Former FBI director James Comey is set to testify Thursday before the Senate intelligence committee, which is conducting one of several inquiries into whether Russia meddled into the 2016 presidential election, either through cyberoffensive efforts or dealings with people working on behalf of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Comey, who was overseeing his agency’s investigation into the possible interference with the election, will be making his first public comments since May 9, when Trump fired him.
Here’s a timeline of the allegations and investigations involving Russia and the 2016 election, as well as Trump and his associates with Russia.
July 22, 2016: More than 19,000 emails from Democratic Party officials are leaked and posted on the document-disclosure site Wikileaks ahead of the Democratic National Convention. The FBI is investigating.
July 27, 2016: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump calls on Russia to seek out missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton’s private email server. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump says. “I think you’ll be rewarded mightily by our press!”
Aug. 14, 2016: Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chair, resigns. The New York Times earlier reported that Manafort had received $12.7 million US in undisclosed payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. Manafort denies the allegations.
Sept. 26, 2016: In the first presidential debate with Clinton, Trump casts doubt on who conducted the email hack. “I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
Oct. 7, 2016: The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security release a joint statement saying they believe the Russian government directed the email hack.
Dec. 29, 2016: Washington announces sanctions on Russia and expels 35 diplomats after U.S. intelligence agencies release a report about the hacking into the DNC computer network. A day later, Trump praises Russian President Vladimir Putin for not retaliating by expelling U.S. diplomats from Russia.
Jan. 6, 2017: The Central Intelligence Agency, the FBI and the National Security Agency co-sign a report that says Putin tried to discredit Clinton in a bid to help Trump win the presidency.
Jan. 11, 2017: At his first press conference as president-elect, Trump faces questions about a secret intelligence file that allegedly contains compromising personal and financial information that could leave him vulnerable to blackmail. Trump decries the claims as “fake news.”
Feb. 13, 2017: Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, resigns, amid allegations that he made improper contact with Russia and misled Vice-President Mike Pence about the contacts. Flynn acknowledged speaking in December with Sergei Kislyak, Russian Ambassador to the U.S., but denied discussing the sanction issue.
March 1, 2017: The Washington Post alleges U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had two conversations with Kislyak in 2016. Sessions, who said during his confirmation hearings that he hadn’t spoken with Russia during the campaign, calls the report false, but announces the next day he will recuse himself from any investigations into interference with the election. He says the Russia contacts were in his role at the time as senator, not as a Trump surrrogate.
March 4, 2017: Trump accuses former president Barack Obama of having wiretapped Trump Tower. He does not offer evidence to support his allegation, which an Obama spokesman denies.
March 20, 2017: Comey confirms publicly at a House committee hearing that associates of Trump have been investigated by the FBI for possible links with Russia as part of the broader probe into interference in the election. Comey also says there is nothing that currently substantiates Trump’s Obama wiretapping allegation.
March 30, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reports that Flynn is seeking immunity from prosecution before giving any testimony to FBI or congressional probes. “Gen. Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, tells the paper.
April 6, 2017: Republican congressman Devin Nunes, who had raised the ire of Democrats by trying to provide cover for Trump on the wiretapping allegations, announces he’s stepping down from leading the House intelligence investigation into Russian interference. This comes as the House Ethics Committee says it’s investigating whether Nunes improperly disclosed classified information.
May 3, 2017: In testimony at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Comey defends the seemingly different approaches into the investigations involving the Clinton email server and Trump contacts with Russia. The former involved a contentious, late-campaign public statement, while the latter did not.
“It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election,” he says. “But honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision.”
May 8, 2017: Sally Yates, who was acting attorney general before Sessions was appointed and had been dismissed by Trump for not defending his travel ban initiative, says in congressional testimony she warned the White House in late January that Flynn apparently had been misleading about his dealings with Kislyak and could be susceptible to blackmail.
May 9, 2017: Trump fires Comey by letter, citing the handling of the Clinton email investigation, reasons that many observers doubt. Also provoking skepticism was Trump’s contention in the official letter that Comey had assured him “on three separate occasions” that he wasn’t personally being investigated.
May 11, 2017: The president undermines the suggestion Comey was fired because of the Clinton file in an NBC News interview. “In fact, when I decided to just do it [fire Comey], I said to myself, I said, you know this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election they should have won,” he says.
May 12, 2017: Trump rocks D.C. with the following tweet: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” The claim evokes memories of the Watergate scandal.
James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
May 16, 2017: Reports emerge that during a February meeting, Trump asked Comey to kill an investigation into Flynn. The New York Times cites notes taken of the meeting by Comey, parts of which were read to a Times reporter by an anonymous source.
May 17, 2017: If Trump thought he could take the heat off by firing Comey, he is mistaken. Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney-general, announces that former FBI director Robert Mueller will act as special counsel to investigate potential Russian interference. Mueller can technically be fired by Sessions, the man who recused himself from Russia probes, but his brief is open-ended and includes subpoena power and the ability to recommend charges. It is unclear, however, what kind of co-operation and co-ordination will take place with the existing congressional probes. Trump says he’s the victim of a ‘witch hunt.’
May 22, 2017: John Brennan, CIA director under Obama, tells the House Intelligence Committee that Russia may have successfully tried to recruit Americans to influence the election who “wittingly or unwittingly” helped in that cause. Asked whether there was collusion between Trump surrogates and Russia, Brennan responds: “I don’t know.”
May 26, 2017: Reports emerge that Jared Kushner, adviser to the president and husband of his daughter Ivanka, suggested to Kisylak in December using Russian diplomatic facilities and equipment for back-channel communications between the two sides. While back channels often exist between administrations, the details sound strange to historians and former officials. As well, Kushner was a private citizen at the time, not an official.
June 2, 2017: Putin, as he has done for several months, mocks the U.S. reporting. He says it’s Kislyak’s duty to maintain contacts with various people in Washington and deems the focus on Kislyak’s contacts “catastrophic nonsense.” Putin says any disruptions to the U.S. election in cyberspace were not done “at the state level.” IP addresses allegedly belonging to Russian hackers could have been rigged, he says.
June 5, 2017: The White House says Trump won’t invoke executive privilege to prevent Comey from testifying before the Senate committee as the president wants a “swift and thorough examination of the facts.”
June 8, 2017: Comey is scheduled to testify before the Senate committee. The committee can’t file charges, but could potentially pave the way for a finding of obstruction of justice. Any discussion of the impeachment of the president is a political calculation that would require House Republicans to oppose their president, and even if pursued, it’s a process that could take months if not years and require Senate approval.