Trump Sang Russia’s Praises While Papadopoulos Sought Contacts

By Michael KellerMichael Keller, David VoreacosDavid Voreacos and Jennifer EpsteinJennifer Epstein

A day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller disclosed charges against former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, President Donald Trump dismissed them. That's not a surprise; he has called charges that his campaign colluded with Russia a "witch hunt."

But the FBI's timeline shows that Trump campaign officials encouraged Papadopoulos to seek a meeting with individuals allegedly connected to the Russian government at a time when Trump campaigned on improving U.S. relations with Russia.

Here’s how Mueller detailed his first charges into possible Russian collusion, and how the Trump campaign and his administration framed their relationship with Russia at the time.

Campaign members
Russia-connected contacts
Trump statements about Russia

March 2016

Early March 2016
Papadopoulos learns he'll be a campaign foreign policy adviser and a campaign supervisor tells him improved Russian relations will be a focus.
March 14
In Italy, Papadopoulos meets a London-based professor who claims “substantial connections to Russian government officials.”
March 24
In London, the professor introduces him to a female Russian national, saying she is Putin’s niece with connections to senior government officials. Papadopoulos later learns she was not related to Putin.
After March 24
Papadopoulos emails campaign supervisor and members of the foreign policy team about meeting with the professor and the Russian woman. He says they discussed arranging a meeting with Russian leadership. The campaign supervisor responds “Great work” and that he would “work it through the campaign.”
March 31
At a national security meeting with Trump and other campaign officials, Papadopoulos introduces himself as someone with connections who could arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin.

April 2016

April 18
The professor introduces Papadopoulos by email to a contact claiming connections to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Papadopoulos and this contact begin coordinating a potential meeting.
April 25
Papadopoulos emails a senior policy adviser for the campaign: "The Russian government has an open invitiation by Putin to meet Mr. Trump."
April 26
In a primary victory speech, Trump says: “We're going to have a great relationship with Putin and Russia.”
April 26
At a meeting in London, the professor tells Papadopoulos that he just returned from a trip to Moscow where he met with high-level government officials. He tells Papadopoulos that the Russians have “dirt” on Clinton in “thousands of emails.”
April 27
Trump gives “America First” speech at the Mayflower Hotel in which he calls for more cooperation with Russia.
After April 26
He emails with the professor, MFA contact and campaign officials to set up a meeting. He also emails a senior policy adviser and a high-ranking campaign official to “discuss Russia’s interest in hosting Mr. Trump.”
April 30
Papadopoulos thanks the professor for “critical help” in setting up the meeting saying, “It’s history making if it happens.”

May 2016

May 4
The Russian MFA contact says his colleagues are “open for cooperation” and suggest a meeting in Moscow. Papadopoulos forwards the email to high-ranking campaign official and asks “What do you think? Is this something we want to move forward with?”
May 5
Papadopoulos has a call with campaign supervisor and forwards the May 4 email from the MFA contact adding at the top of the email: “Russia updates.”
May 13
The professor emails Papadopoulos saying he will liaise on “what is needed for a high-level meeting.”
May 14
Papadopoulos emails the high-ranking campaign official saying the “Russian government[] ha[s] also relayed to me that they are interested in hosting Mr. Trump.”
May 19
Paul Manafort takes over the Trump campaign as chairman.
May 21
Papadopoulos emails another high-ranking campaign official with subject line “Request from Russia to meet Mr. Trump.” He includes previous emails from the MFA contact.
May 27
At a campaign rally in Fresno, California, Trump praises Putin: “I respect Putin. He is a strong leader.”

June 2016

June 1
Papadopoulos emails the high-ranking campaign official asking about the Russia meeting. The high-ranking official responds saying that the campaign supervisor is “running point.”
June 3
Donald Trump Jr. gets offer for documents that would incriminate Clinton and her dealings with Russia.
June 7
Manafort offers to brief Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska on the campaign.
June 9
A meeting takes place to follow up on incriminating Clinton documents at Trump Tower with Donald Jr., Manafort, Jared Kushner, Rinat Akhmetshin, Natalia Veselnitskaya, Rob Goldstone and Ike Kaveladze.
Mid-June to Mid-August
Papadopoulos pursues “off the record” meeting between one or more campaign representatives and “members of president putin’s office and the mfa”
June 20
Corey Lewandowski fired as campaign manager.

July 2016

July 25
Trump tweets: “The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me.”
July 27
At a news conference in Florida, Trump urges Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. “I will tell you this, Russia: If you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

August 2016

August 15
Campaign supervisor tells Papadopoulos: “I would encourage you” and another foreign policy adviser “to make the trip if it is feasible.” The trip does not occur.
August 19
Manafort resigns as campaign chair.
August 21
Longtime Trump friend and adviser Roger Stone foreshadows the release of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails, tweeting: “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary”

October 2016

October 7
WikiLeaks publishes its first batch of Podesta’s emails, parceling them out day by day leading up to Election Day. The emails are posted half an hour after the Washington Post publishes a video of Trump making lewd comments about women during unaired portions of an interview with “Access Hollywood.”

January 2017

January 10
In his Senate confirmation hearing, Jeff Sessions denies anyone in Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government.
January 11
Trump tweets about the question of his ties to his campaign and Russia: “FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”
Jan. 27
Papadopoulos agrees to a voluntary interview with the FBI. He is told it’s a federal offense to lie. During the interview, he makes “numerous false statements and omitted material facts.” He repeatedly insists he was not a part of the campaign when he learned of the Russian “dirt” on Clinton. He says his meetings with the professor were inconsequential, that he met the female Russian national before he joined the campaign. He does not mention the MFA contact.

February 2017

February 6
Interviewer Bill O'Reilly calls Putin a “killer,” and Trump responds by saying: “There are a lot of killers. Do you think our country is so innocent?”
February 16
At his first White House news conference, Trump says that he does not own anything in Russia or have any loans there.
February 16
Papadopoulos interviewed again by FBI with attorney, says he is willing to cooperate.
February 17
Papadopoulos deletes his Facebook account, which had communication with the professor and the MFA contact, and makes a new one. He also stops using his cell number and gets a new one.

May 2017

May 9
Trump fires FBI director James Comey.
May 11
In an interview with NBC's Lester Holt, Trump says his campaign and Russia did not coordinate: “[No] collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.”

July 2017

July 26
The FBI conducts no-knock raid on Manafort home in Alexandria. They take documents and image phones, computers and other devices.
July 27
Papadopoulos is arrested at Dulles International Airport. He later met with investigators “on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions.”

October 2017

October 5
Papadopoulos pleads guilty.
October 30
Paul Manafort and Robert Gates are indicted on money laundering, lobbying disclosure, conspiracy and tax charges.
October 30
Papadopoulos’s guilty plea and cooperation are made public.