The Slatest

Mueller’s New Indictment of the Russian Hackers Is Full of Clues About Connections to Trump World

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee holds up a mug shot of Paul Manafort during a Congressional hearing.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee holds up a mug shot of Paul Manafort during a Congressional hearing.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced a series of indictments against 12 Russian intelligence operatives for hacking various Democratic Party and state election infrastructure organs in an effort to interfere in the 2016 election. As Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley pointed out, one seemingly noteworthy effort came when the Russians attempted to hack Hillary Clinton’s “personal office” on the same day Donald Trump publicly stated he hoped Russia would hack Clinton’s emails.

This wasn’t the only circumstantial evidence in Friday’s indictment of a connection between the actions of Russian hackers and those of the Trump campaign. The indictment lays out evidence that the 2016 election hacks were carried out by members of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU. Paul Manafort, who is currently awaiting trial for charges related to alleged undisclosed lobbying work on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, was cementing his position in the Trump campaign throughout the period of the hacking. Manafort would eventually rise to chairman of the campaign, and as he carried out that role he was also communicating with Konstantin Kilimnik about the possibility that Manafort might offer private briefings to one of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies. According to court filings by Mueller, Kilimnik was known by Manafort’s employee Rick Gates to be a “former Russian Intelligence Officer with GRU.” During the election, then, Manafort was working closely with a former agent of the Russian intelligence group that hacked the election.

This new evidence doesn’t prove collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Still, it’s important to recognize the influence Manafort had on the campaign’s unorthodox Russia agenda—a reversal of Trump’s previous positions on Russia—during a time when he was potentially compromised and Russia was working to damage Clinton.

As Trump gets set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin this coming week, it’s useful to look at some of the key dates from the new indictment and how they overlap with what was going on in the Trump campaign at that time.

IN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

Feb. 29, 2016: Manafort sends Trump a memo explaining why he should join the campaign and the candidate reportedly requests a one-on-one meeting. Manafort joins the campaign sometime in March; the hire is first reported on March 28.

March 14: Foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos meets London Academy of Diplomacy professor Joseph Mifsud. Mifsud eventually offers him “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

IN RUSSIA

March 15: GRU hackers conduct technical and open source queries on the DNC server.

March 19: Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta is hacked, and 50,000 of his emails are stolen two days later.

IN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

March 26: Trump begins reciting a new talking point on the campaign trail, arguing that NATO is obsolete. About one week later, he says he’d be OK with NATO breaking up.

April 11: Manafort emails Kilimnik, saying, “I assume you have shown our friends my media coverage, right?” and “How do we use to get whole?”

IN RUSSIA

April 12: GRU uses stolen credentials to enter the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee computer network, allowing Russian hackers to surveil employees and search through DCCC files.

April 18: GRU agents use their access to the DCCC network to hack into the Democratic National Committee’s computers.

IN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

April 18: Mifsud introduces Papadopoulos to a connection at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

April 26: Papadopoulos meets with Mifsud. Papadopoulos later says he was told in this meeting that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary in the form of “thousands of emails.” During a primary night victory speech that same day, Trump says, “We’re going to have a great relationship with Putin and Russia”.

May 4: Papadopoulos reports to the campaign that the Russians are “open for cooperation.”

May 19-20: Manafort is promoted to campaign chairman and chief strategist.

May 21: Papadopoulos forwards the “cooperation” email to Manafort.

IN RUSSIA

May 25 to June 1: GRU accesses the DNC’s Microsoft Exchange Server and pilfers thousands of DNC emails.

IN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

June 3: A Trump associate with Russia connections emails Donald Trump Jr. offering “very high level and sensitive information” that would “incriminate Hillary” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. responds: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” Donald Trump says at an event in California, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia? Wouldn’t that be good?”

June 7: Trump Jr.
sets up a meeting between Manafort, Jared Kushner, and a contingent of Russians. Candidate Trump promises: “I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons.”

IN RUSSIA

June 8: GRU launches the DCLeaks website and creates DCLeaks Facebook and Twitter pages.

IN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

June 9: The Trump Tower meeting is held.

IN RUSSIA/OVERSEAS

June 12: Julian Assange of Wikileaks tells an interviewer that his organization has “emails related to Hillary Clinton pending publication.”

June 14: The New York Times reports that the DNC was hacked by government-sponsored Russian hackers.

June 15: Guccifer 2.0 sets up shop from GRU headquarters and begins releasing hacked emails. According to Friday’s indictment, Guccifer 2.0 was a number of Russian conspirators working together. As evidence of this, the special counsel cited searches conducted by members of one of the GRU hacker teams of English terms that a few hours later ended up in Guccifer 2.0’s initial WordPress blog post.

IN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

June 15: “Too bad the D.N.C. doesn’t hack Crooked Hillary’s 33,000 missing emails,” Trump says in a statement.

June 20: Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is fired and Manafort is placed firmly in charge.

IN RUSSIA

June 22: Wikileaks contacts Guccifer 2.0 with a request: “[s]end any new material [stolen from DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.”

July 6: Wikileaks messages Guccifer 2.0 again: “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic] because the DNC [Democratic National Convention] is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” Guccifer 2.0 responds, “ok…I see.” Wikileaks responds, “we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against Hillary… so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”

July 15: Guccifer 2.0 explains to Wikileaks how to access the stolen material.

July 18: Wikileaks confirms it has accessed “the 1Gb or so archive” and will release data “this week.”

July 22: On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, as promised, Wikileaks releases the 20,000 DNC emails stolen by the GRU, highlighting emails which Julian Assange claims show that Clinton stole the primary from Sanders with the help of the Democratic National Committee.

IN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

July 24: Donald Trump Jr. calls the suggestion that Russia might be supporting his father’s campaign a “disgusting” lie.

July 25: Candidate 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: Manafort says it’s “absurd” to suggest Russia might be working to help Trump. Meanwhile, Trump asks for Russia’s help, saying: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

IN RUSSIA         

July 27: GRU launches a new cyber-attack on email accounts used by Hillary Clinton’s personal office.

IN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

July 29: Kilimnik requests a meeting with Manafort, sending Trump’s campaign manager an email that’s purportedly about a Russian oligarch and close Putin ally to whom the campaign manager owes millions of dollars: “I met today with the guy who gave you your biggest black caviar jar several years ago.”

July 31: Trump mistakenly says Russia is not going into Ukraine. (They had already invaded Crimea.)

Aug. 2: Manafort and Kilimnik meet at the Grand Havana Club in New York.

Aug. 14: The New York Times reports on the undisclosed lobbying for which Manafort is later indicted and for which he is about to go on trial.

Aug. 15: Trump says he no longer views NATO as obsolete.

IN RUSSIA

Aug. 15: Guccifer 2.0 writes Trump associate Roger Stone: “thank u for writing back. … do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs I posted?”

Aug. 17: Guccifer 2.0 writes Stone: “please tell me if i can help u anyhow…it would be a great pleasure to me.”

IN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

Aug. 19: Manafort resigns. Steve Bannon is placed at the head of the Trump campaign.

IN RUSSIA

Sept. 9: Guccifer 2.0 writes Stone to ask a question about Democratic turnout models. Stone replies “pretty standard.”

Oct. 7: Wikileaks begins releasing the Podesta emails provided by Guccifer 2.0.

IN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

Oct. 9: During a presidential debate, Trump says: “I don’t know Putin. I think it would be great if we got along with Russia because we could fight ISIS together, as an example. But I don’t know Putin.”

Nov. 8: Donald Trump is elected president.