Russia Election Hack: A timeline of what we know about Russia's alleged involvement in US election
On Tuesday, Bloomberg published a blockbuster report showing Russian hackers attempted to breach United States elections databases and systems in 39 states leading up to the contentious 2016 presidential election.
Coupled with reporting from the Intercept and several other news outlets, the report paints a picture of Russian meddling that was much more widespread than was previously known. It also shows that the Obama administration, seeking to court Russian cooperation in Syria, did not publicly confront Russia over the hacking, even after U.S. intelligence agencies had established that Russia was attempting to sway the 2016 presidential election.
Based on what we know now, here's a timeline of Russian involvement in the election:
A group of hackers identified by security researchers and the U.S. government as "Cozy Bear," also known as "CozyDuke" and "Advanced Persistent Threat 29," successfully "spear-phished" the Democratic National Committee, according to security researchers brought on later to investigate the hack. Cozy Bear is widely believed to be a Russian government-run operation and is believed by some to be linked to Russia's main intelligence service, the FSB, a successor to the KGB, Russian President Vladimir Putin's former outfit.
FBI Special Agent Adrian Hawkins contacted the DNC and informed them of the hack, the New York Times later reported. But Yared Tamene, the DNC contractor who took Hawkins' call, wasn't sure Hawkins actually worked for the FBI. "I had no way of differentiating the call I just received from a prank call," he wrote in a memo obtained by the Times. Through the end of September and into October, Hawkins continued to attempt to inform the DNC it had been hacked.
The DNC concluded Hawkins was, in fact, an FBI agent, according to the Times.
March 22 , 2016
Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta fell victim to a spear-phishing email by "Fancy Bear," a separate hacking group that, like Cozy Bear, is believed to be backed by the Russian government. Fancy Bear is believed by some security researchers to be connected to Russia's military intelligence outfit, the GRU. Clinton campaign aide Charles Delavan urged Podesta to click a link in the spear-phishing email, which he said was "legitimate," to reset his password. Delavan later said he meant to write that the email was illegitimate. Podesta did so, giving Fancy Bear access to his email account.
Around March or April, 2016
Hackers gained access to the DNC's and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's main networks, the Times later reported.
The DNC installed a "robust set of monitoring tools" to safeguard its network.
April 29 2016
Tamene, the DNC contractor, told DNC CEO Amy Dacey that "an unauthorized person, with administrator-level security status, had gained access to the DNC's computers," according to a memo obtained by the Times. The DNC hired cyber security firm CrowdStrike to investigate the hack. Within days, CrowdStrike tells the DNC the hack likely originated in Russia.
June 14, 2016
The Washington Post first reported the hack.
June 15, 2016
A person or persons claiming to be a hacker called Guccifer 2.0 claimed responsibility for the hack and said they would release documents hacked from the DNC to WikiLeaks. Guccifer 2.0 claimed to be a lone hacker.
Early July, 2016
A contractor working for the Illinois state board of elections detected a hack into the state's voter registration records, setting off a nationwide federal investigation that found hackers had infiltrated elections systems in 39 states, Bloomberg reported. Despite pressure from aides, President Barack Obama choose not to publicly name the Russians as the hackers.
Week of July 18, 2016
July 22, 2016
Wikileaks published a trove of hacked emails showing that top DNC officials, including Dacey and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, clearly favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, her rival for the Democratic nomination.
July 24, 2016
Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced she would resign as chair of the DNC.
July 25, 2016
The FBI confirmed that it had begun an investigation into the DNC hack.
July 27, 2016
At a news conference, Donald Trump said he "hoped" Russia had hacked Clinton's emails. "I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," he said. The Trump campaign later claimed Trump had been joking.
Sept. 8, 2016
Sessions met with Kislyak in his Senate office, Justice Department officials would later say.
Oct. 4, 2016
VICE's Motherboard revealed that Guccifer 2.0 is likely more than one person and likely of Russian origin.
Oct. 7, 2016
Wikileaks released Podesta's hacked emails. The emails detailed the contents of Clinton's speeches to powerful Wall Street banks, which her campaign had refused to disclose, as well as unflattering communications between Clinton's campaign aides about the candidate.
Nov. 8, 2016
Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States.
Dec. 9, 2016
American intelligence agencies said they had "high confidence" that Russian hackers had interfered in the election to benefit Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.
Dec. 29, 2016
The Obama administration announced new sanctions against Russia in response to the hacking. The same day, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a member of Trump's transition team, spoke by phone with Kislyak. The two discussed the possibility of lifting the sanctions after Trump became president, according to the Washington Post. The U.S. intelligence community intercepted and monitored the call as part of a routine sweep.
Jan. 6, 2017
Comey briefed Trump on the so-called "Steele dossier," which contains salacious but unverified claims about Trump, Comey said in written testimony submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee.. Comey also assured Trump he wasn't under FBI investigation at that time, he wrote in his testimony.
Jan. 10, 2017
Jan. 13, 2017
Then-spokesperson and current White House press secretary Sean Spicer publicly denied that Flynn and Kislyak had discussed sanctions.
Jan. 15, 2017
On CBS' Face the Nation, Vice President Mike Pence said Flynn and Kislyak "did not discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia."
Jan. 17, 2017
Asked in a written questionnaire by Sen. Patrick Leahy if he had "been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day," Sessions responded, "No."
Jan. 24, 2017
The FBI interviewed Flynn about his communication with Kislyak.
Jan. 26, 2017
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed White House Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn and Kislyak had, in fact, discussed sanctions.
Feb. 8, 2017
Sessions is confirmed as attorney general.
Feb. 9, 2017
The Washington Post reported that Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, discussed removing U.S. sanctions on Russia with Kislyak, despite earlier claims by Trump administration officials, including Pence, that he had not. He would later resign.
March 2, 2017
Sessions continued to deny he had spoken to the Russian about anyting related to the campaign, but recused himself any investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
March 20, 2017
Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey confirmed the existence of an FBI investigation into Russian hacking in the 2016 election.
March 30, 2017
Trump called Comey to ask him what he can do to "lift the cloud" of the Russia investigation that Trump suggested was stifling his ability to get things done, Comey later testified.
May 9, 2017
Trump fired Comey.