Concerns about Russia's alleged involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election began to arise even before Election Day. A long and complicated political battle has ensued ever since, heightening tensions between Democrats and Republicans in an already partisan environment. And more than a year after the saga began, a timeline of the Russia investigation shows just how involved the process has been.
Earlier on Monday, special counsel Robert Mueller announced the first charges in his investigation: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his longtime aide Robert Gates were indicted for conspiracy against the U.S., among other charges. President Trump responded to the charges with his typical bluster, claiming that the charges were related to issues from "years before."
Despite Trump's firm denials, the probe has continued to heat up in the past couple of months. Along the way, allegations have borne the names not just of the president and his campaign staff, but also of his family members, including son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner. It's been a long and winding road, but here's where the investigation has gone:
Trump Jr. Meets With Russian Lawyer
During his father's campaign against Clinton, Trump Jr. reportedly met with a Russian lawyer and others with ties to the Kremlin in June 2016. Trump Jr. has admitted to the meeting, and more recent reports suggest that he expected the lawyer to have information damaging to the Clinton campaign. Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort also reportedly attended the meeting.
Democrats Call For An Investigation
In August 2016, months before Election Day, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid formally asked the FBI to investigate Russia's involvement in the American electoral system. "I have recently become concerned that the threat of the Russian government tampering in our presidential election is more extensive than widely known and may include the intent to falsify official election results," Reid reportedly wrote.
FBI Links Russia To Campaign Hacking
Shortly after the 2016 election, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in December 2016 released a report that linked Russian organizations to various instances of hacking that took place during the U.S. election. According to The Hill, the FBI and DHS report referenced the hacks of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee. Both hacks occurred during the campaign season.
Senate Committees Open Investigations
Before President Trump's inauguration, the Senate Intelligence Committee opened its investigation into the Trump-Russia saga in January 2017. Over the course of its investigation, the committee has heard testimony from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Kushner, Obama administration National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and others. The Senate Judiciary Committee opened a similar investigation in February. Although the Senate cannot bring charges, it can consider sanctions against Russia and begin impeachment proceedings against the president.
In February 2017, Trump administration National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned. Flynn faced scrutiny in office because he misrepresented the extent of his communications with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak. The Justice Department was reportedly concerned that Flynn could be blackmailed by the Russians.
FBI Opens Investigation
In March 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey announced that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. According to The New York Times, Comey made the announcement during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.
House Committees Open Investigations
Also in March, the House Intelligence Committee and the House Oversight Committee opened their investigations into the Trump-Russia situation. In other words, both houses of Congress and the FBI were investigating Trump's potential ties to Russia at once.
Trump Fires James Comey
Less than six months into his term, President Trump fired Comey in May 2017. Trump originally pinned Comey's firing on the FBI's failure to charge Hillary Clinton for her email scandal. However, as NBC News has reported, the president later referenced the Russia investigation when discussing Comey's firing in an interview.
Comey Memo Released
Shortly after he was abruptly fired by the president, a memo written by Comey during his time at the FBI surfaced. According to various news reports, Comey wrote in the memo that Trump had asked him to drop the FBI's investigation into Flynn. Trump denies those claims. Enter: calls to impeach Trump for obstruction of justice.
Special Counsel Takes Over
In May 2017, the Department of Justice appointed Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel in the Russia probe. A former FBI director, Mueller took up the investigation just days after the president fired Comey. As special counselor, Mueller leads the FBI's investigation into the allegations against Russia and the president's campaign.
Grand Jury Assembled
On Thursday, Reuters reported that Mueller convened a grand jury in recent weeks. The grand jury reportedly issued subpoenas related to the June 2016 meeting between Trump Jr., Kushner, a Russian lawyer, and others. The grand jury can call witnesses to testify and, eventually, decide whether charges should be brought.
The Russia probe still seems far from over. With each step comes more questions and further speculation. As more details emerge, though, Americans can attain a clearer view of what took place during the presidential election and what could continue to take place between the Trump administration and Russia in the aftermath of Trump's victory.
Manafort Is Indicted
Former Trump campaign chairman Manafort was indicted, along with his former associate Rick Gates, and both men turned themselves into federal authorities Oct. 30. They were charged on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, making false statements, and failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. Manafort is specifically accused of laundering more than $18 million.
“As part of the scheme, Manafort and Gates repeatedly provided false information to financial bookkeepers, tax accountants and legal counsel, among others,” the indictment reads.