Mueller Timeline: What's happened in the 'Russia Probe'


Help bring evidence-based reporting to Special Counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation. Use EDIT STORY to add context, and other key events. 

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Former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed in May 2017 as special counsel, an independent role, to investigate any connections between Donald J. Trump and the Russian government. The decision came after Trump fired FBI director James Comey, which Trump admitted in an NBCNews interview was partly because of the Russian investigation. 

According to multiple media reports, Mueller met with U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyers in March 2018 and raised the possibility of issuing a subpoena for Trump if he declined to talk to investigators in the Russia probe. During the meeting in March, Trump’s lawyers said their client had no obligation to answer questions by federal investigators in relation to the Russia inquiry, according to the Washington Post, which cited four people familiar with the encounter.

On May 9, the New York Times reported that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, used the shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., to receive payments of more than US$1 million from a financial firm closely linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Vekselberg is the chairman of asset manager Renova Group, who has since been placed under U.S. sanction by the Trump administration.

 

The WikiTribune community is tracking key events in Mueller’s “Russia Probe.”

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George Papadopoulos

What happened 

Former Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying to the FBI when asked about his meeting with Kremlin-connected officials (NPR) . The special counsel claims that Papadopoulos misrepresented “the timing, extent, and nature of his relationships and interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials.” (The indictment).

George Papadopoulos at Alexandria, Virginia, detention center early on July 28, after he was arrested by the FBI Source: FBI.

Connection to Russia

March 6, 2016. Soon after Papadopoulos joined the campaign, an unnamed campaign official told him that improved relations with Russia was a key foreign policy objective of a Trump presidency.

April 26, 2016. The charges claim that while on the campaign, Papadopoulos met with a female Russian national, whom the New York Times identified as Olga Polonskaya, and an overseas professor. The professor claimed to know Russians who possessed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails, according to the indictment. The meeting took place while he was a campaign adviser, and Papadopoulos knew the professor had substantial connections to Russian government officials. Papadopoulos lied to FBI agents about the meeting and who the people were. Thus the federal charges for perjury.

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Michael Flynn

What Happened

Dec. 1, 2017. Former U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Retired U.S. Army lieutenant general Michael Flynn at a campaign rally for Donald Trump at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (2016) Source: Gage Skidmore via Wikicommons

Connection with Russia

December 26, 2016. During the transition period between the Obama and Trump administrations, Flynn coordinated activities with the Russian government around sanctions and a UN resolution concerning Israeli settlements. The indictment claims Flynn asked the Kremlin to not retaliate after the Obama administration imposed new sanctions on Russia over allegations of interfering in the 2016 election. The Kremlin did not retaliate, and Kislyak told Flynn they did not do so at his request.

Flynn also acted as the middleman between Trump’s transition team and Kislyak and other ambassadors over a UN resolution that condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank of Palestine. Flynn’s efforts were unsuccessful, and the resolution passed, but he pled guilty to lying to the FBI about it (Foreign Policy).

The Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn also lobbied for a U.S.-Russian nuclear program while acting as national security advisor to the president.

Paul Manafort and Rick Gates

What Happened 

Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign manager, and Rick Gates, a former campaign aide, were charged in October 2017 with 12 crimes, which included money laundering. Then the two former campaign players faced another set of fraud-related charges in January 2018. 

Connection to Russia 

The criminal charges mostly concern their lobbying work on behalf of a foreign government. Manafort and Gates allegedly transferred $75 million earned from their advisory work for the Party of Regions, a Russian-backed political party in Ukraine. 

(Read more about the first and second round of charges for Manafort and Gates.)

Politico reported that Trump did not know about Manafort’s ties with the Party of Regions, and wanted to fire him once the New York Times reported a $12.7 million in salary from the Ukrainian party. On May 5, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III questioned whether Mueller exceeded his authority in filing tax and bank fraud charges against Manafort. Ellis said the indictment appeared to be a way for Mueller to leverage Manafort into providing information about Trump.

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Internet Research Agency: social media as a weapon

What happened 

February 16, 2018. Charges were brought against 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian organizations for spending money to influence the 2016 election with the goal of sowing discord within the U.S. electorate.

Connection to Russia

The charges were the special counsel’s first against Russians. The charges detail a concerted effort to use social media to foment partisan anger over divisive issues, such as gun control and immigration.

(Read more, add more about Russian social media accounts that are involved in U.S. politics.) 

The focus of the charges is the Internet Research Agency LLC, which is described as an organization with hundreds of employees dedicated to using fraudulent social media accounts.

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Alexander van der Zwaan

What happened

April 3 2018. Alexander van der Zwaan was sentenced to 30 days in prison for lying to  Mueller’s investigators about his relationship with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The Dutch lawyer is a minor player in Mueller’s investigation, but was the first person to face prison time.

Connection to Russia

Van der Zwaan’s connection is with Ukraine specifically, and it begins with two of his former clients Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. Manafort and Gates were political consultants with the Party of Regions, a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian political party. The two lobbyists  contracted the New York based law firm Skadden Arps to draft a report justifying the detention of Yulia Tymosehnko, an opposition leader who advocated for stronger ties with the European Union. As a lawyer with Skadden Arps, Van der Zwaan helped draft this letter and communicated with Rick Gates in doing so. Van der Zwaan misrepresented his relationship with Gates, and another unnamed person, when questioned by the special counsel (Vox). 

 

Michael Cohen

What happened

April 9 2018. FBI agents raided the office of Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer. No charges have been presented.

Connection to Russia

Initially The New York Times reported that the raid did not seem to be directly linked to the special counsel’s Russian probe. Rather the focus seemed to be on payments made to Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic actress known as Stormy Daniels. However, the federal prosecutors received a search warrant based on a referral from Mueller, according to Cohen’s lawyer. The New York Times sources speculated that Mueller’s investigation may have produced evidence relating to Clifford, which he then turned over to his FBI colleagues.

However, on May 9, 2018, The New York Times updated their story to claim that Cohen used the shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., to receive payments of more than $1 million from a financial firm closely linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Vekselberg is the chairman of asset manager Renova Group, who has since been placed under U.S. sanctions by the Trump administration.

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