Dispatch May 18, 2017

Who Knew What And When

For months, Republicans knew much more about Russia than they let on.

As reports continue to surface that Republicans knew much more than they let on at the time, the Moscow Project will keep a running tab of who knew what and when.

Here is our initial timeline with a few key points.

Key points:

VP-elect Mike Pence has a strange habit of claiming to only be aware of major issues when they become public.

  • On January 4, 2017, Pence was the head of the Trump transition when Flynn informed transition officials he was under FBI investigation for his ties to Turkey. Pence claimed he was unaware that Flynn was a foreign agent until the news broke publicly on March 9, 2017.
  • On January 26, 2017, the same day Sally Yates warned White House officials Flynn was compromised by the Russians, Pence’s twitter feedconfirms he was also in the building that day. Pence denied Flynn had any improper contact with the Russians until the news finally broke publicly on February 9, 2017.

Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were reportedly briefed on Russian hacking as early as the summer of 2015.

  • In August 2016, CIA director John Brennan reportedly began a series of “urgent, individual” briefings for the top eight members of Congress, including Ryan and McConnell.
  • In September 2016, McConnell reportedly threatened to politicize intelligence he’d been receiving in some form for nearly a year.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy had already seen public reports confirming Russian government hackers attacked the DNC when he said Trump was “paid by Putin” on June 15, 2016.

Who Knew What and When, Timeline:

Summer 2015: According to Reuters, U.S. intelligence officials inform House and Senate leaders in the summer of 2015 about ongoing efforts by Russian hackers to attack the Democratic Party. (Reuters, 8/12/16)

June 14, 2016: The Washington Post reports that Russian government hackers have attacked the DNC. (Washington Post, 6/14/16)

June 15, 2016: The next day, Rep. Kevin McCarthy tells fellow GOP leaders, “there’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” (Washington Post, 5/17/17)

August 17, 2016: Trump receives the first of several classified briefings by intelligence agencies that include information about the hacking incidents, including “direct links” between Russian President Putin’s government and the hacks and email leaks. (NBC, 10/10/16)

Late August, 2016: CIA Director John Brennan begins a series of “urgent, individual” briefings for eight top members of Congress to inform them of Russian efforts to help elect Donald Trump. (New York Times, 4/6/17)

August 29, 2016: After being briefed by John Brennen, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) sends a letter to FBI Director James Comey voicing concern over Russian interference in the election and asking Comey to open an FBI investigation. (New York Times, 8/29/16)

September 2016: The “Gang of 12” — Senate, House, and congressional intelligence committee leaders — receive briefings from the intelligence community about Russian interference in the election, at which point Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voices doubts about the intelligence presented. (Washington Post, 12/9/16)

October 30, 2016: Sen. Reid sends another letter to FBI Director Comey about his handling of the Clinton email probe, in which he criticizes Comey for unfairly sitting on “explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government”. (Washington Post, 10/30/16)

Early November, 2016: Trump campaign lawyers “first become aware” of Flynn’s business dealings with Turkey around the time Flynn publishes a pro-Turkey op-ed in The Hill on November 8. (New York Times, 5/17/17)

November 10, 2016: Obama warns Trump not to hire Flynn as National Security Adviser. According to one former Obama official, “Obama’s concerns were not related to the firing of Flynn from the Defense Intelligence Agency but rather in the course of the investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election.” (CNN, 5/9/17)

November 28-December 2, 2016: The CIA briefs “key Senators” on the assessment that Russia intervened in the election to help elect Donald Trump. These findings, supported by 17 intelligence agencies, are made public December 9, 2016. (Washington Post, 12/9/16)

Mid-November, 2016: After an article is published in the Daily Caller on November 11 exposing Flynn Intel Groups’ pro-Turkish lobbying contracts, William McGinley, a Trump campaign lawyer and now a White House official, calls the Flynn Intel Group to learn more about Flynn’s foreign work. (New York Times, 5/17/17)

November 30, 2016: The Justice Department notifies Flynn of an inquiry into his lobbying work. A federal investigation begins soon after. (New York Times, 5/17/17)

January 4, 2017: Don McGahn, then the chief lawyer for Trump transition, learns from Flynn about a federal investigation into Flynn’s lobbying work for Turkey. VP-elect Mike Pence is head of the transition at this point. (New York Times, 5/17/17; New York Times, 11/11/16)

Around this time, the FBI also begins investigating Flynn’s December phone calls with Kislyak. (New York Times, 5/17/17)

January 6, 2017: McGahn and transition lawyers hold another conversation with Flynn’s lawyers about the ongoing investigation into Flynn’s lobbying work. (New York Times, 5/17/17)

While briefing Trump about the DNI report on Russian interference in the election, the heads of the NSA, FBI, CIA, and DNI also inform the President-Elect about the existence of the Steele dossier and allegations of Russian efforts to compromise him. (CNN, 1/12/17)

January 14, 2017: According to the Vice President, Flynn reportedly assures Pence that sanctions were not discussed with Kislayk. (Washington Post, 2/14/17)

January 15, 2017: Pence goes on Sunday talk shows, defending Flynn and denying that sanctions were discussed. (NBC, 2/15/17)

January 25, 2017: Sally Yates receives details about the FBI’s investigation of Flynn.

January 26, 2017: Yates and a senior DOJ official brief White House counsel Don McGahn about Flynn’s FBI interview and warn that Flynn is a blackmail risk. (ABC, 5/8/17)

According to Sean Spicer, McGahn briefs the President immediately after his meeting with Yates. (ABC, 5/8/17)

February 9, 2017: The Washington Post reports that Flynn lied about discussing sanctions with Kislyak. (Washington Post, 2/9/17)

Pence claims he had been kept in the dark about the nature of Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak. (Washington Post, 2/14/17)

March 9, 2017: Pence claims that he has just learned about the investigation into Flynn’s Turkish lobbying from media reports.