It’s been more than a year since the 2016 presidential election, and we’re still learning new details about Russia’s involvement. Here’s a timeline of what we know so far.
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The 2016 Election
It is now widely accepted that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election with the goal of helping Donald Trump win. But when did America first find out about Russia’s interference?
The DNC hack
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) hack took place in 2016 when hackers gained access to the DNC’s computer network. The hackers were able to gain access to sensitive information, including opposition research on then-candidate Donald Trump. The hack was later revealed to have been carried out by Russian intelligence agencies.
The release of the Podesta emails
On March 19, 2016, WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for over 30,000 emails & more than 50,000 additional email attachments from the Gmail account of Hillary Clinton’s top aide, John Podesta. The 50,000+ emails cover the period from June 25, 2015 to May 21, 2016.
The Obama Administration
In 2016, the Obama administration became aware of Russia’s attempts to interfere in the US presidential election. They were alarmed by the sophistication of the Russian operation, which included cyber-attacks on US political parties and disinformation campaigns. The Obama administration responded by issuing a series of warnings to the Russian government and imposing sanctions.
President Obama’s response
On December 29, 2016, President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The sanctions included expelling 35 diplomats and closing two Russian compounds inside the United States. In a statement, President Obama said:
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions. … I have issued an executive order that provides additional authority for responding to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine our electoral processes and institutions.”
In March of 2018, it was revealed that President Obama had known about Russia’s meddling in the election as early as August of 2016, but he had chosen not to publicly reveal this information in order to avoid being seen as interfering in the election.
The intelligence community’s assessment
In January 2017, the intelligence community’s assessment concluded that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the goal of electing Donald Trump as president. The assessment said that Russia’s actions were “intended to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”
The Trump Administration
U.S. intelligence agencies first became aware in late July that something was amiss in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.In the weeks that followed, they would uncover a Russian operation that included cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the dissemination of fake news and the use of social media to sow discord among Americans. By the time Donald Trump was elected president on Nov. 8, 2016, the U.S. intelligence community had concluded that Russia had meddled in the election with the goal of helping Trump win.
President Trump’s response
President Trump has continued to downplay the seriousness of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. elections, despite the intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow tried to interfere in order to help him win.
In a series of tweets on Sunday morning, Trump again called the investigation into Russia’s meddling a “witch hunt” and said that he did not believe that Moscow had interfered in the election.
“The Trump Administration has been far tougher on Russia than their predecessors,” he wrote. “Could be much worse.”
Trump’s latest comments come after he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. During their meeting, Trump reportedly accepted Putin’s denial that Russia had interfered in the election.
The Mueller investigation
The Mueller investigation is a United States criminal investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, including any links or coordination between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government. It is being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May 2017.