Ever since his days as a globe-trotting property developer, Donald Trump has had close ties with Russia.
But now the US special counsel, Robert Mueller, appears to be in the last stages of an investigation to determine whether Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia in its effort to undermine Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House or whether its many contacts — and their sometimes suspicious timings — were merely a matter of coincidence.
Here are some useful dates in the Trump-Russia chronology and key moments in Mr Mueller’s investigation:
The Kremlin casts its net
Russian intelligence launches a co-ordinated campaign to influence US politics and undermine its institutions by spreading misinformation, US authorities later conclude. The campaign begins at the direction of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.
June 16 2015
Donald Trump announces his candidacy for US president.
Mr Trump signs letter-of-intent with a Russian investor to build a soaring Trump World Tower in Moscow that would be Europe’s tallest building. It is a step towards fulfilling a longstanding ambition for the New York developer.
‘Dirt’ on Hillary Clinton
Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, speaks to an assistant to Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin’s press secretary, outlining the tower plan and seeking government support.
April 26 2016
George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, holds a breakfast meeting in London with a professor with “substantial ties” to Russian government officials. The professor claims Moscow has “dirt” on Mrs Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails”. Mr Papadopoulos tries to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian government.
Russian hackers begin to disseminate thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. The emails — many embarrassing and distracting to Democratic frontrunner Mrs Clinton and her campaign — are published through fake online personas, such as the hacker Guccifer 2.0.
May 6 2016
Mr Cohen agrees to travel to St Petersburg in mid-June to meet Mr Putin or Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev to discuss the Moscow tower.
June 9 2016
A trio of top Trump campaign figures — Don Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort — meet at Trump Tower in New York with a Russian lobbyist promising “very high level and sensitive information” on Mrs Clinton. Don Jr later denies any collusion with Moscow and dismisses the gathering as a “nothingburger.” The lobbyist, Natalia Veselnitskaya, has been pushing to repeal a US sanctions law, the Magnitsky Act, long hated by the Kremlin.
June 14 2016
Mr Cohen scraps plan to travel to Russia.
‘Russia, if you’re listening…’
July 18-21 2016
Mr Trump is confirmed as the Republican presidential nominee at the party’s national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, after seeing off all challengers in a crowded primary field. Mr Trump’s aides intervene to remove from the party platform language hostile to Russia over its aggression in Ukraine.
July 22 2016
WikiLeaks publishes thousands of stolen DNC emails. Its anti-Clinton leaks continue throughout the remainder of the campaign.
July 27 2016
At a rally in Doral, Florida, Mr Trump appears to encourage Russian hackers to target his opponent, saying: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Clinton] emails that are missing.” That same day — “after hours” — Russian hackers make their first attempt to break into Mrs Clinton’s computer network, according to the Justice Department.
August 19 2016
Mr Manafort resigns as Mr Trump’s campaign manager, amid weak poll numbers and revelations about his lucrative lobbying work for a Ukrainian politician with deep ties to Russia.
August 21 2016
“It will soon be [John] Podesta’s time in the barrel,” Roger Stone, a Trump campaign adviser, tweets, in an apparent reference to the Clinton campaign chairman.
September 26 2016
During the first presidential debate, Mr Trump dismisses suggestions that Russia is behind the campaign hacking: “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 400 pounds, OK.”
October 7 2016
The Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issue a joint statement, saying they are “confident” Russia is behind the campaign hacking. In a further blow to Mr Trump, old footage is unearthed from the Access Hollywood programme in which the reality television star boasts about sexually assaulting women. Hours later, WikiLeaks strikes again with another batch of anti-Clinton emails, this time stolen from Mr Podesta’s computer.
Spotlight on the White House
November 8 2016
Mr Trump wins a narrow election victory over Mrs Clinton to become the 45th US president.
Michael Flynn, Mr Trump’s former national security adviser, holds conversations with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, in an attempt by Trump aides to open a back channel with Moscow before the president-elect’s inauguration.
An assessment from the CIA and other US intelligence agencies concludes that Russia interfered in the election to damage Mrs Clinton’s campaign, and was the source of the stolen DNC emails.
March 2 2017
Attorney-General Jeff Sessions recuses himself from any involvement in an investigation into Russian meddling in the US election after a controversy erupts over two previously undisclosed meetings with Mr Kislyak. Calls grow louder for a special counsel to investigate the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. The president decries “a witch hunt” by his opponents.
May 9 2017
James Comey is fired from his post as FBI chief by Mr Trump, prompting complaints that the president is seeking to obstruct justice.
Mueller moves in
May 17 2017
Robert Mueller is appointed special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the US election and related matters.
October 25 2017
Michael Cohen testifies to Congress that the Trump Tower Moscow deal was effectively dropped in January 2016 — before the US election season — and that it was not extensively discussed within the Trump Organisation.
October 30 2017
George Papadopoulos pleads guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the professor in London.
December 1 2017
Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI about his discussions with Mr Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.
February 16 2018
Mr Mueller indicts 13 Russian citizens and the internet Research Agency, an online “troll” factory in St Petersburg, for spreading disinformation in order to sow discord and erode faith in the US political system.
Mr Trump notes Mr Mueller’s finding that the Russian campaign began in 2014 — well before he had declared his candidacy — and denies any connection, tweeting: “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!”
February 23 2018
Rick Gates, former deputy chair of Mr Trump’s campaign, pleads guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators. Mr Gates, a longtime associate of Paul Manafort, Mr Trump’s campaign manager, also agrees to co-operate with Mr Mueller.
August 21 2018
Mr Manafort is convicted of tax and bank fraud. He subsequently agrees to co-operate with the special counsel. Prosecutors will later rescind his co-operation agreement after concluding that he has continued to lie to them. Mr Cohen pleads guilty to campaign finance violations and tax and bank fraud relating to payments he arranged for an adult film actress to keep her from talking about an affair with Mr Trump. Mr Cohen says he acted on Mr Trump’s orders, and offers to help the special counsel.
November 7 2018
Jeff Sessions is fired as attorney-general and replaced by Matthew Whitaker, a critic of the Mueller investigation.
November 20 2018
Mr Trump submits written answers to questions posed by Mr Mueller.
November 29 2018
Mr Cohen pleads guilty to additional charges, saying he lied to Congress when he testified that the Moscow project had ended in January 2016 in order to minimise links between Mr Trump’s campaign and Russia. The tower was still under consideration at least until June of that year, according to Mr Cohen, who says he also briefed Trump “family members” on the project. Mr Trump dismisses him as a “weak” man and a liar seeking to avoid prison.
January 25 2019
Roger Stone, the longtime informal adviser to Donald Trump, is arrested on charges brought by Mr Mueller. Mr Stone, 66, is charged with seven counts, including witness tampering, making false statements and obstruction of an official proceeding, according to the special counsel’s office.
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