Donald Trump Russia Quotes
Donald Trump Russia Quotes Timeline
These are Donald Trump quotes about Russia and collusion with Vladimir Putin and his government. Trump has repeatedly called the FBI investigation led by Robert Mueller a "witch hunt." But why have Trump and key players in his campaign and administration constantly lied to the American public, the press, and the FBI? What about Trump's close ties to Russian oligarchs and the Russian mafia? How many of the Russian mobsters involved report directly to Putin and his henchmen? Why does Trump seem to be the ultimate kompromat, an unwitting pawn lost in deep denial of the role Putin played in his election?
BREAKING NEWS: On December 10, 2018, Maria Butina agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to violate laws prohibiting covert foreign agents and is said to now be "fully cooperating" with prosecutors. Her Russian handler, Alexander Torshin, is reported to be "retiring" according to Russian media. Toshin's "retirement" announcement came as news of Butina's plea deal emerged.
Here is what Donald Trump has said himself, in his own words. I have also provided a detailed chronological timeline so that anyone interested can see how Trump's quotes evolved over time, creating a maze of lies and contradictions. The timeline shows how the activities of Russian agents like "Red Sparrow" Maria Butina and her handler, Alexander Torshin, mesh with the Trump campaign and his laudatory comments about Russia's thuggish Mr. Putin. The timeline also shows how members of the Russian mob serve and obey the ultimate mob boss, Putin.
According to Jeremy Bash, a former CIA chief of staff, the Trump administration has produced "the most pro-Russian foreign policy coming out of Washington in our history." A pertinent question is: WHY? The quotes below prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Trump and his cronies have been lying through their teeth. The timeline explains WHY they have been lying through their teeth.
Trump family members and associates who apparently interacted and/or colluded with Russians aligned with the Putin government even as it blatantly attacked American democracy include: Donald Trump Sr., Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, George Papadopoulos, Wilbur Ross, Carter Page, Anthony Scaramucci, Michael Caputo, Elliot Broidy, Erik Prince, Peter W. Smith, Rick Dearborn and Nigel Farage.
The Russian agents and accessories involved include Aras Agalarov, Emin Agalarov, Tevfik Arif, Andrey Artemenko, Julian Assange, Maria Butina, Yuri Chaika, Yuri Dubinin, Rob Goldstone, Irakly Kaveladze, Sergey Kislyak, Sergey Lavrov, Andrei Nikolaev, Dmitry Peskov, Dmitry Rogozin, Andrey Rozov, Felix Sater, Evgeny Shmykov, Aleksandr Torshin, Natalia Veselnitskaya and Oleg Zhiganov.
How is that not treason?
Donald Trump Russia Quotes
I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we've stayed away. — Donald Trump
It's ridiculous that I wouldn't be investing in Russia. — Donald Trump, testifying under oath in a 2007 court deposition
Trump announced plans for a $250 million investment at a November 1996 news conference in Moscow. At the time he mentioned "tremendous financial commitments" and made it sound like a blockbuster deal. In 2008 his son Donald Trump Jr. told eTurboNews that he had traveled to Russia six times in 18 months, working on prospective deals there. While in Moscow, Trump Jr. informed investors that the Trump Organization had trademarked the Donald Trump name in Russia and planned to build Trump-branded housing and hotels in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi. In reality, Donald Trump Sr. has been trying very hard to build a Moscow Trump Tower for 30 years. He hasn't "stayed away" but seems more like a moth drawn to an irresistible but very dangerous flame.
I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING! — Donald Trump, Jan. 11, 2017, on Twitter in ANGRY CAPS
But in 2014 Eric Trump told golf reporter James Dodson that the Trump Organization was able to expand its golf holdings during a major financial crisis when American banks refused to make such loans, because “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” Each golf course on the average would cost around $100 million, so Eric Trump was talking about YUGE sums of money being provided "out of Russia."
I have no deals with Russia. — Donald Trump
We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia. — Donald Trump Jr.
According to a Bloomberg investigation into Trump World Tower, which broke ground in 1998, “a third of units sold ... involved people or limited liability companies connected to Russia and neighboring states.” Trump World Tower sales agent Debra Stotts told Bloomberg that they had “big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan.” One broker, Dolly Lenz, sold “about 65 units in Trump World Tower […] to Russian buyers looking for real estate.”
I have no dealings with Russia. — Donald Trump
Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. — Donald Trump Jr.
The New Republic has extensively documented how the Trump Organization actively sought Russian buyers, so much so that the area around Trump Sunny Isles in Florida became known as “Little Moscow.” Have the Trumps been laundering Russian rubles through giant American real estate deals?
I have nothing to do with Russia. I have nothing to do with Russia. — Donald Trump
I’ve done a lot of business with the Russians. — Donald Trump, Oct. 17, 2013, in an interview with David Letterman
I have nothing to do with Russia. I promise you I've never made ... I don't have any deals with Russia. — Donald Trump
I have plans for the establishment of business in Russia. Now, I am in talks with several Russian companies to establish this skyscraper. — Donald Trump, Nov. 9, 2013, in an interview with RT
I had Miss Universe there a couple of years ago. Other than that, no, I had nothing to do [with Russia]." — Donald Trump
Reuters reported that a group of 63 Russia billionaires have invested nearly $100 million in several Trump properties in Florida. Is this part of a giant money laundering scheme?
I don’t know who Putin is. He said I'm a genius. I never met Putin. — Donald Trump, July 27, 2016 in a news conference (Putin did not call Trump a genius, but "colorful" — perhaps like Bozo the Clown?)
I do have a relationship [with Putin]. — Donald Trump, November 2013, in an interview with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts before the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow
I have no relationship with Putin. I don’t think I’ve ever met him. I never met him. I don’t think I’ve ever met him. — Donald Trump, July 31, 2016, in an interview on ABC’s This Week (Trump claims to have the world's best memory, but can't remember if he met the world's second or third most powerful man, after trying very hard to meet him for years?)
Putin even sent me a present, beautiful present, with a beautiful note. I spoke to all of his people. — Donald Trump, March 6, 2014, at CPAC
Trump told reporters that he spoke with Putin “indirectly and directly” while he was in Moscow. — Donald Trump, May 27, 2014, at the National Press Club
I don’t know Putin. I think it would be great if we got along with Russia because we could fight ISIS together, as an example. But I don’t know Putin. — Donald Trump, October 9, 2016, during a presidential debate
On the campaign trail, Trump said that he "knows" Putin. — Donald Trump, July 11, 2015, at a town hall in Las Vegas
I don't know Putin, have no deals in Russia. — Donald Trump, Feb. 7, 2017, on Twitter
I got to know him [Putin] very well ... we were stablemates. — Donald Trump, Nov. 10, 2015, in a Republican presidential debate
All his denials about Russian collusion are contradicted by things Trump and his children have said, when they bragged about how much money they were getting from the Russians and all the megadeals they were doing in Russia. Like most liars, Trump can't keep his story straight. In reality, he and his family were secretly meeting with Russian agents, making "back door" and "back channel" deals, working with WikiLeaks and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, and jeopardizing national security by compromising themselves in their lust for money, power and blockbuster real estate deals.
Donald Trump Russia Quotes Timeline
1977: This from Politco: "When did the KGB open a file on Donald Trump? We don’t know, but Eastern Bloc security service records suggest this may have been as early as 1977. That was the year when Trump married Ivana Zelnickova, a twenty-eight-year-old model from Czechoslovakia. Zelnickova was a citizen of a communist country. She was therefore of interest both to the Czech intelligence service, the StB, and to the FBI and CIA." There was considerable scrutiny: "According to files in Prague, declassified in 2016, Czech spies kept a close eye on the couple in Manhattan. (The agents who undertook this task were code-named Al Jarza and Lubos.)" As with other Eastern Bloc agencies, the Czechs would have shared their intelligence with their counterparts in Moscow, the KGB. According to the Czech files, Ivana mentioned her husband’s growing interest in politics. This may have had a major bearing on events leading up to Trump's trip to Moscow in 1987.
January 1984: General Vladimir Alexandrovich Kryuchkov is the head of the First Chief Directorate, the KGB arm responsible for gathering foreign intelligence via more than 12,000 intelligence officers. Kryuchkov instructs his agents to be "more creative" about using money and flattery to cultivate and recruit Americans. And no one was more susceptible to money and flattery than Donald J. Trump ...
As you read this timeline, please keep in mind that Kryuchkov told his agents that these new recruits "should be acquired chiefly among prominent figures in politics and society, and important representatives of business and science." The recruits should not only “supply valuable information” but also “actively influence” a country’s foreign policy “in a direction of advantage to the USSR.” And Trump would do just that, by praising Vladimir Putin to the skies while ignoring his military adventurism and working to remove economic sanctions that were stifling Russian "creativity."
A promising recruit would be promoted to a “subject of deep study,” an obyekt razrabotki. The form employed demanded basic details: name, profession, family situation, and material circumstances. There were other questions, too: what was the likelihood that the “subject could come to power (occupy the post of president or prime minister)”? And an assessment of personality. For example: “Are pride, arrogance, egoism, ambition or vanity among subject’s natural characteristics?” Trump would, of course, check all the KGB's boxes.
A major section concerned kompromat. The document asked for: “Compromising information about the subject, including illegal acts in financial and commercial affairs, intrigues, speculation, bribes, graft … and exploitation of his position to enrich himself.” Plus “any other information” that would compromise the subject before “the country’s authorities and the general public.” For instance: “Is he in the habit of having affairs with women on the side?” Naturally the KGB could exploit this information by threatening “disclosure.” This explains the "pee tapes" and other kinds of dirt.
April 1985: Kryuchkov's recruitment plan was updated for “prominent figures in the West.” The directorate’s aim was to draw the target “into some form of collaboration with us.” This could be “as an agent, or confidential or special or unofficial contact.”
1986: As Trump tells it himself, the idea for his first trip to Moscow came after he found himself seated next to the Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin. This was in autumn 1986 at a luncheon held by Leonard Lauder, the son of Estée Lauder. Dubinin’s daughter Natalia “had read about Trump Tower and knew all about it,” Trump said in his 1987 bestseller, The Art of the Deal. Trump continued: “One thing led to another, and now I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel, across the street from the Kremlin, in partnership with the Soviet government.”
The meeting was surely no accident because, according to his daughter's account, the first time Yuri Dubinin came to New York City, he actually sought out Trump personally on his ride from the airport! They parked the car, rode the elevator to the top of Trump Tower, met Trump, and the ambassador proceeded to lay on the flattery thick and heavy. Had he read Trump's KGB profile? That would be my educated guess.
And it worked, according to Natalia Dubinin: "Trump melted at once. He is an emotional person, somewhat impulsive. He needs recognition. And, of course, when he gets it he likes it. My father’s visit worked on him like honey to a bee."
According to Politico: "In Dubinina’s account she admits her father was trying to hook Trump." And it certainly sounds like Kryuchkov's recruitment and cultivation plan being put into action. Dubinin’s other daughter, Irina, said that her father was on a mission as ambassador—a mission to make contact with America’s business elite. To quote Politico again: "For sure, Gorbachev’s Politburo was interested in understanding capitalism. But Dubinin’s invitation to Trump to visit Moscow looks like a classic cultivation exercise, which would have had the KGB’s full support and approval." Not to mention the KGB's ever-expanding Trump dossier.
January, 1987: In The Art of the Deal, Trump writes: “In January 1987, I got a letter from Yuri Dubinin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, that began: ‘It is a pleasure for me to relay some good news from Moscow.’ It went on to say that the leading Soviet state agency for international tourism, Goscomintourist, had expressed interest in pursuing a joint venture to construct and manage a hotel in Moscow.”
According to Viktor Suvorov—a former GRU military spy—and others, the KGB ran Intourist, the agency to which Trump referred. Intourist functioned as a branch of the KGB. Created by Stalin in 1929, Intourist was the Soviet Union’s official state travel agency. One of its most important jobs was to vet and monitor all foreigners who entered the Soviet Union. “In my time it was KGB,” Suvorov said. “They gave permission for people to visit.” The KGB’s first and second directorates would receive lists of prospective visitors to the country based on their visa applications. As a GRU operative, Suvorov was personally involved in recruitment, albeit for a rival service to the KGB. Soviet spy agencies were always interested in cultivating “young ambitious people,” he said—an upwardly mobile businessman, a scientist, a “guy with a future.” Once in Moscow, they would receive lavish hospitality. “Everything is free. There are good parties with nice girls. It could be a sauna and girls and who knows what else.” The hotel rooms or villa were under “24-hour control,” with “security cameras and so on,” Suvorov said. “The interest is only one. To collect some information and keep that information about him for the future.” These dirty-tricks operations were all about the long term, Suvorov said. The KGB would expend effort on visiting students from the developing world, not least Africa. After 10 or 20 years, some of them would be “nobody.” But others would have risen to positions of influence in their own countries. Suvorov explained: “It’s at this point you say: ‘Knock, knock! Do you remember the marvelous time in Moscow? It was a wonderful evening. You were so drunk. You don’t remember? We just show you something for your good memory.’”
By January 1987, Trump was closer to the “prominent person” status of Kryuchkov’s note. Dubinin deemed Trump interesting enough to arrange his trip to Moscow. Another U.S.-based Soviet diplomat, Vitaly Churkin—the future U.N. ambassador—helped put it together.
July 4, 1987: Trump flew to Moscow for the first time, together with Ivana and Lisa Calandra, Ivana’s Italian-American assistant. According to Politico: "The top level of the Soviet diplomatic service arranged his 1987 Moscow visit." According to his book The Art of the Deal, Trump and Ivana scoped out possible sites for a luxury hotel that he wanted to build in a joint venture with the Kremlin's hotel and tourism agency. Trump wrote that he toured “a half dozen potential sites for a hotel, including several near Red Square.” He also said that he “was impressed with the ambition of Soviet officials to make a deal.” The Trumps stayed in Lenin’s suite at the National Hotel, near Red Square. The hotel was linked to the glass-and-concrete Intourist complex next door and was— in effect—under KGB control. The Lenin suite would have been bugged. Thus the KGB’s dossier on Trump would have gotten larger. Nothing came of the trip—from a businessman's perspective. This pattern of failure would be repeated in Trump’s subsequent trips to Moscow. But Russia would earn a tremendous return from its small investment, and perhaps from its eavesdropping. And was it a coincidence that it was around this time that Trump began to talk about running for president, which he mentioned in The Art of the Deal? Or was the idea planted via seeds of flattery? It does seem possible, at least. In any case, according to TV Guide, Trump considered running for president in 1987-1988 but was dealing with massive casino debt at the time and may not have been able to afford either the monetary or time investments required.
1991: The Russia-born Felix Sater is sentenced to a year in prison in 1991 for stabbing a man in the face with a broken margarita glass at the Rio Grande restaurant and bar in New York. Sater will emerge in 2005 as a connection between Donald Trump and Mr. Putin's personal assistant, Dmitry Peskov. Sater would conspire with Michael Cohen to offer Mr. Putin a free $50 million penthouse suite in the proposed Moscow Trump Tower.
1996: Trump returns to Russia, exploring the possibility of building in the heart of Moscow via a partnership with a group of U.S. tobacco executives. The group got as far as drawing up architectural plans and meeting with city leaders, but once again Trump failed to close the deal. While in Moscow Trump also considered revamping the dilapidated Hotel Moskva next to the Kremlin and raised the prospect of a "super-luxury residential tower" bearing his name on other sites he visited during his three-day stay in the city. At a 1996 news conference Trump announced that he intended to invest $250 million in Russian building projects: "We have tremendous financial commitments from various groups. We're ready to go anytime we want to go." But it was either more hot air, or something flopped.
1997: "Moscow is going to be huge," Trump told Playboy magazine during an interview. Trump also told The New Yorker: "We are actually looking in Moscow right now, and it would be skyscrapers and hotels ... We're looking at the Moskva Hotel. We're also looking at the Rossiya. That's a very big project; I think it's the largest hotel in the world."
1999: Vyacheslav Viktorovich Volodin becomes deputy chairman of the third State Duma. In September 2001 he would become the head of the Fatherland – All Russia political bloc. The Russian newspaper Vedomosti has linked the strategy of public consciousness manipulation through new media (such as social media) to Vyacheslav Volodin. Thus Volodin is apparently the Russian godfather of the troll farm. Legions of Russian trolls would help swing the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump.
2000: Trump enters the presidential race as a Reform Party candidate and receives more than 15,000 votes in the party's California primary.
2001: Aleksandr Torshin is elected to serve in Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council. He makes his first contact with the NRA. Torshin would become the handler for Maria Valeryevna Butina, a Russian agent who has been compared to the sexy Russian spy in the movie Red Sparrow. Together they would infiltrate the NRA and use its enormous political influence to help swing the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump. Torshin and Butina would both become “life members” of the NRA and begin traveling from Russia to regularly attend NRA conventions in the United States. They would reciprocate with their own invitations to NRA bigwigs to visit Moscow for Right to Bear Arms events — the first of which would take place in November 2013 and feature a “concealed carry fashion show.”
2003-2004: Trump begins hosting The Apprentice. He again mulls a run for president, but ultimately decides not to join the race.
2005: Trump finds a new partner in the Bayrock Group, a company with offices in Trump Tower two floors below Trump's executive suite. The Bayrock Group would obtain deals to build Trump-branded properties in several cities. Trump's point person on the projects was Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman with a very checkered past who has been described as a "career criminal." Sater once served a year in prison after stabbing a man in a bar fight so savagely that the victim required more than a hundred stitches. Sater also pled guilty to racketeering in a $40 million stock fraud case linked to the Russian Mafia. To avoid more prison time, Sater became an informant for the FBI and cooperated with investigations into organized crime and money laundering. Sater would later play a role in Russia's interference with the 2016 presidential election. According to The New York Times and other sources, Sater wrote and sent to his Russian contacts (probably including Dmitry Peskov, Putin's personal assistant) an email stating: "I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected" and "If he says it we own this election." Sater is reportedly a childhood friend of Trump's personal lawyer and "fixer," Michael Cohen. In January 2017, Sater would meet with Ukrainian politician Andrey Artemenko and Michael Cohen at the Loews Regency in Manhattan to discuss a plan to lift sanctions against Russia.
2006: Tevfik Arif, an ex-Soviet official who co-founded Bayrock Group, a New York-based real estate company, helped Trump fund Trump SoHo in New York, a 46-story, residential-hotel hybrid building later renamed "The Dominick." Felix Sater, the other Bayrock founder, has been a person of interest to Robert Mueller during his investigation into alleged 2016 campaign collusion with Russia. Sater, according to The New York Times, wrote a series of emails in 2015 to Trump's personal lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen in which he boasted about his ties to Russia's President Vladimir Putin. "Our boy can be president of the USA and we can engineer it," Sater wrote in one of the emails. "I will get all of Putin's team to buy in on this." The Russian-born and Putin-connected Sater was a senior adviser to Donald Trump and the Trump Organization when construction of the Trump SoHo began. Furthermore, the Trump Organization gave Sater and Bayrock a one-year exclusive deal to hunt for land in Moscow for a development, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
2007: In a court deposition related to Bayrock, Trump said: "It's ridiculous that I wouldn't be investing in Russia." And he explained why: "Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment. We will be in Moscow at some point." And he was investing in Russia, since he launched his Trump Super Premium Vodka brand in Moscow in 2007. But it was yet another flop, fizzling four years later.
2008: Donald Trump Jr. told eTurboNews that he had traveled to Russia six times in 18 months, researching deals.
2008: "In terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets," Donald Trump Jr. said at a New York real-estate conference that year. "Say, in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo, and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."
2011: Maria Butina aka "Red Sparrow" participates in the Youth Primaries organized by the Young Guard of United Russia, the youth wing of the Putin-led United Russia party. (Butina has been compared to the sexy female spy in the movie Red Sparrow.) Butina is hired as a "special assistant" by Aleksandr Torshin, a Senator in the Federation Council of Russia and a leading member of United Russia. Butina begins traveling back and forth to the U.S. with Torshin. Butina creates an NRA-like organization called "Right to Bear Arms [ru]" that the Russian government will soon use to woo and wow pro-gun Republicans via its connections to the NRA, the National Prayer Breakfast, and other conservative organizations. In 2015 Butina would email Paul Erickson a description of her plan to help the Republicans win the 2016 elections through the NRA. The same year Torshin would became deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia, with Butina as his "special assistant" for two years. Torshin would actively seek to build a connection with the Trump campaign in 2016, according to various reports, including leveraging his lifetime membership in the NRA to build a relationship with Donald Trump Jr. Federal prosecutors have said that Torshin helped direct Butina’s activities in the United States, including an effort to make contacts in the leadership of the NRA. In 2017, Butina told The Washington Post that she never worked for the Russian government. But according to The Daily Beast, Butina has presented herself as a "Russian central bank staffer, a leading gun rights advocate, a 'representative of the Russian Federation,' a Washington, D.C. graduate student, a journalist, and a connection between Team Trump and Russia" in order to gain access to "high-level contacts" in Washington, D.C.
2011-2012: The dossier by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele asserts that the Kremlin had been cultivating Trump for “at least five years” before his victory in the 2016 presidential election. And were they ever successful!
2012: Many polls suggest that Donald Trump is more popular than Mitt Romney. While Trump doesn’t run, his "birther" attacks on President Obama made him a hero to white supremacists everywhere.
2013: This is what Trump tweeted in June 2013 while announcing the Miss Universe contest would be held in Moscow: "Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow—if so, will he become my new best friend?" A source in Moscow told the Guardian that a meeting with Trump had been penciled into Putin's diary by aides, but apparently it got scrubbed from his schedule a few days beforehand. Trump was paid $20 million by a Russian oligarch, Aras Agalarov, who tried to "hook up" Trump and Putin. According to Donald Trump Jr.'s testimony before the US Senate, the Trumps and Agalarovs attempted to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, but the deal petered out. (The name Aras Agalarov will turn up later, as the "prime mover" of the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Russian agents in June 2016.) While in Moscow, Trump scouted a potential building site, but once again he was unable to close a deal. Trump also appeared in a music video with Emin Agalarov, the pop-singer son of Aras Agalarov. No dealings, really?
Mid-2013: Creation of the Internet Research Agency (IRA) also called Glavset and the "Agency." The Agency employs hundreds or thousands of Russian trolls who post pro-Kremlin propaganda online under fake identities, using Twitter and other social media. Novaya Gazeta reported that Internet Research Agency Ltd's office was in Olgino, a historic district of Saint Petersburg. The terms "Trolls from Olgino" and "Olgino's trolls" have since become general terms denoting trolls who spread pro-Russian propaganda, not just those based in Olgino. Vedomosti has linked the strategy of public consciousness manipulation through new media to Vyacheslav Volodin. Several Russian media outlets have claimed the Agency is funded by Evgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch restaurateur called “the Kremlin’s chef” in the independent press for his lucrative government contracts and close relationship with Putin. Prigozhin has also been called "Dr. Evil." Journalists have written that Alexey Soskovets, who had participated in the Russian youth political community, was directly connected to the office in Olgino and answered job inquiries there. More than 1,000 paid bloggers and commenters reportedly worked in a single building at Savushkina Street by 2015. Many more employees worked remotely. Each commentator has a daily quota of 100 comments. An employee interviewed by The Washington Post described the work: "I immediately felt like a character in the book 1984 by George Orwell — a place where you have to write that white is black and black is white. Your first feeling, when you ended up there, was that you were in some kind of factory that turned lying, telling untruths, into an industrial assembly line." According to the testimonies of the investigative journalists and former employees of the offices, the main topics for posts included: criticism of Ukraine's and the United States' foreign policies, and of the top politicians of these states; praise for Vladimir Putin and the policy of the Russian Federation; praise for and defense of Syria's Bashar al-Assad, one of Russia's most despotic and murderous allies; criticism of Alexei Navalny, his sponsors, and Russian opposition in general. Did they study Trump's tweets during troll training exercises, perhaps?
Sept. 13, 2013: Trump praises Putin for his criticism of the term “American exceptionalism," saying: “You think of the term as being fine, but all of sudden you say, what if you’re in Germany or Japan or any one of 100 different countries? You’re not going to like that term,” Trump told CNN. “It’s very insulting and Putin really put it to him (Obama) about that.”
Sept. 16, 2013: Trump invites Putin to Miss Universe: “So we’ve invited President Putin, that’ll be interesting,” Trump said on Fox and Friends. “I know he’d like to go.”
October 17, 2013: In an interview with David Letterman, Trump says: "Well I've done a lot of business with the Russians. They're smart and they're tough." Trump goes on to say that Putin is a "tough guy" and that he's met him "once."
November 11, 2013: Trump tweets Aras Agalarov: "I had a great weekend with you and your family ... TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next."
2013: "Red Sparrow" Maria Butina meets Republican political operative Paul Erickson in Russia. The two become close, start dating, and eventually shack up.
April 2014: The Russian interference operation forms a department known as the "Translator Project" to focus on operations via social media, according to the Justice Department.
May 2014: Moscow has developed a strategy with the goal of interfering in the 2016 election and "spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general," according to the Justice Department.
June 2014: The Internet Research Agency takes steps to obscure "its conduct by operating through a number of Russian entities," according to the Justice Department.
March 24, 2015: Maria Butina allegedly emails Person 1 to propose a project titled “Diplomacy.” (The email subject line apparently makes reference to a former KGB propagandist.) She writes that the Republican Party (identified only as POLITICAL PARTY 1 in the complaint) will likely gain power in 2016 but is “traditionally associated with negative and aggressive foreign policy, particularly with regards to Russia.” The time was right, she wrote, to build a relationship with the party, using the “central place and influence” of the NRA on the Republican Party. She noted her relationship with the NRA and past interactions with Republican officials in the email, anticipating a $125,000 budget to be spent on major political conferences. Person 1 responded with suggestions about people with whom she should meet and some strategic recommendations.
June 16, 2015: Trump announces his candidacy for the American presidency.
July 11, 2015: Maria Butina attended FreedomFest, where Trump gave a speech, and asked him from the audience about ending U.S. sanctions against Russia. It has been suggested that the question may have been staged by cooperation between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Trump replied: "I know Putin, and I’ll tell you what, we get along with Putin. Putin has no respect for President Obama. Big problem. Big problem. And Russia has been driven — you know I’ve always heard, for years I’ve heard, one of the worst things that can happen is if Russia ever gets driven to China. We have driven them together, with the big oil deals that are being made. We’ve driven them together. That’s a horrible thing for this country. We have made them friends because of incompetent leadership. I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, okay? And I mean where we have the strength. I don’t think you’d need the sanctions."
July 13, 2015: Maria Butina attends the launch of Scott Walker’s presidential campaign. According to reports, he greeted her in Russian.
September 2015: Felix Sater sets up a meeting with Trump's personal lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen to discuss a possible deal in Moscow.
October 2015: Andrey Rozov, a Russian real estate developer, signs a letter of intent sent by Cohen to advance the construction of a Trump World Tower in Moscow that would feature 250 luxury condos, no fewer than 15 floors of hotel rooms, commercial and office space, a fitness center and an Ivanka Trump spa.
October 9, 2015: Sater emails Cohen to tell him he plans to meet with a Moscow developer about possible land for a building.
October 12, 2015: Sater informs Cohen via email that his associates would be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and a deputy on October 14, and that VTB Bank would fund the Moscow project. (VTB was and remains subject to sanctions by the US government.)
October 13, 2015. Sater sends Cohen a letter of intent to move forward on the deal in Moscow, signed by Rozov. (While Trump claimed there were "no deals that could happen" in Russia because he and his people had "stayed away," that was obviously far from the truth.) Sater's email to Cohen says: "Lets make this happen and build a Trump Moscow ..."
October 28, 2015: Trump reportedly signs the letter of intent. That evening, he participates in the third Republican primary debate.
November 2015: According to federal prosecutors, there is a phone call between Cohen and an unnamed Russian who claimed to be a “trusted person” in Moscow. The Russian explained to Cohen how the Russian government could provide the Trump campaign with “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level,” and offered to set up a meeting between Mr. Trump, then a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia. The Russian told Cohen that there was “no bigger warranty in any project than the consent” of Mr. Putin.
November 3, 2015: Sater emails Cohen: "Buddy our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process." Sater also says: "My next steps are very sensitive with Putin's very, very close people. We can pull this off."
November 10, 2015: Trump says at a GOP debate that he got to know Putin "very well because we were both on 60 Minutes, we were stablemates, and we did very well that night." However, Trump never spoke to Putin; they appeared on 60 Minutes in completely separate interviews conducted on two very distant continents.
December 2, 2015: Trump is asked about Sater. "Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it," Trump said. "I'm not that familiar with him."
December 10, 2015: Michael Flynn attends Russia Today's 10th anniversary dinner. He gets paid for speaking and sits just two seats from Putin.
December 17, 2015: Cohen sends Sater a news article in which Putin calls Trump "talented" and "colorful." Knowing how susceptible Trump is to flattery, Cohen apparently sees an opportunity: "Now is the time," he replies. "Call me." Trump praises Putin in return, even though he has murdered journalists and invaded Crimea and Ukraine: "It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond."
December 19, 2015: To facilitate a trip to Russia, Sater asks Cohen to provide information about his and Trump's passports. A contact in Russia, Evgeny Shmykov (who once worked for Russian intelligence according to Sater's later testimony), needs the information to facilitate getting visas through VTB. Cohen sends photos of information from his own passport but not Trump's.
December 30, 2015: An unhappy note to end the year. Cohen, apparently angry with the slow pace of progress, emails Sater: "One month plus since the signing of the [letter of intent] that I wasted my time on," he writes. "I put the others all on hold and still, despite every conversation with you, nothing. … Not you or anyone you know will embarrass me in front of Mr. T when he asks me what is happening." Sater replied that he'd helped bury a story from ABC News in which Trump denied knowing Sater "because I kept my mouth shut for you and your team."
December 31, 2015: Sater informs Cohen that the new funder will be GenBank (like VTB, also subject to sanctions). Sater indicates that meetings in Moscow will include Dmitry Peskov, Putin's press secretary. Cohen responds unfavorably about how things were proceeding: "We're done. Enough. I told you last week that you thinking you are running point on this is inaccurate. You are putting my job in jeopardy and making me look incompetent. I gave you two months and the best you send me is some ... garbage invite by some no name clerk at a third-tier bank."
The Wall Street Journal reports that Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump are included on email messages about the Moscow project during this period (late 2015 and early 2016) or communicate directly with Cohen about it. Ivanka Trump even recommends an architect! She must have gotten her wish because according to BuzzFeed, "the discussions to build a tower were so advanced that architectural renderings of the proposed skyscraper existed, showing 'a sheer, glass-encased obelisk situated on a river' which 'would have soared above every other building in Moscow.'"
While running for president in 2015-2016, Trump would almost invariably speak highly of Putin while criticizing his adversaries and detractors, including NATO, the European Union and American intelligence agencies. Trump's bromance with Putin seldom wavered, even as evidence began to emerge that Russia was interfering in the 2016 presidential election, on Trump's behalf.
2015 and 2016: "Red Sparrow" Maria Butina allegedly exchanges emails with another American (“U.S. Person 2”) in an effort to arrange a series of dinners in New York and Washington to introduce Russians to people influential in American politics.
January 14, 2016: Cohen emails Peskov to ask for help with the Moscow project.
January 16, 2016: Cohen again emails Peskov's office, asking to speak with someone who speaks English.
January 19, 2016: Maria Butina allegedly contacts Alexander Torshin about logistics for the upcoming National Prayer Breakfast.
January 20, 2016: Cohen and Peskov's assistant (identified as "Assistant 1" in the statement of offense) speak on the phone for 20 minutes. From the statement of offense: "COHEN described his position at the Company and outlined the proposed Moscow Project, including the Russian development company with which the Company had partnered. COHEN requested assistance in moving the project forward, both in securing land to build the proposed tower and financing the construction. Assistant 1 asked detailed questions and took notes, stating that she would follow up with others in Russia." Part of this conversation, according to BuzzFeed News, allegedly included the prospect of giving the penthouse property, valued at $50 million, as a gift to Putin. Sater told BuzzFeed: "My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units. All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin."
January 26, 2016: Sater asks Cohen to take a call from Evgeny Shmykov, the former intelligence officer coordinating the deal in Moscow. Cohen says he will.
February. 2, 2016: Iowa holds its presidential caucuses. Trump comes in second.
February 14, 2016: On Valentine's Day, Alexander Torshin tweets that Maria Butina is in the United States, where she reports that Trump is “for cooperation with Russia,” according to Mother Jones. Vodka glasses are tinkling in the Kremlin!
February 17, 2016: "Putin called me a genius!" Trump says at a campaign event in South Carolina. He will repeat the claim at other events.
February to June 2016: Cohen continues to discuss a possible Moscow deal with Trump on occasion. He also "briefed family members of [Trump] within the Company about the project," according to Mueller's team.
March 6, 2016: Around the time George Papadopoulos learns that he will be a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. He has a conversation with a supervisory campaign official. Papadopoulos leaves the conversation with the understanding that "a principal foreign policy focus of the Campaign was an improved U.S. relationship with Russia."
March 14, 2016: Maria Butina allegedly emails Person 2 to say Torshin had informed her that “Putin’s side” had approved of her outreach plan to high-profile political figures. And who was higher profile than Trump?
March 21, 2016: When asked who his foreign policy advisers are, during an interview with The Washington Post, Trump names Carter Page and Papadopoulos, whom he calls an "excellent guy." Page is an American banker who had lived in Moscow for three years.
March 28, 2016: Trump hires Paul Manafort to help lead his delegate-gathering efforts. Manafort had worked recently as a senior adviser for pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
March 30, 2016: Maria Butina allegedly emails an organizer of the prayer breakfast to suggest Putin might attend in 2017, given certain conditions. The organizer offered ten spots at the 2017 event for Putin.
April 18, 2016: A mysterious professor introduces Papadopoulos to an individual who has connections to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Papadopoulos and the individual go on to have "multiple conversations over Skype and email about setting 'the groundwork' for a 'potential' meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials," according to court documents.
April 25, 2016: Papadopoulos emails a senior policy adviser to the Trump campaign and says: "The Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready. The advantage of being in London is that these governments tend to speak a bit more openly in 'neutral' cities."
April 26, 2016: Papadopoulos meets the professor for breakfast at a London hotel. The professor says he has just returned from meeting with high-level Russian government officials in Moscow and that "he (the Professor) learned that that the Russians had obtained 'dirt' on then-candidate Clinton," according to court documents. Papadopoulos would later tell the FBI that the professor also said the Russians had "emails of Clinton" and "they have thousands of emails."
April 27, 2016: Papadopoulos emails a high-ranking campaign official saying he would like "to discuss Russia's interest in hosting Mr. Trump. Have been receiving a lot of calls over the last month about Putin wanting to host him and the team when the time is right." Papadopoulos also emails the senior policy adviser to say he has "some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right." On the same day, Trump delivers his first major foreign policy address in Washington. He calls for better relations with Russia in the speech. Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak is seated in the front row.
May 4, 2016: Sater texts Cohen: "I had a chat with Moscow. ASSUMING the trip does happen the question is before or after the convention. Obviously the pre-meeting trip [you only] can happen anytime you want but the 2 big guys where [sic] the question. I said I would confirm and revert." Cohen replies: "My trip before Cleveland" (the site of the convention) and "[Trump] once he becomes the nominee after the convention."
May 5, 2016: Sater texts Cohen to extend an invitation from Peskov to attend an event in St. Petersburg from June 16 to 19. The invitation includes a possible meeting with either Putin or Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
May 6, 2016: Cohen replies, saying the proposed St. Petersburg dates would work.
May 10-11, 2016: Maria Butina allegedly contacts Persons 1 and 2 to set up a series of dinners with influential political figures later that month. At some point in May, Butina is allegedly part of a group seeking a meeting with the Trump campaign, according to The Washington Post.
May 20, 2016: At a dinner on the sideline of the NRA convention, Alexander Torshin and Donald Trump Jr. are seated near each other and finally meet.
May 22, 2016: In a Politico article, journalist David Cay Johnston notes Trump's relationship to Sater and Sater's ties to organized crime.
May 2016: Paul Erickson, the lover of "Red Sparrow" Maria Butina, sends an email with the subject line "Kremlin Connection" to Trump campaign adviser Rick Dearborn, asking Dearborn and then-Senator Jeff Sessions for advice on setting up a meeting between Trump and Putin at an annual NRA convention. Through two different individuals close to the Trump campaign, Torshin tries to set up a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. when the two are at the NRA convention in Kentucky later that month. In one of the emails, Dearborn explained that Russia was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.”
June 7, 2016: The final primaries end. Trump formally clinches the Republican nomination. Around this time Donald Trump Jr. is already setting up a secret meeting with a Russian government agent at the Trump Tower. One of his father's former Russian business partners, Aras Agalarov, had been contacted by a senior Russian government official who was offering to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton. The documents "would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father," read the email which offered "obviously very high level and sensitive information" as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." If the future president's eldest son was surprised or disturbed by the provenance of the promised material — or the notion that it was part of a continuing effort by the Russian government to aid his father's campaign — he gave no indication. He replied within minutes: "If it's what you say I love it!" After a brief flurry of emails, the intermediary proposed a meeting in New York with a "Russian government attorney."
Ironically, Aras Agalarov may have been involved in a previous iteration of the Moscow Project, as it has been reported that he served as an intermediary between Trump and Putin when Trump was in Russia in 2013 for the Miss America pageant. Less than two weeks before the Miss Universe finals, Putin awarded Agalarov the prestigious Order of Honor medal: Was it a reward for bringing the Trumps under Russian influence? Aras Agalarov had paid Trump $20 million to host the pageant and his son Emin, a pop singer, had provided a pretty male face to go with all the lovely female ones. Rob Goldstone, Emin's rotund manager, had been one of the hangers-on. Now they were ready to act as Putin's agents. The "crown prosecutor of Russia" – assumed to be Goldstone's garbled billing for Yury Chaika, the Russian prosecutor general – wanted the Trump campaign to have documents that would "incriminate Hillary." And the Agalarovs and Goldstone would deliver them!
June 9, 2016: Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner meet with a Kremlin-linked attorney, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, at the NYC Trump Tower. The meeting is set up through the Agalarovs and includes one their top executives, Irakly "Ike" Kaveladze, as the "eighth man." Meanwhile, Sater tries to get Cohen to confirm his trip to Russia, an effort that continues for several days. One of the parties involved in setting up the meeting was Rob Goldstone, a British music publicist who represented Emin Agalarov. Goldstone said in an email to Donald Trump Jr. that Ms. Veselnitskaya had obtained the documents from the top Russian prosecutor. In a July 14, 2017 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Natalia Veselnitskaya acknowledged that she was in regular contact with the Russian prosecutor general's office and with Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika "while waging a campaign against U.S. sanctions." In an interview with NBC News, Ms. Veselnitskaya admitted: “I am a lawyer, and I am an informant. Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.” When she was shown incriminating copies of her emails by Richard Engel of NBC News, Ms. Veselnitskaya acknowledged that “many things included here are from my documents, my personal documents.” She told the Russian news agency Interfax that her email accounts had been hacked and that she would report the hack to Russian authorities! Furthermore, Ms. Veselnitskaya once represented Russia’s top intelligence agency in court, according to at least two public records. Ms. Veselnitskaya had represented a Russian military intelligence unit known as the F.S.B. The F.S.B. is the successor agency to the K.G.B. and was once headed by Russia President Vladimir V. Putin, whose code name was Pale Moth.
June 14, 2016: The Washington Post reports that Russian hackers infiltrated the Democratic National Committee's computer network. That same day, Sater and Cohen meet in the lobby of Trump Tower, and Cohen says he won't attend the St. Petersburg event after all. In reality, Trump had been trying very hard to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, even while he was campaigning for president. The final attempt was headed by Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. That effort began in September 2015 and apparently ended on June 14, 2016 with the The Washington Post report that Russia was suspected to be behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
June 15, 2016: A Russian hacker going by the name Guccifer 2.0 posts documents stolen from the DNC.
June 19, 2016: George Papadopoulos offers in an email to a high-ranking campaign official to travel to Russia to meet with officials if Trump is unable to. He states he is willing "to make the trip off the record if it's in the interest of the Mr. Trump and the campaign to meet specific people."
June 20, 2016: Aras Agalarov moves approximately $20 million from an offshore account to the US bank account of a just-created Delaware company. The money transfer was reportedly flagged to US Treasury officials as suspicious. On the same day as the transfer, Trump fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, leaving his Russian-leaning campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in charge. Manafort has extensive business links to the former Soviet Union and allegedly has experience working with Russian hackers as well, from his "consulting" work in Ukraine. Is it just a coincidence that the $20 million fee Aras Agalarov paid to Trump in 2013 seems to "match" the 2016 transaction?
June 2016: Cohen and Sater have final conversations about the proposed project.
July 18 to 21, 2016: The Republican Party holds its convention in Cleveland. Sometime during the week of July 18 three Trump national security advisers — Page, J.D. Gordon and Walid Phares — meet with Sergey Kislyak in Cleveland. They tell him they hope to see improved relations with Russia. The Washington Post reports: "The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won't call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington." It really did seem that Mr. Putin was dictating US foreign policy at this point.
July 22, 2016: WikiLeaks publishes about 20,000 emails stolen from the DNC.
July 26, 2016: American intelligence officials inform the White House that they have "high confidence" that Russia is behind the DNC hacks.
July 27, 2016: Trump invites Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's emails from the private server she used as secretary of state. "I will tell you this, Russia: If you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said at a news conference. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." Or perhaps by Trump and his administration?
July 2016: "How many times do I have to say that?" Trump complained at a news conference in July 2016, after WikiLeaks published thousands of Democratic Party emails hacked by Russian operatives. "I have nothing to do with Russia. I have nothing to do with Russia." At the time Trump insisted his only connection to Russia was a single house sale: "What do I have to do with Russia? You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida. Palm Beach is a very expensive place. There was a man who went bankrupt, and I bought the house for $40 million and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million including brokerage commissions. So I sold it. So I bought it for 40, I told it for 100 to a Russian. That was a number of years ago."
Around this time Trump added in a tweet: "For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia." Perhaps, but how many investments did Russia have in Trump?
We now know that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort met with a Russian agent with ties to the Kremlin, Natalia Veselnitskaya, at the Trump Tower in June 2016. And we know that Trump Junior was lured to the meeting because there was an offer to produce "dirt" on Hillary Clinton that could (and did) sway the 2016 presidential election. We know Trump Junior wasn't honest about the reasons for the meeting. We know Trump Senior dictated Junior's original misleading statement, with the help of Hope Hicks, when the news of the meeting became public. We know that the American intelligence community unanimously agrees that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and yet Trump Senior has repeatedly expressed skepticism—once with Russia's Vladimir Putin standing beside him!—of that fact. We know former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn had ties to Russia, received payments from Russia, and eventually pled guilty to lying to the FBI about the nature and extent of his contacts with Russian officials. We know that Trump, in the Oval Office, told Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that he had "just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job," and added: "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." We know that Trump told NBC's Lester Holt that the real reason he had fired FBI Director James Comey was "this Russia thing." So how can Trump say that he "had nothing to do with Russia" and knows nothing about Russia?
August 8, 2016: Trump ally and friend Roger Stone tells a group of Florida Republicans that he has "communicated with Assange."
August 14, 2016: The New York Times publishes an exposé on Ukrainian documents that appear to show that $12.7 million in cash was earmarked for Manafort by the Russia-aligned Party of Regions.
October 2016: Trump said: "What do I know about the Russians? What do I know about the Russians? Then they said he borrows money from—I don't borrow money from the Russians. I promise you I've never made—I don't have any deals with Russia. I had Miss Universe there a couple of years ago other than that no. I had nothing to do."
September 5, 2016: The Washington Post reports that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are investigating "a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions."
September 7, 2016: Trump prefers Mr. Putin to the American president: "He's been a leader far more than our president has been a leader."
September 8, 2016: Trump prefers the word of Mr. Putin and the Kremlin to the word of American intelligence agencies. He tells Russia Today that "it's probably unlikely" Russia is interfering in the election.
October 3, 2016: Roger Stone tweets: "I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp"
Oct. 4, 2016: Person 1 in the federal complaint against "Red Sparrow" Maria Butina allegedly emails an acquaintance: “I’ve been involved in securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin and key POLITICAL PARTY I (i.e., the Republican Party) leaders through, of all conduits, the [NRA].” Apparently, Alexander Torshin and Maria Butina have been successful in their efforts to create a back channel to the GOP through the NRA. (The NRA would contribute more than $30 million to Trump's campaigns and there are allegations some of the money was provided by Russia.)
Oct. 5, 2016: Butina tweets Torshin: “We made our bet. I am following our game. I will be connecting the people from the prayer breakfast to this group. ... Yesterday’s dinner showed that American society is broken in relation to Russia. This is now the dividing line of opinions, the crucial one in the election race. [The Republicans] are for us, [Democrats] — against — 50/50. Our move here is very important.” (The complaint obscures the identity of the parties.)
October 7, 2016: WikiLeaks publishes emails hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's personal email account. The release comes just hours after a tape emerges in which Trump brags about groping women by the genitals. James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, says hacked documents posted on DC Leaks, Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks appear linked to Russian intelligence and accuses "Russia's senior-most officials" of directing the hacks.
October 7, 2016: Trump says "I love WikiLeaks" at a Pennsylvania rally. He specifically cites some of the hacked emails to attack Clinton.
October 7, 2016: Stone tells a Florida TV station that he has "back-channel communication" with Assange.
October 19, 2016: At the third and final presidential debate, Clinton comments that Putin backed Trump because he "would rather have a puppet as president of the United States."
November 8, 2016: Trump is elected the 45th president of the United States. Vodka glasses tinkle merrily in the Kremlin. The NRA has spent more than $30 million supporting his campaign. "Red Sparrow" Maria Butina has accomplished her plan to perfection! Butina and Torshin allegedly discuss the election results: "Think about in which areas of life we could go towards bringing us closer." Trump is their man, Putin's man, Russia's man in the White House.
November 9, 2016: The Russian parliament bursts into applause at news of Trump's victory.
November 9, 2016: Just a few minutes after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, a man named Vyacheslav Nikonov approached a microphone in the Russian State Duma (their equivalent of the US House of Representatives) and made a very unusual statement. “Dear friends, respected colleagues!” Nikonov said. “Three minutes ago, Hillary Clinton admitted her defeat in US presidential elections, and a second ago Trump started his speech as an elected president of the United States of America, and I congratulate you on this.” Nikonov is a leader in the pro-Putin United Russia Party and, incidentally, the grandson of Vyacheslav Molotov — after whom the “Molotov cocktail” was named. His announcement that day was a clear signal that Trump’s victory was, in fact, a victory for Putin’s Russia.
November 10, 2016: Two days after Trump was elected president, a top Kremlin official caused a stir by asserting that Trump’s associates were in contact with the Russian government before the election. “I don’t say that all of them, but a whole array of them supported contacts with Russian representatives,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later tells the Associated Press that the contacts were "quite natural, quite normal." The Trump campaign denies it all. The claim was met with a hail of denials. Hope Hicks, then Trump’s top spokeswoman, responded: “It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.” After Trump took office, in February 2017, he reiterated the denial: “No. Nobody that I know of,” the president told reporters when asked whether anyone who advised his campaign had contact with Russia. “I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.” But of course Hicks and Trump were both lying through their teeth.
Trump family members and associates who allegedly interacted with Russians include: Donald Trump Sr., Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, George Papadopoulos, Wilbur Ross, Carter Page, Anthony Scaramucci, Michael Caputo, Elliot Broidy, Erik Prince, Peter W. Smith, Felix Sater, Andrei Nikolaev and Nigel Farage.
Nov. 11, 2016: Butina allegedly sends Torshin a proposal for a conference, featuring a number of members of Congress, focused on Russia.
Nov. 12, 2016: Torshin allegedly rejects the plan, saying that “they” won’t go for it — a message that federal prosecutors allege signals instruction from the Russian government to Butina.
November 18, 2016: Trump names Michael Flynn his national security adviser over the warnings of President Obama.
Nov. 30, 2016: Maria Butina allegedly emails Person 1 about the prayer breakfast, assuring Person 1 that the people included in the Russian delegation, handpicked by Torshin and herself, were “coming to establish a back channel of communication.”
December 2016: Flynn and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner meet with Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower.
Dec. 1, 2016: Person 1 allegedly explains to "Red Sparrow" Maria Butina how to book the hotel for the Russian delegation to the prayer breakfast and suggests that Torshin cover the cost.
Dec. 26, 2016: Torshin allegedly explains who will and won’t be attending the prayer breakfast, as per the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
December 26, 2016: The day after Christmas, Oleg Erovinkin, a former KGB official suspected of assisting a former British spy in compiling a dossier alleging Trump ties to Russia, is found dead in the back seat of his car in Moscow.
December 28, 2016: Obama signs an executive order to sanction Russia for its interference in the presidential election. The sanctions are to take effect the following day. Sergey Kislyak contacts Flynn.
December 29, 2016: Obama orders the ejection of 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the country and imposes sanctions on two Russian intelligence services as retaliation for the election-interference campaign. Flynn has a series of phone calls with Kislyak. He would later acknowledge that it was possible they discussed the newly imposed sanctions, but he "couldn't be certain." According to The New York Times, the phone calls came after Kislyak was brought to the State Department and informed of the sanctions, and became "irate and threatened a forceful Russian response." Court filings later reveal that Flynn asks Kislyak to refrain from escalating the situation in response to the sanctions. This conversation takes place after Flynn confers with a senior official on the Trump transition team about how to address the sanctions. Flynn calls the transition official after his conversation with Kislyak to update him on the call. Flynn goes on to lie to the FBI about this.
December 30, 2016: Putin announces he will not retaliate against the U.S. expulsions. His foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, had recommended Russia respond with similar expulsions. Trump tweets: "Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he was very smart!"
December 31, 2016: Trump tells reporters at Mar-a-Lago that "hacking is a very hard thing to prove."
January 6, 2017: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases an unclassified report expressing the conclusion of the CIA, FBI and NSA about Russian election interference. The report concludes that DC Leaks, Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks all obtained documents via Russian government-backed hackers. That same day, James Clapper, FBI director James Comey and CIA director John Brennan brief Trump at Trump Tower on the intelligence community's findings. Trump ignores American intelligence agencies and tells The New York Times that the Russia controversy is a "political witch hunt." Trump releases a statement saying the hacks had "absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election."
January 9, 2017: BuzzFeed publishes a dossier of reports compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian actors. One of the claims was that Cohen traveled to Prague to facilitate cooperation.
January 10, 2017: Jeff Sessions states under oath at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: "I did not have communications with the Russians." This would prove to be another lie.
January 13, 2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee announces an investigation into interference and possible coordination.
January 20, 2017: Trump is inaugurated. "Red Sparrow" Maria Butina attends one of the inaugural balls.
January 24, 2017: In an interview with the FBI, Flynn says that during two December phone calls he did not urge the Russian ambassador to refrain from responding to new U.S. sanctions and that he did not ask the ambassador to delay a U.N. Security Council vote. These statements later prove to be false.
January 25, 2017: The House Intelligence Committee announces an investigation.
January 27, 2017: Papadopoulos agrees to be interviewed by FBI agents. During the course of the interview, he makes a number of false statements, according to the plea deal. Trump and James Comey dine at the White House. It is reported that Trump asked Comey to pledge his loyalty to him; Comey declined.
February 2017: Trump says: "And I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia. President Putin called me up very nicely to congratulate me on the win of the election. He then, called me up extremely nicely to congratulate me on the inauguration, which was terrific. But so did many other leaders, almost all other leaders from almost all of the country. So that's the extent."
Feb. 2-8, 2017: Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin attend the prayer breakfast. Butina allegedly thanks a prayer breakfast organizer for meeting with her and suggests she has “important information” for the organizer. She asks for a follow-up meeting. Butina allegedly emails Person 2 to thank him. “My dearest President [Putin] has received ‘the message’ about your group initiatives and your constructive and kind attention to the Russians.”
February 4, 2017: Trump defends Putin in an interview with Fox News, saying, "I do respect him," and, when pressed on allegations that Putin has been behind certain atrocities, Trump responds: "What, you think our country's so innocent?"
February 9, 2017: The Washington Post reports that Flynn did, in fact, discuss U.S. sanctions in his phone calls with Sergey Kislyak, contrary to Flynn's and the administration's previous statements.
February 13, 2017: Flynn resigns.
February 14, 2017: The New York Times reports that "members of Donald J. Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials."
February 16, 2017: Trump again calls the Russia controversy "fake news" and said that the Times story from Feb. 14 was "a joke." Asked if anyone who advised his campaign had contacts with Russia during the election, Trump responds: "No. Nobody that I know of."
March 1, 2017: The Washington Post reports that Jeff Sessions did speak with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, appearing to contradict his past statements. The following day Sessions announces he will recuse himself from any investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
March 4, 2017: Trump accuses Obama of having put a "tapp" (sic) on his wires. No evidence of such wire tapping was ever produced. The charge seems to have been made up on talk radio show. Roger Stone tweets that he "never denied perfectly legal backchannel to Assange who indeed had the goods on #CrookedHillary." Stone later deletes the tweet.
May 9, 2017: Trump fires FBI Director James Comey.
May 10, 2017: Trump meets with Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak at the Oval Office and reportedly divulged classified national security information to them during the course of the meeting.
May 11, 2017: Trump tells NBC's Lester Holt of his decision to fire Comey: "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, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won."
May 17, 2017: Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein appoints former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
July 8, 2017: The New York Times breaks the story about Donald Trump Jr.'s Trump Tower meeting with the Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer in June 2016. Trump Jr. provided the Times with a statement that the meeting was about an adoption program. It is later revealed by the Washington Post that Trump Sr. himself dictated the statement on the flight home from the G20 meeting.
July 25, 2017: Around this time FBI agents raid Paul Manafort's home, collecting evidence.
July 31, 2017: The Washington Post reveals that Trump Sr. dictated Trump Jr.'s misleading statement about Russian adoptions.
August 28, 2017: Cohen's legal team sends a two-page statement to the House and Senate committees making false claims about the termination of the Moscow project.
September 7, 2017: Donald Trump Jr. testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He's questioned about the Moscow project and claims he knew "very little" about the proposed deal, only receiving the letter of intent signed by his father. He claimed not to know about Cohen's outreach to Peskov. At another point he said that only he or Ivanka Trump would have known about other Moscow deals.
October 25, 2017: Michael Cohen testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Oct. 30, 2017: Paul Manafort and a fellow former campaign aide, Rick Gates, turn themselves into the FBI after being indicted on 12 counts, including money laundering and making false statements. The Papadopoulos plea deal is made public.
Nov. 13, 2017: Donald Trump Jr. confirms on Twitter that he had private conversations with WikiLeaks during the presidential campaign after the Atlantic publishes leaked excerpts. Vice President Mike Pence, who during the campaign dismissed any notion of the campaign being in cahoots with WikiLeaks, now conveniently denies any knowledge of the matter.
Dec. 1, 2017: Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI about his December 2016 conversations with the Russian ambassador.
January 2018: Federal agents photograph "Red Sparrow" Maria Butina dining with Oleg Zhiganov, the director of the Russian Cultural Center. Zhiganov is expelled from the U.S. in March for being a suspected Russian spy. In a July hearing, prosecutors offer Butina's association with Zhiganov as one reason she should be considered a flight risk and denied bail.
Jan. 2, 2018: In a New York Times op-ed, Fusion GPS founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch request that congressional Republicans "release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony" and add that "the Steele dossier was not the trigger for the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling." Their sources said the dossier was taken seriously because it corroborated reports from other sources, "including one inside the Trump camp."
Jan. 4, 2018: The New York Times reports that two days after Comey's congressional testimony, an aide to Sessions approached a Capitol Hill staff member to ask for any derogatory information about Comey. Sessions purportedly wanted one negative article about Comey per day in the news media. The Times also reports that Robert Mueller has handwritten notes from Reince Priebus that show that Trump talked to Priebus about how he had called Comey to urge him to say publicly that Trump was not under investigation.
Jan. 10, 2018: The United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee releases a report, "Putin's Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security."
Jan. 12, 2018: The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen arranged a $130,000 payment to porn star Stephanie Clifford – better known to the world as Stormy Daniels – ahead of the 2016 election in exchange for her silence about an alleged 2006 affair with Trump.
Jan. 13, 2018: Cohen told The New York Times that he made the Stormy Daniels payment himself. His unlikely explanation was that he used his home equity line of credit to make the payment out of friendship. Usually it's the client mortgaging his/her home to pay the lawyer. Trump would later tell reporters onboard Air Force One that he didn't know about the payment to Daniels. "You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael," Trump said.
Jan. 17, 2018: BuzzFeed News reports that Mueller's team and Senate Intelligence Committee investigators are looking into hundreds of financial transactions flagged as suspicious between the Russian government and people in the United States.
Jan. 18, 2018: Axios reports that Bannon informed the House Intelligence Committee that he did have a discussion with Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, and Mark Corallo about the June 2016 Veselnitskaya meeting at the Trump Tower.
Jan. 18, 2018: McClatchy reports that Mueller’s team is investigating the NRA’s role in the 2016 election. In a letter released several months later, the NRA indicates having received only about $2,500 from “people associated with Russian addresses.” Perhaps, but how much money was delivered by the Russian government through banks, offshore companies and other intermediaries?
Jan. 18, 2018: The House Intelligence Committee releases the transcript of the Glenn Simpson testimony given on November 14, 2017. Adam Schiff says the testimony contains "serious allegations that the Trump Organization may have engaged in money laundering with Russian nationals."
Jan. 19, 2018: German periodical Manager Magazin reports that Deutsche Bank has presented Germany's financial authority, BaFin, evidence of "suspicious money transfers" by Jared Kushner; this information is due to be handed to Mueller.
Jan. 20, 2018: Twitter announces that it will notify 677,775 US citizens that they followed or retweeted accounts linked to Russian propaganda during the election. Twitter also announces the discovery of a further 1,062 propagandist accounts linked to the Kremlin's Internet Research Agency, bringing the total to 3,814, as well as the discovery of a further 13,512 automated bot accounts based in Russia, bringing the total to 50,258. Twitter estimates that the bot accounts produced 2.12 million tweets, collectively receiving 454.7 million impressions in the first week after each posting. Twitter's analysis indicates that Russian bots retweeted Trump's account 470,000 times in the run-up to election day, and Clinton's account 48,000 times.
Jan. 24, 2018: Trump tells reporters that he's "looking forward" to sitting for an interview with Mueller. But it turns out he was lying like usual.
Feb. 1, 2018: CNN reports that former Trump team legal spokesperson Mark Corallo had concerns that White House communications director Hope Hicks could be considering obstructing justice after a comment she reportedly made about emails between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians. Hicks allegedly told President Donald Trump on a conference call that the Trump Jr. emails "will never get out."
Feb. 16, 2018: Mueller's team indicts 13 Russian nationals for interfering in the election.
Feb. 22, 2018 : Mueller brings a new 32-count indictment against Manafort and Gates for tax and bank fraud and money laundering, among other charges.
Feb. 23, 2018: Rick Gates pleads guilty and agrees to cooperate with Mueller's probe.
Feb. 27, 2018: In testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, Hope Hicks admits that she has told "white lies" for Trump; she resigns from the White House a day later.
Feb. 28, 2018: A judge in Washington sets a Sept. 17 trial date for Manafort.
April 6, 2018: Alexander Torshin, the apparent mastermind of the Russian plot to infiltrate the GOP via the NRA and prayer breakfasts, is one of more than 20 Russians sanctioned by the American government in response to Russian interference in 2016 and other incidents. Maria Butina, the Russian agent he handled, would be arrested on July 15, 2018.
April 9, 2018: Federal agents raid Cohen's homes and office in New York, acquiring 1.3 million pieces of evidence, including recordings of conversations between Cohen and Trump.
May 2, 2018: Trump hired former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as his personal attorney.
July 15, 2018: "Red Sparrow" Maria Butina is arrested and charged with acting as an agent of a foreign government, specifically the Russian Federation, without prior notification to the Attorney General, a conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States. According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, from as early as 2015 and continuing through at least February 2017, Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government, widely believed to be Alexander Torshin. The court filings detail the Russian official’s and Butina’s efforts for Butina to act as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American Republican and conservative politics—such as the National Rifle Association, the National Prayer Breakfast and conservative religious organizations—for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation.
July 18, 2018: Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims Butina's arrest was designed to undermine the "positive results" of the Helsinki summit between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, notwithstanding that she was arrested a day before the Trump-Putin meeting
August 21, 2018: Cohen pleads guilty to eight felony counts in a New York courtroom, including two in which he implicates Trump in campaign finance violations. Cohen said he paid off Daniels and McDougal to silence them before the 2016 election at Trump's "direction," and admitted that the payments were illegal. Paul Butler, law professor at Georgetown University says: "Tuesday August 21 marks the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, and possibly his freedom."
August 22, 2018: Trump finally admitted in an interview with Fox & Friends that the money paid to Daniels and McDougal "came from me." Trump said that since the money came from him and not the Trump campaign, the payments were not illegal. He also tweeted, "If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don't retain the services of Michael Cohen!"
November 29, 2018: Cohen pleads guilty to misleading congressional investigators. "COHEN made the false statements," the statement of offense reads, "to (1) minimize links between the Moscow Project and [Trump] and (2) give the false impression that the Moscow Project ended before 'the Iowa caucuses and ... the very first primary,' in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations."
November 30, 2018: Here is what Trump said about Cohen before leaving for the G20 summit in Argentina: "He's a weak person. He was convicted with a fairly long-term sentence with things unrelated to the Trump Organization. What he's trying to do is get a reduced sentence." But apparently Cohen didn't trust Trump and recorded their conversations, so Trump will probably be caught in his own web of lies.
December 2018: At least five close advisers to Trump have admitted wrongdoing or been convicted since his election. Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been convicted of financial fraud related to his work in Ukraine as a political consultant for pro-Russian elements. Rick Gates, an associate of Manafort, has pled guilty to multiple charges and awaits sentencing. Michael Flynn, Trump's national security adviser, resigned over his communications with Russia's ambassador prior to Trump taking office. George Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign policy adviser, confessed to making false statements to the FBI about the scope of his contacts with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. Michael Cohen, once Trump's personal lawyer and "fixer," has already pled guilty to charges and is cooperating with the Mueller investigation. According to Vox, there have been charges brought against 33 individuals and companies in all, including 26 Russian nationals.
December 7, 2018: Per The New York Times in an article headlined "Is This the Beginning of the End for Trump?": On Friday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the special counsel, Robert Mueller, delivered a potentially devastating one-two punch against President Trump. Coming late in the day, they made for bracing end-of-the-week reading. Calling on the court to impose a sentence of substantial imprisonment against Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York stated that Mr. Trump, the Trump Organization and the campaign were all directly involved in an illegal scheme to silence two women who claimed they had affairs with Mr. Trump. Prosecutors wrote that payments made by Mr. Cohen and other actions were taken “with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election” and pursued “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual 1” — that is, Mr. Trump. The Trump Organization’s reimbursements to Mr. Cohen for payments were fraudulently disguised as legal fees — and, according to the memo, were approved by senior executives at the organization. The New York prosecutors also disclosed that they are investigating additional unspecified matters involving Mr. Cohen and, presumably, the Trump Organization. In light of these disclosures, the likelihood that the company and the Trump campaign face charges is now high.
December 8, 2018: According to Jeremy Bash, a former CIA chief of staff, the Trump administration has produced "the most pro-Russian foreign policy coming out of Washington in our history." According to Bash, what Trump and his henchmen did is "all about the leverage." The more Russia and Putin did for Trump, the more leverage (and dirt) Russia and Putin had over Trump. This explains why Trump did everything Putin demanded in return, including weakening NATO and averting sanctions on Russia.
December 10, 2018: Maria Butina agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to violate laws prohibiting covert foreign agents and is said to be "fully cooperating" with prosecutors. Her Russian handler, Alexander Torshin, is reported to be "retiring" according to Russian media.
NOTE: I do not claim that any of the information here is highly original. Sources used include The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, CNN, The Daily Beast and Politico.
What does it all mean? Here are comments by legal experts about federal prosecutors, for all intents and purposes, apparently naming Donald Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in court filings on December 7, 2018:
Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean: “I don’t know that this will forever disappear into some dark hole of unprosecutable presidents. I think it will resurface in the Congress. I think what this totality of today’s filings show that the House is going to have little choice the way this is going other than to start impeachment proceedings.”
Nick Akerman, former Watergate prosecutor: The plea deal involving President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen makes Trump an "unindicted co-conspirator" according to Akerman. The term "unindicted co-conspirator" was used by the Watergate grand jury to describe President Nixon's role in the scandal that ultimately cost him his presidency. The plea deal has prompted the question: Can a sitting president be indicted? "I absolutely see no reason why [Trump] could not be indicted," said Akerman (@nickakerman).
Laurence Tribe, law professor, Harvard Law School: WOW! The Dec 7 filing in SDNY on Michael Cohen’s sentencing charges that President Trump (aka “Individual 1”) directed a criminal conspiracy with his attorney Cohen to violate the federal election laws in order to increase his odds of winning the presidency by deceiving voters ... Hint: It's not pretty ... December 7, 1941 and December 7, 2018. Indeed. ("A day which will live in infamy.") ... This unambiguously *condemns* the President. If Trump truly feels “cleared” by it, either he just can’t read or he’s totally delusional.
Lisa Kern Griffin, law professor, Duke University: The president’s personal attorney has given sworn testimony in open court that he committed campaign finance violations in coordination with and at the direction of the president. Although the president is not named in the charges, he is all but an unindicted co-conspirator. This turn in the president’s fortunes is dramatic and damaging, and it should have political repercussions even if it does not have immediate legal ones. All of this is occurring in the Southern District of New York and involves wrongdoing in addition to the campaign activities that are the focus of the special counsel’s investigation.
Jens David Ohlin, law professor, Cornell University: Trump is clearly guilty of violating campaign finance laws and also guilty of federal conspiracy as well (because he agreed with Cohen, and possibly others, on a plan to violate federal law). Normally he would be indicted right away. But that won’t happen only because he’s the president. But I suspect he’ll be named as an unindicted co-conspirator and also there’ll be a separate section of the Mueller report titled “Conspiracy to Violate Campaign Finance Laws” or something like that.
Michael Kang, law professor, Northwestern University: Michael Cohen’s guilty plea to campaign finance violations has important implications for President Trump. Cohen reportedly admitted that the payments he arranged for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal on Trump’s behalf were campaign related, not personal expenditures, and were made with the coordination and at the direction of a federal candidate. Assuming he or prosecutors can substantiate this claim, the payments were illegal campaign contributions that exceeded the applicable limits and needed to be reported. What’s more, if Trump knew the payments were campaign related and directed them, as Cohen alleges, then Trump too violated campaign finance law.
Diane Marie Amann, law professor, University of Georgia: The president’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, has just pleaded guilty to violating federal tax, banking, and campaign finance laws. The big question, of course, is the extent to which the case against Cohen involves others. If the Cohen investigation unearthed evidence implicating the President in the crimes of conviction — whether through statements by Cohen or through documents seized from him — that is very good news for Mueller and very bad news for Trump.
Joshua Dressler, law professor, Ohio State University: Cohen’s admission that the hush money that constituted 2 felony convictions, was done at the direction of a candidate for federal office, clearly implicates the President in those campaign violations. Essentially, Cohen, under oath, in a federal court, has alleged that the President of the United States conspired to violate federal law. If he were not a sitting president this would constitute grounds for indictment on those charges. As a sitting president this constitutes, if Congress wishes to do so, impeachable offenses. But, as we know, impeachment is a political rather than a legal concept, and it would seem pretty clear that nothing will occur with the current Congress.
Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, law professor, Stetson University: Two counts that Michael Cohen pled guilty to were for campaign finance violations: (a) for causing an illegal corporate contribution and (b) for an excessive personal campaign contribution for his payments to two women during the 2016 campaign. United States campaign finance laws have been watered down by the Roberts Supreme Court since 2006, but there are a few pillars of campaign finance law that the Supreme Court has upheld again and again: (1) bans on corporations’ giving directly to federal candidates, (2) bans on foreigners’ spending in US elections, (3) the lawfulness of contribution limits and (4) the requirement that money going into and going out of federal campaign be fully disclosed. Another fundamental requirement of campaign finance law is that campaign funds be used for legitimate campaign expenditures and not for personal use. The Cohen pleas on counts 7 and 8 appear to acknowledge his working with candidate Trump to violate federal campaign finance laws by violating two of those pillars (the corporate ban and the contribution limits), which aim to prevent corruption of the American political process.
Asha Rangappa, former FBI agent and senior lecturer, Yale University: It remains to be seen whether or not Michael Cohen has any valuable information to offer to prosecutors that may be able to reduce his sentence for the charges he is now pleading guilty to. Most of the focus has been on the information he could potentially provide to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller in the Russia probe. But a potentially bigger threat to President Trump is what Cohen could provide to the Southern District of New York about potential crimes committed by Trump or members of his family that are unrelated to the Russia probe. Michael Cohen, as Trump’s longtime “fixer” knows where the proverbial bodies are buried when it comes to the Trump Organization and particularly its finances going back many, many years. If Cohen provided information on potentially criminal activities to the Southern District and it opened an investigation into them, it would place the President in a double bind: First, since it would be an investigation separate and apart from the Mueller probe, he wouldn’t be able to argue that the Special Counsel exceeded his mandate or crossed a “red line” — after all, any U.S. Attorney’s office is legally authorized (and duty-bound) to investigate any violations of federal law it learns about. More importantly, such an investigation would be completely insulated from any steps Trump might take to fire Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, or even Attorney General Jeff Sessions (especially since his interim pick to head the Southern District who recused himself from overseeing the Cohen investigation, would undoubtedly recuse himself from any other Trump-related investigation as well). So Trump has much more to fear from Cohen than just what he knows about Russia-related matters.
Christopher Slobogin, law professor, Vanderbilt University: If Cohen pleads guilty to violating campaign finance law by making payments to Daniels, and it can be proven that Trump sought, or encouraged him to make, the payments, Trump would be guilty of conspiring to commit a federal crime. His defense might be that he did not know the payments would violate campaign finance law, but ignorance of the law is typically not an excuse. Whether that type of crime is an impeachable offense, however, is up to Congress.
Ric Simmons, law professor, Ohio State University: The fact that Cohen implicated President Trump in his plea allocation is extremely significant, since it ties Trump directly to illegal campaign activity. Although the plea agreement does not mention cooperation with the special prosecutor’s office, Cohen’s willingness to speak out against Trump now implies he will cooperate with the special counsel moving forward, perhaps in the hopes of obtaining a lower sentence. Also newsworthy is the fact that last week the special master in the case finished her review of the documents seized from Cohen’s office and determined that almost none of the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege. Judge Wood formally adopted that finding on Monday. This means that almost all of these documents will be available to prosecutors investigating the Trump campaign. Given Cohen’s admissions today, these documents from his office may prove to be very valuable to the special prosecutor’s office.
Andrew Wright, law professor, Savannah Law School: If Michael Cohen engaged in federal crimes at the direction of Donald Trump, then Trump will likely be guilty of those crimes on some combination of solicitation, aiding and abetting, and conspiracy. This is not the Mueller investigation, and it is not obstruction of justice inquiry in which the Trump legal team can assert some theory of executive power impossibility for obstruction crimes grounded in his official acts. If Donald Trump conspired with to commit felonies as a candidate, the only thing that might protect him is the question of whether he couldn’t be indicted for the duration of his tenure in office.
Douglas Spencer, law professor, University of Connecticut: While Cohen’s guilty plea has no bearing on the question whether the Mueller investigation was properly instigated, claims that the Mueller investigation is a “witch hunt” will be further undermined as yet another individual connected to the Trump campaign admits that he broke the law. Substantively, while Michael Cohen never held an official position on the campaign team, his guilty plea reportedly says he acted at the direction of a candidate (presumably Donald Trump) with the purpose of influencing the election. President Trump admitted via tweet on May 3 that he reimbursed Cohen for his (now admittedly illegal) payment to Stormy Daniels, so Cohen’s guilty plea will certainly implicate President Trump. The media is reporting that Cohen will not cooperate with Mueller. But he may not have to. Rudy Giuliani drew the dots and Cohen’s admission now arguably connects them.
Victoria Nourse, law professor, Georgetown University: This was a sad day for America, but a spectacular day for the Mueller investigation. Cohen’s New York plea was not handled by Mueller’s office, but it told the same story as the jury verdict obtained by Mueller in the Manafort trial in Virginia. We now know that the president claimed to unearth the swamp, but he hired it. Federal law calls what Cohen and Manafort did by the simple name of fraud — lying when you have a legal obligation to tell the truth. If Cohen is correct that he aided the President in a crime, the President’s only defense is to diminish the seriousness of the violation to the public or insist that Cohen lied. Aiding a crime is a crime in America — if you authorize a murder, even if you authorize your lawyer to commit a murder, you are guilty of a crime, and one would hope so. Attention will now shift from foreign threats to our nation’s electoral system to porn star hush money. As I said, it’s a sad day for America.
Paul Butler, law professor, Georgetown University: There are two ways that convicted felons Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen can avoid spending many years in one of those wretched places. One is to be pardoned by the president of the United States. The second is to deliver up Donald Trump to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Trump said, after the Manafort and Cohen convictions, that he “feels badly” for both. Manafort’s pardon seems virtually a done deal. But Michael Cohen has already implicated Trump as his co-conspirator to violate federal campaign financing laws. Providing more evidence to Mueller would be any lawyer’s recommendation to Cohen, to reduce his time in the pen. But even if Trump pardons Cohen, it would have the same effect as immunizing him, meaning Cohen could be forced to testify about everything Trump has ever done. The president has no good options — Tuesday August 21 marks the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, and possibly his freedom.
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