook ad referencing Black Lives Matter was designed to reach social media users in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, two cities where race-related protests devolved into violence.
September 28, 2017 – Representatives of Twitter meet with congressional committees behind closed doors and tell investigators that the company has taken action against about 200 Russia-linked accounts. The accounts were reportedly connected to the Russian troll farm that spread divisive messages on Facebook during the 2016 campaign.
October 2, 2017 – Facebook delivers Russia-linked ads and data to Congress. Some lawmakers say they are considering releasing the ads to the public.
October 3, 2017 – CNN reports that a number of the Russia-linked Facebook ads were geographically targeted to reach residents of Michigan and Wisconsin. Trump defeated Clinton by a narrow margin in both battleground states.
October 5, 2017 – CNN reports that Mueller’s team met with Christopher Steele, the former MI-6 officer who compiled a dossier of allegations involving Trump’s ties to Russia.
October 18, 2017 – Two partners from Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired Steele to collect information about Trump, invoke their Fifth Amendment right not to self-incriminate during a closed-door meeting with the House intelligence committee.
October 20, 2017 – Fusion GPS submits a court filing asking a judge to stop House intelligence committee members from obtaining bank records potentially revealing the the parties who financed the dossier. Nunes signed the subpoenas seeking financial records from TD Bank.
October 24, 2017 – The law firm Perkins Coie acknowledges that its clients, the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, helped finance the research provided in the dossier. It was originally financed by anti-Trump Republicans during the GOP primaries, but Democrats began funding it after Trump became the presumptive nominee in the spring of 2016.
December 1, 2017 – Flynn pleads guilty to “willfully and knowingly” making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI regarding discussions with Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.