Timeline: Big moments in Mueller investigation of Russian meddling in 2016 U.S. election

(Reuters) - Here is a timeline of significant developments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and contacts between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller arrives to make his first public comments on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo


May 17 - U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appoints former FBI Director Mueller as a special counsel to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election and to look into any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and people associated with Republican Trump’s campaign. The appointment follows Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey on May 9. Days later, Trump attributed Comey’s dismissal to “this Russia thing.”

June 15 - Mueller is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, the Washington Post reports.

Oct. 30 - Veteran Republican political operative and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who worked for the campaign for five pivotal months in 2016, is indicted on charges of conspiracy against the United States and money laundering, as is his business partner Rick Gates, who also worked for Trump’s campaign.

- Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleads guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.

Dec. 1 - Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser who also had a prominent campaign role, pleads guilty to the charge of lying to the FBI about his discussions in 2016 with the Russian ambassador to Washington.


Feb. 16 - Mueller secures an indictment of 13 Russian individuals and three firms, including a Russian government propaganda arm called the Internet Research Agency, accusing them of tampering in the presidential race to support Trump and disparage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The accused “had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” according to a court document filed by Mueller.

- An American, Richard Pinedo, pleads guilty to identity fraud for selling bank account numbers after being accused by prosecutors of helping Russians launder money, buy Facebook ads and pay for campaign rally supplies. Pinedo was not associated with the Trump campaign.

Feb. 22 - Manafort and Gates are charged with financial crimes, including bank fraud, in Virginia.

Feb. 23 - Gates pleads guilty to conspiracy against the United States and lying to investigators. He agrees to cooperate and eventually testifies against Manafort at trial.

April 3 - Alex van der Zwaan, the Dutch son-in-law of one of Russia’s richest men, is sentenced to 30 days in prison and fined $20,000 for lying to Mueller’s investigators, becoming the first person sentenced in the probe.

April 9 - FBI agents raid home, hotel room and office of Trump’s personal lawyer and self-described “fixer” Michael Cohen.

April 12 - Rosenstein tells Trump that he is not a target in Mueller’s probe.

April 19 - Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump supporter in the election campaign, joins Trump’s personal legal team.

June 8 - Mueller charges a Russian-Ukrainian man, Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort business partner whom prosecutors say had ties to Russian intelligence, with witness tampering.

July 13 - Federal grand jury indicts 12 Russian military intelligence officers on charges of hacking Democratic Party computer networks in 2016 and staged releases of documents. Russia, which denies interfering in the election, says there is no evidence that the 12 are linked to spying or hacking.

July 16 - In Helsinki after the first summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump publicly contradicts U.S. intelligence agencies that concluded Moscow had interfered in the 2016 election with a campaign of hacking and propaganda. Trump touts Putin’s “extremely strong and powerful” denial of meddling. He calls the Mueller inquiry a “rigged witch hunt” on Twitter.

Aug. 21 - A jury in Virginia finds Manafort guilty of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account.

- Cohen, in a case brought by U.S. prosecutors in New York, pleads guilty to tax fraud and campaign finance law violations. Cohen is subsequently interviewed by Mueller’s team.

Aug. 31 - Samuel Patten, an American business partner of Kilimnik, pleads guilty to unregistered lobbying for pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine.

Sept. 14 - Manafort pleads guilty to two conspiracy counts and signs a cooperation agreement with Mueller’s prosecutors.

Nov. 8 - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigns at Trump’s request. He had recused himself from overseeing the Mueller inquiry because of his contacts with the Russian ambassador as a Trump campaign official.

Nov. 20 - Giuliani says Trump submitted written answers to questions from Mueller, as the president avoids a face-to-face interview with the special counsel.

Nov. 27-28 - Prosecutors say Manafort breached his plea deal by lying to investigators, which Manafort denies. Trump says he has not ruled out granting Manafort a presidential pardon.

Nov. 29 - Cohen pleads guilty in the Mueller investigation to lying to Congress about the length of discussions in 2016 on plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. “I made these misstatements to be consistent with individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to individual 1,” says Cohen, referring to Trump. The president criticizes Cohen as a liar and “weak person.”

Dec. 12 - Cohen is sentenced to three years in prison for crimes including orchestrating hush-money payments to two women - adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal - to avert a scandal shortly before the 2016 election in violation of campaign laws. Separately, American Media Inc, publisher of National Enquirer tabloid, strikes a deal to avoid charges over its role in one of the hush payments. The publisher admits that the payment was aimed at influencing the 2016 election, contradicting Trump’s statements.


Jan. 25 - Longtime Trump associate and self-proclaimed political “dirty trickster” Roger Stone is charged and arrested at his home in Florida. Stone is accused of lying to Congress about statements suggesting he may have had advance knowledge of plans by the WikiLeaks website to release Democratic Party campaign emails that U.S. officials say were stolen by Russia.

Feb. 14 - The Senate votes to confirm William Barr, Trump’s nominee to replace Sessions, as attorney general. Barr assumes broad authority over how much of the Mueller report to release. Democrats later accuse him of mischaracterizing Mueller’s conclusions to try to protect the president.

Feb. 27 - Cohen tells U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee Trump is a “racist,” a “con man” and a “cheat” who knew in advance about a release of emails by WikiLeaks in 2016 aimed at hurting rival Clinton. Trump directed negotiations for a real estate project in Moscow during the campaign even as he publicly said he had no business interests in Russia, Cohen testifies.

March 7 - Manafort is sentenced in the Virginia case to almost four years in prison. The judge also ordered Manafort to pay a fine of $50,000 and restitution of just over $24 million.

March 13 - Manafort is sentenced to about 3-1/2 more years in prison in the Washington case, bringing his total prison sentence in the two special counsel cases to 7-1/2 years.

- Shortly after his sentencing in Washington, the Manhattan district attorney announces a separate indictment charging Manafort with residential mortgage fraud and other New York state crimes, which unlike the federal charges cannot be erased by a presidential pardon.

March 22 - Mueller submits his report on the findings of his investigation to Barr.

March 24 - Barr releases a summary of the “principal conclusions” of Mueller’s report and wrote that the investigation did not establish that members of Trump’s election campaign conspired with Russia. Barr announces that Mueller did not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice, but that the attorney general subsequently concluded that the inquiry had not found sufficient evidence to warrant criminal obstruction charges against Trump. Mueller subsequently complains that Barr’s account “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the special counsel’s work and conclusions.

April 18 - The Justice Department releases Mueller’s 448-page report with some redactions. The report outlined Russia’s actions to interfere in the election to boost Trump’s candidacy and detailed the Trump campaign’s willingness to benefit from Moscow’s actions. The report said the inquiry found insufficient evidence to conclude that Trump and his 2016 campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia despite their numerous contacts. The report did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump committed the crime of obstruction of justice.

May 29 - Mueller addresses reporters for nine minutes at the Justice Department to offer his first public account of his inquiry, saying that “if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

July 24 - After being subpoenaed, Mueller is scheduled to testify to two Democratic-led House committees.

Compiled by Grant McCool in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Bill Trott and Will Dunham