In an effort to pre-empt a report in the New York Times, Donald Trump Jr. released emails on Tuesday that demonstrated his and the Trump campaign’s efforts to collude with Russian officials who were seeking to influence the 2016 election.
Per the email chain, Trump Jr. and the Trump campaign were offered “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” That information was going to come, the emails said, from a “Russian government attorney.” Trump Jr.’s response: “If it’s what you say I love it.” Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and current senior adviser Jared Kushner attended the meeting with the Russian lawyer and were also looped in on the entire email thread.
Tuesday’s acknowledgment of collusion—or at the very least attempted collusion—with a foreign adversary comes after months of Trump, Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort denying that any such effort took place. These denials began just weeks after this meeting occurred and have continued through this week. Here is a timeline of those denials, most of which have now completely unraveled.
June 3, 2016: Trump Jr. receives an email offering “information that would incriminate Hillary” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
June 8: Trump Jr. forwards the email thread to Kushner and Manafort.
June 9: Date of the meeting. Trump Jr. now says the information offered was not of interest and that the meeting focused on the lawyer’s desire to change adoption-related sanctions against Russia.
June 15: The Democratic National Committee’s Trump opposition research file is released online. The software firm CrowdStrike releases an analysis indicating that the DNC had been hacked by “Russian intelligence-related adversaries.”
July 22: On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks releases hacked DNC emails.
July 24: Trump Jr. tells CNN’s Jake Tapper that the Clinton campaign’s suggestion that Russia was trying to intervene in the election on behalf of Trump is “disgusting” and “phony.”
It just goes to show you their exact moral compass. They’ll say anything to be able to win this. I mean this is time and time again, lie after lie. … It’s disgusting. It’s so phony. … These lies and the perpetuating of that kind of nonsense to try to gain some political capital is just outrageous.
Manafort similarly denies any links between Russia and the Trump campaign, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that such a suggestion is “absurd and there’s no basis to it.”
July 27: Manafort denies any relationship with the Russians and again says it’s “absurd” to suggest Russia was working on behalf of the Trump campaign—a statement he knew to be false thanks to the email forwarded by Trump Jr.
Nov. 10: Two days after Trump’s election, his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, denied a report in the Washington Post that the Russians and the campaign had communicated, saying the campaign had “no contact with Russian officials.”
Nov. 11: Hicks issues another denial. “It never happened,” she said. “There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”
Dec. 18: Kellyanne Conway, a campaign and eventual White House official, denies outright any contact between the campaign and the Russians. “Absolutely not,” she told CBS’s John Dickerson. “And I discussed that with the president-elect just last night. Those conversations never happened. I hear people saying it like it’s a fact on television. That is just not only inaccurate and false, but it’s dangerous.”
Jan. 10: Manafort denies a report alleging collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. “I have never had any ties to Russia or Putin,” Manafort told NPR.
Jan. 15: Five days before the inauguration, Vice President Mike Pence went on Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday and stated unequivocally that there had been no contact between Trump campaign officials and Russians seeking to meddle in the election. “I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy,” Pence told Dickerson.
Jan. 19: The day before the inauguration, Manafort again vigorously denies that any contact ever took place. From the New York Times:
In an emailed statement Thursday evening, Mr. Manafort called allegations that he had interactions with the Russian government a “Democrat Party dirty trick and completely false.”
“I have never had any relationship with the Russian government or any Russian officials. I was never in contact with anyone, or directed anyone to be in contact with anyone,” he said.
“On the ‘Russian hacking of the D.N.C.,’ ” he said, “my only knowledge of it is what I have read in the papers.”
March: Trump Jr. tells the Times: “Did I meet with people that were Russian? I’m sure, I’m sure I did. But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form.” More from the Times:
Asked at that time whether he had ever discussed government policies related to Russia, the younger Mr. Trump replied, “A hundred percent no.”
March 27: Under scrutiny for a transition meeting with the Russian ambassador, the White House describes Kushner’s meetings with Russians as follows: “Throughout the campaign and transition, Jared Kushner served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials.”
April 6: The New York Times reports that Kushner failed to disclose meetings with Russians on his security clearance forms. His lawyer said he told the FBI the following about those meetings: “During the presidential campaign and transition period, I served as a point-of-contact for foreign officials trying to reach the president-elect. I had numerous contacts with foreign officials in this capacity.”
May 6: Trump Jr. tweets out a New York Post story denying any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“The conclusion that Russia tried to steal the election for Trump is based on pure speculation about how Putin thinks,” the Post wrote.
The paper added: “So nine months in, this is where the FBI’s investigation stands: No evidence of collaboration between the Trump campaign and Moscow, something even Obama’s intelligence czar verified.”
May 8: Trump makes this the header image of his Twitter account:
May 18: Trump repeatedly denies collusion during a press conference, but then seems to hedge on whether any of his campaign officials might have colluded. “The entire thing has been a witch hunt. And there is no collusion between, certainly, myself and my campaign, but I can only speak for myself and the Russians—zero.”
May 30: Trump Jr. tweets another denial of collusion:
June 8: On the day of James Comey’s Senate Intelligence Committee testimony, Trump Jr. sends out a series of tweets denying collusion:
July 8: The New York Times breaks the story of Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer. Trump Jr. suggests campaign issues were not discussed in the meeting and that he didn’t know the identity of the person he was meeting.
It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.
I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.
July 9: Trump gives the following new statement about the meeting:
I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign. I was not told her name prior to the meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to attend, but told them nothing of the substance. We had a meeting in June 2016. After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting. I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office. The meeting lasted approximately 20 to 30 minutes. As it ended, my acquaintance apologized for taking up our time. That was the end of it and there was no further contact or follow-up of any kind. My father knew nothing of the meeting or these events.
July 10: Trump Jr. sends the following tweets:
July 11: Trump Jr. sends this tweet.
Later in the morning, as the Times is about to report on the email thread in which the Trump campaign is promised Russian help, Trump Jr. pre-empts the newspaper by revealing the emails himself.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the White House’s new line is this statement from Donald Trump: “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency.”