Timeline of “Russiagate” key events

Photo: Seth Anderson. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Photo: Seth Anderson. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

This timeline  of key events was developed as a resource to accompany Brian Becker’s speech and article: “Past a point of no return: “Russiagate” and the reorientation of U.S. imperialism.” We present these facts, not to defend  the Trump administration but to show the weakness of the evidence underlying accusations of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 elections and to undermine attempts at demonizing Russia. Such demonization of “other” nations and their leaders has been part of the lead up to U.S. imperialist wars in recent history; later, accusations have been shown to be false or at the very least, extremely exaggerated. 

Spring 2016: Fusion GPS is hired by the DNC for opposition research on Donald Trump. Previously they had conducted opposition research on Trump on behalf of anti-Trump Republicans. Fusion GPS employs Christopher Steele, former British intelligence agent with previous connections to work in Russia for this task. According to Fusion GPS’s co-owners, Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch, they only tell Steele that he is  “working for a law firm” and they “gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: ‘Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?'” Steele pays people in Russia, perhaps former Russian intelligence agents, for salacious stories about Trump and eventually writes 16 memos of unvetted, unverified opposition research that would be useful for the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign. This is the “Steele Dossier.” 

July 2016: Steele begins negotiations with the FBI under the leadership of James  Comey and starts to provide the FBI with “intelligence” that he’s gathering. The FBI opens up an investigation into Trump’s connections to Russia. In early July,  Crowdstrike, a private security firm in charge of digital security for the Clinton campaign that is owned by very wealthy Russians who oppose Putin, say that the DNC was  hacked by Russia

The FBI requests access to the servers and computers so they can do their own research but the Clinton campaign and Crowdstrike say no, and they’re never subpoenaed. Comey says later in 2017 Congressional testimony it “would have been better” if they could have seen it. But they didn’t demand it and still haven’t seen it to this day.

Wikileaks, which had said they were going to release documents to expose the Clinton Foundation, does so on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. Russia is accused of being behind the hack.

October 2016: On behest of the FBI, Andrew McCabe goes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court  — right before the election –and asks for a warrant to surveil Carter Page, an economist who volunteered his services to the Trump campaign for a while.

McCabe is in charge of the investigation of whether HRC had broken the law by using her State Dept email on a private server; in 2015 McCabe’s wife’s election campaign had received half a million dollars from Terry Mcauliffe, who is a close confidant and advisor of Clinton.

At the FISA Court, McCabe provides the dossier from Christopher Steele, the hired hand of the Clinton campaign. That’s the first basis for the warrant. The second basis is a Yahoo News story saying that the dossier was credible. But it came out later that Steele was the source for that article too, which the FBI already knew. 

Christopher Steele at that time told his story in Mother Jones. And when the FBI reads this, they withdraw an offer to pay Steele to help them in their investigation of Trump. Up to that point, they were going to put him under contract.

Nov. 8, 2016: Trump is elected.

Dec. 22, 2016: Jared Kushner calls Michael Flynn and other senior people in the transition team at Mar-A-Lago about a pending resolution at the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The Israeli government was panicked because for the first time — under the leadership of Obama — the U.S. had decided to abstain rather than use their veto in the Security Council, and they were thus facing UNSC condemnation. Flynn called Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and asked him to either postpone the vote or not allow it to go forward, or for them to vote not on the resolution.

Dec. 28: President Obama called for severe sanctions against Russia, the expulsion of many Russian diplomats and the seizure of Russian compounds. This was seen as a measure to sour relations between U.S, and Russia by the outgoing administration, to prevent any rapprochement.

Dec. 29:  Michael Flynn, after consulting with senior officials, called Kislyak again to convey the message that the Trump government hopes the Russian government will not overreact and rather reciprocate in a measured way, not greater than the strictures imposed by President Obama. Tit-for-tat, not something greater.

Dec. 30: Putin surprises everyone and says there will be no retaliation at all, and invites the children of American diplomats to come celebrate the New Years with them. The U.S. media condemns this, and says this is proof that they’re working with Trump.

Early January 2017: Comey meets with Trump at Trump Tower alongside senior intelligence officials as the normal transition discussion. Others in the meetings were Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. At the end of the meeting Comey speaks privately to Trump and tells him about the Steele dossier of unverified, salacious details. Although Comey cleared the room to tell Trump about the dossier he didn’t tell Trump at that time that the same dossier was the foundation for the FBI request for the FISA warrant against Carter Page back in October 2016. Trump asks Comey, “but you [the FBI] are not investigating me? And Comey said, “No we’re not.” 

That’s what made Trump so angry later, that Comey would not come out and say this in public.

Jan. 20, 2017: Trump is inaugurated.

Flynn becomes National Security Advisor. Shortly afterwards he agrees to an interview with the FBI and they ask him about the Dec. 22 and Dec. 29 calls.

They know exactly what had been said because the NSA monitors all communications with Russian diplomats in the US; and the CIA and FBI are derivative agencies that get all their information from them. (In the first call, Flynn, just to recall, had called on behalf of Israel, and Russia had rejected his appeal. And the second call concerned possible Russian retaliation for the Obama adminstration’s anti-Russia moves.)

Because Flynn did not tell the full truth about those calls, either by omission or commission, Comey knows he has caught Flynn in a lie.

January 2017:  Report issued asserting that 17 intelligence agencies all agreed that Russia had hacked the DNC and tried to hack the elections. But in fact six months later, they announced that it was actually only 4 agencies that were “moderately confident” in this assessment.

March 2017: Comey testifies in Congress, and when asked, said the Russian interference had no impact on the election’s outcome — making the Democrats angry. They were already angry at him because he had announced the reopening of the investigation into Clinton’s email servers just 11 days before the election. And Clinton said that the FBI had cast a cloud over the election and that’s why she lost. At that time the Democrats were at his throat. But Trump wanted to get rid of Comey anyway because he felt he stole the limelight, was not “his guy” and wouldn’t say in public what he had said in private, that the FBI was not investigating Trump personally.

May 2017: Trump fires Comey. Media calls it obstruction of justice, a way to stop the investigation. The next day’s headline in the Washington Post said “Comey had requested additional funds for the investigation” — which turned out to be false and they later retracted –after it made an impact.

May 2017: Robert Mueller is appointed as the Special Investigator because Jeff Sessions had already recused himself from the investigation because he too had been scrutinized for not reporting a meeting he had with a Russian diplomat, even though this was part of routine activity as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Who is Mueller? As Director of the FBI, he had rounded up thousands of Muslims and Arabs after 9/11.

October 2017: George Papadapalous is  indicted for false statements to the FBI. These are called throwaway charges. If you meet with them, and you leave anything out, or they trip you up, or know what you’ve said already, they then get you on perjury charges.

Paul Manafort is also indicted for tax evasion in October 2017, laundering money, and not registering as a foreign agent related to his activities in the Ukraine and the then president Viktor Yanukovych from 2010 to 2014.

These indictments make it look like the investigation is going somewhere but there’s really very little there.

Oct. 2017: Members of Congress and the media condemn Facebook and Twitter executives for “not doing enough” to stop Russian interference because both companies said there was little to no zero Russian influence on the election. But after they were attacked for asserting that position, they went back and provided Congress and the media with a new storyline that validated it. They said a private Russian company did have an outsized influence. They said as many as 50 million people could have been influenced by duplicitous ads on Facebook. Twitter said they would suspend Sputnik from taking out any ads. Both companies, in other words, climbed on board. Here are some facts that are important:

Facebook and Congress assert that $100,000 in ads were purchased by this Russian company starting in 2015–well before the election. Some 56 percent of the ads were published after the 2016 election. Another 25 percent of the ads were never seen by anyone. 

To put this $100,000 in perspective — 56 percent of which came after the election — Clinton and Trump spent $81 million on social media advertising, including Facebook and Twitter. During the campaign, Trump received as much as $5 billion in free media advertising when CNN, CBS, and the other networks focused on everything he did that year.

Finally, according to the Congressional probes, the way the Russian company was interfering was by promoting events and activities that were “controversial” including Black Lives Matter, gun rights, abortion rights, etc.

Even though Twitter announced Sputnik would be  suspended from taking ads, Sputnik has never taken out an ad, and never asked to take out an ad. Twitter had offered RT, at the beginning of 2016, a very large package where they would embed their employees in RT to expand RT’s reach during the 2016 campaign, — which they did with many media outlets during the election cycle — but RT rejected the offer and said it was too expensive. 

December 2017: Mueller indicts Flynn for lying in meeting with the FBI.

February 2018: Indictment of the employees of the Russian-based Internet Research Agency. These indictments won’t ever be tested because the individuals won’t be arrested and tried. So the indictments were published really as a political intervention by Mueller — as the most he had been able to dig up over a year — and it is based on the tenuous position, that many in Congress openly say, that “everything that happens in Russia goes through the Kremlin.”

March 4, 2018: Skripal incident in London-Former Russian military intelligence officer and naturalised British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury, England. In the 1990s, Sergei Skripal was an officer for Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate(GRU) and worked as a double agent for the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service from 1995 until his arrest in Moscow in December 2004. He was convicted of high treason and sentenced to 13 years in a penal colony by a Russian court in 2006.

March 14, 2018: British government’s official response–top officials accuse the Russian Federation of attempted murder and announce punitive measures against Russia, including the expulsion of numerous Russian diplomats the British accused of being intelligence agents. The UK receives support from the United States and other allies; Russia denies any involvement in the poisoning. 

The European Union, NATO, and many individual countries also take punitive measures against Russia.

March 26 2018: United States ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomatic officers and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle. On the same day, a further 33 Russian diplomats were expelled from another 21 countries in a coordinated diplomatic response.

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