The Guardian is out with a report that contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence occurred much earlier than previously reported:
GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information, they added.
Looking at the Trump-Russian Timeline, this puts other events around that time into context. Beginning in late 2015, the following events occurred:
- December: Accounts associated with Russian propaganda “troll farm” called the Internet Research Agency begins supporting Donald Trump
- December 17: Vladimir Putin praises Donald Trump at his annual news conference. “He is a bright and talented person without any doubt. He is the absolute leader of the presidential race.”
- Feb. 2: Alexander Dugin, a conservative “philosopher” with close ties to the Kremlin, endorses Trump.
- March: Individuals linked to the Russian government begin openly supporting Donald Trump. Government-funded propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik cast Trump as the target of unfair coverage from mainstream media outlets.
- March: A hacking group known as “Fancy Bear” or “APT28” launches a spearfishing campaign targeting email addresses at hillaryclinton.com and dnc.org that gains them access to DNC network. The hacking group is run by the Russian foreign military intelligence service (GRU) and appears focused on a single target: the DNC’s opposition research files on Donald Trump.
What the publicly available information shows is a steady ramping up of Russian support for Trump.
The GHCQ information fills in the missing piece. The contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence appear to be the catalyst for the covert and overt support from Moscow.
Michael Flynn’s December 10 trip to Moscow also emerges as a possible lynchpin in this story. Flynn, you will recall, attended RT’s 10th anniversary gala in Moscow, where was seated at the head table next to Vladimir Putin. It’s not clear what Flynn’s role in the campaign was in this time, if any. The two men first met in August; Flynn announced he was advising Trump in February 2016.
A website that tracked Trump’s evolving campaign team lists the following people as part of Trump’s inner circle in late 2015:
- Corey Lewandowski
- Michael Glassner
Donald F. McGahn
- Michael Cohen
- Hope Hicks
- Roger Stone (resigned Aug. 8, 2015)