Episode 12: Russia Investigation Part 1 - From the Trump Tower Meeting and DNC Hack to the Election of Donald Trump

In the first part of their series on the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, Dylan and Brent look into the events between the hack itself and the election of Donald Trump. Put on your ostrich suit and your alligator pants because the road to Moscow is a doozy!

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The (Attempted) Papadopoulos Meeting

It’s May 26, 2016, Donald Trump clinches the GOP nomination for President. However, there is another important date to note exactly 30 days prior on April 26, 2016. George Papadopoulos, a member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory panel during the 2016 presidential campaign, was informed by Professor Mifsud from London with ties to the Russian government that Russians had thousands of emails that would be very damaging for democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. 

According to court documents, Papadopoulos lied and said the professor was “a nothing” and “just a guy talk[ing] up connections or something.”

June 1, 2016

Papadopoulos sends out an email to a High-Ranking [Trump] Campaign Official as well as the Campaign Supervisor regarding a Trump meeting with Russian officials.

June 19 2016

Papadopoulos writes a high-ranking Trump campaign official that the Russians would meet with him, off the record, in place of Trump, if Trump isn’t an option.

August 15, 2016

Sam Clovis, Trump’s national campaign co-chairman, encourages Papadopoulos’ to attend an “off record” trip to Russia “if feasible”. 

Between June and August 15, 2016,

Papadopoulos was in contact with a Russian MFA contact, trying to coordinate some kind of meeting in Russia between them and the Trump campaign.

September 16, 2016

Papadopoulos in London with an FBI informant who had hired him as an academic consultant and was checking on any relationship the Trump campaign had with Russia.

The Trump Tower Meeting

Luckily Donald Trump Jr. was more successful.

June 3, 2016

Rob Goldstone, a “British-born former tabloid reporter and entertainment publicist”, emailed Donald Trump Jr. on behalf of Emin Agalarov, one of Russia’s biggest pop stars. Goldstone tells DT Jr that Emin has incriminating information on Clinton. DT Jr. states that he would meet with Russian officials and says, “I love it” to their mention of damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

June 9, 2016

Natalie V. Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer met with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower to talk about what an intercessor promised to be incriminating dirt on Hillary Clinton. Also, at this meeting was Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort as well as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. During this meeting Ms. Veselnitskaya showed disdain for America’s sanctions on Russia. 

While that was going on…

June 7, 2016

GOP Candidate Donald Trump announces that he will give a “major speech” within a few days regarding things that have happened with the Clintons. 

June of 2016

A bogus website which mimicked a Democratic Congressional Committee fundraising site is used to steal donor information.This is also the month in which Fake accounts out of Russia begin popping up ads on Facebook. Over the next 2 years over 3,000 of these ads will be created.

June 10, 2016

Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov delivers an “expensive painting” to Trump for his birthday. Trump writes an affectionate thank you note. He said in response to the gift,

I’m rarely at a loss for words, but right now I can only say how much I appreciate your friendship and to thank you for this fantastic gift. This is one birthday that I will always remember.

The DNC Hack

June 14, 2016

The cybersecurity firm by the name of Crowdstrike, hired by the DNC, announced that it expelled two Russian hacker groups by the names of Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear. 

These two Russian hacking groups penetrated the DNC’s systems gaining access to thousands of confidential documents and emails. CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch writes that,

both adversaries engage in extensive political and economic espionage for the benefit of the government of the Russian Federation and are believed to be closely linked to the Russian government’s powerful and highly capable intelligence services.

June 15, 2016

Guccifer 2.0 claims responsibility for hacking the DNC. They release a few documents which include the Democratic Party’s 200-page opposition research document on Trump. Guccifer 2.0 states on a blog post, “The main part of the papers, thousands of files and mails, I gave to Wikileaks. They will publish them soon.” The U.S. intelligence agencies would later explain that Guccifer 2.0 is the “persona” which is used by Russian military intelligence to leak hacked documents and emails to various media outlets and WikiLeaks. 

Trump accuses the DNC themselves of being behind the cyberattack on the DNC saying, "We believe it was the DNC that did the 'hacking' as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader. Too bad the DNC doesn't hack Hillary Clinton's 33,000 missing emails."

June 21, 2016

Guccifer 2.0 leaks the DNC hacked documents about Hillary Clinton. This same day Trump fires his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and gives the job to Paul Manafort.

July 22, 2016

WikiLeaks releases 20,000 DNC emails. According to its website WikiLeaks would eventually release more than 44,000 emails with 17,000 attachments.

July 24, 2016

Donald Trump Jr. disputes the claims made by Democrats that Russia was behind the hacking. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz resigns.

July 27, 2016

Trump says at a press conference that he has “never spoken” to Putin. In 2013 Trump stated, “I have a relationship” with Putin. Trump states he doubts that Russia was responsible for the DNC hack and also says, “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” Later he said that he was just being “sarcastic”. Also, on or around this same day Russian military intelligence officers begin to target email addresses that are associated with Hillary Clinton’s personal campaign offices.

July 29, 2016

the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announces that its computer network has also been hacked. A number of its House congressional candidates were the targets of stolen emails in which Guccifer 2.0 released.

August 8, 2016

Another informal advisor and long-time friend of Trump, Roger Stone states during a speech to the Southwest Broward Republican Organization that he had “communicated with Assange,” (That being Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks). He goes on to say, “I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation but there’s no telling what the October surprise may be.”

August 12, 2016

Numbers from cell phones, personal information, and other documents from democratic members of congress are released by hackers. Guccifer 2.0 thanks Roger Stone and says to Stone via Twitter, “please tell me if I can help u anyhow”.

September 8, 2016

Trump says in an interview with Russian government run cable channel RT that it was “probably unlikely” Putin was behind the hacks. Rather Trump stated, “ I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out. Who knows, but I think it’s pretty unlikely.” Later on at the Commander-in-Chief Forum Trump states that Putin has been “a leader far more” than President Barack Obama. 

The Steele Dossier

June 20, 2016

A former British intelligence officer named Christopher Steele files his first of 16 memos on Trump’s connections with Russia. According to FactCheck.org,

Fusion GPS, a research firm founded by former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch, hired Steele as part of an opposition research project paid for by a law firm representing Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

October 19, 2016

Christopher Steele writes in his dossier that an insider in the Kremlin told him, “The importance of Trump lawyer Cohen in the ongoing secret liaison with the Kremlin.” and that Cohen’s role in this had also increased. Steele also wrote in his dossier that a Kremlin insider told him that Manafort led efforts in a secret Trump campaign relationship with Russians until he was ousted. 

While that was going on…

June 23, 2016

According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump campaign signs a contract with Cambridge Analytica.

June 24, 2016

Trump gives a campaign speech in New York City that focused on criticism of Hillary Clinton. This could be what Trump was signaling on June 7th, or possibly the DNC leaks. It is not known currently. 

July 5 2016

The NYT reports, that “The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey recommended no criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information while she was secretary of state.” This investigation is the context for Trump’s earlier statements about the 33,000 missing Hillary Clinton emails. 

Manafort Shenanigans

July 7, 2016

Paul Manafort extends an offer to give “private briefings” to a Russian aluminum billionaire by the name of Oleg Deripaska in regards to the 2016 U.S presidential campaign. The Washington Post broke this story, but there is no evidence thus far that the meeting took place. Manafort’s attorney explained that his client was merely offering a “routine” status update on the presidential campaign.

August 6, 2016

On or around this date Paul Manafort meets for a second time with a former Ukraine associate and Konstant n Kilimnik, a Russian army veteran.

August 9, 2016

According to PBS, around this time in August Paul Manafort and his daughter receive text messages from a person posing as a contact, showing that their phones had been hacked and implying a blackmail attempt with unspecified Ukrainian information. 

August 14, 2016

the NTY publishes that Paul Manafort’s name showed up on a secret ledger which marked millions of dollars in payments from a pro-Russian party in Ukraine. Manafort’s lawyer Richard A. Hibey tells the New York Times that his client had not received “any such cash payments.” 

August 19, 2016

Manafort steps down as Trump campaign manager. 

Carter Page Hootenanny

A little history on Carter Page

According to Time In 2013 Page wrote,

Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda.” However, in 2018 Page states, “I sat in on some meetings, but to call me an advisor is way over the top.

Also in 2013 Russian intelligence officers, one by the name of Igor Sporyshev, tried to recruit Page and described him as enthusiastic about doing business in Russia. The FBI secretly recorded this meeting and in the transcript Sporyshev said Page was interested in striking a deal with Gazprom, the Russian state-run oil firm, and that Page was “enthusiastic” but that he was also an “idiot”.

July 8, 2016

Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page speaks at the commencement ceremony of the New Economic School in Moscow. In the speech Page was critical of U.S. policy towards Russia.

July 15, 2016

An FBI informant meets Carter Page at a conference. According to a Washington Post article from May 18th,

The source in question [the undercover FBI agent] engaged in a months-long pattern of seeking out and meeting three different Trump campaign officials… Page had been on the FBI’s radar since at least 2013, when the FBI caught two accused Russian spies on a wiretap discussing their attempts to recruit him. Later in 2016, Page became a surveillance target of the FBI, which suspected him of acting on behalf of the Russian government — an assertion he denies. Page has accused the government of abusing its authority by unfairly targeting him.

August 5, 2016

Trump campaign states that Carter Page is an informal advisor.

September 24, 2016

Trump says Page made “no contribution to the campaign”.

September 25, 2016

Page writes to the FBI saying that he didn’t meet with any “sanctioned” Russians.

September 26, 2016

Carter Page leaves Trump campaign.

October 21, 2016

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court approved FBI monitoring communications of a member of Trump’s foreign policy team, Carter Page.

Jeff Sessions Recuses The Whole Thing Off

July 20, 2016

Jeff Sessions delivers a speech at “Global Partners in Diplomacy”, which is an event held during the RNC in Cleveland Ohio. Sessions has what he described as a “brief encounter” with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. Carter Page and other Trump campaign advisors meet with Kislyak.

While that was going on…

July 11, 2016

Trump campaign helps to soften the GOP platform language regarding Ukraine/Russia

July 15, 2016

Trump chooses Mike Pence as VP.

The Flynn Effect, But Dumber

July 15, 2016

Michael Flynn sends out an email (the name of the recipient is not currently known) that says,

“There are a number of things happening (and will happen) this election via cyber operations (by both hacktivists, nation states and the DNC).” 

August 9, 2016

Michael Flynn signs $600,000 contract to lobby for firm that is tied to Turkish government.

The Deep State Intervenes

July 25, 2016

FBI begins the investigation of the DNC hack. In a tweet, Trump states,

“The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me.”

July 26, 2016

US Intel: High confidence of russian involvement in hacking of DNC.

July 31, 2016

FBI opens counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia after receiving confirmation that Papadopoulos knew that Russians attained “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”. Trump states that Crimea prefers Russia. The NYT puts out a report on Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort and his “business dealings with prominent Ukrainian and Russian tycoons.”

August 27, 2016

Senate Dem. Leader Harry Reid urges FBI to investigate probable Russian election meddling.

September 5, 2016

President Obama tells Putin to stop hacking.

While that was going on…

October 11, 2016

Obama administration warns Putin to stop hacking, again.

August 21, 2016

Roger Stone tweets, “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel.” This is in reference to Clinton’s campaign chairman. Stone later claimed that he was referring to Podesta’s business ties with Russia would soon be exposed. 

A (Michael) Cohen Brothers Movie

August 27, 2016

According to McClatchy, there is evidence Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen went to Prague via Germany around this time. The Steele dossier states that this was to secretly meet with Russians. Cohen has repeatedly insisted that he was never in Prague. 

More on Donald Trump Jr.

September 20, 2016

Donald Trump Jr. receives private direct messages from the official WikiLeaks Twitter account stating, “A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch. The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq War PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?” Trump Jr. responds a day later with, “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around.” I would have went with the password “Ivanka” but that would have been my second guess. Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks corresponded from Sept. 20, 2016 - July 11, 2017. The U.S. intelligence community has said that this contact was used by Russia as part of its influence campaign to help elect Trump. 

The 1st Debate and Beyond

September 26, 2016

During the first presidential debate Trump says,

I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s [Clinton] saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t - maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 4,000 pounds, OK?

The Pearly Gates to the GRU

Around the end of September, early October

Rick Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman and Manafort’s former business associate, is in direct contact with a “former Russian Intelligence Officer” who had ties to the Russian military intelligence agency, GRU. According to factcheck.org, “This information was contained in a court document dated March 27, 2018. The Russian contact was identified in court papers only as “Person A,” but the NTY reported he is ‘Konstantin V. Kilimnik.” We mentioned this man earlier as Manafort’s business associate in Ukraine and Russian military veteran. 

Stonewalled on Wikileaks

October 1, 2016

Roger Stone tweets,

“Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.” 

October 3, 2016

Roger Stone indicates more is coming from WikiLeaks and also tweets, “I have total confidence that wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp.” Trump Jr. also writes to WikiLeaks on Twitter, “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?” WikiLeaks doesn’t respond, at least not on Twitter.

Access to Lechery

October 7, 2016

Access Hollywood tape from September 2005 in which Trump was speaking to Billy Bush and says,

Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

An Hour Later

WikiLeaks posts Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails. Factcheck.org states,

The Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issue a joint statement saying that the U.S. intelligence community is “confident” that hacks into the email systems of the Democratic Party and its officials were directed by the Russian government.

2nd Presidential Debate

October 9, 2016

At the second presidential debate Hillary Clinton states, that “our intelligence community just came out and said in the last few days that the Kremlin, meaning Putin and the Russian government, are directing the attacks … to influence our election.” Trump responds: “I notice any time anything wrong happens they like to say, the Russians, the Russians — she doesn’t know it’s the Russians doing the hacking, maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia.” Trump also denies again that he knows Putin.

Wikileaks Redux

October 10, 2016

Trump says at a rally in WIlkes-Barre, PA,  “This just came out. WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks”.

October 11, 2016

Trump tweets,

I hope people are looking at the disgraceful behavior of Hillary Clinton as exposed by WikiLeaks. She is unfit to run.

October 12, 2016

Roger Stone claims he has backchannel to WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. In a direct message to Donald Trump Jr. via Twitter, WikiLeaks says,

Hey Donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us wlsearch.tk. i.e you guys can get all your followers digging through the content. There’s many great stories the press are missing and we’re sure some of your follows will find it.

October 13, 2016

RT foreshadows Podesta email leak. According to the Moscow Project,

WikiLeaks continued to post leaked Podesta emails throughout October 2016; in a concerning twist of events, Russian news outlet RT seemed to know about these leaks before they happened. On both October 13 and October 22, 2016, RT tweeted about a new batch of Podesta emails 30 minutes before WikiLeaks announced their release.

October 14, 2016

VP candidate Mike Pence states that the Trump campaign is not in cahoots with WikiLeaks.

3rd Presidential Debate

October 19, 2016

At the third and final presidential debate Trump refuses again to accept the U.S. intelligence community’s claim that Russia was behind stealing emails from the DNC. Trump said,

She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else.

Back When We Hated James Comey

October 28, 2016

FBI director James Comey reopens Clinton email investigation. 

October 30, 2016

Senate Dem. Leader Harry Reid sends a letter to the FBI criticizing FBI Director James Comey and his failure to disclose that his office possessed…

…explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his advisors, and the Russian government.

October 31, 2016

The Obama White House red phones another warning to Russia. Trump praises Comey for reopening the Hillary Clinton email investigation. 

November 6, 2016

Comey closes investigation into Clinton email investigation again.

November 8, 2016: Trump wins presidential election.

Sources

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