It's an afternoon in the first month of the Trump administration, so, hmm, let's check … yes, a monumental news story is currently unfurling that has the possibility of being the most shocking revelation of the last [checks watch] 10 minutes of 2017. This time, like most times, it's about Russia. Since more details are certain to emerge, let's try to round up some of what's been reported so far on the White House's ties to Putin and friends in an effort to make sense of this crazy, never-ending saga.
Trump thinks about building a Trump Tower in an old pencil factory in Moscow, but the deal eventually dies. He has tried several times over the past few decades to get a building with his name on it constructed in Russia, but for myriad reasons it never worked out. He also briefly sold Trump Super Premium Vodka in Russia, and once tried to start up a reality TV show there "starring," per the Times, "a Russian mixed martial arts fighter."
According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump Jr. told a real-estate conference that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Future Trump adviser Steve Bannon says at a Vatican conference that "Putin’s been quite an interesting character. He’s also very, very, very intelligent. I can see this in the United States where he’s playing very strongly to social conservatives about his message about more traditional values, so I think it’s something that we have to be very much on guard of. Because at the end of the day, I think that Putin and his cronies are really a kleptocracy, that are really an imperialist power that want to expand."
Michael Flynn, future Trump national security adviser, sits at the same table as Putin at a gala for Kremlin-funded news organization Russia Today.
In December, Trump tells Morning Joe, "When people call you brilliant, it's always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia." When told that Putin kills journalists, Trump responds, "Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also." He would make this argument again more than a year later on Fox News.
July 27, 2016
Intelligence officials say they are increasingly sure that Russia hacked the DNC, leading to the WikiLeaks revelations. “I will tell you this," Trump says in a press conference later in the day. "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.” His campaign later says it was a joke.
Trump went on to say he doesn't even know Putin, although he previously said he knew the Russian president well.
August 19, 2016
September 26, 2016
What if, Trump asks at a presidential debate, Russia didn't hack the DNC? What if it were "someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds"?
October 31, 2016
Mother Jones reports the existence of memos alleging a relationship between Trump and Russian officials. The New York Times publishes a story with the headline, "Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia."
November 1, 2016
The FBI is reportedly looking into Manafort's ties with Russia.
December 9, 2016
U.S. intelligence agencies report that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in order to injure Hillary Clinton's chances. They were confident that Russian hackers infiltrated computers at the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee.
December 18, 2016
When asked on Face the Nation if anyone in the Trump campaign had contact with Russia during the election, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway says, "Absolutely not. And I discussed that with the president-elect just last night. Those conversations never happened. I hear people saying it like it’s a fact on television. That is just not only inaccurate and false, but it’s dangerous."
December 29, 2016
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn calls Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the same day that President Obama announces more sanctions against Russia for its role in the 2016 election. They also texted on Christmas. Flynn later said he definitely didn't talk about sanctions, or that he couldn't remember if they discussed sanctions or not. He did talk about sanctions, and those conversations could have been illegal. However, no one has ever been charged with violating the Logan Act, an ancient rule that says no one can negotiate with foreign governments without giving the U.S. a heads-up.
December 30, 2016
After Obama announces new sanctions and kicks out a bunch of Russian diplomats, Putin says he's decided to wait until Trump takes office to respond. The president-elect thinks that is a great idea.
January 10, 2017
CNN releases more information about the spy dossier that Mother Jones reported on in October, saying that Obama and Trump were aware of its existence. BuzzFeed eventually puts the entire unconfirmed document online, which has apparently been floating around D.C. for months, and was given to FBI director James Comey by Senator John McCain in December.
January 11, 2017
Trump concedes in a press conference that Russia hacked the DNC, but says that most of the spy memos are fake news, especially the parts concerning golden showers. "And I told many people," he added, "'Be careful, because you don’t wanna see yourself on television. Cameras all over the place.' And again, not just Russia, all over. Does anyone really believe that story? I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me."
February 1, 2017
February 7, 2017
February 9, 2017
Mike Pence — who went on TV last month to defend Michael Flynn — finally learns that Flynn lied to him about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, more than a week after the White House figured it out. None of his colleagues apparently decided to get him up to speed, as he had to read about it in the newspaper.
February 10, 2017
U.S. investigators tell CNN that they have confirmed a few details from the British spy memos — specifically a few of the conversations reported in them. White House press secretary Sean Spicer called the story "more fake news."
February 13, 2017
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is fired.
February 14, 2017
When asked at a press briefing if any Trump campaign officials had been in touch with Russia before the election, Spicer says, "I don’t have any — there’s nothing that would conclude me — that anything different has changed with respect to that time period."
The New York Times later reports that intercepted phone calls show that several Trump campaign officials, including Manafort and Flynn, were in touch with Russia during the election cycle, "according to four current and former American officials." There is no evidence of cooperation on the hacking front. Manafort told the Times that he didn't knowingly speak to any Russian officials. “It’s not like these people wear badges," he argued, "that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’”
CNN adds that the contact between Trump's campaign and Russia was "constant," and that Obama and Trump were both briefed on the communications, which intelligence agencies learned of during "routine intelligence collection targeting Russian officials and other Russian nationals known to US intelligence."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that an investigation into the connections was “highly likely," while Senator Rand Paul thinks that "makes no sense" as he doesn't "think it’s useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party. We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do like repealing Obamacare if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans." Oh, and Russian jets flew dangerously close to a U.S. destroyer.
February 15, 2017
Trump wakes up at 4 a.m. to start tweeting, focusing again on the leaks that powered these stories.
It is obvious that he was tweeting while watching the news.
He later complained at a press conference that it was "really a sad thing that [Flynn] was treated so badly."
Several Republican lawmakers call for an investigation into the leaks. New attorney general Jeff Sessions has said that he doesn't plan to recuse himself from any potential Russia investigations. Judging from the past decade, this story will probably never end.