Trump and Russia: A timeline on communications

Former CIA Director John Brennan testified this week that he was concerned over intelligence he saw showing contacts between President Trump’s campaign and Moscow. 

After the election, Trump aides said there had been no communication between Trump’s campaign and any foreign elements, including Russia.

But the story has shifted since then — most notably with the news of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. 

Flynn is now being subpoenaed for information from the House and Senate. Separately, the Department of Justice has named a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, to investigate the Russia issue. 

Here’s a look at what Trump officials have said since November on contacts between the campaign and Russia. 

November 11, 2016 

Press aide Hope Hicks tells the Associated Press that there was “no communication” between the Trump campaign and any foreign entity—including Russia. 

“It never happened,” Hicks tells the AP. “There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.” 

January 10, 2017  

Attorney General nominee Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsCurtis wins Chaffetz's former Utah House seat Overnight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny FBI can’t unlock Texas shooter’s phone MORE testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he is unaware of any Trump campaign affiliates communicating with the Russian government during the campaign, and that he himself had no such communications.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions says in response to questioning from Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenOvernight Tech: Senate panel subpoenaed ex-Yahoo chief | Twitter gives all users 280 characters | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | EU wants tax answers from Apple Week ahead: DHS nominee heads before Senate | Ex-Yahoo chief to testify on hack | Senators dig into election security Feinstein: Sessions should re-testify on Russia meetings MORE (D-Minn.). “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

January 11, 2017 

Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems win from coast to coast Falwell after Gillespie loss: 'DC should annex' Northern Virginia Dems see gains in Virginia's House of Delegates MORE writes on Twitter,  “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” 

January 15, 2017 

Vice President-elect Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSean Spicer: After Trump's year 1, GOP poised to dominate again in 2018 Cornyn: Senate GOP tax plan to be released Thursday Pence to visit site of Texas church shooting on Wednesday MORE tells CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Michael Flynn did not discuss sanctions with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. 

“It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation,” Pence says of the December conversation between Flynn and Kislyak. “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.” 

Pence also tells “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson that no adviser or member of the campaign had contact with Russians who were trying to influence the election. 

February 13, 2017 

Flynn resigns as national security adviser, admitting to “inadvertently” providing Pence and others “incomplete information” regarding his phone calls with the Russian ambassador in his letter of resignation.

The Washington Post reported days earlier that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Kislyak and may have discussed the possibility of lifting them.

February 14, 2017 

White House press secretary Sean Spicer tells reporters at a press briefing that Trump stands by his assertion that no member of the campaign, including Flynn, had contacts with Russia before the election. 

“There’s nothing that would conclude me that anything different has changed with respect to that time period,” Spicer says.

February 16, 2017 

Trump says during a news conference that he has nothing to do with Russia, calling the reports about campaign associates’ ties to Moscow a “ruse.”

“I have nothing to do with Russia,” Trump says. “To the best of my knowledge no person that I deal with does.”

Trump acknowledges that Flynn did have contacts with the Russian ambassador — but describes it as routine contact with foreign officials, saying Flynn was “doing his job.” 

February 19, 2017 

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus denies that members or associates of the campaign had contacts with Russian officials involved in the effort to influence the election and says his assertions are backed up by members of the intelligence community. 

“The New York Times put out an article with no direct sources that said that the Trump campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies, basically, you know, some treasonous type of accusations,” Priebus tells Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”

“We have now all kinds of people looking into this.  I can assure you and I have been approved to say this — that the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate, but it’s grossly overstated and it was wrong.  And there’s nothing to it.” 

Priebus also flatly denies any “collusion” between Trump affiliates and Moscow. 

March 1, 2017  

The Justice Department confirms to the Washington Post that Sessions spoke twice to Kislyak before the 2016 presidential election, once in July and once during a September meeting in his Senate office. 

Department officials say Sessions met with the Russian ambassador in his capacity as a senator and member of the Armed Services Committee.  

March 20, 2017 

FBI Director James Comey confirms in public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee that the bureau is investigating Russian election interference, and any linkes between Moscow and Trump’s campaign.

The same day, Spicer says at a press briefing that Trump stands by his comments that he has no knowledge of any contacts between his campaign associates and Russia during the election — though he notes that Trump is aware of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak. Spicer says that the White House is not aware of any contacts between former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Russian operatives.

Spicer also stresses that former Obama intelligence officials have said there is 
“no evidence of a Trump Russia collusion.” 

May 8, 2017 

Former acting attorney general Sally Yates says during testimony before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that she had warned the White House that Flynn and Kislyak had discussed sanctions immediately after realizing that Flynn had misled Pence about that fact.

Flynn’s communications with Kislyak had been picked up in routine surveillance of the Russian ambassador, she says.

“Our concern was that you have a very sensitive position like the national security adviser and you don’t want that person to be in a position where the Russians have leverage over them,” Yates says.

Yates also disputes the White House’s characterization of Flynn’s behavior as routine. 

May 23, 2017  

Former CIA director John Brennan confirms that he viewed intelligence showing people involved in Trump’s campaign had interacted with Russian officials and that the contacts “concerned” him.

He refuses to identify the individuals or speak to their level of involvement in the campaign, and says he is unsure whether the contacts amounted to “collusion.” 

“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign,” Brennan says. 

May 25, 2017 

The Justice Department tells CNN that Sessions did not disclose his meetings with Kislyak on his application for a security clearance, despite a requirement to name contacts with a foreign government or its representatives in the previous seven years.