Democracy & Government

A Timeline: Everything We Know So Far About the Comey Firing (in One Place)

We've pulled together the key events and their backstories.

Everything We Know So Far About the Comey Firing

Former FBI Director James Comey. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The ongoing revelations in the Trump/Russia saga have been stunning. But the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the resulting cover-up have generated independent scandals of their own.

As we continue to update our Trump/Russia timeline, this new timeline collects separately (and will be updated with) events bearing most directly on the Trump/Comey chapter.

We will continue to update both timelines.

 

 


 

  • Winter 2016: According to US Attorney Rod Rosenstein, during one of his first interviews with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to become deputy attorney general in the Trump administration, they discuss “the need for new leadership at the FBI.” [Added May 30, 2017]
  • Jan. 6, 2017: FBI Director Comey meets Trump for the first time at a meeting with the intelligence community to brief him on the investigation into Russian interference with the election. At the end of the meeting, Comey remains alone to brief Trump on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled, referred to as the “Steele dossier.” During that meeting, Comey says that the FBI does not have an open counter-intelligence case on him personally. Comey prepares a memo to document his conversation with Trump. [Added June 12, 2017]
  • Jan. 14, 2017: A member of Trump’s transition team says that Maryland US Attorney Rod Rosenstein will replace Sally Yates as deputy attorney general. In a statement to Congress on May 19, Rosenstein said that, prior to his nomination, in one of his first meetings with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions after the election, he and Sessions had discussed the need for new leadership at the FBI. [Added May 22, 2017]
  • Jan. 22, 2017: FBI Director James Comey is reluctant to attend a White House ceremony honoring law enforcement because, according to his friend Benjamin Wittes, he doesn’t want the director of the Bureau to have a close relationship with any president. But Comey ultimately decides to go. Wittes later tells The New York Times and writes at Lawfare that Comey, noticing that the drapes were a similar shade of blue to his blazer, tried to blend in with them at the far end of the room — as far from Trump as he could get. As the ceremony concludes, Trump calls him over, saying, “Oh, and there’s Jim. He’s become more famous than me.” According to Wittes’ account, as Comey takes the long walk across the room, he is determined that he will not hug Trump. To protect the bureau’s integrity, Comey wants to avoid showing warmth toward him. As Comey pre-emptively reaches out to shake hands, Trump grabs his hand and attempts an embrace. Comey is “disgusted” and, according to Wittes, regards the move as a “physical attempt to show closeness and warmth in a fashion calculated to compromise him before Democrats who already mistrusted him.” [Added May 22, 2017]
  • Jan. 26, 2017: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informs White House Counsel Don McGahn that, based on recent public statements of White House officials including Vice President Mike Pence, Flynn had lied to Pence and others about his late-December conversations with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. According to Sean Spicer, Trump and a small group of White House advisers were “immediately informed of the situation.”
  • Jan. 27, 2017: McGahn asks Yates to return to the White House for another discussion about Flynn. He asks Yates, “Why does it matter to the Department of Justice if one White House official lies to another?” Yates explains that Flynn’s lies make him vulnerable to Russian blackmail because the Russians know that Flynn lied and could probably prove it.
  • Also on Jan. 27, 2017: At lunchtime, Trump calls FBI Director Comey and invites him to dinner that evening. In a one-on-one White House dinner in the Green Room, Trump asks Comey if he would like to stay on as director, which strikes Comey as odd because Trump had told him in two earlier conversations that he wanted Comey to remain. Comey says that he intends to serve out his full 10-year term. He also says that he’s not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but that Trump could always count on him to tell the truth. A few moments later, Trump says, “I need loyalty; I expect loyalty.” An awkward silence follows. The conversation moves to other subjects, including Comey’s explanation of why the FBI must remain independent of the White House. At the end of the dinner, Trump repeats, “I need loyalty.” Comey responds, “You will always get honesty from me.” Trump replies, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” To end the awkward conversation, Comey says, “You will get that from me.” Afterward, Comey writes a detailed memo about the dinner and describes it to the FBI’s senior leadership team on the condition that they not disclose it while he remains director. [Revised June 12, 2017]
  • Jan. 31, 2017: The White House announces its intention to nominate Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general. [Added May 22, 2017]
  • Feb. 8, 2017: According to a later report in The New York Times, FBI Director Comey has a private meeting at the White House with chief of staff Reince Priebus. He tells Priebus about a Justice Department policy that largely bars discussions between White House officials and the FBI with respect to continuing investigations. The purpose of the policy is to prevent political meddling — or at least the appearance of it — in the bureau’s work, according to the law enforcement official source for the Times report. [Added Aug. 21, 2017]
  • Feb. 14, 2017: At the conclusion of an Oval Office meeting that includes Vice President Pence, Attorney General Sessions and FBI Director Comey, Trump asks everyone except Comey to leave. The last person to leave is Jared Kushner. When Comey and Trump are alone, Trump says, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” In a June 8 statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey recalls that Trump “began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the vice president. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.” After discussing the subject of classified information leaks, Trump returns to the topic of Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeats that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled Pence. He then says, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Comey replies only that “he is a good guy.” Comey later testifies that he understood Trump to be requesting that the FBI drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. He writes up a memorandum of his conversation and discusses the matter with the FBI’s senior leadership. [Added June 12, 2017]
  • Feb. 15, 2017: FBI Director Comey asks Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prevent any further direct communication between Trump and him. He tells Sessions that what had just occurred — that he, the attorney general, had been asked to leave so that the president could be alone with the FBI director — was inappropriate and should never happen. Sessions doesn’t answer. [Added June 12, 2017]
  • March 1, 2017: As Director Comey prepares to board a helicopter, he receives a message from the White House: Trump wants to speak with him urgently. Comey delays his flight but, according to Wittes, soon realizes that Trump wants only to “chitchat.” [Added May 22, 2017]
  • March 7, 2017: Former national security adviser Mike Flynn files registration documents confirming that between August 2016 and Election Day, he’d earned $530,000 for lobbying work on behalf of a company owned by a Turkish businessman. Flynn acknowledges that his work as a foreign agent could have benefitted the Turkish government. [Added May 22, 2017]
  • March 20, 2017: On the morning of FBI Director Comey’s testimony before Congress on his agency’s investigation into Russian election interference, Trump tweets: “The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!” Hours later, Comey testifies that the FBI was investigating Russian interference with election, including “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” With respect to Trump’s wiretapping claims, Comey says, “I have no information that supports those tweets.” [Added May 22, 2017]
  • Within days of March 20, 2017: Less than a week after FBI Director Comey’s testimony, Trump personally calls the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, and the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Mike Rogers, and asks them to deny publicly the existence of any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia prior to the election. A senior intelligence official later tells The Washington Post that Trump’s goal is to “muddy the waters” about the scope of the FBI probe at a time when Democrats are ramping up their calls for the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel. A NSA official reportedly documents Rogers’ conversation with Trump in a contemporaneous memo. Coats and Rogers deem Trump’s request inappropriate and refuse. Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 7, 2017, Rogers refuses in open session to answer questions about his conversations with Trump about FBI Director Comey. But Rogers goes on to assert that he does not recall ever feeling “pressured” to interfere with any ongoing investigation. Coats adopts Rogers’ response, as do fellow testifying witnesses Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. [Added June 12, 2017]
  • March 22, 2017: As a briefing from several government agencies concludes in the Oval Office, Trump asks everyone to leave, except recently confirmed Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Trump then complains to them about FBI Director Comey’s Trump/Russia investigation and asks Coats to intervene and get Comey to back off. Coats discusses the matter with other officials and decides that Trump’s request is inappropriate. Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 7, 2017, Coats refuses in open session to discuss his conversations with Trump. [Added June 12, 2017]
  • March 27, 2017: During lunch with Benjamin Wittes, Comey says he’s worried about Trump’s nominee for deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. “Rod is a survivor,” he says, explaining that a person doesn’t survive for more than 25 years across Republican and Democratic administrations without making compromises. “So I have concerns.” Wittes later says that he thinks Comey’s concerns stemmed, in part, from his “loyalty dinner” with Trump. If Trump had asked Comey for personal loyalty, what had he asked of Rosenstein? [Added May 22, 2017]
  • March 30, 2017: In the morning, according to Comey’s June 8 statement, Trump calls Comey at the FBI, asking what Comey can do to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation overhanging the presidency. Trump asks Comey to “get out” the fact that Trump personally is not a subject of the FBI investigation. According to Comey, Trump says that “he had nothing to do with Russia” and “had not been involved with hookers in Russia,” referring to allegations in the “Steele dossier.” Trump “went on to say that if there were some ‘satellite’ associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out…” [Added June 12, 2017]
  • April 11, 2017: In the morning, according to Comey’s June 8 statement, Trump calls Comey to ask what he’d done to “get out” the fact that he wasn’t personally being investigated. Comey replies that he’d sent Trump’s request to the acting attorney general, but had not heard back. Trump says that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. Comey replies that White House counsel should contact the Department of Justice leadership to make the request. Trump says he would do that and adds, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” Comey does not reply or ask him what Trump means by “that thing.” Comey says only that the way to handle it was to have the White House counsel call the acting deputy attorney general. Trump says that was what he would do and the call ends. [Added June 12, 2017]
  • April 25, 2017: The Senate confirms Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general. Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from matters relating to the 2016 presidential election, including the Trump/Russia investigation, Rosenstein becomes the top Justice Department official supervising FBI Director Comey on that investigation.
  • Also on April 25, 2017: The Senate confirms Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general. Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from matters relating to the 2016 presidential election, including the Trump/Russia investigation, Rosenstein becomes the top Justice Department official supervising FBI Director Comey on that investigation. FBI Director Comey later testifies (at the 1:18 mark) that he explains to Rosenstein his “serious concern about the way in which the president is interacting, especially with the FBI….” [Added June 12, 2017]
  • May 6-7, 2017: Trump spends the weekend at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. Since March, he’s been fuming over Comey’s congressional appearance, in which the FBI director had acknowledged the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia and had refuted Trump’s false claim that President Obama had wiretapped him. In the weeks that followed, Trump grew angrier and talked about firing Comey. At Bedminister, Trump grouses over Comey’s May 3 congressional testimony — especially his comment about being “mildly nauseous” at the thought that his actions relating to the Clinton investigation might have affected the outcome of the election.
  • May 8, 2017: Trump informs a small group of his closest advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence, Jared Kushner and White House counsel Don McGahn, that he plans to fire FBI Director James Comey. According to The New York Times, McGahn counsels Trump to delay dismissing Comey; Kushner urges him to proceed. [Revised May 30, 2017]
  • Also on May 8, 2017: Trump follows Kushner’s advice and, according to ABC News, Kushner, White House counsel Don McGahn, Vice President Pence and chief of staff Reince Priebus begin to prepare talking points about Comey’s planned firing. Meanwhile, Trump summons Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to the White House, where he instructs them provide a written justification for removing Comey. Before Rosenstein prepares the requested memo, he knows that Trump intends to fire Comey. [Revised May 30, 2017]
  • Also on May 8, 2017: With former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates scheduled to testify later in the day, Trump tweets:

  • Days before May 9, 2017: According to The New York Times FBI Director Comey asks Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein for additional resources to expand the bureau’s Trump/Russia investigation. Department of Justice spokesperson Sarah Flores denies the story, calling it “100 percent false.”
  • May 9, 2017: Citing the May 9 recommendations of Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, Trump fires FBI Director Comey, ostensibly because of his inappropriate statements about the Clinton email investigation prior to the 2016 election. Trump, Sessions and Rosenstein write that terminating Comey is necessary to restore trust, confidence and integrity in the FBI. In his termination letter to Comey, Trump also says he “greatly appreciates you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.”
  • Also on May 9, 2017: CNN reports that a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia had recently issued subpoenas to associates of former national security adviser Mike Flynn.
  • Also on May 9, 2017: Late in the evening and amid bushes on the White House grounds, press secretary Sean Spicer tells reporters to “turn the lights off” before answering questions about Comey’s firing. He says that the impetus came from the deputy attorney general. “No one from the White House,” Spicer says. “That was a DOJ decision.” Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway echoes that position on CNN, reading excerpts from Rosenstein’s memo to Anderson Cooper.
  • May 10, 2017: Vice President Mike Pence says repeatedly that Comey’s firing occurred because Sessions and Rosenstein recommended it: The deputy attorney general “came to work, sat down and made the recommendation for the FBI to be able to do its job that it would need new leadership. He brought that recommendation to the president. The attorney general concurred with that recommendation.”
  • Also on May 10, 2017: Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Trump had been thinking about firing Comey “since the day he was elected,” but reiterates Pence’s position that Sessions and Rosenstein were “absolutely” the impetus for the firing.
  • Also on May 10, 2017: The Washington Post and The New York Times report that Trump had been the impetus for Comey’s firing, not Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein.
  • Also on May 10, 2017: Rod Rosenstein speaks by phone with White House counsel Don McGahn. According to The Wall Street Journal, Rosenstein insists that the White House correct the misimpression that Rosenstein initiated the process leading to Comey’s firing. He suggests that he can’t work in an environment where facts aren’t reported accurately.
  • Also on May 10, 2017: The White House releases a new timeline of the events relating to Comey’s firing. It recites that the impetus for removing Comey had come from Trump, not the deputy attorney general. But the White House acknowledges that Trump met with Sessions and Rosenstein on May 8 to discuss “reasons for removing the director” and that the attorney general and his deputy sent their written recommendations to Trump on May 9.
  • Also on May 10, 2017: House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) asks the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate Comey’s firing.
  • Also on May 10, 2017: At an Oval Office meeting with Russia’s Ambassador Kislyak, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and their aides, Trump reveals highly classified intelligence about the Islamic State and American counterterrorism plans. The meeting occurs because Putin previously had asked Trump to meet with Lavrov, and, Trump later says, he didn’t feel he could say no. Kislyak’s presence was unexpected. The intelligence that Trump reveals is so sensitive that it has not been shared with American allies and has been tightly restricted within the US government. Minutes after the meeting ends, Kislyak’s presence becomes known when the Russian news agency TASS publishes photographs that a Russian photographer had taken of the session. The White House had not permitted any US news organization to attend any part of the meeting, even for photographs. During the meeting, Trump also discusses the Comey firing. “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump says. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Then he adds, “I’m not under investigation.” [Revised May 22, 2017]
  • May 11, 2017: Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testifies that James Comey enjoyed “broad support within the FBI and still does to this day…. The majority, the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep, positive connection to Director Comey.”
  • Also on May 11, 2017: Trump tells NBC’s Lester Holt that he had already decided to fire Comey before his meeting with Sessions and Rosenstein: “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story….” Trump also says that on three different occasions — once in person and twice over the phone — he’d asked Comey if he was under investigation for alleged ties to Russia, and Comey told him he wasn’t. And Trump tells Holt that he had sent Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) a “certified letter” from “from one of the most prestigious law firms in the country” confirming that he has “nothing to do with Russia.”
  • Also on May 11, 2017: The New York Times reports on Trump’s one-on-one dinner with Comey on Jan. 27, when Trump asked Comey for a personal loyalty pledge that Comey refused to provide.
  • Also on May 11, 2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee sent Mike Flynn a subpoena for documents that he’d refused to produce voluntarily in response to the committee’s April 28 letter request.
  • May 12, 2017: Trump tweets:

  • Also on May 12, 2017: In response to questions about Trump’s early morning tweet about Comey and “tapes,” press secretary Sean Spicer refuses to answer whether Trump was taping Oval Office conversations. “The president has nothing further to add on that,” Spicer says repeatedly.
  • Also on May 12, 2017: The White House releases a one-page March 8, 2017 letter from Trump’s outside lawyers — Sheri Dillon and William Nelson at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. The carefully worded letter states that “with a few exceptions” totaling about $100 million, Trump’s tax returns from 2005 “do not reflect” any “income from Russian sources,” “debt owed by you or [The Trump Organization] to Russian lenders,” “equity investments by Russian persons or entities,” or “equity or debt investments by you or [The Trump Organization] in Russian entities.” The letter does not define “Russian” or purport to determine whether or to what extent individuals from Russia, Ukraine or other former Soviet-bloc countries may have used shell corporations through which they may have conducted transactions with Trump businesses. Months earlier, Dillon had developed and presented Trump’s business conflicts of interest plan whereby Trump retained all ownership in his businesses.
  • Also on May 12, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reports that the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) — a unit that specializes in combating money-laundering — will share financial records with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Trump’s ties to Russia.
  • Between on May 13 and May 15, 2017: After seeing Trump’s “tapes” tweet, Comey remembers that he has contemporaneous memos of his conversations with Trump. He gives them to a friend at Columbia Law School and asks his friend to provide them to the press. [Added June 12, 2017]
  • May 15, 2017: At his daily press conference, Sean Spicer refuses — seven times — to answer whether Trump is secretly recording his conversations. [Added May 18, 2017]
  • Also May 15, 2017: National security adviser H.R. McMaster issues a 40-second “non-denial denial” of the Washington Post story that Trump disclosed highly classified intelligence to Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Foreign Minister Lavrov. McMaster says, “The story that came out tonight as reported is false… At no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.” The Post story had said nothing about disclosure of “intelligence sources and methods.” “I was in the room,” McMaster concludes. “It didn’t happen.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who also attended the Oval Office meeting with the Russians, issues a statement saying the group “did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.” [Added May 18, 2017]
  • May 16, 2017: In response to press reports that former FBI Director James Comey had written a contemporaneous memorandum documenting Trump’s Feb. 14 request to halt the Flynn investigation, the White House issues an unattributed statement that concludes: “This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.” [Added May 17, 2017]
  • Also on May 16, 2017: Trump tweets:


    [Added May 18, 2017]

  • Also on May 16, 2017: National security adviser McMaster tells reporters repeatedly that Trump’s disclosure of intelligence with the Russians was “wholly appropriate.” As his press conference ends, McMaster says that Trump “wasn’t even aware where this information came from. He wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information either.” [Added May 18, 2017]
  • May 17, 2017: Putin offers to provide Congress with transcripts of the May 10 Oval Office conversations among Trump, the Russian ambassador and Russia’s foreign minister. [Added May 18, 2017]
  • Also on May 17, 2017: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein names former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference with the election. In a White House statement, Trump says, “As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.” [Revised May 22, 2017]
  • May 18, 2017: Trump tweets:

    and:

    [Added May 18, 2017]

  • Also on May 18, 2017: At a joint news conference with the president of Colombia, a reporter asks Trump whether he ever asked former Director Comey to close or back down the investigation into Michael Flynn. “No. No,” Trump answers. “Next question.” He goes on to characterize the ongoing Trump/Russia investigation as “totally ridiculous” and a “witch hunt.” Then he adds, “Director Comey was very unpopular with most people, I actually thought when I made that decision. And I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.” [Added May 22, 2017]
  • May 19, 2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee announces that former FBI Director Comey will testify in a public hearing after Memorial Day. [Added May 22, 2017]
  • Also on May 19, 2017: Reuters reports on efforts by White House lawyers to undermine Robert Mueller’s credibility. They’re particularly interested in a rule that restricts newly hired government lawyers from investigating clients of their former employer for at least one year. By executive order on Jan. 28, 2017, Trump had extended that period to two years; however, the Justice Department can waive the rule. Mueller’s law firm WilmerHale represents Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, but the firm says that Mueller has not personally worked with any Trump-related clients. Meanwhile, CNN reports that White House lawyers are also researching impeachment procedures. [Added May 22, 2017]
  • June 1, 2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee announces that former FBI Director Comey will testify publicly on June 7. [Added June 5, 2017]
  • June 8, 2017: FBI Director Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He expands on prepared remarks detailing his conversations with Trump on Jan. 27 (“loyalty dinner”), Feb. 14 (“let Flynn go”), March 30 (“lift the cloud”), and April 11 (“get out the word”). Asked why Trump fired him, Comey says, “It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.” On the subject of whether Trump recorded their conversations, Comey says, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.” Later, he continues: “It never occurred to me before the president’s tweet. I’m not being facetious. I hope there are, and I’ll consent to the release of them … All I can do is hope. The president knows if he taped me, and if he did, my feelings aren’t hurt. Release all the tapes. I’m good with it.” [Added June 12, 2017]
  • Also on June 8, 2017: Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, issues a statement saying that Trump “feels completely vindicated” by Comey’s testimony. Shortly thereafter, reports circulate that Trump’s legal team is planning to file a complaint with the Justice Department inspector general against Comey for “leaking” memos of his conversations with Trump. [Added June 12, 2017]
  • June 9, 2017: Trump tweets:


    [Added June 12, 2017]

  • Also on June 9, 2017: Trump accuses Comey of lying under oath to the Senate Intelligence Committee and agrees “100 percent” to provide his version of events under oath. He refuses to answer whether he has tapes of his conversations with Comey. [Added June 12, 2017]
  • Also on June 9, 2017: The House Intelligence Committee sends two letters relating to its investigation. One requests that Comey produce any notes or memoranda relating to his conversations with Trump. The second asks White House counsel Don McGahn to inform the Committee whether any White House recordings or memoranda of Comey’s conversations with Trump have ever existed and, to the extent they still exist, produce them by June 23. [Added June 26, 2017]
  • June 11, 2017: Trump tweets:


    [Added June 12, 2017]

  • Also on June 11, 2017: The New York Times reports that in recent days, White House aides had asked Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, if it was also time for them to hire personal lawyers. Kasowitz, according to a Times source, said it was not yet necessary. [Added June 19, 2017]
  • June 12, 2017: After visiting the White House, Trump’s longtime friend and chief executive of Newsmax Media, Chris Ruddy, says on the PBS NewsHour that Trump “is considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel,” Robert Mueller. When asked about the report, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders says, “While the president has the right to, he has no intention to do so.” [Added June 19, 2017]
  • June 13, 2017: Trump tweets:

    [Added June 19, 2017]

  • Also on June 13, 2017: Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein says he would need “good cause” to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and he hasn’t seen any yet. [Added June 19, 2017]
  • Also on June 13, 2017: Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee about earlier news reports that he had met in April 2016 with Russian Ambassador Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says, “If any brief interaction occurred in passing with the Russian ambassador during that reception, I do not remember it.” When asked for details about his September 2016 meeting with Kislyak, Sessions can’t recall them. Sessions acknowledges that after Trump met privately with then-FBI Director Comey on Feb. 14, 2017, Comey told Sessions the next day never to leave him alone with Trump again. When asked about his conversations with Trump about Comey prior to Comey’s firing on May 9, Sessions refers back to Rosenstein’s memo. Beyond that, Sessions admits that Trump has not invoked executive privilege to block Sessions from answering, but Sessions refuses to answer anyway. [Added June 19, 2017]
  • June 14, 2017: The Washington Post reports that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice. [Added June 19, 2017]
  • June 15, 2017: Trump tweets:

    and

    and

    and

    [Added June 19, 2017]

  • Also on June 15, 2017: Vice President Pence hires an outside attorney to deal with issues arising from the Trump/Russia investigation. [Added June 19, 2017]
  • Also on June 15, 2017: The Washington Post reports that, “according to US officials familiar with the matter,” special counsel Mueller is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner. [Added June 19, 2017]
  • Also on June 15, 2017: Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein issues a press release cautioning Americans against reliance on stories based on “anonymous ‘officials’” and “anonymous allegations.” [Added June 19, 2017]
  • June 16, 2017: Trump tweets:

    and

    and

    [Added June 19, 2017]

  • Also on June 16, 2017: ABC News reports that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein has acknowledged to colleagues that he may have to recuse himself from the Trump/Russia investigation. Reportedly, he informed Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand — whom the Senate had confirmed on May 18 — that she would then assume supervisory responsibility for special counsel Mueller’s investigation. [Added June 19, 2017]
  • June 18, 2017: Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, one of Trump’s attorneys, Jay Sekulow, counters Trump’s tweet about “being investigated.” Sekulow says, “There is not an investigation of the president of the United States, period.” He asserts a similar position on Fox News Sunday and CNN’s State of the Union. Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation, Sekulow says, “The fact of the matter is the president has not been and is not under investigation.” Later in the interview, he says, “There has been no notification from the special counsel’s office that the president is under investigation.” When asked if the special counsel had an obligation to notify Trump if he were under investigation, Sekulow responds, “I can’t imagine a scenario where the president would not be aware of it.” Referring to the president’s power to fire the FBI director, Sekulow adds, “The president cannot be investigated, or certainly cannot be found liable for engaging in an activity he clearly has power to do under the constitution.” [Added June 19, 2017]
  • Also on June 18, 2017: In response to reports that Jared Kushner is seeking to supplement his legal team with experienced criminal defense lawyers, his lead attorney, Jamie Gorelick, says, “After the appointment of our former partner Robert Mueller as special counsel, we advised Mr. Kushner to obtain the independent advice of a lawyer with appropriate experience as to whether he should continue with us as his counsel.” [Added June 19, 2017]
  • June 22, 2017: Trump tweets:

    [Added June 26, 2017]

  • June 23, 2017: In an interview on Fox & Friends, Trump says that special counsel Robert Mueller is “very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome… Look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey.” Asked about Mueller’s legal team, Trump says, “I can say that the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters. Some of them worked for Hillary Clinton. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous if you want to know the truth.” [Added June 26, 2017]
  • Also on June 23, 2017: In a two-sentence response to the House Intelligence Committee’s prior request for any and all records memorializing conversations between Trump and James Comey, the White House refers to and quotes Trump’s June 22, 2017 tweets (above) and provides no other information. [Added June 26, 2017]
  • June 25, 2017: Interviewing Kellyanne Conway on ABC News’ This Week, George Stephanopoulos says, “The president said he did not tape James Comey, but I am confused by the top part of that [tweet]. Does the president have any evidence at all that his personal conversations were somehow taped? And has he asked the intelligence agencies for that evidence?” When Conway doesn’t answer those questions directly, Stephanopoulos persists, “Has the president asked the intelligence agencies if they have any tapes of his conversations? Does he know if they have that? Does he have any evidence to back up that suggestion that he put out in the tweet?” Conway answers, “I’m not going to comment on his conversations with his intelligence community… I mean, what are we talking about here with this never-ending Russian discussion?” [Added June 26, 2017]
  • July 19, 2017: In the Times interview, Trump lashes out at Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.” Later, he continues, “What Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me this before?’ I would have _ then I said, ‘Who’s your deputy?’ So his deputy he hardly knew, and that’s Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any.” [Added July 24, 2017]
  • Also on July 19, 2017: In the Times interview, Trump talks about his meetings with then-FBI Director Comey.

    Of the Jan. 6, 2017, meeting, when Comey told Trump about the infamous Steele dossier, Trump said: “He shared it so that I would think he had it out there” as leverage against Trump.

    Of the Feb. 14, 2017 meeting, when Trump said he hoped Comey could see his way to “letting Flynn go,” Trump said: “He said I said ‘hope’ — ‘I hope you can treat Flynn good’ or something like that. I didn’t say anything. But even if he did — like I said at the news conference on the, you know, Rose Garden — even if I did, that’s not — other people go a step further. I could have ended that whole thing just by saying — they say it can’t be obstruction because you can say: ‘It’s ended. It’s over. Period.'”

    “Did you shoo other people out of the room when you talked to Comey?” the reporters ask.

    “No, no,” Trump answers. “No. That was the other thing. I told people to get out of the room. Why would I do that?”

    “Did you actually have a one-on-one with Comey then?” asks the Times reporter.

    “Not much,” Trump says. “Not even that I remember. He was sitting, and I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff. He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, OK?” [Added July 24, 2017]
  • Also on July 19, 2017: In the Times interview, Trump talks about the Rosenstein memo used to cover up the reasons he fired Comey: “Then Rosenstein becomes extremely angry because of Comey’s Wednesday press conference, where he said that he would do the same thing he did a year ago with Hillary Clinton, and Rosenstein became extremely angry at that because, as a prosecutor, he knows that Comey did the wrong thing. Totally wrong thing. And he gives me a letter, OK, he gives me a letter about Comey. And by the way, that was a tough letter, OK. Now, perhaps I would have fired Comey anyway, and it certainly didn’t hurt to have the letter, OK. But he gives me a very strong letter, and now he’s involved in the case. Well, that’s a conflict of interest.” [Added July 24, 2017]
  • Also on July 19, 2017: In the Times interview, Trump discusses special counsel Mueller, whom Trump had interviewed for the FBI director job. “The day before! Of course, he was up here, and he wanted the job,” Trump says, “So, now what happens is, he leaves the office. [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein leaves the office. The next day, he is appointed special counsel. I said, what the hell is this all about? Talk about conflicts? But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”

    Asked if Mueller’s investigation into his and his family’s finances unrelated to Russia would be a breach of Mueller’s charge, Trump answers, “I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years…” Asked what would happen if Mueller went “outside of certain parameters” of his charge, Trump says, “I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.” [Added July 24, 2017]
  • July 20, 2017: The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg report that Mueller is looking at possible money laundering by Paul Manafort. Bloomberg adds that the special counsel is also investigating “a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates.” They include “Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008.” One of Trump’s lawyers responds that such transactions are, in his view, “well beyond the mandate of the special counsel.” [Added July 24, 2017]
  • Also on July 20, 2017: The New York Times and The Washington Post report that Trump’s lawyers are investigating possible ways to limit or block Mueller’s investigation, including possible conflicts of interest involving members of Mueller’s legal team, as well as the president’s power to pardon associates, family members and himself. One of Trump’s attorneys responds that the story is “nonsense.” [Added July 24, 2017]
  • July 23, 2017: Making the Sunday morning talk show rounds, one of Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, and communications director Anthony Scaramucci deny that Trump is considering a pardon for anyone. Scaramucci also says that he spoke with Trump about whether Russia had hacked the election and Trump had told him, “Maybe they did it. Maybe they didn’t do it.” [Added July 24, 2017]
  • July 25, 2017: Trump tweets:

    and

    and

    and

    Later in the day, Trumptells The Wall Street Journal, “I’m very disappointed in Jeff Sessions.” When asked about Sessions in the Rose Garden, Trump says, “We will see what happens. Time will tell.” [Added July 31, 2017]
  • Also on July 25, 2017: In an interview with The Wall Street Journal that the paper does not release (but becomes public on Aug. 1), editor-in-chief Gerard Baker asks Trump if Robert Mueller’s job is safe. “No,” Trump says, “we’re going to see. I mean, I have no comment yet, because it’s too early. But we’ll see. We’re going to see. Here’s the good news: I was never involved with Russia. There was nobody in the campaign. I’ve got 200 people that will say that they’ve never seen anybody on the campaign… There’s nobody on the campaign that saw anybody from Russia. We had nothing to do with Russia… And if Jeff Sessions didn’t recuse himself, we wouldn’t even be talking about this subject.” [Added Aug. 7, 2017]
  • Also on July 25, 2017: Paul Manafort meets with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators about his June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and three Russians. Reportedly, Manafort gives investigators notes he’d taken at the meeting. On the same day, the Senate Judiciary Committee issues and then rescinds a subpoena for Manafort’s appearance on July 26. [Added Aug. 14, 2017]
  • July 26, 2017: Trump tweets:

    and


    [Added July 31, 2017]

  • Also on July 26, 2017: At 6 a.m., FBI agents knock on the door of Paul Manafort’s Alexandria, Virginia home. In a surprise predawn raid, they execute a search warrant. Working with special counsel Robert Mueller, they depart with various records. [Revised Aug. 14, 2017]
  • Aug. 3, 2017: Sens. Thom Thillis (R-NC), and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduce legislation that would limit Trump’s ability to fire special counsel Mueller. It would also reduce his incentive to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the purpose of getting someone else in the Justice Department to fire Mueller. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) also introduce legislation seeking to protect Mueller. As the Senate concluded its business for the August break, senators agree unanimously to hold nine “pro forma sessions,” thereby preventing Trump from making “recess appointments” during members’ absence. [Added Aug. 7, 2017]
  • Also on Aug. 3, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a Washington grand jury to investigate the Russia probe. [Added Aug. 7, 2017]
  • Also on Aug. 3, 2017: In response to a CNN story that federal investigators are pursuing Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia, Trump’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, says, “The president’s outside counsel has not received any requests for documentation or information about this. Any inquiry from the special counsel that goes beyond the mandate specified in the appointment we would object to.” [Added Aug. 7, 2017]
  • Aug. 6, 2017: On ABC’s This Week, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway calls the June 9, 2016 meeting among Trump top advisers Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and the Russians “nothing” and “ridiculous.” She refuses to answer whether Trump will commit to not firing special counsel Robert Mueller. “There’s nothing in this Russia investigation,” she says. [Added Aug. 14, 2017]
  • Aug. 7, 2017: Four days after Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) had co-sponsored legislation that would limit Trump’s ability to fire special counsel Mueller, Trump reportedly calls Tillis to complain about the bill and say that he doesn’t want it to pass. According to Politico, in late July, Trump had also called Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) to complain about the then-pending Russian sanctions bill. Corker reportedly told Trump that the legislation would pass both houses of Congress with bipartisan support. “It seems he is just always focused on Russia,” one senior GOP aide tells Politico. [Added Aug. 28, 2017]
  • Aug. 25, 2017: NBC News reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed public relations executives who worked with Paul Manafort’s international lobbying effort on behalf Ukraine from 2012 to 2014. According to Manafort’s subsequently amended reports, a pro-Russian political party that ran the country had paid Manafort $17 million for his consulting work during that period. [Added Aug. 28, 2017]
  • Also on Aug. 25, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reports that Mueller is examining the role, if any, that Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn may have played in Peter W. Smith’s effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers during the campaign. Smith was a long-time political operative who had told The Journal in May 2017 that during September 2016 he had tried to assemble a team that would pursue those emails. Smith died about 10 days after the interview. [Added Aug. 28, 2017]
  • Aug. 29, 2017: CNN reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Paul Manafort’s former lawyer and Manafort’s current spokesperson. [Added Aug. 30, 2017]

 


 

This timeline was first posted on May 15 and was updated to reflect new developments in the story.

Steven Harper

Steven Harper blogs at The Belly of the Beast, is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University, and contributes regularly to The American Lawyer. He is the author of several books, including The Lawyer Bubble — A Profession in Crisis and Crossing Hoffa — A Teamster’s Story (a Chicago Tribune “Best Book of the Year”). Follow him on Twitter: @StevenJHarper1.

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