The Attorney General Said There Was 'No Collusion.' But Trump Associates Still Interacted With Russians More Than 100 Times
Attorney General William Barr’s message at a press conference Thursday morning was crystal clear: There was “no collusion” between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
While Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation found that Russia interfered in the election in an effort to undermine the Clinton campaign, no one in Trump’s orbit — or “any American” for that matter, Barr added — knowingly assisted Russia in that effort.
But while Mueller may not have found any evidence that Trump associates conspired with Russia to interfere in the election, they nonetheless had a lot of contact with Russians leading up to Election Day. In fact, investigators have found that Trump and at least 17 of his campaign officials and advisors had more than 100 contacts between Trump associates and Russians, belying the campaign’s November 2016 claim that “there was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.” According to reporting, many others associated with Trump were told about contacts with Russian-linked individuals.
Here is a list of all of the times that Trump associates interacted with Russia from the early days of the 2016 election cycle to Trump’s inauguration. These interactions are based on court records related to the special counsel’s investigation, documents or testimony submitted to Congress, as well as reporting from TIME and other news organizations.
July 2015: Trump is invited to Moscow
The first invitation to meet with Russians came just one month after Trump announced his presidential bid. On July 24, 2015, British publicist Rob Goldstone suggested to Trump’s longtime personal assistant, Rhona Graff, that his client—Russian pop star Emin Agalarov—could set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The offer came amid emails inviting Trump to travel to Moscow to celebrate the birthday of Agalarov’s father, who had worked with Trump to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013. The emails were released by the Senate Judiciary Committee as it investigated the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting in New York. Graff told Goldstone it was unlikely that Trump would have time to travel to Moscow given his newly announced presidential campaign, but said she was sure “he will want to send a congratulatory note.”
Fall 2015: Michael Cohen starts talking to Russians
Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen had numerous contacts with Russians throughout the 2016 campaign. These started as early as the fall of 2015, according to information Cohen told the special counsel’s office during its investigation.
In a September 2015 radio interview, Cohen suggested that Trump could meet with Putin at the United Nations General Assembly. During the special counsel investigation, Cohen initially claimed that was a spontaneous comment. But the special counsel later said Cohen admitted that, by the time of his radio comments, he had already conferred with Trump about “contacting the Russian government before reaching out to gauge Russia’s interest” in such a meeting.
Fall 2015: Michael Cohen begins plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow
Also in September of 2015, Cohen began communicating with Felix Sater, a Russian-born Trump business associate, about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The idea of a Trump property in the Russian capital had been around for decades, but after Trump announced his presidential bid, Sater reached out to Cohen and set up a meeting for September, according to a detailed report on the project from BuzzFeed News.
After the meeting, Sater emailed Cohen multiple times in October 2015 to let him know about a meeting with a developer, and then to say that Sater’s associates would be meeting with Putin and a “top deputy” and that he had secured financing from VTB Bank, a Russian bank that was under U.S. sanctions at the time. On October 13, 2015, Sater sent a letter of intent, signed by a Moscow developer, to Cohen and asked him to get Trump’s signature. And on Oct. 28, the day of the third Republican primary debate, Trump signed the letter.
Sater and Cohen continued to trade emails about the progress of negotiations over the next few months. On November 3, 2015, Sater bragged about his Kremlin connections, saying: “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” according to emails first published by the New York Times. “Buddy our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it,” he continued. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”
November 2015: Ivanka Trump connects Cohen to Russian athlete’s wife
The wife of Russian weightlifter Dmitry Klokov reached out to Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka about helping with the Trump Tower Moscow project. Though Ivanka did not know the athlete or his wife, she sent the communication to Cohen in November of 2015.
Spokespeople for Ivanka have downplayed her role and she has said she knew “literally almost nothing” about the Trump Tower Moscow project. But in Cohen’s testimony before Congress in February of 2019, he said he briefed Ivanka, her husband Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. about the project about 10 times over the course of his work on it.
November 2015: Russian athlete Dmitry Klokov offers Cohen a Trump-Putin meeting
In November of 2015, Cohen spoke with a Russian national who claimed to be a “trusted person” in the Russian Federation and offered the campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level,” according to a memo filed by the special counsel in December. The Russian repeatedly proposed a meeting between Trump and Putin, the prosecutors said, and told Cohen that such a meeting would have a “phenomenal” impact because there is “no bigger warranty in any project” than Putin’s approval. Cohen ultimately declined the Russian national’s offer, as he already had his deal underway with Sater.
This description matches information about exchanges Cohen had in November 2015 with Klokov, which were first reported by BuzzFeed News. Klokov initially denied sending emails to Cohen, but when BuzzFeed asked him about specifics, the athlete stopped responding.
December 2015: Sater requests Cohen’s and Trump’s passports for visas to visit Russia
Sater emailed Cohen in mid-December 2015 saying that a Evgeny Shmykov, a former Russian intelligence general, needed passport information from Cohen and Trump to arrange visas for the pair to visit Russia. The trip to Russia never happened, as Cohen soon grew frustrated with Sater’s work on the Moscow deal, but Cohen did send photos of his own passport to Sater, according to messages published by BuzzFeed.
January 2016: Cohen asks the Kremlin for help with Trump Tower Moscow project
On Jan. 14, 2016, Cohen emailed the office of Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov to seek help with the Moscow project, according to the a document filed by the special counsel when Cohen pleaded guilty in November 2018. Cohen followed up two days later, asking for someone who speaks English to contact him.
He then spoke with an aide to Putin’s press secretary for 20 minutes on Jan. 20, during which Cohen explained the proposed Moscow project and asked for the Kremlin’s help in securing land and financing for the tower. The aid “asked detailed questions and took notes,” the special counsel wrote, and she told Cohen that she would follow up with others in Russia.
January 2016 — November 2016: Russian social media executive offers to help Trump campaign
Another offer for help came from an executive at a top Russian social media company called Vkontakte or VK. Konstantin Sidorkov, who serves as the company’s partner relations director, emailed Trump Jr. and social media director Dan Scavino in January and November of 2016, saying he could help promote Trump to VK’s 100 million users.
The emails, which were submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of its investigation into 2016, show that the connection was brokered through Goldstone, the British publicist who connected a number of Russians to the Trump campaign. Scavino, who is now the White House social media director, expressed interest in the assistance, but in 2018 he told ABC News that the campaign did not pursue the idea.
February 2016: Araz Agalarov sends letter expressing “great interest” in Trump campaign
On Feb. 29, 2016, Goldstone sent Trump Jr. a letter from Araz Agalarov, Trump’s former business associate, expressing “great interest” in Trump’s “bright electoral campaign.” Goldstone told Trump Jr. the letter offered Agalarov’s support and thanked him for passing it on to Trump.
March 2016 — August 2016: George Papadopoulos talks with a professor and several Russians about setting up a meeting between the Trump campaign and Putin
Papadopoulos, who has now served time in jail for lying to investigators, is one of the Trump associates who had frequent contacts with Russians throughout the 2016 campaign. He joined the campaign as an unpaid foreign policy advisor in March 2016, and on March 14, he met with Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor who claimed to have “substantial connections to Russian government officials,” according to court documents. Ten days later, Papadopoulos met with Mifsud and a Russian woman who he believed was Putin’s niece to discuss arranging a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian leadership.
After these meetings, Papadopoulos told various Trump and various campaign officials, including Jeff Sessions and Sam Clovis, then co-chairman of Trump’s campaign, about his Russian connections.
Papadopoulos continued to work toward a Trump-Russia meeting, and in April, Mifsud sent an email introducing Papadopoulos to Ivan Timofeev, who he said had connections to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Timofeev emailed Papadopoulos on April 22, 2016, thanking him “for an extensive talk” and the two talked over Skype and emailed for the next several weeks, according to the special counsel’s court documents.
On April 26, 2016, Mifsud told Papadopoulos about the Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton’s emails, saying that Russians had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”
And in May when Timofeev told Papadopoulos that his colleagues at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs were “open for cooperation,” Papadopoulos forwarded this note to Corey Lewandowski, who was then Trump’s campaign manager. When Paul Manafort took over as chairman of Trump’s campaign in late May, Papadopoulos forwarded the message to him. The meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian officials ultimately did not happen, but Papadopoulos continued his efforts into August of 2016.
Spring 2016: Paul Manafort shares polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik
Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates transferred Trump campaign polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate believed to have ties to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing unsealed in January 2019. Gates and Manafort remained in touch with Kilimnik throughout 2016.
In April of 2016, Manafort also emailed Kilimnik about the press coverage around him taking over Trump’s campaign, and asked “How do we use to get whole?”
April 27, 2016: Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner meet with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak
In April, Trump gave his major foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. There, Sessions and Trump’s son-in-law Kushner, met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Trump was briefly introduced to the ambassador as well. Sessions initially failed to disclose his meetings with Kislyak, which led to him recusing himself from the Russia investigation when he became Attorney General.
But while Sessions said he did not discuss campaign issues in the meeting, U.S. intelligence officials told the Post the group had “substantive” discussions about U.S.-Russia relations in a potential Trump administration.
May 2016: Cohen invited to Russia and agrees to travel there
On May 5, 2016, Cohen received an invitation to attend the St. Petersburg Forum in June, delivered through Sater, according to court documents. Sater told Cohen that Putin’s press secretary wanted to meet with him during the trip. One day later, Cohen confirmed that he could attend. However, in June, COhen told Sater he would no longer be able to travel to Russia.
May 2016: Trump Jr. dines with Russian banking official
Alexander Torshin, a former Russian politician and senior official at Russia’s central bank, otld Bloomberg News that he ate dinner with trump Jr. at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention.
May 2016: Russians offer Roger Stone dirt on Clinton but he declines
Stone, a longtime Trump confidante, met with a man who called himself Henry Greenberg, according to the Post, and offered dirt on Clinton if Trump would pay $2 million. But Stone declined, saying Trump “doesn’t pay for anything.” He also told Michael Caputo, a communications advisor to the Trump campaign, that Greenberg did not have anything interesting.
June 2016: Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort meet with Russians at Trump Tower in Manhattan
On June 3, 2016, Goldstone, the publicist, reached out to Trump Jr. with a request from the younger Agalarov that would set off the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in New York. Goldstone said the Russians had documents that could “incriminate” Clinton, and Trump Jr. replied, “if it’s what you say I love it.”
They set a meeting for June 9, and Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and others at Trump Tower. Veselnitskaya ended up talking about adoption and did not provide information on Clinton, but the meeting has become a point of significant controversy since the election. In January of 2019, Veselnitskaya was charged in an unrelated case that showed she had close ties to the Kremlin.
June 2016: Trump receives birthday gift from Aras Agalarov
One day after the Trump Tower meeting, Trump received an expensive painting as a birthday gift from his associate Aras Agalarov, the father of the man who helped arrange the meeting. The next week, Trump sent a thank you note for the gift, saying: “There are few things better than receiving a sensational gift from someone you admire – and that’s what I’ve received from you. You made my birthday a truly special event by your thoughtfulness – not to mention your remarkable talent.” The gift and Trump’s response were detailed in a report from the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee as they looked into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
July 2016: Carter Page travels to Moscow and gives a speech there
Page, a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign, traveled to Moscow on July 7-8, 2016 to give a speech there. He later testified that while in Moscow, he also “briefly said hello” to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and met with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations for Russian state oil company Rosneft. Page told Trump campaign officials about his trip, and emails revealed during his Congressional testimony showed that Page also asked for campaign officials’ input on his Moscow remarks.
July — August 2016: Manafort discusses Ukraine and other topics with Kilimnik
In July, shortly before Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, Manafort contacted Kilimnik to offer private briefings to a Russian billionaire with ties to the Kremlin, according to emails reported by the Post.
Manafort and Kilimnik met in August of 2016 and discussed a proposed peace plan to the conflict in Ukraine, according to the court filing inadvertently released by Manafort’s lawyers in February.
July 18, 2016: Sessions, Page and Trump campaign director of national security all meet with Kislyak during Republican National Convention
Sessions spoke with the Russian ambassador after participating in a panel hosted by the Heritage Foundation at the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016.
The same day, Kislyak spoke with Page and J.D. Gordon, the head of national security for the Trump campaign. Gordon has said his time with the ambassador was short, but Page said that he may have discussed sanctions during his interaction.
August 2016 — September 2016: Stone communicates with Guccifer 2.0, a persona created by Russian hackers and encourages WikiLeaks
After it was revealed that Russian operatives hacked the DNC in the summer of 2016, Stone tweeted about and then exchanged Twitter direct messages with Guccifer 2.0, a fake identity created by the Russian nationals that Mueller charged with hacking Democratic emails. During this time, Stone also repeatedly said he was in touch with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
In March 2017, Stone published his private messages with Guccifer 2.0, which showed that the hackers asked if Stone found their documents interesting and then said on Aug. 17, 2016 “please tell me if i can help u anyhow.” Later in September, Guccifer 2.0 sent Stone a link to hacked voter turnout data for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Stone said the information looked “pretty standard.”
During this summer period, a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about “any additional releases and what other damaging information” WikiLeaks might have about Clinton, according to Mueller’s indictment against Stone. The indictment also outlines communications between Stone and an intermediary, who told Stone that Assange had “kryptonite on Hillary.”
September 2016: Gates communicates with Russian intelligence-linked associate
As the fall began, Gates had multiple interactions with a former business associate who had close ties to Russian intelligence, according to court documents filed by Mueller’s prosecutors. The description of the associate matches Kilimnik, who previously worked for Manafort’s firm where Manafort and Gates did political work in Ukraine.
September 2016: Sessions meets with Ambassador Kislyak
Sessions met with Kislyak again, this time in his Senate office on Sept. 8. Later, when recusing himself from the Russia investigation as attorney general, Sessions said two or three of his staffers were present and that they “listened to the ambassador and what his concerns might be.”
September 2016: October 2016: WikiLeaks communicates with Trump Jr.
Toward the end of September, WikiLeaks, which was by then helping the Russians release the hacked Democratic emails, reached out to Trump’s oldest son to give him a link to what it said was a “PAC run anti-Trump site.” Trump Jr. thanked WikiLeaks for contacting him and said he would look into the information, according to messages turned over to Congressional investigators and reported by The Atlantic.
Trump Jr. then emailed a number of senior campaign officials, including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale and Kushner to tell them about the WikiLeaks contact.
In early October, Trump Jr. asked WikiLeaks about a leak that Stone hinted at on Twitter. WikiLeaks did not respond to this, but it messaged him a few days later, and Trump Jr. soon tweeted out a link that matched one WikiLeaks sent him in the direct messages.
WikiLeaks continued communicating with Trump Jr. throughout October and gave him several other suggestions about links or messages for himself and his father to tweet.
September — October 2016: Trump national security advisor Gordon interacts with Maria Butina
On Sept. 29, 2016, Gordon met Butina, who later pleaded guilty to acting as an agent for the Kremlin, at a party at the Swiss ambassador’s residence, according to the Post. He then continued to communicate with Butina in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.
Gordon exchanged multiple emails with Butina, which included an invitation from her to a dinner, and then invitations from Gordon for Butina to attend a concert and then his birthday party in October. Prosecutors have identified these kinds of invitations as part of Butina’s efforts to infiltrate American conservative circles.
October — November 2016: Stone communicates with Trump campaign officials about WikiLeaks releases
At the end of September, Stone’s WikiLeaks intermediary—radio host Randy Credico—sent Stone a photo from outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where Assange was staying at the time, according to the indictment.
Then in October, Credico texted Stone to give him a heads up about more WikiLeaks dumps. He told Stone to expect “big news Wednesday” and that “Hillary’s campaign will die this week,” according to the indictment. Stone then sent his tweet hinting at the leak, saying “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.”
When Credico assured Stone that WikiLeaks was planning a press conference with the leaks on Oct. 3, Stone emailed the Trump campaign to give them a heads up. After WikiLeaks did not announce any new information the next day, Bannon, then Trump’s campaign chairman asked Stone what was going on. Stone told him, according to the indictment, that WikiLeaks would release “a load every week going forward.” And when the organization did publish Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails the same day as the “Access Hollywood” tape controversy, Bannon sent Stone a message: “well done.”
Also in October, Stone communicated directly with WikiLeaks for the first time. He had been bragging about connections to the group, but WikiLeaks told him not to claim an association, according to messages published by The Atlantic. On Nov. 9, 2016, the morning after the election, WikiLeaks messaged Stone: “Happy?” the group asked. “We are now more free to communicate.”
November 10, 2016: Emin Agalarov congratulates Trump Jr.
Two days after the election, the younger Agalarov texted Trump Jr. to celebrate Trump’s win. “Always at your disposal here in Russia,” the pop star said in a message full of exclamation marks, according to the House Intelligence Committee Democrats’ report.
December 2016: Kushner and Michael Flynn meet with Ambassador Kislyak during presidential transition
During the presidential transition period, several people in Trump’s orbit met with Russians. Trump’s son-in-law and Flynn, Trump’s first national security advisor, met with Kislyak at Trump Tower in December 2016, where they discussed the possibility of “setting up a secret and secure communications channel” between the Trump team and the Kremlin, the Post reported.
Kushner also sent Avi Berkowitz, a longtime aide, to meet with Kislyak during the presidential transition.
December 2016: Kushner meets with Sergey Gorkov
After meeting with the Russian ambassador, Kushner stayed in touch and then met with Sergey Gorkov, head of the Russian bank Vnesheconombank, at Kislyak’s request. The Times reported this meeting in March of 2017, but Kushner’s explanations for the meeting contradicted those of the bank as investigators looked into the interactions.
December 2016: Flynn continues communicating with Kislyak
Flynn also kept in touch with Kislyak throughout the presidential transition, and his failure to disclose these contacts eventually led him to resign his position in the White House. Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to investigators about his contacts.
In the charging document, prosecutors said Flynn contacted Kislyak about a vote on a UN resolution on Israeli settlements and asked that Russia “vote against or delay” it. Flynn then reportedly texted Kislyak to wish him a Merry Christmas, and in late December, the two exchanged several text messages and calls.
The court document also said Flynn asked Kislyak to “refrain from escalating” tensions in response to U.S. sanctions on Russia, and that Kislyak said he followed that request.
January 2017: Cohen meets with Russian billionaire at Trump Tower
Just days before Trump’s inauguration, Cohen met with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg at Trump Tower in New York City and discussed their desire to strengthen U.S.-Russia relations, according to the Times. The pair met again about a week later at a dinner celebrating Trump’s inauguration.
January 2017: Erik Prince meets with Russian billionaire sanctioned by Treasury Department
Also in January of 2017, Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the founder of Blackwater, traveled to Seychelles and met with a Russian billionaire to allegedly develop another backchannel, according to the Post.
Prince initially said his meeting with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, had been unplanned. However, businessman George Nader, who helped organize the meeting, began cooperating with Mueller’s investigation and contradicted this claim.
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