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The curious timeline for taking down Trump

It’s three full years since President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE was elected.

Among those who predicted he could never win the election — or that he might have been conspiring with Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' Hillary Clinton: There must be a 'global reckoning' with disinformation Pelosi's archbishop calls for Communion to be withheld from public figures supporting abortion rights MORE all along, worked for Russia’s President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBiden 'confident' meeting with Putin will take place soon Blinken: US stands with Ukraine in face of Russian aggression Russia keeping 80K troops at border amid NATO exercise, US officials say MORE, would crash the U.S. stock market his first week in office, would ban all Muslims, would send illegal immigrants home en masse on buses and trains, and would start a nuclear war — there have been real concerns.

But to others, there are different concerns that have borne out. We continue to get evidence of an orchestrated effort among government insiders and the well-connected to take down President Trump at all costs. The public evidence indicates that the effort was hatched even before he took office.

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Trump critics would argue that there was good reason to devise plots against him before he was inaugurated. His supporters would argue that the opposition has crossed the line into unlawful actions involving wiretapping and attempts to frame Trump and his associates.

In any event, we can build an oversimplified timeline to make the point:

Aug. 15, 2016: After FBI counterespionage chief Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page met with Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeJohn Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Carter Page sues over surveillance related to Russia probe McCabe defends investigation of Trump before Senate committee: We had 'many reasons' MORE, Strzok texts Page that they couldn’t take the risk of Trump getting elected without having “an insurance policy” in place.

October 2016: Benjamin Wittes, founder of a left-wing liberal blog called “Lawfare” — as in the “use of law as a weapon of conflict” — writes, “What if Trump wins? We need an insurance policy against the unthinkable: Donald Trump’s actually winning the Presidency.” Wittes writes that his vision of an “insurance policy” would rely on a “Coalition of All Democratic Forces” to challenge and obstruct Trump, using the courts as a “tool” and Congress as “a partner or tool.” He even mentions impeachment — two weeks before Trump is elected.

Wittes has acknowledged being a good friend of fired FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien Comey'Fox News Sunday' to mark 25 years on air Showtime developing limited series about Jan. 6 Capitol riot Wray says FBI not systemically racist MORE. He spoke to a New York Times reporter about Comey’s interactions with President Trump right after Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE's appointment as special counsel. 

October 2016: The FBI begins a yearlong secret wiretap on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, which would have allowed intel officials access to information and conversations involving other Trump associates and possibly Trump himself. Page was never charged with any offense. The FBI never apologized for the unwarranted privacy intrusions. The lawfulness of the wiretap has been questioned. 

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Jan. 3, 2017: Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture How to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs MORE (D-N.Y.) publicly warns Trump that if he took on the intelligence community, it has “six ways from Sunday to get back at you.” 

Jan. 11, 2017: A Politico investigation concludes that Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump in the 2016 election with help from a Ukrainian American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee.

Jan. 30, 2017: Days after President Trump takes office, attorney Mark Zaid tweets that a “coup has started” and “impeachment will follow ultimately.” Zaid often deals with government investigations and clients in the intelligence community. 

A few months later, still in 2017, Zaid tweets: “I predict @CNN will play a key role in @realDonaldTrump not finishing out his full term as president” and “We will get rid of him, and this country is strong enough to survive even him and his supporters.” Zaid also tweets that “as one falls, two more will take their place” and the “coup” would occur in “many steps.”

Zaid went on to represent the alleged whistleblower in the Trump impeachment effort. (Zaid has stated, in his own defense, that his mention of a “coup” simply referred to what he saw as a lawful attempt by attorneys to remove an unlawful president from office.)

May 17, 2017: Special counsel Robert Mueller begins investigating Trump. 

August 2017: Trump critic and former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperWill Biden provide strategic clarity or further ambiguity on Taiwan? 140 national security leaders call for 9/11-style panel to review Jan. 6 attack The biggest example of media malfeasance in 2020 is... MORE is hired as an analyst at CNN. He attacks Trump regularly, at times with incorrect information.  

Jan. 23, 2018: Former Vice President Joe Biden publicly brags that he got Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor by threatening to withhold U.S. aid. The prosecutor was investigating Burisma, an energy company where Biden’s son had served on the board since 2014, when his father was vice president.

Feb. 1, 2018: Trump critic and former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Republicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal Online and frighteningly real: 'A Taste of Armageddon' MORE is hired as an analyst for NBC and MSNBC, where he attacks Trump regularly, at times with incorrect information.

March 22, 2019: The special counsel’s probe ends without concluding that Trump or his associates conspired with Russia, despite what critics such as Brennan and Clapper long had claimed. Democrats are unable to unite on an impeachment push over the findings.

April 2019: Ukraine elects a new president. Former Vice President BidenJoe BidenBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit On The Money: Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report | GOP targets jobless aid after lackluster April gain MORE’s son Hunter Biden steps down from the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

July 25, 2019: President Trump calls the newly elected president of Ukraine and asks for cooperation in a probe involving long-standing corruption in Ukraine along with alleged ties to U.S. Democrats and the 2016 campaign. 

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Aug. 12, 2019: Someone alleging to be a whistleblower files a complaint about the phone call with the intelligence community’s inspector general. The anonymous person alleges President Trump sought political dirt to use against Biden in 2020 as part of a “quid pro quo.” Quids pro quo aren’t inherently illegal or improper and are, in fact, a key component of most foreign aid. However, the whistleblower claims Trump is improperly withholding military aid from Ukraine for his own political purposes.

Sept. 9, 2019: The inspector general notifies the House Intelligence Committee about the complaint. Although Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump backs Stefanik to replace Cheney Gender politics hound GOP in Cheney drama Senate Intel vows to 'get to the bottom' of 'Havana syndrome' attacks MORE (D-Calif.) initially denies doing so, it turns out that he and his staff already had met with — or conspired with, depending on your view — the alleged whistleblower. 

Sept. 24, 2019: House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July MORE (D-Calif.) announces an impeachment inquiry based on the alleged whistleblower’s claims. 

On the same date, President Trump releases the transcript of his call with Ukraine’s president. There is no mention of a quid pro quo, political dirt, withholding aid or campaign 2020. Trump’s critics counter that these things were implicit. There is no evidence, however, that Ukraine provided Trump with "dirt” on Biden — a necessary component of an alleged quid pro quo.

Sept. 25, 2019: The president of Ukraine says he did not feel pushed by President Trump to investigate Biden or to take other action.

Oct. 31, 2019: The House approves impeachment process rules. The vote is largely along party lines, with two Democrats siding with Republicans.

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It could be a coincidence that so many key names in this timeline — from John Brennan and James Comey, to Ukraine and CNN — factor into the Trump impeachment push. And, further, it could be a coincidence that we have ended up where some Trump critics said they hoped to be, even before he was sworn in.

On the other hand, in retrospect, the biggest surprise might be that, all things considered, it took them so long to get to this point. 

Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) is an Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, author of The New York Times best-sellers “The Smear” and “Stonewalled,” and host of Sinclair’s Sunday TV program, “Full Measure.”