What Happened, According to Mueller

The Wall Street Journal

                       RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

What Happened, According to Mueller


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has told its story of an aggressive Russian campaign to upend the 2016 U.S. presidential election in a series of indictments and court documents.

Even before the release of any final report on his investigation, those documents detailed allegations of a highly coordinated Russian effort and outlined Moscow’s intersection with several figures in then-candidate Donald Trump’s orbit. Moscow has denied interference, and Mr. Trump has denied any collusion with Russia. The special counsel didn’t establish that anyone associated with the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts, Attorney General William Barr told Congress.

Here is a timeline of alleged events, according to documents from the Mueller probe:



May 2014

With funding from Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, a Russian businessman and restaurateur popular with the Kremlin, Russian intelligence operatives begin “Project Lakhta,” an effort to promote divisive political messages online targeting the U.S. electorate. (Mr. Prigozhin, who has been indicted, hasn’t entered a plea. He has previously denied ties to the effort.)


Russians with Project Lakhta begin spending thousands of dollars a month to buy ads on social-media sites promoting group pages they have set up on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. The pages address issues such as immigration, race and religion. Many grew to have hundreds of thousands of followers.

June 16, 2015

Donald Trump declares his candidacy for president.


Russians with Project Lakhta use stolen Social-Security numbers to open PayPal accounts, obtain false identification and post on social-media accounts using the victims’ identities.

Jan. 14, 2016

Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, emails Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top press official asking for help with efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. (Mr. Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about efforts during the campaign to pursue the Moscow project.)

Jan. 16, 2016

Mr. Cohen again emails the press secretary’s office.

Jan. 20, 2016

Mr. Cohen speaks by phone to the press secretary’s assistant, outlining the proposed project and asking for help to move forward.

Jan. 21, 2016

Felix Sater, a Trump associate who worked on the Russian real-estate project, asks Mr. Cohen to call him and says, “It’s about [Putin,] they called today.” (Mr. Sater hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing. He didn’t respond to requests for comment.)

Feb. 10, 2016

Russians with Project Lakhta circulate a list of themes for content to post on social-media accounts they have set up. Instructions include “use any opportunity to criticize [Democratic candidate] Hillary [Clinton] and the rest (except [Democratic candidate Bernie] Sanders and Trump–we support them).”

March 6, 2016

George Papadopoulos, joining the Trump campaign as a foreign-policy adviser, talks to a “campaign supervisor” and recognizes “that a principal foreign policy focus of the Campaign was an improved U.S. relationship with Russia.”

March 14, 2016

Mr. Papadopoulos meets in Italy with an “overseas professor” (identified by Mr. Papadopoulos as Joseph Mifsud) whom Mr. Papadopoulos “understood to have substantial connections to Russian government officials.” (Mr. Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with Mr. Mifsud. Mr. Mifsud hasn’t been charged and has denied any wrongdoing.)

March 19, 2016

Russian hackers send spear-phishing email to John Podesta, the chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, with fake security instructions. Hackers succeed in stealing more than 50,000 of his emails.

March 24, 2016

Mr. Papadopoulos meets with Mr. Mifsud and a Russian woman introduced as a relative of Mr. Putin, although Mr. Papadopoulos later learns she isn’t. Mr. Papadopoulos then emails the campaign supervisor (identified by The Wall Street Journal as Sam Clovis) that he has just met with his “good friend” the professor, who introduced him to “Putin’s niece,” and that they discussed arranging “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.” Mr. Clovis responds that he would “work it through the campaign” but that no commitments should be made. (Mr. Clovis hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing. His lawyer has said his responses to Mr. Papadopoulos were expressions of courtesy.)

March 31, 2016

At a meeting with Mr. Trump and campaign foreign-policy advisers, Mr. Papadopoulos says he has the connections to arrange a Trump-Putin meeting.

March-April 2016

Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, false online personas set up by Russians, use overlapping computer infrastructure and financing to tap the same pool of bitcoin funds to purchase a VPN account and lease a server in Malaysia. The same server is used to register malicious domains used to hack Democratic organizations.

April 6, 2016

Russians with Project Lakhta start posting online ads advocating for the election of Mr. Trump or opposing Mrs. Clinton. For example, an ad posted April 6 says, “You know, a great number of black people support us saying that #HillaryClintonIsNotMyPresident.” Similar ads are posted through November.

April 10, 2016

Mr. Papadopoulos emails “Putin’s niece” about arranging a meeting between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

April 11, 2016

“Putin’s niece” writes back saying she “would be very pleased to support your initiatives between our two countries.” Mr. Papadopoulos responds to ask about setting up “a potential foreign-policy trip to Russia.” “Putin’s niece” says, “I have already alerted my personal links to our conversation and your request. … As mentioned we are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump. The Russian Federation would love to welcome him once his candidature would be officially announced.”

April 15, 2016

After gaining access to a computer at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, hackers search for terms such as “hillary,” “cruz” and “trump,” and copy folders including “Benghazi Investigations.”

April 18, 2016

Mr. Mifsud introduces Mr. Papadopoulos to “an individual in Moscow” who tells Mr. Papadopoulos he has connections to Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Late April 2016

Mr. Papadopoulos and the Russian MFA connection have “multiple conversations over Skype and email about setting ‘the groundwork’ for a ‘potential’ meeting.”

April 22, 2016

The Russian MFA connection emails Mr. Papadopoulos thanking him “for an extensive talk” and proposing “to meet in London or in Moscow.”

April 25, 2016

Mr. Papadopoulos emails the senior Trump policy adviser: “The Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready.”

April 26, 2016

Mr. Mifsud tells Mr. Papadopoulos at a London hotel breakfast that the Russians have “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” Mr. Papadopoulos understands that the professor has just met with Russian officials in Moscow.

April 27, 2016

Mr. Papadopoulos emails the senior Trump policy adviser: “Have some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.” He also emails a high-ranking campaign official “to discuss Russia’s interest in hosting Mr. Trump.”

May 4, 2016

The Russian MFA connection emails Mr. Papadopoulos and the professor, saying “I have just talked to my colleagues from the MFA. The[y] are open for cooperation. One of the options is to make a meeting for you at the North America Desk, if you are in Moscow.” Mr. Papadopoulos forwards the email to “a high-ranking campaign official,” asking, “Is this something we want to move forward with?”

May 4, 2016

Mr. Sater writes to Mr. Cohen about a possible trip by Mr. Trump to Moscow to discuss the Trump Tower project: “I had a chat with Moscow. ASSUMING the trip does happen the question is before or after the convention.”

May 5, 2016

Mr. Sater writes to Mr. Cohen that a Russian official wants to invite Mr. Cohen to Russia in June, and possibly introduce him to Mr. Putin. Over an unspecified period of time, Mr. Cohen discusses the status of the project with Mr. Trump on more than three occasions, and briefs Trump family members.

May 13, 2016

Mr. Mifsud emails Mr. Papadopoulos with an update, saying, “We will continue to liaise through you with the Russia counterparts in terms of what is needed for a high level meeting of Mr. Trump with the Russian Federation.”

May 14, 2016

Mr. Papadopoulos emails the high-ranking campaign official to say the “Russian government…relayed to me that they are interested in hosting Mr. Trump.”

June 2016

Russians working with Project Lakhta, posing as Americans, begin communicating with an American activist in Texas who advises they focus their activities on “purple states like Colorado, Virginia & Florida.” The Russians thereafter commonly refer to targeting purple states.

June 2016

Russians begin staging and releasing tens of thousands of stolen emails and documents using fictitious online personas, including DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0

June-July 2016

Around this time, Roger Stone, an informal political adviser to Mr. Trump, tells “senior Trump Campaign officials” that WikiLeaks has documents damaging to Mrs. Clinton. (Mr. Stone has been charged with lying to Congress about his efforts to obtain information on WikiLeaks’ plans. He has denied wrongdoing and says he never had advance knowledge of the organization’s plans.)

June 14, 2016

Mr. Cohen tells Mr. Sater he won’t be travelling to Russia at that time.

June 14, 2016

The Democratic National Committee announces its computer systems have been breached by hackers linked to the Russian government.

June 19, 2016

Mr. Papadopoulos emails the high-ranking campaign official about a “New message from Russia,” saying if Mr. Trump is unable to make it to Russia, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs asks if a campaign rep–“me or someone else”–can go instead.

June 22, 2016

WikiLeaks sends a private message to Guccifer 2.0, asking Guccifer 2.0 to send “any new material [stolen from the DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.” (WikiLeaks has denied Russian involvement in its release of Democratic materials during the election.)

June 25, 2016

Russians with Project Lakhta, through social-media accounts including “Being Patriotic” and @March_for_Trump, host a rally in New York called “March for Trump.” Through the summer they organize other rallies, such as “Support Hillary. Save American Muslims,” “Down with Hillary,” and “Florida Goes Trump.”

July 14, 2016

Guccifer 2.0 sends WikiLeaks an encrypted file that it says contains instructions on how to access an online archive of stolen DNC documents. WikiLeaks confirms receipt four days later and says it will start releasing documents “this week.”

July 18-21, 2016

Republican convention formally nominates Donald Trump as the party’s candidate for president.

July 22, 2016

WikiLeaks releases documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

July 22, 2016

After WikiLeaks releases the DNC documents, a “senior Trump Campaign official” is directed to contact Mr. Stone about additional releases. Mr. Stone then tells the Trump campaign about potential future damaging releases.

July 25, 2016

Mr. Stone emails Jerome Corsi, an author and conspiracy theorist: “Get to [WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange]” and “get the pending [Wikileaks] emails…they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” (Mr. Corsi hasn’t been charged. He says he rejected a plea deal and never intentionally lied to prosecutors. WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange have said they never communicated with Mr. Stone.)

July 27, 2016

Mr. Trump, speaking to reporters, refers to emails from Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. “Russia–if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he says.

July 27, 2016

Later that day, Russian military intelligence officers try for the first time to spear-phish email accounts used by Mrs. Clinton’s personal office.

July 31, 2016

Mr. Stone tells Mr. Corsi that his associate in the U.K. should go see Mr. Assange, who is living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Aug. 2, 2016

Mr. Corsi emails Mr. Stone and says: “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. … Impact planned to be very damaging.”

Aug. 2, 2016

Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Richard Gates meet at New York’s Havana Club with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime business associate of theirs in Kiev whom the FBI believes has a relationship with Russian intelligence. (Mr. Manafort was convicted and pleaded guilty on charges related to work he did for the Ukrainian government. Mr. Gates pleaded guilty on similar charges. Mr. Kilimnik was charged with obstruction of justice; he hasn’t responded to the charges but has denied ties to Russian intelligence.)

Aug. 4, 2016

Russians with Project Lakhta purchase ads promoting a Facebook post that alleges, “Hillary Clinton has already committed voter fraud during the Democrat Iowa Caucus.” The group in ensuing months posts other allegations of voter fraud by Democrats on its social-media accounts and buys ads to promote the posts.

Aug. 8, 2016

Mr. Stone says at a public event that he has communicated with WikiLeaks’ Mr. Assange. He repeats similar statements throughout August.

Mid-August 2016

WikiLeaks issues a statement denying direct communication with Mr. Stone. Mr. Stone then says his communication with WikiLeaks is through an intermediary.

Aug. 15, 2016

Posing as Guccifer 2.0, Russian operatives receive a request for stolen documents from an unnamed candidate for Congress. Operatives send the candidate “stolen documents related to the candidate’s opponent.”

Aug. 15, 2016

Mr. Clovis tells Mr. Papadopoulos, “I would encourage you” to “make the trip…if it is feasible,” regarding an off-the-record meeting with Russian officials.

Aug. 15, 2016

Guccifer 2.0 writes to a person “in regular contact with senior members” of the Trump campaign (identified by The Wall Street Journal as Mr. Stone), saying, “thank u for writing back … do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted?” Guccifer 2.0 later writes, “please tell me if i can help u anyhow … it would be a great pleasure to me.”

Aug. 18-19, 2016

Russians with Project Lakhta are contacted by Trump campaign supporters at accounts the Russians have set up under false identities and are given the email addresses for three Trump campaign officials. The Russians, under false identities, email the officials about the Russians’ efforts to stage pro-Trump rallies across Florida on Aug. 20.

Aug. 25, 2016

Mr. Assange is a guest on a radio show hosted by Randy Credico. Two days later, Mr. Credico tells Mr. Stone: “[Assange] has kryptonite on Hillary.” (Mr. Credico hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing. He has said he is willing to testify on his communications with Mr. Stone.)

Sept. 9, 2016

Guccifer 2.0 refers to the stolen DCCC documents posted online, asking Mr. Stone, “what do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign.” Mr. Stone responds, “[p]retty standard.”

Sept. 18, 2016

Mr. Stone emails Mr. Credico an article on allegations about Mrs. Clinton, saying, “Please ask [Assange] for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30–particularly on August 20, 2011 that mention [the Libyan civil war] or confirm this narrative.”

Sept. 19, 2016

Mr. Stone texts Mr. Credico: “Pass my message…to [Assange].” Mr. Credico responds: “I did.”

September-October 2016

Mr. Gates is in touch with Mr. Kilimnik.

Oct. 1, 2016

Mr. Credico texts Mr. Stone: “big news Wednesday…now pretend u don’t know me…Hillary’s campaign will die this week.” The press had previously reported Mr. Assange planned an announcement on Oct. 4.

Oct. 2, 2016

Mr. Stone emails Mr. Credico: “WTF?” with a link to an article reporting WikiLeaks cancelled its announcement. Mr. Credico responds: “head fake.”

Oct. 3, 2016

Mr. Stone tells a “supporter involved with the Trump campaign:” “Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming.”

Oct. 4, 2016

Mr. Assange holds a press conference but doesn’t announce any new Clinton materials. “A high-ranking Trump campaign official” (identified by The Wall Street Journal as Trump campaign chief executive Stephen Bannon) sends Mr. Stone a message asking about the status of future releases. Mr. Stone says Mr. Assange had a “security concern,” but that WikiLeaks would release “a load every week going forward.” The supporter involved with the Trump campaign also asks Mr. Stone about the status. Mr. Stone tells the supporter more material is coming. (Mr. Bannon hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing. His lawyer has declined to comment.)

Oct. 7, 2016

WikiLeaks begins releasing emails from Clinton campaign chairman Podesta, minutes after the Washington Post releases a tape in which Mr. Trump is recorded making lewd comments about women, and after U.S. intelligence agencies allege publicly that the Russian government is trying to interfere in the U.S. election. The WikiLeaks releases continue through Nov. 7, 2016, and total more than 50,000 stolen documents in 33 tranches.

Oct. 7, 2016

Shortly after the first release, a Bannon associate texts Mr. Stone: “well done.”

Oct. 16, 2016

Russians with Project Lakhta post messages on an Instagram account they control called “Woke Blacks” decrying those planning to vote for Mrs. Clinton because they don’t like Mr. Trump. “We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL,” the post says. Other posts around that time also seek to encourage minority groups not to vote or to vote for a third-party presidential candidate.

Nov. 8, 2016

Donald Trump is elected president.

Dec. 22, 2016

A day after Egypt submits a resolution to the U.N. Security Council on Israeli settlements, a “very senior member” of the transition team (identified by The Wall Street Journal as Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner) directs Michael Flynn, a former general who was slated to be Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, to contact officials of foreign governments, including Russia. Mr. Flynn is told to influence those governments to delay or defeat the vote on the U.N. resolution. Mr. Flynn contacts Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. (Mr. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about calls with the Russian ambassador. Mr. Kushner hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing; his lawyer declined to comment.)

Dec. 23, 2016

Mr. Kislyak tells Mr. Flynn that if the resolution comes to a vote, Russia won’t vote against it.

Dec. 28, 2016

President Barack Obama imposes sanctions on Russia for electoral interference. Mr. Kislyak contacts Mr. Flynn.

Dec. 29, 2016

Mr. Flynn calls “a senior official” on the transition team, who was with other senior members at Mr. Trump’s resort in Mar-a-Lago, Fla. The two discuss that transition team members at Mar-a-Lago “did not want Russia to escalate the situation.” Mr. Flynn then calls Mr. Kislyak to request “that Russia not escalate the situation and only respond to the U.S. Sanctions in a reciprocal manner.” Mr. Flynn calls the official to report the substance of his call, including the discussion of sanctions.

Dec. 30, 2016

Russian President Putin says Russia won’t retaliate for the sanctions at that time.

Dec. 31, 2016

Mr. Kislyak tells Mr. Flynn that Russia has chosen not to retaliate in response to Mr. Flynn’s request, and Mr. Flynn reports the conversation to “senior members” of the transition team.

Jan. 20, 2017

Donald Trump is inaugurated as president.

Photos: ZUMA Wire (Assange, Flynn, Trump announcement, election day, inauguration); Getty Images (Kislyak, Sater, GOP Convention), Associated Press (Prigozhin, Cohen, Trump), Alexandria (Va.) Sheriff’s Office (Papadopoulos); Organization of American States (Mifsud); Shutterstock (Stone)

Source:Court documents filed by the office of Special counsel Robert Mueller

Development: Brian McGillKara Dapena, and Jessica Kuronen

Author: John Hanno

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Bogan High School. Worked in Alaska after the earthquake. Joined U.S. Army at 17. Sergeant, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Artillery, 7th Army. Member of 12 different unions, including 4 different locals of the I.B.E.W. Worked for fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies as an industrial electrician, electrical/electronic technician.

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