With comparisons to Richard Nixon swirling, and investigations ramping up, I thought it might be helpful for everyone – liberal or conservative – to have a breakdown of what’s going on. There’s a lot to digest, and there are accusations flying every which way, so let’s just get some the facts out there and the order in which things have transpired.
07/05/16: Comey says the FBI will not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her “careless” use of a private email server.
10/28/16: Comey sends a letter to Congress informing them of the existence of emails pertinent to the Clinton investigation, which becomes public and turns election polls for Trump.
10/31/16: Trump on Comey – “It took a lot of guts. I really disagreed with him. I was not his fan. But I’ll tell you what he did, he brought back his reputation”
11/06/16: The FBI concludes that there is nothing in new emails to alter original opinion, seeks no charges against Clinton.
11/08/16: Trump Elected, many think thanks to Comey.
11/10/17: During a meeting in the Oval Office, President Obama warns Trump that “Flynn’s name kept popping up” in the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election, advises against hiring him.
Jan. 2017: Trump is informed by U.S. intelligence agency leaders that Russia may possess compromising information about him.
01/10/17: Comey appears in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee to talk about Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. election, refuses to confirm that the FBI is looking into Trump.
01/13/17: Democrats accuse Comey of stonewalling about Trump and Russia. Same day, the Senate Intelligence Committee announces it will look into Russian interference in the election.
01/18/17: Trump informs Comey that he will remain FBI director.
01/24/17: Mike Flynn interviewed at the White House by the FBI. Sally Yates tells Trump’s top legal adviser (McGahn) about Flynn’s interview with the FBI. Spicer claims Trump was briefed right after.
01/26/17: Yates begins meeting at White House by laying out statements made by VP Pence and other high-ranking White House officials about Flynn’s conduct “that we knew not to be the truth.” – “To state the obvious, you don’t want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians,” Yates told the committee.
01/27/17: During Yates’ second meeting with McGahn he asked her whether Flynn could be prosecuted for his conduct. “Why does it matter to DOJ if one White House official lies to another?” McGahn expressed his concern that taking action might interfere with the FBI investigation of Flynn, and Yates said it wouldn’t.
McGahn asked if he could look at the underlying evidence of Flynn’s conduct and she could “get back with him on Monday morning.”
01/30/17: The Monday morning in question, Yates is fired for not enforcing the Muslim ban, deeming it unconstitutional, an ideal she promised the Senate to uphold. The Flynn meeting never happens.
02/09/17: Pence finally hears that Flynn misled him about meeting with the Russian Ambassador, two full weeks after Yates told McGahn.
02/10/17: Asked about the reports Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak, Trump replies, “I don’t know about that. I haven’t seen it,” and promises he’ll “look into” the matter.
02/13/17: Eighteen days after Yates raised the concern about Flynn to the White House, Flynn resigned from his post as national security adviser, pushed out by Trump.
02/24/17: FBI rejects requests from the Trump administration to knock down news reports concerning communications between the Trump campaign and Russia.
03/01/17: News breaks that AG Jeff Sessions did not disclose contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
03/02/17: Sessions recuses himself from investigations related to the 2016 presidential campaign, including any Russian interference in the electoral process.
03/11/17: During increased national debate about the appointment of a special prosecutor to manage an investigation of links between the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was abruptly fired at the request of new Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump had previously assured Bharara that he’d keep his job. Bharara was investigating both Fox News and Trump Tower.
03/20/17: Comey confirms that the FBI is investigating any links between the Trump election campaign and the Russian government and refutes Trump’s tweets alleging that the Obama administration was wiretapping Trump Tower.
03/21/17: Nunes secretly travels to the White House grounds to meet an unnamed source, who shows him the mystery intelligence reports in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The Daily Beast will later report that he was traveling with a staffer at night and that after receiving “communication” on his phone, Nunes abruptly switched cars and heads to the White House alone. Nunes will later dispute this account, telling reporters that it was daytime and that he spoke to several “foreign dignitaries” on the White House grounds.
03/22/17: Nunes briefs House Speaker Paul Ryan on his findings and briefs President Trump, but skips over the other committee members, who are the only people he should have been discussing it with.
03/24/17: Nunes cancels an open hearing featuring Sally Yates, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan scheduled for March 28. This is also the day that news breaks about his White House visit on 3/21.
03/27/17: Nunes tells Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake that his source was an intelligence official, not a White House staffer.
03/28/17: The Trump administration sought to block Sally Yates from testifying in the House investigation into possible links between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s campaign. Nunes after being asked to recuse himself says he will “never” tell his colleagues on the Intelligence Committee who gave him the documents, vowing to protect his source.
03/29/17: Paul Ryan rebuffs calls for Nunes to step down from the committee and claims the source is a “whistleblower type person,” in an attempt to cover up for Nunes, thus compromising his own impartiality moving forward. This has gone mostly ignored.
03/30/17: The New York Times reports that Nunes’s sources were two White House officials: Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security at the White House Counsel’s Office and was previously counsel on the House Intelligence Committee.
Late March/Early April: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes cancels all scheduled testimony on Russia and insists that Comey come back to the Hill for a closed-door briefing. Nunes recuses himself from the Russia investigation before that meeting is even scheduled.
04/06/17: House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes recuses himself from the group’s probe into ties between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign. On his way out, Nunes blamed “several left-wing activist groups” he said “have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics.”
04/20/17: House Oversight Committee chairmanship Jason Chaffetz, tasked with looking into Nunes’ behavior, and being pressured to investigate Trump’s conflicts of interest, steps down and announces he won’t run for re-election in 2018, and he may not even finish his term. This has lead to speculation that he’s aiming for a run at Governor in 2020, and wants Trump’s backing. Now both Republicans tasked with investigating Trump have chosen to step aside rather than do their job.
05/02/17: Trump says “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!” This comes just a couple weeks after Trump told FOX News that he has confidence in Comey.
05/03/17: Comey testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee about announcing the reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton and her emails. – “It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election.” Comey alleges in the hearing that Huma Abedin “forwarded hundreds and thousands of emails [to Anthony Weiner], some of which contain classified information.” This later (5/8/17) proves to be false when ProPublica releases a report stating that Comey exaggerated the number of emails Abedin forwarded to Weiner, debunking his previous testimony.
05/04/17: Comey briefs members of the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors about the Russia probe.
“Days before the firing”: James B. Comey asked the Justice Department for a significant increase in resources for the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election, according to four congressional officials, including Senator Richard J. Durbin.
05/08/17: Sally Yates and James Clapper testify in front of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. During the testimony, both Yates and Clapper confirm they can’t deliver certain information because of ongoing investigations.
05/09/17: Trump fires Comey, citing recommendations from AG Sessions, who is supposed to have recused himself from that matter back in March. This draws immediate comparisons to Richard Nixon’s orders to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, which led to the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus on 10/20/73.
05/10/17: News breaks that federal prosecutors issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year’s election, done just hours before Trump fired FBI director James Comey yesterday. The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s broader investigation and make the timing of Comey’s termination extremely suspect.
Sources: Washington Post, ABC News, C-SPAN, FOX News,
ProPublica, Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast, The Hill, CNN,
Bloomberg View, Mother Jones, The New York Times