Wednesday, 17 Apr 2024

Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation: An extensive timeline

After years of international controversy, political attacks and investigations, a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference was made public Sunday by U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

The U.S. Department of Justice released a four-page summary of the report, which concluded that there was no evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia, but stopped short of exonerating President Donald Trump entirely.

Throughout the investigation, Trump has called it a “witch hunt” and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also denied any involvement.

Who has been charged?

A total of 34 people and three companies have either been indicted by Mueller’s team or pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

This includes five former Trump advisers, his former personal lawyer, 26 Russian nationals, three Russian companies, a Dutch lawyer and one California man.

The biggest names that have been charged include former Trump campaign adviser Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Rick Gates, former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen and former adviser Roger Stone.

Five have pleaded guilty.

The report has been a long time coming. The investigation was launched in July 2016 by the FBI with investigators conducting dozens of interviews, securing search warrants, issuing subpoenas and requesting high-profile documents. 

Here’s a timeline detailing the events that led to the launch of the investigation and its tumultuous execution.   

Putin blames then-U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton for mass protests against his regime, and “holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him,” according to the U.S. National Intelligence.

Spring 2014

A Russia-linked company, called the Internet Research Agency, allegedly creates a plan to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The group receives funding from Yevgeniy Prigozhin, an oligarch nicknamed “Putin’s cook,” because one of his companies supplies food for high-level Kremlin meetings.

The goal is to spread distrust towards candidates and the American political system.

One of the strategies is to push messages of support for Trump and Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders. For example, one of the online messages says, Trump will “defeat terrorism,” and another says Clinton “is a Satan” and accuses her of vote-rigging.

June 16, 2015

Trump announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.

July 2015

Russian intelligence gains access to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) networks and steals data over a span of a year.

Dec. 10, 2015

Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, attends a gala in Moscow celebrating the Kremlin-backed television network RT, which paid Flynn more than $45,000 to attend, according to ABC News.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) sits next to retired U.S. Army Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn (L) as they attend an exhibition marking the 10th anniversary of RT (Russia Today) television news channel in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 10, 2015.

Late 2015

Britain spy agency, GCHQ, becomes aware of “suspicious interactions” between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence. They pass on this information to U.S. intelligence agencies, according to The Guardian.

March 2016

Papadopoulos joins the Trump campaign as an adviser.

While travelling in Italy in mid-March, Papadopoulos meets a London-based professor, according to court documents. The professor brought with him a female Russian national who was introduced as a relative of Putin’s with connections to Russian government officials.

Around the same time, Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, begins a cyber-campaign aimed at interfering with the 2016 presidential election, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.

March 28, 2016

Manafort joins the Trump campaign as an adviser.

March 31, 2016

Papadopoulos attends a national security meeting with Trump and other campaign advisers and tells them he has connections that could help arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, according to court documents. Trump posts a picture of the meeting on Instagram.

Meeting with my national security team in #WashingtonDC. #Trump2016

A post shared by President Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

April 10, 2016

Papadopoulos emails the female Russian national, who responds saying, “she would be very pleased to support initiatives between our two countries,” and “we are very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump,” court documents state.

Papadopoulos then continues to correspond with the Trump campaign and with his Russian contacts about setting up a meeting.

April 26, 2016

Papadopoulos meets the professor for breakfast at a London hotel. During the meeting, the professor tells him he met with Russian officials who obtained “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails, court documents show.

April 27, 2016

Papadopoulos emails a high-ranking official of Trump’s campaign to discuss “Russia’s interest in hosting Mr. Trump,” according to court documents.

May 2016

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) realizes it’s been hacked and hires security company CrowdStrike to investigate.

June 9, 2016

A meeting between top Trump campaign officials and Russians takes place at Trump Tower.

Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Manafort meet with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who was said to have damaging information about Clinton.

July 5, 2016

Former British spy Christopher Steele, who was investigating Trump’s Russia connections in an effort paid for by the DNC, briefs an FBI agent on his findings.

July 21, 2016

FBI agent Peter Strzok, sends a message to an FBI attorney calling Trump a “disaster.” This is after he called Trump an “idiot” in a previous text message to the FBI attorney.

At the time, Strzok is working on separate investigations into Clinton’s use of a private email server and the Mueller investigation.

FBI deputy assistant director Peter Strzok.

July 22, 2016

WikiLeaks releases 44,000 emails hacked from the DNC on the eve of the party’s presidential nominating convention, which Clinton won.

It’s not clear how WikiLeaks got the emails and founder Julian Assange says he’ll never tell.

The hacked emails contained a year’s worth of chats, emails and research on Trump.

July 25, 2016

The FBI begins an investigation into the DNC hack.

Aug. 8, 2016

FBI attorney texts Strzok asking: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”

Strzok responds: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”

Aug. 19, 2016

Manafort resigns as Trump’s campaign adviser following reports of his business dealings in Ukraine.

Sept 8, 2016

Trump says “it’s probably unlikely” Russia is interfering in the election in an interview with Kremlin-backed Russia Today.

Oct. 7, 2016

Within an hour of the Trump’s Access Hollywood tape airing, WikiLeaks starts publishing 2,000 private emails belonging to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Oct. 7, 2016

The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of National Intelligence on Election Security release a statement. This is the first time the U.S. intelligence community says it’s confident Russia hacked into U.S. computer systems in order to interfere with the election.

It says the hacked DNC emails on WikiLeaks are, “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.”

Oct. 28, 2016

FBI director James Comey says his department is reopening the Clinton email investigation.

Nov. 8, 2016

Trump wins the U.S. presidential election.

Nov. 17, 2016

Trump offers former military intelligence chief Flynn the job of national security adviser.

Nov. 30, 2016

The Justice Department tells Flynn he is under investigation for his unreported lobbying on behalf of Turkey.

Early December 2016

Flynn and Kushner have an undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador at Trump Tower. White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the New York Times in March 2017 the meeting’s purpose was to “establish a line of communication” between the Russian government and the new administration.

According to Reuters, 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.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn (C) flanked by Kellyanne Conway (L) and Jared Kushner (R) attends a press conference with U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

Dec. 29, 2016

Barack Obama orders new sanctions against Russia in response to their interference in the U.S. election.

Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak contacts Flynn, according to the Washington Post. Flynn asks Russia not to retaliate.

Dec. 30, 2016

Putin says his country would not retaliate against the U.S. sanctions. In a tweet, Trump praises Putin’s decision.

Jan. 6, 2017

U.S. intelligence officials give Trump a classified briefing on its investigation into Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election.

The same day, Trump tells the New York Times that the Russia controversy is a “political witch hunt.”

Trump also releases a statement saying the DNC hacks had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

Jan. 11, 2017

For the first time, Trump says he thinks “it was Russia” that hacked the Democrats.

Jan. 13, 2017

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence announces it is conducting an investigation into Russian election meddling.

Jan. 15, 2017

In an interview with CBS, vice-president Mike Pence denies that Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions.

Jan. 19, 2017

Acting attorney general Sally Yates, as well as the director of the CIA and the director of national intelligence, want to tell Trump’s team that Flynn lied about discussing sanctions with Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador. 

Comey vetoes the move, saying it will compromise an ongoing FBI investigation.

Jan. 20, 2017

Trump is sworn in as president.

The Washington Post reported that minutes after Trump’s inauguration, Flynn allegedly texts a partner at ACU Strategic Partners, a Washington-based nuclear power consultancy, saying that sanctions would soon be gone and that the project is “good to go.”

Jan. 22, 2017

Flynn is sworn in as national security adviser.

Jan 23, 2017

White House press secretary Sean Spicer denies sanctions were discussed between the two during his first White House press briefing. Spicer says Flynn and Kislyak talked about a plane crash, Christmas, Syria and scheduling a call between Trump and Putin.

Jan. 24, 2017

The FBI interview Flynn about his conversation with Kislyak the previous month. Flynn lies to the FBI and tells them he did not discuss sanctions with Russia.

Jan. 27, 2017

Papadopoulos has an interview with the FBI, but he lies about his contact with the Russians officials, claiming they took place before he joined the Trump campaign.

Feb. 13, 2017

Flynn resigns as Trump’s national security adviser, reportedly having misled Mike Pence and others about his talks with Kislyak.

Feb. 14, 2017

Spicer says the resignation was requested not because any laws were broken but because Trump was losing trust in his national security adviser.

Feb. 16, 2017

Papadopoulos participates in another interview with the FBI. The next day he deactivates his Facebook account.

March 2, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he will recuse himself from a federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

March 20, 2017

For the first time, Comey publicly confirms the FBI’s Russia counter-intelligence investigation.

May 9, 2017

Trump fires Comey and days later, he says it was because of “this Russia thing.”

May 17, 2017

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appoints Mueller as special counsel to lead the Russia investigation.

June 22, 2017

National security agency director Mike Rogers and director of national intelligence Dan Coats meet with Mueller.

July 24, 2017

Kushner releases an 11-page statement denying collusion with Russia during the presidential campaign and transition.

July 26, 2017

Federal agents execute a pre-dawn raid of Manafort’s home in the Washington suburb of Alexandria without advance warning. This came a day after Manafort met with staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

July 27, 2017

Papadopoulos is arrested at the Washington airport.

Sept. 20, 2017

Rosenstein is interviewed by the special counsel’s office about Comey’s firing.

Sept. 28, 2017

Keith Kellogg, chief of staff for the National Security Council, is interviewed by special counsel investigators.

Oct. 5, 2017

Papadopoulos pleads guilty to misleading the FBI and signed a detailed statement of the offence. After entering his guilty plea, he is ordered not to contact other Trump officials and prohibited from foreign travel.

George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser who triggered the Russia investigation, arrives for his first appearance before congressional investigators, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Oct. 7, 2017

Spicer is interviewed by the Mueller team.

Oct. 30, 2017 

Manafort and business partner Rick Gates are indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 counts, including money laundering and conspiracy charges, by Mueller’s special investigation into Trump’s campaign’s ties to Russia.

Manafort pleads not guilty. Gates later pleads guilty to lesser charges and co-operates with Mueller’s probe.

Nov. 9, 2017

Senior White House policy adviser Stephen Miller is interviewed by Mueller’s team.

Nov. 29, 2017

Kushner is questioned by Mueller’s team about Flynn.

Nov. 30, 2017

White House counsel Don McGahn is interviewed by Mueller’s team. 

Dec. 1, 2017

Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI and agrees to co-operate with the special counsel.

Dec. 7, 2017

White House communications director Hope Hicks is interviewed by Mueller’s team. 

Dec. 11, 2017

Former acting attorney general Sally Yates is interviewed by Mueller’s team, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Jan. 17, 2018

Reports emerge that former White House strategist Steve Bannon has struck a deal with Mueller’s team to be interviewed privately following a subpoena.

Feb. 1, 2018

Gates is interviewed by Mueller’s team.

Feb. 16, 2018

Thirteen Russian individuals and three Russian companies, including the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, are charged in relation to the Mueller probe.

On the same day, California man Richard Pinedo pleads guilty to using stolen identities to set up a bank account that was used by the 13 Russians. Prosecutors acknowledge he didn’t know that he was dealing with Russians.

Feb. 23, 2018

Days after being interviewed, Gates pleads guilty to federal charges, which include financial fraud and lying to investigators.

April 3, 2018

The Dutch son-in-law of one of Russia’s richest men, Alex van der Zwaan, is sentenced to 30 days in prison. He is also fined $20,000 for lying to Mueller’s investigators. He becomes the first person to be sentenced in the Mueller probe.

April 9, 2018

Cohen’s home and office are raided by the FBI in relation to his $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

April 13, 2018

Trump says he did not fire Comey because of the Russia investigation (despite saying he did a year before).

April 30, 2018

Trump’s lawyers are given four dozen questions by the Mueller probe, The New York Times reports. The Times reports the questions range from the president’s motivations for firing Comey to the Trump campaign’s contact with Russians.

June 8, 2018

Manafort is slapped with a new round of charges, including conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The charges do not relate to the Trump campaign or involve allegations of Russian election interference.

July 13, 2018

Twelve Russian intelligence officers are indicted in the election meddling investigation.

July 16, 2018

After meeting with Putin, Trump says he saw no reason to believe his own intelligence agencies over the Russian leader. Instead, Trump calls the Mueller probe a “disaster” and says Russian collusion accusations are “nonsense.”

Aug. 1, 2018

Trump calls on Sessions to end the Mueller investigation, once again calling it a “witch hunt.”

Aug. 13, 2018

Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who sent out anti-Trump text messages, is fired after already being removed from the Mueller investigation.

Aug. 21, 2018

A justice finds Manafort guilty on eight counts of financial crimes. He faces 10 years in prison.

Sept. 14, 2018

Manafort says he will co-operate with Mueller’s investigation as part of a plea deal, days before he is set to face a second trial.

Sept. 17, 2018

Trump directs FBI to declassify a trove of documents related to the Russia investigation, including Comey’s Russia probe. The White House says it was done for transparency reasons.

Sept. 19, 2018

A court document says former national security adviser Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, will be sentenced in December.

Sept. 20, 2018

Cohen tweets that he has given the Russia investigation “critical information.” The tweet is almost immediately deleted, but later reposted by his lawyer.

Sept. 21, 2018

Trump delays his own order to declassify and release FBI documents, saying there are national security concerns.

Sept. 28. 2018

U.S. House intelligence committee votes to release several transcripts of Mueller investigation interviews.

Oct. 10

Pinedo, the 28-year-old California man who pleaded guilty to using stolen identities to set up bank accounts that were then used by Russians, is sentenced to six months in prison and six months of home detention.

Oct. 17, 2018

A U.S. Treasury Department official is charged with leaking confidential documents relating to Manafort and others to the media.

Oct. 30, 2018

A suspected hoax that aims to discredit Mueller. His office says it recently found out about allegations in which women were offered money to say he had harassed them.

Nov. 6, 2018

In the U.S. midterm elections, Democrats take the House, and Republicans hold the Senate.

Nov. 7, 2018

Sessions is fired as attorney general the day after the U.S. midterm elections. Trump appoints Mike Whitaker as acting attorney general, saying a permanent replacement will be chosen soon.

Nov. 13, 2018

A source familiar with the Mueller probe says Trump will provide his written answers to the special counsel soon.

Nov. 18, 2018

Despite admitting he doesn’t know much about Whitaker, Trump says that he would not intervene if the official limited the scope of the Mueller investigation.

Nov. 25, 2018

Papadopoulos is ordered to begin a two-week jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.

Nov. 26, 2018

Court filings accuse Manafort of lying to the FBI and special counsel investigators and therefore breached his plea agreement.

Nov. 28, 2018

A meeting between Putin and Trump is expected to go ahead, despite rising tensions over Ukraine, Russia says. Trump indicates, however, that he may cancel it.

Nov. 28, 2018

CNN reports that Trump has provided his written answers to the Mueller probe. Sources told CNN that Trump said Roger Stone never told him about WikiLeaks, and that he had no knowledge of the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between his son and a Russian lawyer.

Nov. 28, 2018

Following reports that Manafort violated his plea agreement, Trump says he won’t rule out the possibility of pardoning him.

Nov. 29, 2019

Trump’s former personal lawyer Cohen pleads guilty to a federal court about lying to Congress about work he did on a Trump real-estate deal in Russia.

Cohen’s lawyer says the guilty plea deal involved co-operation with Mueller’s investigation.

On the same day, Trump cancels his meeting with Putin at the G20 summit in Argentina. He says it’s due to tensions over Russia forces opening fire on Ukraining navy boats.

Dec. 4, 2018

Two weeks ahead of Flynn’s sentencing, Mueller releases documents about the ex-national security adviser. The sentencing report says Flynn provided so much information to the Russia investigation that prosecutors say he shouldn’t do any prison time, according to court filings.

The filing provides the first details of Flynn’s assistance in the investigation, including that he participated in 19 interviews with prosecutors and co-operated extensively in a separate and undisclosed criminal probe.

Dec. 7, 2018

Trump announces he will nominate William Barr as attorney general. Barr was attorney general between 1991 and 1993 under George H. W. Bush, serving in the Justice Department at the same time Mueller oversaw the department’s criminal division.

The same day, Mueller files a memorandum saying Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, withheld information that was pertinent to the Russia investigation. The document calls Cohen’s lies “deliberate and premeditated.” Mueller adds that Cohen’s sentencing should reflect the seriousness of his crimes.

Mueller filed a second document revealing that Manafort lied to the FBI and the Special Counsel’s Office about his contact with Russian officials.

Dec. 12, 2018

Cohen is sentenced to three years in prison over hush money payments to two women during the 2016 election campaign and for lying to Congress. He had previously pled guilty to both cases.

He is given three years in jail for his payments to Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal during Trump’s election, which violated campaign finance law.

Cohen is also given two months for lying to Congress about a potential Trump Organization real-estate project in Russia that occurred during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

Dec. 13, 2018

Maria Butina, a Russian woman accused of being a secret agent, pleads guilty to conspiring to infiltrate the American gun-rights movement to gather intelligence on conservative political groups as Trump rose to power.

Jan. 9, 2019

The Associated Press reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to leave his position soon after Barr is confirmed as attorney general.

Rosenstein had been overseeing the day-to-day operations of Mueller’s investigation.

Jan. 14, 2019

Trump says he never worked for Russia, denying a New York Times report that said in 2017 the FBI opened the counterintelligence investigation of whether he acted on Moscow’s behalf.

Jan. 15, 2019

Barr, Trumps attorney general pick, undergoes a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.

He says it would be an “abuse of power” for the president to intervene in an investigation he “has a stake in.” He adds that it is it is in the “best interest” of the president and the American people that Mueller is allowed to complete his Russia investigation.

Jan. 16, 2019

Trump’s lawyer Rudi Giuliani says he never said there was no collision involving the Trump campaign and Russia, and that he only ever said this about Trump himself.

Jan. 17, 2019

Cohen says he paid a form to manipulate online polling data “at the direction of and for the sole benefit of” Trump.

This statement came after the Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen had paid the data firm RedFinch Solutions to manipulate two public opinion polls in favour of Trump before the 2016 presidential campaign.

Jan. 21, 2019

Giuliani says Trump may have continued to pursue a Trump Tower project in Russia as late as October or November 2016, when Trump was closing in on his election victory against Clinton.

The Moscow deal never goes through, but Giuliani’s remarks suggest Trump’s discussions about the project may have dragged on months longer than had been publicly known.

Giuliani later clarifies his statements about the Moscow tower project were “hypothetical” and not “based on conversations” he had with Trump.

Jan. 25, 2019

Long-time Trump confidant, Roger Stone is arrested by the FBI in a criminal case that revealed that senior members of the Trump campaign sought to benefit from the release of hacked emails damaging Clinton.

The seven-count indictment against Stone is the first criminal case in months from Mueller. He faces charges that he lied to lawmakers, engaged in witness tampering and obstructed a congressional investigation into possible co-ordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Stone is released on a $250,000 bond and he does not enter a plea.

Jan. 29, 2019

Stone pleads not-guilty to changes in the Russia investigation.

Feb. 14, 2019

The U.S. Senate confirms Barr as attorney general.

The same day, former FBI director Andrew McCabe says in an interview that he began an obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigation involving Trump and his possible ties to Russia after he fired Comey.

McCabe also said the Department of Justice has considered using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

Feb. 15, 2019

A federal judge issues a limited gag order on Stone, restricting what he and his lawyers can say publicly about his criminal case.

Feb. 17, 2019

An exclusive CNN report the Mueller team interviewed White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in late 2018. Sanders responds saying Trump urged her to “fully cooperate” with the investigation.

Feb. 18, 2019

Stone apologizes to a federal judge after posting an Instagram photo of a U.S. judge with what appeared to be crosshairs of a gun.

The judge was overseeing his trial for allegedly making false statements to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.

Feb. 21, 2019

A federal judge issues a broad gag order on Stone, forbidding him to discuss his criminal case with anyone as a result of the Instagram photo. The judge promises to throw him behind bars if he violates the court order.

Feb. 22, 2019

Manhattan district attorney’s office is pursuing New York state criminal charges against Manafort whether or not he receives a pardon from Trump on federal crimes, a person familiar with the matter says. Trump cannot issue pardons for state convictions.

Feb. 24, 2019

Senior Democratic U.S. Representative Adam Schiff says Democrats will subpoena Mueller‘s final report on his investigation if it is not given to Congress by the Justice Department, and will sue the Trump administration and call on Mueller to testify to Congress if necessary.

Feb. 27, 2019

Cohen tells U.S. House Oversight Committee Trump is a “racist,” a “con man” and a “cheat” who knew in advance about a release of emails by WikiLeaks in 2016 aimed at hurting rival Clinton. Trump directed negotiations for a real estate project in Moscow during the campaign even as he publicly said he had no business interests in Russia, Cohen testifies.

March 7, 2019

Manafort is sentenced in the Virginia case to almost four years in prison. The judge also ordered Manafort to pay a fine of $50,000 and restitution of just over $24 million.

March 13, 2019

Manafort is sentenced to about 3-1/2 more years in prison in the Washington case, bringing his total prison sentence in the two special counsel cases to 7-1/2 years.

On the same day, the Manhattan district attorney announces a separate indictment charging Manafort with residential mortgage fraud and other New York state crimes, which unlike the federal charges cannot be erased by a presidential pardon.

March 22, 2019

Mueller submits his confidential report on the findings of his investigation to U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

March 24, 2019

Barr releases a summary of Mueller‘s report, saying the investigation did not find evidence that Trump or his associates broke the law during the campaign.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says the summary is a complete exoneration of Trump.

— With files from Reuters

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