The Russia investigation and Donald Trump: a timeline from on-the-record sources (updated)

(Last updated Sept. 7, 2018.)

U.S. law enforcement agencies and Congress are investigating links between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, as part of a broader probe into Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election.

To date, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has swept up four members of Trump’s campaign, including three who have agreed to work with Mueller’s team as part of a plea deal. Numerous Trump associates had contacts with Russian government officials or business people during the campaign and presidential transition.

As the investigation has unfolded, the Trump team’s stories have changed, recollections have been refreshed and government officials have come forward with new assessments of the intelligence.

This timeline documents everything we know thus far about the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia. The sources are either verified events, court filings, public statements, or on-the-record media reports.

Spring 2014: A Kremlin-linked company that engages in influence operations, known as the Internet Research Agency, devised a strategy to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Its goal was to spread distrust toward candidates and the American political system.

June 16, 2015: Donald Trump announces candidacy for president.

July 2015: Hackers supported by the Russian government penetrate the Democratic National Committee’s network, stealing large volumes of data and maintaining access for about a year.

Mid 2015: Thousands of Kremlin-backed social media accounts begin to spread propaganda and disinformation, establishing a clear preference for Trump.

January 2016: Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer, emails Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

March 19, 2016: The chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, John Podesta, falls victim to an email phishing scam. It is believed this is how a group of Russian hackers gained access to his email account.

Early March 2016: George Papadopoulos joins the Trump campaign as an adviser. While traveling in Italy in mid March, Papadopoulos meets a London-based professor whom Papadopoulos understood to have "substantial connections to Russian government officials."

March 21, 2016: Trump identifies Papadopoulos and Carter Page as members of his foreign policy team, in an interview with the Washington Post.

March 24, 2016: Papadopoulos meets in London with the professor who introduces him to a female Russian national who Papadopoulos believes to be a relative of Putin with links to other senior Russian officials.

March 29, 2016: Trump taps Paul Manafort to manage the Republican National Convention.

March 31, 2016: Papadopoulos tells Trump, Jeff Sessions and other campaign members that he can use his Russian connections to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin.   

April 2016: Papadopoulos’ professor source tells the Trump adviser about a meeting with high-ranking Russian government officials in Moscow who have "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails."

April 2016: Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak attends Trump’s foreign policy speech in Washington, where he meets Trump’s son-in-law and campaign adviser Jared Kushner.

May 2016: Donald Trump, Jr. meets with Alexander Torshin at National Rifle Association convention in Louisville. Torshin is a former senator and deputy head of Russia's central bank.

Mid 2016: The Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency established a strategy of supporting Donald Trump’s candidacy and disparaging Hillary Clinton.

June 3, 2016: Trump, Jr. receives an email from Rob Goldstone, a business associate. Goldstone tells the younger Trump that Moscow supports his father’s candidacy, and says he has a connection to a Russian government official with incriminating evidence against Hillary Clinton.

Goldstone tells Trump Jr.: "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump."

The younger Trump replied that same day: "If it’s what you say I love it."

June 7, 2016: Trump announced he would soon make a "major speech" on Clinton.

June 8, 2016: Russian intelligence officers launch DC Leaks, a website used to release stolen emails.

June 9, 2016: Trump, Jr., Manafort and Kushner meet with a Russian national and several others at Trump Tower, based on Goldstone’s promise to Trump Jr. that a "Russian government attorney" would deliver damaging information about Clinton. Several shifting accounts of the meeting were later offered.

June-July 2016: WikiLeaks and DCLeaks release thousands of documents about Clinton and internal DNC deliberations.

Early July 2016: Trump campaign adviser Carter Page travels to Moscow, where he meets with Russia’s deputy prime minister and a high-ranking Russian oil official. Page emails campaign staffers that the deputy prime minister had "expressed strong support for Mr. Trump," and that he had gleaned "incredible insights and outreach" in Russia.

Mid July 2016: Trump campaign associate J.D. Gordon successfully lobbies for the GOP platform to be changed to benefit Russia. Language is inserted vowing not to provide lethal aid to Ukrainians in their fight against Russian-backed separatists.

July 18, 2016: Sessions talks with Kislyak after Sessions’ speech at the Republican National Convention.

July 20, 2016: Sessions talks with Kislyak after a speech. Separately, Trump campaign associates Page and Gordon meet with Kislyak.

July 22, 2016: WikiLeaks begins releasing DNC emails ahead of the Democratic National Convention. The first tranche — nearly 20,000 emails — reveals an embarrassing glimpse at internal DNC deliberations.

July 25, 2016: The FBI publicly confirms its investigation into the DNC hack.  

July 2016: The FBI opens a counterintelligence investigation into links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee later confirmed that information from Papadopoulos triggered the investigation.

July 27, 2016: During a press conference, Trump says of Clinton’s emails: "Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you can find the 33,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."

July 27, 2016: Russians for the first time begin to target Clinton’s emails.

August 27, 2016: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey asking the bureau to investigate alleged Russian interference in the election. Reid also raised concerns about contacts Trump campaign members reportedly made with WikiLeaks and Russian nationals under U.S. sanction.

September 2016: Kushner receives an email concerning WikiLeaks, which he then forwarded to another campaign official, according to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Read Kushner’s lawyer’s response.)

September 2016: Sessions meets with Kislyak in his Senate office.

Oct. 7, 2016: The U.S. intelligence community releases a statement saying the release of emails on DC Leaks and WikiLeaks "are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts."

Oct. 7, 2016: An Access Hollywood tape is released in which Trump can be heard in a 2005 interview bragging about groping women.

Oct. 7, 2016: Less than an hour after the Access Hollywood surfaces, WikiLeaks publishes more than 2,000 emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Mid October 2016: Trump Jr. corresponds with WikiLeaks through Twitter’s private message service. WikiLeaks asks the younger Trump to direct his Twitter followers to its trove of documents. Fifteen minutes later, candidate Trump tweets about WikiLeaks. Two days later, Trump Jr. tweeted a link to WikiLeaks’ archive.

Oct. 21, 2016: The FBI and Justice Department obtain a warrant to monitor Page based on probable cause that Page is Russian agent. Page stepped down from the Trump campaign the previous month.

Nov. 8, 2016: Trump is elected president.

Dec. 1, 2016: Kushner and campaign adviser Michael Flynn meet with Kislyak at Trump Tower.

Dec. 13, 2016: Kushner meets with Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, the CEO of a state-run Russian bank under U.S. sanction. Gorkov was described to Kushner as "someone with a direct line to the Russian president who could give insight into how Putin was viewing the new administration and best ways to work together."

Dec. 29, 2016: In the waning days of his presidency, Barack Obama responds to Russia’s interference in the election by expelling 35 Russian diplomats and issuing new sanctions.

Late December 2016: Following Obama’s move against Russia, Flynn asks Kislyak to "refrain from escalating the situation." Kislyak later tells Flynn that Russia "had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request."

Dec. 30, 2016: In a move that caught Kremlinologists by surprise, Putin declines to retaliate against the Obama administration’s sanctions.

Later that day, Trump praises Putin’s decision over Twitter:

Jan. 6, 2017: The U.S. intelligence community concluded with "high confidence" that Russia engaged in an influence campaign directed at the election.

Jan. 10, 2017: In his confirmation hearing to become Trump’s attorney general, Sessions says under oath that he did not have contact with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. In a separate questionnaire submitted a week later, Sessions denied contacting any Russian officials regarding the 2016 election.

Jan. 10, 2017: A dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele goes public. Steele wrote the dossier on behalf of Fusion GPS, a research firm whose work had been funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The document suggests the Kremlin possesses compromising material against Trump and raises the possibility Trump is vulnerable to blackmail.

Jan. 20, 2017: Trump is inaugurated as president.

Late January 2017: Flynn, now Trump’s national security adviser, lies to the FBI, falsely claiming that he never discussed the Obama administration’s Russia sanctions with Kislyak.

Jan. 27, 2017: During a meeting with FBI Director James Comey, Trump said, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty," according to sworn testimony Comey would later deliver to Congress. Trump has denied this.

Feb. 13, 2017: Flynn resigns after 24 days as national security adviser.

Feb. 14, 2017: Trump asks Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn, according to sworn testimony Comey would later deliver to Congress. Comey says Trump told him: "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." Trump has denied this.

March 1, 2017: The Washington Post reports that Sessions met with Kislyak twice over the previous year, encounters that Sessions failed to disclose during his confirmation proceedings. Sessions later confirms these meetings.

March 2, 2017: Sessions recuses himself from any "existing or future investigations" related to the 2016 presidential election.

March 20, 2017: Comey publicly confirms the FBI’s counterintelligence probe includes "investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."

May 9, 2017: Trump fires FBI Director James Comey.

May 11, 2017: Trump tells NBC "this Russia thing" factored into his decision to fire Comey.

May 17, 2017: The Justice Department appoints former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel. Mueller will lead the investigation into possible ties or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, as well as other matters that "may arise directly from the investigation."

July 8, 2017: The New York Times reports on the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower where Trump, Jr., Manafort and Kushner met with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer. That story prompted Trump Jr. to issue the following statement to the media:

"It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared (Kushner) and Paul (Manafort) to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.

"I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand."

July 9, 2017: The New York Times reports that Trump Jr. arranged the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting after being promised he would receive damaging information about Clinton. For the second consecutive day, Trump Jr. issues a statement to the media about the meeting. (Read a full account of the Trump team’s shifting explanations.)

July 14, 2017: One of the attendees of the Trump Tower meeting, Russian-American Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet soldier with experience in military counterintelligence, said that after the meeting, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya left behind documents for the Trump campaign. According to an interview with the Associated Press, Akhmetshin said Veselnitskaya believed the documents detailed "the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats," and she suggested to the campaign that publishing them could help Trump's electoral chances.

Aug. 1, 2017: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about a news report that the president had tried to change the narrative around Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer. Sanders says Trump "weighed in" on his son’s statement about the June 9 Trump Tower meeting. Sanders’ statement is inconsistent with previous explanations offered by Trump’s team.

Aug. 2, 2017: Trump signs a law imposing new Russia sanctions in response to Moscow’s interference with the election. Congress largely passed the bill — with veto-proof majorities — in response to Trump’s downplaying of the meddling question and his seeming interest in lifting sanctions against Russia, experts said.

Oct. 5, 2017: Papadopoulos pleads guilty to lying to the FBI about his efforts to put the Trump campaign in contact with Moscow. He enters a plea agreement with Mueller.

Oct. 30, 2017: Manafort and Trump campaign associate Rick Gates surrender to the FBI after being charged with a dozen felonies each, including failing to disclose lobbying activities on behalf of foreign entities, financial crimes and making false statements. They plead not guilty to all charges.

Nov. 2, 2017: Page tells the House Intelligence Committee he had notified Sessions about contacts he made with Kremlin officials during his July 2016 Russia. This contradicts Sessions’ previous denials.

Nov. 16, 2017: The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee send a letter to Kushner’s attorney saying Kushner failed to turn over several documents to the committee.

Nov. 30, 2017: Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI about his discussions with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition, and enters a plea agreement with Mueller.

Feb. 16, 2018: The Special Counsel charges 13 Russians and three Russian entities with conspiring to defraud the United States and interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

The Russian government has denied involvement.

The Special Counsel also charged Richard Pinedo with identity fraud. He would later plead guilty.

Feb. 18, 2018: Dutch attorney Alex Van Der Zwaan is indicted for lying to the FBI about interactions with Rick Gates and another associate of Manafort. He would later plead guilty and serve a 30-day sentence before being deported to the Netherlands.

Feb. 22, 2018: A superseding indictment is filed against Manafort and Gates containing 32 charges, including tax and bank fraud.

Feb. 23, 2018: Gates pleads guilty and agrees to work with Mueller’s probe.

Feb. 24, 2018: A new superseding indictment is filed against Manafort alleging he "secretly retained a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favorable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States."

April 9, 2018: The FBI raids the offices of Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. The case is referred to the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York.

April 19, 2018: Memos are released of former FBI Director James Comey, providing his contemporaneous written impressions of several one-on-one discussions with Trump.

April 27, 2018: House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence found Russia conducted cyberattacks on U.S. political institutions during the 2016 campaign. The committee's Republican members found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

June 8, 2018: Mueller adds an obstruction charge against Manafort and indicts his business partner Konstantin Kilimnik.

July 3, 2018: A Senate panel that independently reviewed the intelligence community’s assessment backed up its findings, concluding that the agencies’ joint assessment was a "sound intelligence product."

July 13, 2018: The Special Counsel indicts 12 Russian intelligence officers for their role in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Clinton campaign, and leaking of emails and documents.

July 13, 2018: Former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone acknowledged he is "probably" the unnamed U.S. person referenced in the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers. The indictment referred to an American who "was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump," and who communicated during the election with Guccifer 2.0, a front for Russian operatives.

July 16, 2018: In a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump appeared to accept Putin’s denial of Russian election interference. (The following day Trump claimed he misspoke.)

July 21, 2018: In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Justice Department releases a heavily-redacted version of the warrant application used to obtain a wiretap on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page starting in October 2016, a month after he parted ways with Trump’s team.

July 27, 2018: Trump denies a CNN report that he knew in advance about the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting. The report was based on unnamed sources who said former Trump attorney Michael Cohen is willing to confirm Trump's foreknowledge of the meeting to the special counsel. In repsonse, Trump tweeted, "I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr. Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?)," an apparent reference to Cohen's role managing taxi companies.

August 1, 2018: Trump calls on his attorney general to end the Mueller probe, tweeting: "This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further."

August 5, 2018: Trump tweeted about the June, 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower, saying it was "a meeting to get information on an opponent." This adds a new layer to the series of shifting explanations of the meeting arranged by Donald Trump Jr.

August 21, 2018: Trump's onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of eight of 18 felony counts. A jury found Manafort guilty on five tax fraud charges, one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts and two counts bank fraud. A mistrial was declared for the other 10 charges.

September 7, 2018: George Papadopolous was sentenced to 14 days in jail and a year of supervised release after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.

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"Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you can find the 33,000 emails that are missing."
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Wednesday, July 27, 2016
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