The Trump resistance plan: A timeline – Russia and President Trump

Investigative reporters have begun to flesh out the Trump/Russia timeline. To keep everything in one location, here’s an updated summary (so far).

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The last installment of the Trump Resistance Plan began with Thomas Paine’s 1776 observation in Common Sense, “Time makes more converts than reason.”

Sometimes it doesn’t take much time at all. Russia interfered with an American presidential election; Congressional Republicans unwilling to convert and seek the truth no longer have anywhere to hide.

Putin’s 2016 ticket

Investigative reporters have begun to flesh out the Trump/Russia timeline. To keep everything in one location, here’s an updated summary (so far):

  • Trump’s efforts to develop business in Russia date to 1987. In 1996, he applied for his trademark in that country. Discussing ambitions for a Trump hotel in 2007, he declared ,”We will be in Moscow at some point.”
  • Oct. 15, 2007, Trump said: “Look at Putin – what he’s doing with Russia – I mean, you know, what’s going on over there. I mean this guy has done – whether you like him or don’t like him – he’s doing a great job.”
  • September 2008, Donald Trump Jr. said: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
  • June 18, 2013, Trump tweeted: “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?” While at the pageant, Trump said, “I have plans for the establishment of business in Russia. Now, I am in talks with several Russian companies to establish this skyscraper.”
  • Nov. 11, 2013, Trump tweeted: “TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next.”
  • November 2013, Trump said: “[Putin’s] done a very brilliant job in terms of what he represents and who he’s represented.”
  • March 6, 2014, Trump said: “You know, I was in Moscow a couple of months ago. I own the Miss Universe Pageant and they treated me so great. Putin even sent me a present, a beautiful present.”
  • Sept. 15, 2015, Trump told Bill O’Reilly: “I will tell you in terms of leadership he [Putin] is getting an ‘A,’ and our president is not doing so well.”
  • Nov. 10, 2015, Trump said: “I got to know [Putin] very well because we were both on 60 Minutes. We were stablemates, and we did very well that night.”
  • Dec. 10, 2015: Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who would become Trump’s national security adviser, sat at Putin’s table for the 10th anniversary gala of Russia’s state-owned television propaganda network, RT. Flynn had made a paid appearance on the network.
  • Feb. 17, 2016: As questions about Russia swirled around Trump, he changed his story: “I have no relationship with [Putin], other than he called me a genius.”
  • April 20, 2016: Paul Manafort became Trump’s campaign manager. Reports surfaced about his 2007 to 2012 ties to Ukraine’s pro-Putin former president, whom Manafort had helped to elect.
  • July 18, 2016: The Washington Post reported that the Trump campaign worked behind the scenes on a Republican Convention platform plank. It gutted the GOP’s longstanding support for Ukrainians’ popular resistance to Russia’s 2014 intervention.
  • July 27, 2016, Trump said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” At the same press conference, he insisted: “I never met Putin. I’ve never spoken to him.”
  • July 31, 2016: Manafort denied knowing anything about the change in the Republican platform. That afternoon, Boris Epshteyn, Trump’s Russian-born adviser, spouted the Kremlin’s party line telling CNN: “Russia did not seize Crimea. We can talk about the conflict that happened between Ukraine and the Crimea… But there was no seizure by Russia. That’s an incorrect statement, characterization, of what happened.”
  • Aug. 6, 2016: NPR confirmed the Trump campaign’s involvement in the Republican platform change on Ukraine.
  • Aug. 19, 2016: As reports of Manafort’s financial connections to Ukraine intensified, he resigned from the Trump campaign.
  • Oct. 1, 2016: Six days before Wikileaks released its first batch of DNC emails that the Russians had hacked, Trump’s informal adviser and surrogate, Roger Stone tweeted: “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.”
  • Oct. 4, 2016: Trump tweeted: “CLINTON’S CLOSE TIES TO PUTIN DESERVE SCRUTINY.”
  • Oct. 12, 2016: Roger Stone told NBC News, “I have back-channel communications with WikiLeaks.”
  • Nov. 9, 2016: After Putin announced Trump’s election victory, Russia’s Parliament erupted in applause.
  • Nov. 10, 2016: Russia’s deputy foreign minister admitted that during the campaign, the Kremlin had continuing communications with Trump’s “immediate entourage.”
  • Dec. 13, 2016: NBC News’ Richard Engel reports from Moscow on Trump’s secretary of state pick, Rex Tillerson. Former Russian Energy Minister Vladimir Milov told Engel that Tillerson was a “gift for Putin.”
  • Dec. 29, 2016: On the same day that President Obama announced Russian sanctions for its interference with the 2016 election, national security adviser-designate Lt. Gen. Flynn placed five phone calls to the Russian ambassador.
  • Dec. 30, 2016: After Putin made a surprise announcement that Russia would not retaliate for the new sanctions, Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart.”
  • Jan. 11, 2017: the final question of Trump’s first news conference came from Ann Compton of ABC News:“Mr. President-elect, can you stand here today, once and for all, and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?”Trump never answered her. Away from cameras and heading toward the elevators, he reportedly said, “No,” his team didn’t have contact with Russia.

The Flynn affair

  • Jan. 13, 2017: In response to The Washington Post’s article about Flynn’s Dec. 29 conversations with the Russian ambassador, press secretary Sean Spicer said it was only one call. They “exchanged logistical information” for an upcoming call between Trump and Vladimir Putin after the inauguration.
  • Jan. 15, 2017: “We should trust Putin,” Trump told The Times of London. Expressing once again his skepticism about NATO, Trump lambasted Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.
  • Jan. 15, 2017: Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, Vice President Pence said Flynn’s call to the Russian ambassador on the same day President Obama announced new sanctions was “strictly coincidental:” “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure on Russia…. What I can confirm, having to spoken with [Flynn] about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.”
  • Jan. 23, 2017: At Sean Spicer’s first press briefing, he said none of Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador touched on the Dec. 29 sanctions. That got the attention of FBI Director James Comey. According to the Wall Street Journal, Comey convinced acting Attorney General Sally Yates to delay informing the White House immediately about the discrepancy between Spicer’s characterization of Flynn’s calls and U.S. intelligence intercepts showing that the two had, in fact, discussed sanctions. Comey asked Yates wait a bit longer so the FBI could to develop more information, including an interview of Flynn that occurred shortly thereafter.
  • Jan. 26, 2017: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had made misleading statements about his late December conversations with the Russian ambassador. Sean Spicer later said Trump and a small group of White House advisers were “immediately informed of the situation.”
  • Feb. 8, 2017: Flynn told reporters at The Washington Post that he did not discuss U.S. sanctions in his December conversation with the Russian ambassador.
  • Feb. 9, 2017: Through a spokesman, Flynn changed his position: “While [Flynn] had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
  • Feb. 10, 2017: Trump told reporters he was unaware of reports surrounding Flynn’s December conversations with the Russian ambassador.
  • Feb. 13, 2017: The Washington Post broke another story: Then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned the White House in late January that Flynn had mischaracterized his December conversation with the Russian ambassador, and that it made him vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Later that evening, Flynn resigned.
  • Feb. 14, 2017: The New York Times corroborated the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister’s admission on Nov. 10. Based on information from four current and former American officials, The Times reported, “Members of the Trump campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior intelligence officials in the year before the election.”

Keep sending the message

In response to the latest controversy surrounding Mike Flynn and Russia, Trump tweeted a Valentine’s Day diversion: “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?”

No, the real story is the question Trump ducked on Jan. 11: What contact did Trump or anyone on his team have with Russia before the U.S. election?

Stay on message. Tell Republicans in Congress that American democracy requires an answer – under oath – to Ann Compton’s Jan. 11, 2017 question: “Mr. President-elect, can you stand here today, once and for all, and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?”

Putin knows the answer. So does the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, who said in November that the Kremlin had maintained continuing communications with Trump’s “immediate entourage” prior to the election. So do any campaign members and other Trump associates who, according to The New York Times, had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”

But the American people don’t, and that asymmetry of information could give Putin the power to blackmail the country’s leaders. On Jan. 7, Sen. Lindsey Graham urged an investigation “wherever it leads.” A few Republicans want the Senate Intelligence Committee to add the Flynn affair in its ongoing inquiry – but they’re offering too little, too late. At this point, a credible investigation requires the approach that Sen. John McCain initially proposed: a bipartisan commission with subpoena power. American democracy can no longer trust Senate Republicans to run this show. Nor can hearings be conducted secretly.

Congress must authorize a special independent 9/11-type commission. Step 2 of The Trump Resistance Plan has contact information and language for messages to Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Call, write, email, march and win.

This is part of a series by Steven Harper. Read the other posts in the series: Trump Resistance Plan.

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Steven Harper blogs at The Belly of the Beast, is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University, and contributes regularly to The American Lawyer. He is the author of several books, including The Lawyer Bubble — A Profession in Crisis and Crossing Hoffa — A Teamster’s Story (a Chicago Tribune “Best Book of the Year”). Follow him on Twitter: @StevenJHarper1.

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