Sessions met with Kislyak for a second time during the presidential campaign, this time in his Senate office in Washington. This wasn’t publicly known until The Washington Post reported about it in March.
Sessions denied any campaign-related meetings with Russians at his confirmation hearing, saying “I did not have communications with the Russians.” He also didn’t disclose it in his security clearance forms for the same reason stated above.
The meeting took place at the height of Russia’s campaign to influence the US election. One day earlier, WikiLeaks released the first batch of emails stolen from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta. The US intelligence community says Russian hackers got the emails and gave them to WikiLeaks.
Kushner and Flynn meet Kislyak at Trump Tower
In early December, Trump’s incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn and Kushner met with Kislyak at Trump Tower. The Washington Post reported that the meeting was either December 1 or 2.
The meeting, first revealed by the The New Yorker on March 6, was described by a White House official to CNN as a 10-minute ‘introductory meeting” meant as a “kind of an inconsequential hello.” CNN later reported that Kushner discussed with Russia’s ambassador to Washington the possibility of setting up a secret, secure channel for communications between the Trump transition and the Russian government.
Kushner updated his security clearance forms, which did not initially disclose the meeting, to include it.
December 13 or 14, 2016
Kushner meets Russian government banker
Kushner met Sergey Gorkov, the president of the Russian state-run bank Vnesheconombank, also known as VEB. The meeting was first revealed three months later by The New York Times. The bank was placed on a US sanctions list in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea and started assisting pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine.
The White House and VEB continue to give conflicting explanations about the nature of the meeting. The bank claims it was part of a business strategy and the meeting with Kushner was tied to his corporate position in his family’s real estate company. The White House says it was unrelated to business and was for US diplomacy.
The bank and the White House have declined to provide the exact date or location of the meeting, but The Washington Post reported that the meeting likely took place place on December 13 or 14.
December 19, 2016
Flynn and Kislyak talk on the phone
Flynn spoke on the phone with Kislyak on December 19, but it wasn’t acknowledged until one month later, when then-Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer confirmed the call. He said the call came in the wake of the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, and Flynn offered his condolences.
December 25, 2016
Flynn texts with Kislyak
Flynn exchanged text messages with Kislyak on December 25. This wasn’t publicly known for three weeks, until Spicer acknowledged it at a press briefing. He said Flynn wished Kislyak a merry Christmas.
December 28, 2016
Flynn calls Kislyak again
Flynn called Kislyak once more, this time to arrange a future call between Trump and Putin, according to Spicer, who disclosed the interaction in a press briefing to reporters on January 13.
December 29, 2016
Flynn calls Kislyak another time
CNN reported that Flynn spoke with Kislyak on December 29. Reuters reportedthat they had five calls on that day. These calls were not publicly known until a Washington Post report came out two weeks later.
On the same day as the calls, President Barack Obama announced new sanctions against Russia as punishment for its interference in the 2016 election. After Trump took office, senior administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, publicly insisted that Flynn never discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Those denials fell apart when The Washington Post later reported that Flynn did talk sanctions, and Flynn resigned on February 13.
The calls caught the attention of the Justice Department and the FBI. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House in January that Flynn had misled the White House about discussing sanctions.
Flynn resigned from his White House role in February after reports of Yates’ warning surfaced along with news that Flynn misled administration officials regarding his communications with Kislyak and was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.
Around January 11, 2017
Erik Prince meets Putin confidant in the Seychelles
Erik Prince, an informal adviser to Trump and major campaign donor, met a confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a trip to the Seychelles, a tiny island chain in the the Indian Ocean. The story didn’t come out until The Washington Post wrote about it on April 3.
The Post said Prince acted as a Trump envoy, but a Prince spokesman told CNNthat the meeting had nothing to do with Trump. The spokesman did not say what it was about, though the Post reported it was an effort to establish a back-channel between the Kremlin and Trump.
The White House says Prince played no role in the transition, but sources told CNN that he met with members of Trump’s incoming national security team. Prince continues to informally advise Trump, recently helping the White House craft Afghanistan policy. Prince is not a White House official, however, and had no duty to disclose such a meeting.
July 7, 2017
Trump and Putin privately meet for nearly an hour after formal meeting
Trump had an hour-long conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a dinner for G20 leaders in Germany. The two spoke with no one else present besides Putin’s translator. It came hours after their formal bilateral meeting, which included introductory comments to the press. The White House did not acknowledge that the second conversation took place until July 18 — two weeks later.
A White House statement characterized the meeting as “brief” and said it took place in full view at a dinner for world leaders and their spouses. Trump was seated near Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Abe’s wife, while first lady Melania Trump was seated next to Putin. The White House said Trump went over to his wife and spoke with Putin near the dinner’s end.