I would here like to counter the “witch-hunt” narrative and attempt to present, in a more orderly and comprehensive fashion than ad hoc conversation would allow, the facts which should provide the basis for any conversation on this topic. I submit the following timeline. In it, I have tried to compile a good amount of what we know to date about the issue in an easy, readable format. My hope is that, after reading it, even if one is not persuaded of the charges, at least one will appreciate that the relentless media coverage of this story is NOT a “witch hunt,” but in fact very justified for being a very urgent political story. In fact, when you consider the implications–that the sitting President of the United States may have, either through ignorance or guile, directly or through surrogates, conspired with a foreign adversary as that adversary sought to influence our democratic election process by countless intrusions, and then sought to cover this up up by firing the man leading the investigation into it–the story would prove far bigger than Watergate. Whether any crimes, including collusion or obstruction of justice, are ever proven, however, we shall see. All I seek to convince you of is this: knowing what we know, this is a huge story, and one worth investigating.
This is the timeline of events:
2014: Michael Flynn is effectively pushed out of his position as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency for reasons relating to his management style and vision
2015: After leaving the DIA, Flynn becomes a private consultant and is paid over $65,000 by companies connected to Russia
June 16, 2015: Donald Trump announces candidacy for president
Summer: Trump meets Flynn
Sept, 2015: Christopher Steele, a former British spy for MI6, hired by Republicans to do opposition research (“dirt”) on Trump. Russian FSB (formerly KGB) General Oleg Erovinkin presumably becomes a key source.
Dec 10, 2015: Michael Flynn attends a gala dinner in Moscow in honor of RT (formerly “Russia Today”), an English-language propaganda arm for the Russian government, on which he made semi-regular appearances as an analyst after 2014. At the gala, Flynn sits next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is paid $65,000 for his remarks that night.
Feb, 2016: Flynn asked to serve as a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign.
March 28, 2016: Paul Manafort–then working for pro-Russian Ukrainians–joins Trump campaign and soon becomes the campaign manager
May 25, 2016: Trump gets enough delegates to clinch the nomination
June 3, 2016: Donald Trump Jr. gets email from Rob Goldstone, saying that Russia has kampromat on Clinton they want to share with the Trump campaign. The email reads, in part: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin. What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly? I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.”
June 9, 2016: Don Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner meet with Russian government attorney about Clinton kompromat at Trump Tower.
June, 2016: Trump becomes Republican nominee; Republicans drop Steele private investigation; Democrats pick it up and continue to fund it
July, 2016: the Steele investigation compiled as a secret “dossier.” It details an ongoing “conspiracy” between Russia and the Trump campaign, via surrogates Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, and others.
According to the quid pro quo, Russia seeks:
–to ease/rescind US sanctions
–to get information on Russian oligarchs in the US
–to turn attention away from Russia’s interventions in Ukraine
–to destabilize the Western alliance
–sow internal divisions in the US to its benefit
Trump campaign seeks:
–strategic release of Russia’s kompromat (compromising material) on Clinton, particularly that gained by hacking
–sequestration of Russia’s kompromat on Trump, such as audio/video of him with Russian prostitutes urinating for him
–financial kickbacks, etc.
Steele so concerned by what he has found, he passes it along to the FBI (and maybe British MI6).
FBI begins investigating links between Russia and Trump campaign.
Trump seriously considering Michael Flynn as his running mate
July 11/12, 2016: Before Republican National Convention, Trump campaign staffers intervene with the committee developing the Party’s platform on national security issues. They remove anti-Russian language about Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.
July 22, 2016: Day after Republican Convention, WikiLeaks releases (Russian-)hacked DNC emails, damaging Clinton.
Aug 15, 2016: The New York Times reports on undisclosed payments from pro-Russian Ukrainians to Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Four days later, Manafort fired from campaign.
Aug 21, 2016: Roger Stone, a key Trump advisor and former colleague of Paul Manafort, tweets: “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel” and claims he has spoken with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks
Sept 8, 2016: Jeff Sessions meets with Russian Ambassador Kislyak in his office
Sept, 2016: Congressional leaders briefed on Russian election meddling aimed at helping Trump
Oct 8, 2016: Right after the damaging “Access Hollywood” video comes out, the first damaging emails from John Podesta’s Russian-hacked email account are released through WikiLeaks. The timing seems aimed to help Trump, while Roger Stone’s prescient tweet weeks earlier raises questions about his knowledge of it. The leaks continue for weeks.
Oct, 2016: FBI offers to pay Steele $50,000 if he can verify his dossier
Nov 8, 2016: Trump elected President, despite all indicators predicting his defeat
Nov 10, 2016: In meeting at White House, Obama warns Trump against choosing Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor.
Nov 18, 2016: Flynn made National Security Advisor; Sessions made Attorney General. These are the first appointments Trump makes.
Nov, 2016: Pres Obama and Pres-Elect Trump both briefed on the dossier by FBI Director Comey; Senator McCain hears about it separately, from a former senior Western diplomat, and sends an aide to meet with Christopher Steele directly; the aide brings back a copy of the dossier
Nov 28, 2016: In an interview with Time magazine, Trump denies any Russian campaign interference. “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.” He will continue to deny Russian involvement, even as all 17 intelligence agencies sign on to a published report explicitly indicting Russia.
Dec 1, 2016: Flynn and Kushner meet with Russian Ambassador Kislyak at Trump Tower. Kushner proposes setting up a back-channel of communication between the administration and Putin, perhaps using locations at the Russian embassy to block US eaves-dropping.
Dec, 2016: Senator McCain has private meeting with FBI Director Comey to hand over his copy of the dossier. He does not know the FBI has been investigating the matter since July. News of the dossier is now an “open secret” among the press, which, following journalistic protocol, refuses to report on its bold allegations until they are able to independently corroborate its claims.
Dec 26, 2016: Dossier source Oleg Erovinkin found dead in the back of his car in Moscow. Foul play suspected.
Dec 29, 2016: Obama Administration issues sanctions against Russia for its interference in the election;
That same day, Michael Flynn talks on the phone to Russian Ambassador Kislyak about the possibility of lifting those sanctions once Trump is in office.
Jan 10, 2017: BuzzFeed publishes the dossier; Christopher Steele goes into hiding
Jan 14, 2017: Flynn talks to Vice President Pence and says that the conversation with Kislyak, reported on by the Washington Post 2 days earlier, had nothing to do with sanctions.
Jan 20: Trump is inaugurated
Jan 24: FBI interviews Flynn about conversation with Kislyak; lies to the FBI, thereby perjuring himself
Jan 26: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warns Trump administration legal counsel that Flynn has lied about talks with Kislyak, which opens him to being blackmailed by the Russians.
Jan 27: Yates returns to the White House to meet again with White House legal counsel. Counsel asks to review the evidence against Flynn.
That afternoon, Trump calls FBI Director Comey to invite him to dinner. It turns out to be a one-on-one dinner, at which Trump asks for “loyalty.” Comey offers him honesty.
Jan 30: Trump fires Yates, ostensibly over refusing to enforce the travel ban
Feb 9: Washington Post cites 9 sources saying Flynn definitely talked sanctions with Kislyak
Feb 13: Flynn resigns
Feb 14: After a meeting, Trump dismisses everyone else in the room but asks FBI Director Comey to stay behind. He says, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
The New York Times reports that the FBI was investigating Roger Stone’s connection with Russian operatives.
March 7: Christopher Steele comes out of hiding
March 20: FBI Director Comey testifies before Congress and confirms that the FBI is 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.”
March 22: 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
March 30: It is reported that key elements in the Trump dossier have been verified by the FBI.
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
May 9: Trump fires Comey, ostensibly because of how he handled the Clinton email controversy half a year earlier.
May 10: In a private meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Kislyak, Trump tells them: “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
May 11: In interview with Lester Holt, Trump says about the firing, “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” admitting the Russia investigation informed his decision.
FBI opens investigation into Trump for obstruction of justice.
May 17: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appoints former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation
June 8: Ex-FBI Director Comey testifies to Congress about his interactions with Pres Trump. Says he believes Trump fired him because of the Russia investigation.
June 12: Trump friend Christopher Ruddy says Trump considering firing special counsel Mueller