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  • These Elegant Short Stories Are the Perfect Rebuke to Nationalism

    In an era when insular politics have taken hold across the US and parts of Europe, Kanishk Tharoor's debut short story collection Swimmer Among the Stars: Stories (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is refreshing for its lack of attachment to national borders. Blending together the futuristic and folkloric with contemporary social and political concerns, Tharoor leads readers from a circus-like ethnography of a single woman speaking an endangered language to an eerie Skype call between a coal mine worker and the foreign photojournalist who splashes his image on a magazine.

    Much of the collection's charm probably owes to Tharoor's own peripatetic adolescence, spent shuttling between Geneva, New York, and Calcutta as the son of Indian statesman Shashi Tharoor. "Even though I'm Indian and I grew up in America, the lineages which my fiction aspires to aren't just Indian or American," Tharoor says. "I can find as much pleasure and value reading a Finnish epic." The result is a style of writing that lifts its references liberally across time and space rather than wrestling with the split of a hyphenated identity: "I was able to grow up in New York City with a sense of myself as an Indian who happened to be living in New York."

    Tharoor is perhaps best known as the presenter of last year's BBC radio series on the Museum of Lost Objects, which looked at the plunder and destruction of antiquities during the wars in Syria and Iraq. "The past has always felt contemporary and relevant to me," Tharoor says. His own upbringing sparked a "wider interest in recovering the kinds of connections and moments in history" that are buried. I talked to Tharoor about his upbringing and fiction's role in the age of nationalist fervor.

    Mother Jones: Given the surge of nationalism sweeping through the US and parts of Europe recently, what role do you see for authors in societies seemingly retreating from globalization?

    Kanishk Tharoor: I do think it is incumbent upon writers to open their fiction to a wider frame of reference. Americans have always had this luxury of being a "continent of a nation." A lot of people elsewhere in the world have to be a lot more open to the literature of other places because they're smaller. America is so big—in every sense—so Americans have always been able to satisfy their cultural needs within the bounds of their [own] nation. I think what we consider American literature can often be a little bit insular. It would be great if people read more translation, or if American writers took a wider interest in the world beyond the immediate world of their [own country's] fiction. At a minimum, we should all be reading more literature from other places: That's one of the best ways that the walls around us can be knocked down.

    MJ: What unites the stories in Swimmer Among the Stars, in your view? Why did you feel they belonged together?

    KT: I'm always interested in recovering lost moments that often get suppressed in the larger, dominant narrative. A lot of these stories are about recovering lost objects. Even if one story is set in an apocryphal village in central Asia, and another is set in outer space, there is a thematic interest that links them.

    MJ: The "Fall of an Eyelash" looks at refugees. Was the genesis of that story directly linked to the news cycle?

    KT: Part of it is actually based on a family friend's story who fled Iran. When I wrote this story, it was before waves of Syrian refugees entered Europe, and seeing that crisis metastasizing. We live in the greatest era of displacement because of conflict and this short story is certainly interested in the experience of that problem. 

    MJ: What about the story "Portrait with Coal Fire"? 

    KT: I was looking at this photo of an Indian miner in deplorable conditions doing horrific work. There's a great deal of sympathy on the part of the photographer and indeed the readers of the magazine itself. At the same time, it made me think about: Has the man seen this photograph, and what does he think about seeing himself in a magazine like this, if that was even possible? It was almost a thought experiment—to imagine what would it be like to be photographed and try to be represented in a way that you thought was more appropriate.  

    MJ: With your father Shashi Tharoor publishing more than a dozen books, mostly on the history and politics of India, how much of your own literary journey started at home?

    My dad is a writer, but my mom is a professor of English literature as well, so I grew up in a household flooded with books.  I'm also a broadcast journalist, which I do alongside my fiction work. Readers of the collection will see there is pretty strong historical interest present. For a while, I considered becoming a historian, but I decided the kind of writing I wanted to do was not academic writing.

    MJ: One of your characters is the last speaker of an unnamed language. Are you interested the preservation of rare languages? How many languages do you speak?

    KT: I speak maybe six or seven languages imperfectly. I don't really consider myself much of a polyglot.

    The issue of language extinction has always interested me. We live in crazy times in human history in terms of the death of languages. A friend of mine runs the Endangered Language Alliance, Ross Perlin, and he studies languages and endangered languages. He turned me on to the fact that in New York City, where I live, over 800 languages are spoken in the city. There are many languages here, whether they're from East Africa or southeast Asia or wherever else, which are no longer spoken in the places where they came from, but survive here in dying form amongst immigrant communities. As people who read, write, think, and dream in English, it is incumbent upon us to be aware of the damages or the losses incurred by these languages. 

    MJ: One of your short stories hints at the danger of climate change. How do you see an author's duty, if there is one, to engage with political or environmental struggles?

    KT: Fiction, I think, can make people think about issues, can spark imaginations, can open doors, can take people out of their own frame of reference. All those things are good. That's what I would like to do with my fiction. I don't know how much I would like to serve an advocacy function. If there is a story that touches on climate change, I think the message is embedded in the conceit of the story.



  • Leading Global Warming Deniers Just Told Us What They Want Trump to Do

    What does a climate change denier wish for when everything seems possible? With Congress and the White House in agreement on the unimportance of science, there's no need to settle for rolling back President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda one regulation at a time. It's time to get the Environmental Protection Agency out of climate change altogether.

    To get a sense of what the wish list looks like, the annual conference of the Heartland Institute would be a good place to start. The right-wing think tank that has received funding from ExxonMobil and Koch groups—and is best known for pushing out misinformation on climate change—has sponsored this annual gathering for the last 12 years. This year the theme was "Resetting Climate Policy," reflecting the triumphant and hopeful mood of the conference now that they control the agenda.

    The usual ideas floated at the conference have ranged from abolishing the EPA to touting the universal benefits of fossil fuels, but this year one idea in particular dominated the discussions: Climate deniers think they have a chance to reverse the EPA's endangerment finding that formally says greenhouse gasses poses a threat to Americans and their health. That 2009 determination, prompted by a Supreme Court decision in 2007, is the basis for the EPA's regulatory work on climate change.

    “We’ve been at this for 33 years. We have a lot of people in our network," Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast tells Mother Jones, "and many of these people are now in this new administration.” Transition staff and new appointees in the Trump administration “occasionally ask us for advice and names of people,” he added.

    Rescinding the endangerment finding is the “number one” priority Bast sees for Trump’s EPA. “I think it’s almost a sure thing they are going to revisit it,” Bast says. “Whether they are going to succeed is maybe a 90 percent certainty.”

    Bast overstated the strength of his case. The problem with rescinding the endangerment finding is that the EPA would somehow have to make a convincing case that holds up in court that climate change isn't a threat to humanity. In other words, it would be incumbent upon the EPA to disprove climate change is real.

    During, his confirmation hearings, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt acknowledged that the endangerment finding was the "law of the land" and there is "nothing that I know that will cause a review at this point." But he has recently suggested he may attempt to change course. He went on CNBC and claimed "we don't know" that the science is settled, and insisted "we need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”

    Cato Institute's Director for the Center for the Study of Science, Patrick Michaels, who gave an address to the meeting, agreed that the administration should make reversing the endangerment finding its priority. At one point in his presentation, Michaels asked if David Schnare—who previously spent years suing the EPA until he became a transition appointee at the agency—was in the audience. "David’s big on this," Michaels said. Schnare was not there, but he helped to emphasize Bast's point: Trump's appointees are familiar, friendly faces.

    In his keynote address, House Science Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas) expressed his gratitude to Heartland for its "help and support." Asked if he will be holding a hearing on the endangerment finding, Smith answered, "Probably....It hasn't been set yet. We can add that to our list." Smith, who has already held a "Making EPA Great Again" hearing, will plans a hearing for next week questioning the scientific method of climate studies.

    For anyone who acknowledges climate change is a reality and a threat, Smith's final words about President Trump to the roughly 200 attendees who were gathered might be considered ominous: “You won’t be disappointed with the direction he’s going.”



  • Watch Trump Call Obamacare Repeal "So Easy"

    After a week of emergency meetings and last-minute attempts to unify their party, Republican leaders pulled their Obamacare repeal bill from the House floor Friday when it became clear they didn't have enough support to pass.

    The decision comes as a major defeat for President Donald Trump, who during the campaign bragged that Obamacare repeal would be "so easy."

    "Together we're going to deliver real change that once again puts Americans first," Trump said at an October rally in Florida. "That begins with immediately repealing and replacing the disaster known as Obamacare…You're going to have such great health care, at a tiny fraction of the cost—and it's going to be so easy."

    Trump also argued on the campaign trail that electing a Republican-controlled Congress would allow him to quickly dismantle the health care law and pass other pieces of legislation. "With a Republican House and Senate, we will immediately repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare," Trump said at another event. "A Republican House and Senate can swiftly enact the other items in my contract immediately, including massive tax reduction."

    "We will [repeal and replace Obamacare], and we will do it very, very quickly," Trump said during the final week of the campaign. "It is a catastrophe."

    Trump's confidence in his ability to win the health care fight continued through the first few weeks of his presidency. On February 9, he bragged that when it came to repealing Obamacare, "Nobody can do that like me."

    By the end of February, Trump had changed his tune somewhat. "Now, I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject," the president said. "Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated."

    One person who certainly did know was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who successfully shepherded Obamacare through the House in 2010. On Thursday, she mocked Trump for trying to rush the repeal bill through the chamber, calling it a "Rookie's error."

    "Clearly you are not ready," Pelosi said.



  • Republicans Pull Bill to Repeal and Replace Obamacare

    In a stunning defeat to House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump, Republicans on Friday pulled from the House floor their bill to repeal and replace the Obamacare, abruptly cancelling a vote that was scheduled for Friday afternoon.

    The GOP plan was originally scheduled for a vote on Thursday but was postponed amid doubts about whether it could pass. The vote was rescheduled for Friday, but apparently Republicans were still unable to cobble together enough support. Trump reportedly warned House Republicans that if they failed to pass the health care legislation, he was prepared to move on and keep Obamacare in place.

    This is a breaking news post. We will update when more information becomes available.



  • Broadcast News Spent Less Than An Hour Covering Climate Change in 2016

    Despite growing international urgency to address climate change and two presidential candidates with deeply opposing views on climate science and policy, 2016 was an abysmal year for US broadcast news coverage of the issue, according to an analysis by Media Matters.

    The analysis found that ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox aired only 50 minutes of total climate coverage on their evening and Sunday news programs. This is in contrast to the 146 minutes of coverage clocked in by those same networks in 2015.

    The significant drop in coverage certainly wasn’t for a lack of content. Several newsworthy climate milestones took place last year, including the signing of the historic Paris Climate Agreement; the UN, NASA’s, and NOAA’s announcements that 2015 was the hottest year on record for our country and the globe; the ongoing investigations of ExxonMobil’s decades-long cover up of research linking fossil fuel use and climate change acceleration; and extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Matthew and Louisiana’s record-breaking rainfall and devastating floods, which have a higher likelihood of occurring due to climate change.

    The presidential election also provided “ample opportunity” to inform viewers about climate change, says Media Matters, but the networks did not take it. Most networks failed even to address the climate-related ramifications of a Clinton presidency as opposed to a Trump presidency. The exception was PBS NewsHour, which aired two relevant segments prior to the election. In contrast, the 25 climate change segments aired by ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox all occurred after the election. The presidential debates also made little reference to climate change, as Climate Desk previously reported.

    Even when networks did cover climate change, they did so without including scientific evidence. CBS, Fox, and PBS aired nine segments last year featuring Trump or Trump officials promoting climate change denial—five of which didn’t include fact-based rebuttals from the reporter. According to NASA, 97 percent of scientists acknowledge that our planet is getting warmer due to human activity.

    In a separate analysis, Media Matters pointed out the effects of Trump's proposed budget cuts on PBS NewsHour, which has consistently led climate coverage since at least 2012. According to the leaked proposal, Trump plans to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which uses roughly half its budget to support PBS member stations that broadcast PBS NewsHour. Stations in rural areas are especially reliant on this funding, with CPB funding accounting for 30 to 50 percent of their budgets on average, compared with the 15 percent average across all member stations.

    Only 48 percent of adults in America recognize that climate change is being caused by human activity despite overwhelming scientific consensus, according to an October 2016 Pew Research Center poll.



  • Kansas Republicans Just Defied Donald Trump and Voted to Expand Medicaid

    On the same day the House was supposed to pass a bill dismantling Medicaid, Kansas Republicans took a big step toward expanding the program in their state.

    In a voice vote Thursday morning, a committee in the Kansas Senate approved legislation that would enable the state to take advantage of an Obamacare provision offering Medicaid health insurance coverage to a wider group of poor people. The federal government would provide the vast majority of the funding.

    Many deep-red states like Kansas have rejected Medicaid expansion based largely on their ideological objections to Obamacare. But as I reported earlier this week, a new bloc of moderate Republicans in the state—back by the health care industry and business community—have teamed up with Democrats to push Medicaid expansion. They point out that the state has given up, to date, nearly $2 billion in federal funds that could have helped both improve the health of the state's low-income communities while also boosting its economy.

    The Kansas House overwhelming passed Medicaid expansion earlier this year. The full state Senate is expected to vote on the issue Monday, according to KCUR. But they would likely need to cobble together a veto-proof majority, since Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has vocally opposed to adopting the program. In fact, Brownback released a letter Thursday, signed with seven other Republican governors, asking Congress to pass the repeal of Obamacare, which would eventually end funding for new sign-ups in the Medicaid expansion and would prevent states such as Kansas signing up in the meantime.

    It's unclear if Congress will heed Brownback's request. The GOP's bill to repeal and replace Obamacare was supposed to get a vote in the full House sometime Thursday, but with both conservatives and moderate Republicans balking, the vote was delayed. The Trump administration set a deadline for a Friday vote, saying the White House would otherwise abandon the effort. Congress is currently debating the measure, but vote counts from various news outlets suggest Republicans currently lack enough votes to pass the bill.

    Read more about the fight for Medicaid expansion in Kansas here.



  • Only a Few More Hurdles Before Trump's Keystone XL Dream Comes True

    This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

    Donald Trump announced a "new era of American energy policy" as he signed the presidential permit allowing TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

    "It's going to be an incredible pipeline. Greatest technology known to man. Or woman. And frankly, we're very proud of it," said Trump in the Oval Office on Friday morning.

    The proposed Keystone XL pipeline will carry 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil from the fields in Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it meets another Keystone pipeline to send the oil to refineries on the gulf coast.

    "This announcement is part of a new era of American energy policy that will lower costs for American families, and very significantly, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create thousands of jobs right here in America and I would also like to add, I think it's a lot safer to have pipelines than to use other forms of transportation for your product," said the president during the Oval Office presentation.

    Trump addressed Russ Girling, the president and CEO of TransCanada, joking about the years of delays the project has faced because of strong objections from local community and environmental grassroots protests against the pipeline.

    "I hope you don't pay your consultants anything because they had nothing to do with the approval. In fact, you should ask for your hundreds of millions of dollars back that you pay them because they didn't do a damn thing except give you a no vote, right?" quipped Trump.

    The president also seemed surprised by some details of the announcement, such as exclaiming "Wow!" when reading out a statement that the pipeline will be 900 miles long. Upon learning that TransCanada is awaiting approval from permits for construction in Nebraska, Trump chimed in that Republican governor Pete Ricketts is "a fantastic governor, I'll call him today".

    The State Department says that it is confident that building the pipeline serves the US national interest. That is the opposite conclusion to the one the State Department reached during the Obama administration.

    "In making his determination that issuance of this permit would serve the national interest, the under secretary considered a range of factors, including but not limited to foreign policy; energy security; environmental, cultural and economic impacts; and compliance with applicable law and policy," the department said, according to the Hill website.

    The remarks contrasted sharply with Barack Obama's comments in November 2015, when he rejected the Keystone XL deal after seven years of political debate and grassroots campaigning.

    "America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action on climate change," declared Obama then. "Frankly, approving that project would have undercut that global leadership, and that is the biggest risk we face: not acting."

    The pipeline is to run over the Ogallala aquifer, a huge underground reservoir in the Great Plains that provides water access to millions, including several Native American tribes.

    Environmental activists reacted with horror at news of the permit's issue today.

    "When this fight began, the danger Keystone posed to the climate was clear. Since then we've had the three hottest years ever measured on our planet. That clearly means little to Donald Trump, but it means a lot to the millions of us who will continue to gather in resistance to an overheated future," said Bill McKibben, co-founder of environmental advocacy group 350.org.

    Author and activist Naomi Klein, a longtime Keystone opponent, called it "a disaster for the planet" in a statement:

    "This is no surprise coming from a State Department headed by a man who was CEO of Exxon until a couple of months ago, and from a White House for whom digging up planet-destabilizing carbon is the centerpiece of its jobs plan, despite the fact that renewables and energy efficiency have the capacity to create exponentially more jobs."

    Klein went on to note the hypocritical actions of liberal Canadian politicians involved in approving the project: "A greater scandal is that Keystone's approval has been cheered on by the Liberal prime minister of Canada and the social democratic premier of Alberta, both of whom position themselves as bold climate leaders. And both of whom have collaborated to win the approval of two other tar sands pipeline projects in the past few months: Enbridge's Line 3 and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion."

    Although the State Department noted the economic impact in its decision, the project will result in only 35 permanent jobs after initial construction.

    The permit was signed by Tom Shannon, a career diplomat serving as undersecretary of state for political affairs. That is because secretary of state Rex Tillerson recused himself due to his previous work running Exxon Mobil.

    Just four weeks after Obama's halted the Keystone XL pipeline, the US joined nearly 200 nations in pledging to cut carbon emissions in the the historical Paris climate deal.

    Throughout the election campaign Trump promised to withdraw the US from the Paris accord, although in late November he said he had an "open mind" about the plan.

     



  • Nunes (Kind of) Confesses He Went Off Half-Cocked

    Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the now-famous (for the wrong reasons) chair of the House intelligence committee, held another weird press conference Friday morning. It wasn't as much of a doozy as his double feature on Wednesday, when he claimed he had been given information indicating that members of Donald Trump's presidential transition team, including possibly Trump himself, had been picked up during lawfully authorized intelligence surveillance of other targets and that their identities had been disclosed in intelligence reporting based on these intercepts. That triggered a hullabaloo—had Nunes revealed classified information? was he pulling this stunt to help Trump?—and his actions prompted Democrats to question Nunes' ability to lead an effective probe of Moscow's meddling in the 2016 campaign and the interactions between the Trump camp and Russia. On Thursday, in a private meeting of the committee, Nunes apologized to his fellow committee members for his bizarre pressers but did not fully explain his move or share the information he had. This was part of an already bad week for Nunes.

    On Friday, Nunes didn't make anything better. In fact, with a series of elliptical statements, he suggested that on Wednesday he had gone off half-cocked—which is not SOP for an intelligence committee chairman in charge of a highly sensitive and politically charged investigation. Asked repeatedly about the information that was the basis for his charge that Trump and his associates were inappropriately "unmasked" in classified intelligence reports based on legally authorized top-secret surveillance of foreign targets, Nunes said he did not have that material in hand. He noted he had "viewed" the documents this week. And he said that he hoped to receive copies of the material "from the NSA and other agencies" on Friday, over the weekend, or early next week. He also indicated that there were more documents related to this matter than he had seen. Nunes added that he had been aware of the "unmasking" prior to reviewing the documents he saw.

    Put this all together, and the scenario looks like this: Someone told Nunes that the identities of Trump and/or Trump associates appeared in intelligence reports based on surveillance conducted during the transition. Nunes then reviewed some of these documents this week. And on Wednesday afternoon (two days after a holding a day-long hearing with FBI chief James Comey and NSA head Mike Rogers), Nunes—without telling his fellow committee members and without conducting any thorough examination of the matter—went public. That is, he went rogue. And he rushed to the White House to share his half-baked information with Trump. (Afterward, Trump declared that he was now "somewhat" vindicated for claiming Obama had illegally wiretapped him in Trump Tower during the election—despite the fact that Nunes' statements were not related to Trump's fact-free charge.)

    It appears that as soon as Nunes saw whatever documents he reviewed, he ran to the microphones and then dashed to the White House to provide information to a president whose associates are under investigation by Nunes' own committee. And he did this without any deliberate examination of the material. (By the way, Nunes was part of Trump's national security presidential transition team.) This is not how effective oversight works. Nunes' own account bolsters the argument that he is not a credible manager of the probe of the Trump-Russia scandal.

    At the Friday press conference, Nunes would not say who had tipped him off to these documents. He would not deny that the Trump White House had pointed him in this direction. He did say, "I've been very clear…there was no wiretapping of Trump Tower. That didn't happen."

    Nunes also announced that the former head of Trump's presidential campaign, Paul Manafort, had volunteered to talk to the intelligence committee. (This week, AP reported that Manafort a decade ago signed a $10 million-per-year contract with a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin to mount a campaign to bolster Putin's image in the United States and other countries. Mother Jones reported that Manafort also helped this oligarch, who was suspected of having links to Russian organized crime, try to obtain a visa to enter the United States after US officials had banned him from the country.)

    But Nunes did not say whether Manafort would be questioned during a public hearing. Moreover, Nunes oddly scoffed at the prospect of the committee grilling other people named in media accounts about Trump associates interacting with Russians. "We're not going to get into a Neo-MacCarthy era," he said, "when we are bringing in Americans just because they were mentioned in a press story."

    UPDATE: At his Friday afternoon briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked if he could deny the White House passed the information to Nunes. He replied, "I'm not aware of where he got the documents from."



  • The Long, Twisted, and Bizarre History of the Trump-Russia Scandal

    The Trump-Russia scandal—with all its bizarre and troubling twists and turns—has become a controversy that is defining the Trump presidency. The FBI recently disclosed that since July it has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia, as part of its probe of Moscow's meddling in the 2016 election. Citing "US officials," CNN reported that the bureau has gathered information suggesting coordination between Trump campaign officials and suspected Russian operatives. Each day seems to bring a new revelation—and a new Trump administration denial or deflection. It's tough to keep track of all the relevant events, pertinent ties, key statements, and unraveling claims. So we've compiled what we know so far into the timeline below, which covers Trump's 30-year history with Russia.  We will continue to update the timeline regularly as events unfold. (Click here to go directly to the most recent entry.) Please email us at scoop@motherjones.com if you have a tip or we've left anything out.

    1986: Donald Trump is seated next to Russian Ambassador Yuri Dubinin at a lunch organized by Leonard Lauder, the son of cosmetics scion Este Lauder, who at the time is running her cosmetics business. "One thing led to another, and now I'm talking about building a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin" in partnership with the Soviet government, Trump later writes in his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal

    January 1987: Intourist, the Soviet agency for international tourism, expresses interest in meeting with Trump.

    July 1987: Trump and his then-wife, Ivana, fly to Moscow to tour potential hotel sites. Trump spokesman Dan Klores later tells the Washington Post that during the trip, Trump "met with a lot of the economic and financial advisers in the Politburo" but did not see Mikhail Gorbachev, then the USSR's leader.

    December 1, 1988: The Soviet Mission to the United Nations announces that Gorbachev is tentatively scheduled to tour Trump Tower while the Soviet leader is visiting New York and that Trump plans to show him a swimming pool inside a $19 million apartment.

    December 7, 1988: Trump welcomes the wrong Gorbachev to New York—shaking hands with a renowned Gorbachev impersonator outside his hotel.

    December 8, 1988: President Ronald Reagan invites Donald and Ivana Trump to a state dinner, where Trump meets the real Gorbachev. According to Trump's spokesman, the real estate mogul had a lengthy discussion with the Soviet president about economics and hotels.

    January 1989: For $200,000, Trump signs a group of Soviet cyclists for the Albany-to-Atlantic City road race, dubbed the Tour de Trump, that will take place that May.

    November 5, 1996: Media reports note that Trump is trying to partner with US tobacco company Brooke Group to build a hotel in Moscow.

    January 23, 1997: Trump meets with Alexander Lebed, a retired Soviet general then running to be president of Russia, at Trump Tower. Trump says they discussed his plans to build "something major" in Moscow. Lebed reportedly expressed his support, joking that his only objection would be that "the highest skyscraper in the world cannot be built next to the Kremlin. We cannot allow anyone spitting from the roof of the skyscraper on the Kremlin."

    2000: Michael Caputo, who later runs Trump's primary campaign in New York during the 2016 race, secures a PR contract with the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media to burnish Russian President Vladimir Putin's image in the United States.

    2005: Trump reportedly signs a development deal with Bayrock Group, a real estate firm founded by a former Soviet official from Kazakhstan, to develop a hotel in Moscow and agrees to partner on a hotel tower in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Trump works on the projects with Bayrock managing partner Felix Sater, a Russian American businessman. The New York Times will later publish a story revealing Sater's criminal record, which includes charges of racketeering and assault.

    2007

    September 19: Sater and the former Soviet official who founded Bayrock, Tevfik Arif, stand next to Trump at the launch party for Trump SoHo, a hotel-condominium project co-financed by Bayrock.

    November 22:  Trump Vodka debuts in Russia, at the Moscow Millionaire's Fair. As part of its new marketing campaign, Trump Vodka also unveils an ad featuring Trump, tigers, the Kremlin, and Vladimir Lenin.

    At the Millionaires' Fair, Trump meets Sergey Millian, an American citizen from Belarus who is the president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce in the USA (RACC). Subsequently, Millian later recounted, "We met at his office in New York, where he introduced me to his right-hand man—Michael Cohen. He is Trump's main lawyer, all contracts go through him. Subsequently, a contract was signed with me to promote one of their real estate projects in Russia and the CIS. You can say I was their exclusive broker." According to Millian, he helped Trump "study the Moscow market" for potential real estate investments.

    December 17: The New York Times publishes a story about Felix Sater's controversial past, which includes prison time for stabbing a man with a margarita glass stem during a bar fight and a guilty plea in a Mafia-linked racketeering case. The article characterizes Sater as a Trump business associate who is promoting several potential projects in partnership with Trump.

    December 19: In a deposition, Trump is asked about his plans to build a hotel in Moscow. He says, "It was a Trump International Hotel and Tower. It would be a nonexclusive deal, so it would not have precluded me from doing other deals in Moscow, which was very important to me."

    2008

    April: Trump announces he is partnering with Russian oligarch Pavel Fuks to license his name for luxury high-rises in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. But Fuks ultimately balks at Trump's price, which the Russian business newspaper Kommersant estimated could have been $200 million or more.

    July: Billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev, a Russian oligarch, buys a Palm Beach mansion owned by Trump for $95 million, despite Florida's crashing real estate market and an appraisal on the house for much less. Trump bought the property for $41.35 million four years earlier. Rybolovlev goes on to give conflicting explanations for why he bought the property.

    September 15: Donald Trump Jr. speaks at a real estate conference in Manhattan, where he says "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets…We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."

    Date unknown: Trump's team reportedly invites Sergei Millian to meet Trump at a horse race in Florida, where, according to Millian, they sit in Trump's private suite at the Gulfstream race track in Miami. "Trump team, they realized that we have a lot of connection with Russian investors. And they noticed that we bring a lot of investors from Russia," Millian told ABC News in a 2016 interview. "And they needed my assistance, yes, to sell properties and sell some of the assets to Russian investors." Millian says that following this meeting with Trump, he works as a broker for the Trump Hollywood condominium project in Miami, selling a "nice percentage" of the building's 200 units to Russian investors.

    2010

    May 10: Jody Kriss, a former finance director at Bayrock, files a lawsuit against the company. The suit alleges that Bayrock financed Trump SoHo with mysterious cash from Kazhakstan and Russia and calls the building "a Russian mob project." (The complaint notes that "there is no evidence that Trump took any part in" Bayrock's interactions with questionable Russian financing sources.)

    Date unknown: Bayrock's Sater becomes a senior adviser to Trump, according to his LinkedIn profile. Though Trump later claims he would not recognize Sater, Sater has a Trump Organization email address, phone number, and business cards.

    2013

    May 29: Emin Agalarov, a Russian pop star and the son of billionaire real estate developer Aras Agalarov, releases a music video for his song "Amor." In the video, he pursues Miss Universe 2012, Olivia Culpo, through dark, empty alleys with a flashlight. Following the video's release, representatives of Miss Universe, which Trump at the time owns, discuss with the Agalarovs holding the next pageant in Moscow. The Agalarovs persuade them to host Miss Universe at a concert hall they own on the outskirts of Moscow.

    June 18: Following the Miss USA contest in Las Vegas, Trump announces that he will bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow.

    He also wonders if Putin will attend the pageant, and if Putin might "become my new best friend?"

    June 21: Vladimir Putin awards Rex Tillerson, now Trump's secretary of state, with Russia's Order of Friendship. As the CEO of Exxon Mobil, Tillerson had developed a long-standing relationship with the head of Russia's state-owned oil company, Rosneft, dating back to 1998.

    October 17: In an interview with David Letterman, Trump says, "I've done a lot of business with the Russians," noting that he once met Putin.

    November 5: In a deposition, Trump is asked about a 2007 New York Times story outlining the controversial past of Felix Sater. Trump replies that he barely knows Sater and would have trouble recognizing him if they were in the same room.

    November 8: Trump, in Russia for the Miss Universe pageant, meets with more than a dozen of Russia's top businessmen at Nobu, a restaurant 15 minutes from the Kremlin. The group includes Herman Gref, the CEO of the state-controlled Sberbank PJSC, Russia's biggest bank. The meeting at Nobu is organized by Gref—who regularly meets with Putin—and Aras Agalarov, who owns the Nobu franchise in Moscow.

    - According to a source connected to the Agalarovs, Putin asks his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, to call Trump in advance of the Miss Universe show to set up an in-person meeting for the Russian president and Trump. Peskov reportedly passes on the message and expresses Putin's admiration for Trump. Their plans to meet never come to fruition because of scheduling changes for both Trump and Putin.

    November 9: Trump spends the morning shooting a music video with Emin Agalarov.

    -The Miss Universe pageant takes place near Moscow. A notorious Russian mobster, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, attends the event as a VIP, strolling down the event's red carpet within minutes of Trump. At the time, Tokhtakhounov was under federal indictment in the United States for his alleged participation in an illegal gambling ring once run out of Trump Tower. Emin Agalarov performs two songs at the pageant.

    - MSNBC's Thomas Roberts asks Trump if he has a relationship with Putin. Trump replies, "I do have a relationship and I can tell you that he's very interested in what we're doing here today."

    November 11: Trump tweets his appreciation to Aras Agalarov, the Russian billionaire with whom he partnered to host Miss Universe, also complimenting Emin's performance at the pageant and declaring plans for a Trump tower in Moscow.

    November 12: Trump tells Real Estate Weekly that Miss Universe Russia provided a networking opportunity: "Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room," he says. The same day, two developers who helped build the luxury Trump SoHo hotel meet with the Agalarovs to discuss replicating the hotel in Moscow. Aras Agalarov, whose real estate company secured multiple contracts from the Kremlin and who once received a medal of honor from Putin, later claims he and Trump signed a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow following the pageant. (The deal never moved past preliminary discussions.) 

    November 20: Emin Agalarov releases a new music video featuring Trump and the 2013 Miss Universe contestants.

    2014

    March 6: Trump gives a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference and boasts of getting a gift from Putin when he was in Russia for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. "You know, I was in Moscow a couple months ago, I own the Miss Universe pageant, and they treated me so great," Trump said. "Putin even sent me a present, beautiful present, with a beautiful note."

    May 27: At a National Press Club luncheon, Trump says, "I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer."

    2015

    September: FBI special agent Adrian Hawkins contacts the Democratic National Committee, saying that one of its computer systems has been compromised by a cyberespionage group linked to the Russian government. He speaks to a help desk technician who does a quick check of the DNC systems for evidence of a cyber intrusion. In the next several weeks, Hawkins calls the DNC back repeatedly, but his calls are not returned, in part because the tech support contractor who took Hawkins' call does not know whether he is a real agent. The FBI does not dispatch an agent to visit the DNC in person and does not make efforts to contact more senior DNC officials.

    September 21: On a conservative radio show, Trump says, "I was in Moscow not so long ago for an event that we had, a big event, and many of [Putin's] people were there…I was with the top-level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top-of-the-government people. I can't go further than that, but I will tell you that I met the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary."

    September 29: Trump praises Putin during an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly: "I will tell you, in terms of leadership he is getting an 'A,' and our president is not doing so well."

    November 10: At a Republican presidential primary debate, Trump says of Putin that he "got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes, we were stablemates."

    November 11: The Associated Press, Time, and other media outlets report that Trump and Putin were never in the same studio. Trump was interviewed in New York, and Putin was interviewed in Moscow.

    December 10: Retired General Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who was reportedly forced out in 2014, attends and is paid $30,000 to speak at Russia Today's 10th anniversary dinner in Moscow, where he is seated next to Putin.

    December 17: Putin praises Trump in his year-end press conference, saying that he is "very talented" and that "he is an absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it today. He says that he wants to move to another level relations, a deeper level of relations with Russia…How can we not welcome that? Of course, we welcome it." Trump calls the praise "a great honor" from "a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond." He adds, "I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other toward defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect."

    2016

    February 17: At a rally in South Carolina, Trump says of Putin, "I have no relationship with him, other than that he called me a genius."

    March 21: In an interview with the Washington Post, Trump identifies Carter Page as one of his foreign policy advisers.

    March 30: Bloomberg Businessweek reports on Page's past advising of Gazprom, Russia's state-owned gas company. Page tells Bloomberg Businessweek that after Trump named him as an adviser, positive notes from his Russian contacts filled his inbox. "There's a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation" in terms of easing US sanctions on Russia, Page explained.

    April 26: The Washington Post reports that Paul Manafort, then Trump's convention manager (who would later be promoted to campaign chairman), has long-standing ties to pro-Putin Ukrainian officials. Between 2007 and 2012, Manafort worked as a political consultant to Putin ally Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Russia part. He helped Yanukovych remake his image following the Orange Revolution and mount a successful bid for the Ukrainian presidency.

    April and May: The DNC's IT department contacts the FBI about unusual computer activity and hires cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike to investigate. In May, Crowdstrike determines that hackers affiliated with Russian intelligence infiltrated the DNC's network.

    June 14: The Washington Post reports that Russian hackers penetrated the DNC's computer network.

    June 15: Guccifer 2.0, an online persona that US intelligence officials link to Russia's military intelligence service, takes credit for the DNC hack and posts hacked DNC documents. Guccifer will go on to post additional hacked documents—from the DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and purportedly from the Clinton Foundation—at least nine more times in the months leading up to the election. (Some reports contest that the documents came from the Clinton Foundation itself.)

    July 7: Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page criticizes US sanctions against Russia during a speech at the New Economic School in Moscow. Politico later reports that Page asked for and received permission from Trump's then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to speak at the Moscow event.

    July 18: The Washington Post reports that the Trump campaign worked with members of the Republican Party platform committee in advance of the Republican National Convention to soften the platform's position related to Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The platform reportedly included a provision that promised to provide arms to Ukraine in its fight against Russia, but Trump campaign staffers encouraged the committee to jettison this language.

    - Trump surrogate Sen. Jeff Sessions meets with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, on the sidelines of a Republican National Convention event put on by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

    July 18-21: Trump campaign staffers Carter Page and J.D. Gordon, the campaign's director of national security, also meet with the Russian ambassador during the convention.

    July 22: WikiLeaks publishes nearly 20,000 hacked DNC emails, in advance of the Democratic National Convention. Some of the emails indicate that DNC officials favored Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders.

    July 24: Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman, appears on ABC's This Week, where he is asked whether there are connections between the Trump campaign and the Putin regime. Manafort says, "No, there are not. And you know, there's no basis to it."

    July 25: Trump tweets about the hacked DNC emails:

    July 26: US intelligence agencies tell the White House they now have "high confidence" that the Russian government was behind the DNC hack. This is reported by media outlets but not publicly confirmed by intelligence agencies.

    - In an interview with NBC News, Obama says hacks are being investigated by the FBI, but that "experts have attributed this to the Russians." He notes, "What we do know is that the Russians hack our systems. Not just government systems, but private systems. But you know, what the motives were in terms of the leaks, all that—I can't say directly. What I do know is that Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin."

    July 27: Trump encourages Russia to hack Clinton's emails, saying during a news conference, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you'll probably be rewarded mightily by our press." At the same event, he declares, "I never met Putin. I don't know who Putin is."

    July 31: On ABC's This Week, Trump again denies knowing Putin, saying, "I have no relationship with him." Trump also denies that his campaign played any role in getting the Republican Party to soften its platform on arming Ukraine.

    - On Meet the Press, Manafort denies that he or anyone within the Trump campaign worked to change the platform.

    - Sen. Jeff Sessions defends Trump's efforts to cultivate a friendship with Russia during an appearance on CNN: "Donald Trump is right. We need to figure out a way to end this cycle of hostility that's putting this country at risk, costing us billions of dollars in defense, and creating hostilities."

    Late July: The FBI launches a counterintelligence investigation into contacts between Trump associates and Russia. There is no public confirmation of this investigation at the time, but FBI Director James Comey later confirms the investigation in a March 2017 hearing before the House intelligence committee.

    August 5: Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks, asked by the Washington Post about Carter Page's July speech in Moscow, downplays his role as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, saying he "does not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign."

    - Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone writes an article for Breitbart in which he denies that Russia was behind the DNC hack. He argues that Guccifer 2.0 has no ties to Russia.

    August 6: NPR confirms the Trump campaign's involvement in encouraging the Republican Party to soften its platform's pro-Ukraine position on Russia's annexation of Crimea.

    August 14: The New York Times reports that Ukraine's anti-corruption bureau has discovered Manafort's name on a list of "black accounts" compiled by ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin ally. The tallies show undisclosed payments designated for Manafort totaling $12.7 million between 2007 and 2012, the years that Manafort worked for Yanukovych as a political consultant. (Manafort denies receiving any illicit payments.)

    August 17: Trump receives his first classified intelligence briefing as the GOP nominee for president. He brings Michael Flynn with him to the meeting, which includes discussion of the intelligence community's assessment that Russia was interfering in the US election.
    August 19: Manafort resigns from the Trump campaign.

    August 21: Roger Stone tweets:

    August 29: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pens a letter to the FBI, asking the bureau to investigate the possibility of election-tampering by Russia in the upcoming presidential election. "I have recently become concerned that the threat of the Russian government tampering in our presidential election is more extensive than widely known," Reid writes. "The prospect of a hostile government actively seeking to undermine our free and fair elections represents one of the gravest threats to our democracy since the Cold War and it is critical for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use every resource available to investigate this matter thoroughly."

    August 29: Yahoo News reports that the FBI has found evidence that the state voter systems in Arizona and Illinois were breached by hackers possibly linked to the Russian government.

    August 30: House Democrats send a letter to FBI Director James Comey calling on the bureau to investigate ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and any impact these ties may have had on the hacking of the DNC and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

    September 5: The Washington Post reports that US intelligence agencies, including the FBI, are investigating possible plans by Russia to disrupt the presidential election.

    - Putin and Obama have a tense meeting at the G20 summit in China, where they discuss Syria, Ukraine, and cybersecurity. In December, Obama will tell reporters that he confronted Putin about Russia's alleged interference in the election and told him to "cut it out."

    September 7: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggests publicly for the first time that Russia may be responsible for the DNC hack, pointing to Obama's July statement that "experts have attributed this to the Russians." Clapper adds that "the Russians hack our systems all the time."

    September 8: Trump responds to Clapper's comments in an interview with RT, the English language arm of a Russian state-controlled media conglomerate, casting doubt on whether Russian hackers were responsible for the DNC hack. "I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out," Trump says. "Who knows, but I think it's pretty unlikely."

    - Jeff Sessions meets with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in his Senate office. He is the only one of the Senate armed services committee's 26 members to meet with the ambassador in 2016. The meeting occurs days after Putin and Obama's tense G20 meeting.

    September 22: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, release a statement about Russia's interference in the US election. "Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election," they said. "We believe that orders for the Russian intelligence agencies to conduct such actions could come only from the very senior levels of the Russian government."

    September 23: Yahoo News reports that US intelligence officials are investigating whether Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page discussed the possible lifting of US sanctions on Russia and other topics during private communications with top Russian officials, including a Putin aide and the current executive chairman of Rosneft, who is on the Treasury Department's US sanctions list. Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller claims that Page "has no role" in the Trump campaign and says that "we are not aware of any of his activities, past or present."

    September 25: In a CNN interview, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway denies that Page is affiliated with the Trump campaign. "He's certainly not part of the campaign that I'm running," she said.

    In response to a question about Page's possible connections to Russian officials, Conway says, "If he's doing that, he's certainly not doing it with the permission or knowledge of the campaign," She adds, "He is certainly not authorized to do that."

    September 26: Page takes a leave from the campaign.

    - During the first presidential debate, Clinton brings up the allegations that Russia orchestrated the DNC hack. Trump responds: "I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She's saying Russia, Russia, Russia. 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, okay?"

    October 1: Roger Stone tweets:

    October 3: Roger Stone tweets:

    October 7: US intelligence agencies issue a joint release saying they are "confident" the Russian government interfered in the US election, in part by directing the leaking of hacked emails belonging to political institutions like the DNC. This is the first official government confirmation that Russia orchestrated the hacking and leaks during the election.

    -Late on Friday afternoon, a leaked video of Trump boasting of groping and kissing women without their consent is published by the Washington Post. Half an hour later, WikiLeaks begins to release several thousand hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

    October 9: During the second presidential debate, Clinton accuses Trump of benefiting from Russian hacking and other interference in the election. Trump responds, "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."

    October 11: The Obama White House promises a "proportional" response following the US intelligence community's conclusion that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC and other groups.

    October 12: Sources briefed on the FBI examination of Russian hacking say the agency suspects that Russian intelligence agencies are behind the hacking of the emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and a Florida election systems vendor.

    - Roger Stone says he has "back-channel communications" with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, through a mutual friend.

    October 19: During the final presidential debate, Trump casts doubt on the US intelligence community's conclusion that the Russian government interfered in the election. He also denies having ever met or spoken to Putin, despite his previous statements to the contrary. "I never met Putin," Trump says. " I have nothing to do with Putin. I've never spoken to him."

    October 30: The plane belonging to Dmitri Rybolovlev, the Russian oligarch who purchased Trump's Florida mansion in 2008, is in Las Vegas the same day Trump holds a rally there.

    - Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sends a letter to FBI Director James Comey calling on him to release what Reid calls "explosive" information about Trump's Russia ties. "In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government," Reid writes. "The public has a right to know this information."

    October 31: Mother Jones reports that a veteran of a Western intelligence service has given the FBI memos saying that Russia had mounted a yearslong operation to co-opt or cultivate Trump and that the Kremlin had gathered compromising information on Trump during his visits to Moscow that could be used for blackmail. The story notes that the FBI has requested more information from this source.

    Date unknown: Prior to Election Day, Flynn contacts Kislyak. It's unknown how often the pair communicated or what they talked about.

    November 1: NBC News reports that the FBI is conducting a preliminary inquiry into Paul Manafort's business ties to Russia and Ukraine. Manafort tells NBC, "None of it is true." He denies having dealings with Putin or the Russian government and says any allegations to the contrary are "Democratic propaganda."

    November 3: Dmitri Rybolovlev's plane lands in Charlotte, North Carolina, about 90 minutes before Trump's plane lands at the same airport in advance of a Trump rally to be held that day in nearby Concord.

    November 9: Trump wins the presidential election.

    November 10: Interfax news agency reports that the Russian government had contact with the Trump campaign during the campaign. Referring to Trump campaign staffers, Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, says, "A number of them maintained contacts with Russian representatives" in the Russian Foreign Ministry. And he adds, "There were contacts. We continue to do this and have been doing this work during the election campaign."

    - Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells the Associated Press that Russian foreign policy experts have been in contact with the Trump campaign. "And our experts, our specialists on the U.S., on international affairs…Of course they are constantly speaking to their counterparts here, including those from Mr. Trump's group," Peskov said.

    November 11: Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks tells the Associated Press that the allegations of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials are false. "It never happened," she says. "There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign."

    November 16: The director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Michael Rogers, implies that he believes Russia interfered in the US election. In response to a question about WikiLeaks hacks during the election, Rogers says, "This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect."

    November 17: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, sends a letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the committee's top Republican, calling for an investigation into Russia's interference in the election.

    November 23: The Wall Street Journal reports that in October 2016, Donald Trump Jr. spoke at a meeting of a French think tank run by a couple, Fabien Baussart and Randa Kassis, who have "worked closely with Russia to try to end the conflict" in Syria. Kassis is the leader of a Syrian group endorsed by the Kremlin that seeks to cooperate with Moscow ally President Bashar al-Assad.

    November 29: Seven members of the Senate intelligence committee write a letter to Obama asking him to declassify relevant intelligence on Russia's role in the election.

    Early December: Two Russian intelligence officers who worked on cyber operations and a Russian computer security expert are arrested in Moscow and charged with treason for providing information to the United States. (There is no indication of whether the arrests are related to the Russian hacking of the 2016 campaign.)

    December 8: Carter Page, no longer a foreign policy adviser to Trump, visits Moscow, where he tells a state-run news agency that he plans to meet with "business leaders and thought leaders."

    December 9: The Washington Post reports that a secret CIA assessment concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win the presidency. In response, the Trump transition team issues a statement attempting to discredit the CIA's conclusion: "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago…It's now time to move on and 'Make America Great Again.'"

    December 11: In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Trump again casts doubt on the US intelligence community's findings on Russia's interference in the election. "They have no idea if it's Russia or China or somebody," Trump says of the CIA's findings. "It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea."

    December 13: Trump names Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, as his secretary of state nominee. Tillerson has long-standing ties to Russia and Putin. Tillerson helped Exxon cut several oil-drilling deals with Rosneft, Russia's state-owned oil company, and in 2013 Putin awarded Tillerson the Russian Order of Friendship.

    December (date unknown): Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner meet with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower. Kislyak was not caught on tape entering the building, suggesting that he may have been brought in through a back entrance.

    December 29: Obama announces sanctions against Russia for the country's alleged interference in the presidential election. The measure includes the ejection of 35 Russian diplomats from the United States; the closure of Cold War-era Russian compounds in Long Island, New York, and in Maryland; and sanctions against the GRU and the FSB (Russian intelligence agencies), four employees of those agencies, and three companies that worked with the GRU.

    - Michael Flynn holds five phone calls with Kislyak, during which they at some point discuss US sanctions on Russia. (White House press secretary Sean Spicer later claims falsely that they held just one call, in which they merely discussed "logistical information.")

    2017

    January 6: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases a report saying that the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA believe there is evidence that Russia actively tried to help Trump win the election. They also conclude with "high confidence" that Russian military intelligence used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and a website called DCLeaks.com to release the hacked documents and that Russia's military intelligence branch channeled hacked material to WikiLeaks.

    January 10: CNN reports that Obama and Trump received classified briefings that covered allegations contained in the Russia-Trump memos authored by the Western intelligence official that Russian intelligence possessed compromising material on Trump.

    - BuzzFeed publishes the Trump-Russia memos in full.

    - Trump calls the Russia memos story "#fakenews" on Twitter.

    - During his Senate confirmation hearing, Jeff Sessions responds to questions about alleged contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia by saying, "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians."

    - FBI Director James Comey testifies at a Senate intelligence committee hearing. He is asked whether the FBI is investigating Trump campaign staffers' ties to Russia. Comey declines to answer the question.

    January 11: Trump again denies the allegations in the Russia memos in a series of tweets. Also in reference to the Russia allegations, he asks, "Are we living in Nazi Germany?"

    - At his first news conference since being elected, Trump acknowledges that Russia was behind the hacks, saying, "As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people."

    January 13: Trump again calls claims about his Russian connections "fake news." His tweet refers to a comment by a Kremlin spokesman earlier in the month that called the US intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the US election "absolutely unfounded."

    January 15: In an appearance on Face the Nation, Vice President-elect Mike Pence says Michael Flynn told him that he did not discuss US sanctions during his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

    January 19: The New York Times reports that the FBI, the NSA, the CIA, and the Treasury Department's financial crimes unit are investigating Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Roger Stone for their possible contacts with Russia during the campaign. As part of their investigation, the Times reports, these agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions.

    January 20: Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.

    January 23: White House press secretary Sean Spicer holds his first White House press briefing. He insists that national security adviser Michael Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador included no discussion of US sanctions.

    January 24: The FBI interviews Flynn about his phone conversations with the Russian ambassador. Flynn reportedly denies having discussed US sanctions on Russia.

    January 26: Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, informs White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had discussed US sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador, despite Flynn's claims to the contrary in his FBI interview.

    - McGahn informs Trump of Yates' report that Flynn had a conversation with the Russian ambassador in December that included a discussion about US sanctions. This reveals that Flynn misled Pence when he said he had not had substantive conversations with the Russian ambassador.

    January (date unknown): Michael Cohen, Trump's personal attorney, meets at a Manhattan hotel with Felix Sater and a pro-Putin Ukrainian lawmaker to discuss a potential peace plan for Ukraine and Russia. The New York Times reports that Cohen delivered this plan to Flynn. Cohen confirms he met with Sater and the Ukrainian lawmaker, but denies that they discussed a Ukraine-Russia peace plan or that he delivered such a plan to Flynn or the White House.

    February 7: Trump tweets:

    February 8: In an interview with the Washington Post, Flynn denies discussing US sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

    February 9: A spokesman for Flynn softens the national security adviser's denial, telling the Washington Post that "while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn't be certain that the topic never came up."

    February 10: Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump says he is not aware of reports that Flynn has discussed US sanctions with the Russian ambassador. He has in fact been aware of Flynn's contacts with Kislyak since late January.

    - Dmitri Rybolovlev's plane lands in Miami, the day before Trump is set to arrive at Mar-a-Lago for the weekend.

    February 13: Flynn resigns following reports that the Justice Department warned the White House that Flynn had misled senior members of the administration, including Pence, about whether he discussed US sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

    February 14: The New York Times reports that American intelligence and law enforcement agencies have intercepted repeated communications between Trump campaign officials and other Trump associates and senior Russian intelligence and government officials.

    - Spicer denies that Trump or his campaign had any contacts with Russia during the election.

    February 15: During a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump does not answer a question about potential connections between his campaign and Russia during the election. He blames Flynn's ouster on leaks. This is a different position than the one taken by the White House previously: that Flynn was asked to resign because he misled Pence about his communication with the Russian ambassador.

    - Reince Priebus, Trump's chief of staff, asks the FBI to publicly knock-down media reports that the US intelligence community was investigating the Trump campaign's alleged contacts with Russia intelligence operatives during the election. The FBI refuses to do so. The administration then enlists the help of the intelligence community and several members of Congress, including Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)—the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees, both of which are conducting investigations into Trump's Russia connections—to call media outlets to counter stories about contacts between Trump staffers and Russians.

    - In an appearance on PBS Newshour, Carter Page denies that he had any meetings with Russian officials in 2016.

    February 16: At a news conference, Trump is asked whether anyone in his campaign had been in contact with Russia. He replies, "Nobody that I know of." He also denies having any contact with Russia, saying, "Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia."

    February 17: FBI Director James Comey meets with members of the Senate intelligence committee. That same day, the committee sends letters to more than a dozen agencies, groups, and individuals, asking them to preserve all communications related to the committee's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    February 19: During an interview on Fox News, Priebus denies that the Trump camp had any contact with Russia.

    February 28: Republicans on the House judiciary committee vote down a Democrat-sponsored resolution that would have required the Trump administration to disclose information about Trump's ties to Russia (and his possible financial conflicts of interest).

    - White House lawyers ask Trump staffers to preserve any materials related to possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    March 1: The Washington Post reports that Jeff Sessions, Trump's attorney general, did not disclose in his January confirmation hearings that he twice met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. Sessions had said during a confirmation hearing that "I did not have communications with the Russians." Sessions' Justice Department spokeswoman says Sessions met with Kislyak in his capacity as a senator on the armed services committee, and that the question during the confirmation hearing was about the Trump campaign's Russian connections.

    March 2: Facing criticism over the revelations that he withheld information regarding his meetings with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation hearings, Sessions announces that he will recuse himself from any investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    - On NBC, Sessions denies that he ever discussed the Trump campaign with Russians. "I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign and those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false," he said. "And I don't have anything else to say about that."

    - Alex Oronov, a Ukrainian billionaire businessman who was connected by marriage to Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime lawyer and associate, dies unexpectedly. Oronov's daughter was married to Cohen's brother. Oronov reportedly set up a January 2017 meeting between Cohen and Russian officials to discuss a possible "peace plan" between Russia and Ukraine that would have formalized Putin's control over Crimea. The New York Times reported that this peace proposal was hand-delivered to Michael Flynn prior to his forced resignation.

    - The White House acknowledges that Jared Kushner and Flynn met with Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower in December. The meeting was first reported by The New Yorker.

    - The Wall Street Journal reports that Donald Trump Jr. was paid at least $50,000 for his October 2016 appearance before a French think tank run by a couple allied with Russia on ending Syrian conflict.

    - USA Today reports that two other Trump advisers, Carter Page and J.D. Gordon, met with Sergey Kislyak during the Republican National Convention.

    - In an MSNBC appearance, Page says he doesn't deny that this meeting took place.

    - J.D. Gordon tells CNN that during the Republican National Convention, he did in fact push to alter the Republican platform's draft policy on Ukraine to align it with Trump's views on Russia.

    March 3: Trump dresses down senior staffers in a meeting in the Oval Office over Jeff Sessions' recusal and over news reports connecting the Trump administration to Russia.

    March 4: Without providing any proof, Trump alleges that President Obama wiretapped his phones during the election.

    March 5: Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the White House is requesting that the congressional intelligence committees examine Trump's allegations that Obama wiretapped Trump during the campaign as part of their investigation into Russia's election activity. Spicer also says the White House will not comment further on the wiretapping allegation until the completion of this investigation.

    March 10: Trump adviser Roger Stone acknowledges that during the 2016 campaign he exchanged direct messages on Twitter with Guccifer 2.0, the online persona that US intelligence agencies believe was a front for Russian intelligence. Stone claims the conversations were so "perfunctory" and "banal" that he had forgotten about them.

    March 15: Asked about his decision to accuse Obama of wiretapping him without evidence, Trump hints that information will soon emerge to back up his claims. "I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks."

    March 20: The House intelligence committee holds its first public hearing on its investigation into Russia's interference in the US election. Responding to the committee's questioning, FBI Director James Comey confirms that the bureau has since July been "investigating 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." Both Comey and NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers dismiss Trump's claim that Obama wiretapped him during the election.

    - In response to questions from Mother Jones' David Corn, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chair of the House intelligence committee, tells reporters he has never heard of key figures connected to the Trump-Russia scandal, including Carter Page and Roger Stone. 

    - Spicer tells reporters that Paul Manafort, who ran Trump's campaign from April 2016 to August 2016, "played a limited role" on the campaign "for a very limited amount of time."

    March 22: The Associated Press reports that, starting in the mid-2000s, Manafort worked on behalf of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to "influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government." The news service quotes a 2005 strategy memo authored by Manafort, who writes, "We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success." Manafort denies working on behalf of Russian interests.

    - Mother Jones reports that Manafort tried to help Deripaska secure a visa to the United States. The aluminum magnate had been denied entry to the United States at various points because of suspected ties to the Russian mafia.

    - Rep. Devin Nunes, without briefing Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), his Democratic counterpart on the intelligence committee, or other members of the panel, calls a surprise press conference, announcing that he has seen evidence that the intelligence community "incidentally" picked up communications by Trump transition officials in the course of lawful surveillance on foreign parties. He claims that the names of Trump officials were "unmasked" and that "none of this surveillance was related to Russia."

    - In a remarkable departure from intelligence committee norms, Nunes visits the White House to brief Trump on his findings. The president later says he feels "somewhat" vindicated by the information Nunes shared.

    - Schiff releases a statement expressing "grave concerns" about Nunes' actions and casting doubt about whether a "credible investigation" can be conducted under these circumstances.

    - Schiff tells MSNBC's Chuck Todd that there is "more than circumstantial evidence now" of potential collusion between Trump officials and Russian operatives. 

    - CNN, citing "US officials," reports that the "FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign."

    March 23: The Associated Press reports that US Treasury Department agents have obtained records of "offshore financial transactions" by Paul Manafort, in conjunction into an ongoing anti-corruption investigation into his work in Eastern Europe. According to the new service, "As part of their investigation, U.S. officials were expected to look into millions of dollars' worth of wire transfers to Manafort. In one case, the AP found that a Manafort-linked company received a $1 million payment in October 2009 from a mysterious firm through the Bank of Cyprus. The $1 million payment left the account the same day—split in two, roughly $500,000 disbursements to accounts with no obvious owner."

    - Trump tweets:

    - Rep. Nunes apologizes to Democratic members of the intelligence committee for failing to brief them on the new information he obtained and instead taking it straight to the White House, but he won't explain why he took this unusual action. 

    March 24: Rep. Devin Nunes holds a press conference, where he announces that Paul Manafort has volunteered to testify before the House intelligence committee. 



  • 5 of the Worst Criminals in Food History

    Like precious gem heists and exotic animal snatching, food crimes come with their fair share of high drama. The details of one seafood kingpin's story are enough for an episode of The Sopranos: Federal agents disguised themselves as Russians and busted fisherman Carlos Rafael for a laundry list of crimes, including mislabeling his catch and selling thousands of pounds of fish under-the-table to a dealer in New York City.

    For our latest episode of Bite, our food politics podcast, we talked to journalist Ben Goldfarb about his recent Mother Jones feature about this fish tycoon, known as "The Codfather." The interview with Goldfarb begins at 1:24.

     

    "The Codfather has always been kind of a notorious figure in New England," says Goldfarb. "He has a reputation for being unscrupulous, he's run into trouble with the law a few of times, and a lot of small fishermen feel he's squeezing them out." Rafael currently faces 24 counts of fraud and is due in court May 30th. He joins a long line of food criminals, including:

    Sticky Fingers
    At $1,300 a barrel, maple syrup was about 26 times more valuable than crude oil last year. In what became known as the Great Maple Syrup Robbery, 540,000 gallons of syrup—worth roughly $13.4 million—were stolen from the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers in 2012. According to prosecutors, writes Vanity Fair: "The gang would truck barrels out of the Reserve to a sugar shack where they would siphon the syrup in the way you siphon gasoline from a semi, feeding it, a cask at a time, into their own ramshackle barrels and then re-filling the originals with water." The heist was discovered when an inventory check revealed the water. Richard Vallières, one of the ringleaders, was found guilty in November of theft, fraud, and trafficking stolen goods; he reportedly claimed he was forced to commit the crime under a death threat.

    Wine Wizard
    From the early 2000s until 2012, a young Indonesian immigrant named Rudy Kurniawan swindled Silicon Valley socialites—including wine and art expert William Koch—out of nearly $30 million by repackaging wine in his basement and selling it for thousands of dollars per bottle. In 2014, a judge sentenced Kurniawan to 10 years in prison. Kurniawan earned his nickname "Dr. Conti" because he was known for bidding high on famously-expensive Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wines at auctions.

    This is Nuts
    Nine people died and thousands got sick in 2008 and 2009 after eating peanut butter contaminated with salmonella. The story's grossest detail is that the CEO of the Peanut Corporation of America, Stewart Parnell, knew the food may have been contaminated—but shipped it anyway. Parnell was found guilty in 2014 on more than 70 criminal charges and received the longest prison sentence of any food-related crime: 28 years.

    Oh, SNAP
    In spring of 2016, vendors at South Florida flea markets were in cahoots with customers carrying EBT cards: Owners rang up purchases but never sold anything. Customers instead left with cash, and shop owners got a cut. According to the Miami Herald, thousands of food stamp recipients were involved in the $13 million food stamp fraud, perhaps the largest scheme of its kind. Investigators dubbed the bust "Operation Stampede."  

    Bite is Mother Jones' food politics podcast. Listen to all our episodes here, or by subscribing in iTunes or Stitcher or via RSS.




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