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For the beginning of the complete chronological timeline, see Timeline of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. For continuation after voting day, see Timeline of post-election transition following Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.

Major events prior to Trump's inauguration related to interference by Russia in the U.S.

2016 election

This is a threaded timeline of events related to Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. It also includes events described in investigations into suspected inappropriate links between associates of Donald Trump and Russian officials.[1] Those investigations continued in 2017, the first and second halves of 2018, and 2019, largely as parts of the Crossfire Hurricane FBI investigation, the Special Counsel investigation, multiple ongoing criminal investigations by several State Attorneys General, and the investigation resulting in the Inspector General report on FBI and DOJ actions in the 2016 election.

Contents

  • 1Background: presidential election campaign
  • 2Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin
  • 3Internet Research Agency
  • 4Hacking incidents
  • 5Searches for Hillary Clinton's missing emails
  • 6Wikileaks, Guccifer 2.0, Assange, and Stone
  • 7Manafort, Davis, Patten, Gates, Kilimnik and Deripaska
  • 8Papadopoulos, Mifsud, Polonskaya, Timofeev, Millian, Halper and Downer
  • 9Goldstone, Veselnitskaya and the Trump Tower meeting
  • 10Carter Page
  • 11Michael Flynn and Sergey Kislyak
  • 12Steele dossier
  • 13Intelligence intercepts, warnings and investigations
  • 14Trump's statements about Putin
  • 15Other contact attempts by Russians towards the Trump campaign
  • 16Donations from Russians and Ukrainians
  • 17Brexit, Farage, Banks and Wigmore
  • 18Before Donald Trump's candidacy
  • 192016 presidential campaign
  • 20Post-election transition
  • 21See also
  • 22References
  • 23Further reading
  • 24External links

[edit]

2015
2016
  • February 2: Trump comes in second in the Iowa caucuses.[6]
  • February 28: Sessions formally endorses Trump.[4]
  • March 3: Sessions is appointed to the Trump campaign's national security advisory committee.[4]
  • March 15: Trump closes in on the Republican nomination, having won five primaries.[7]
  • April 21: A staffer at the Center for the National Interest (CNI) photographs a detailed outline of the foreign policy speech Trump was scheduled to deliver on April 27, which was sitting on the desk of Dimitri Simes, the Center's president.

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    The House Intelligence Committee would later investigate Simes' involvement in drafting the speech.[8]

  • May 4: Trump becomes the only remaining candidate for the Republican presidential nomination when John Kasich withdraws.[9]
  • May 19: Mother Jones reports that before Trump launched his campaign in 2015, Lewandowski and other political advisors suggested to Trump that they follow standard practice and hire someone to perform opposition research on him.

    Trump refused.[10]

  • May 26: The Associated Press reports that Trump has secured enough delegates to become the presumptive Republican nominee.[11]
  • June 6:
    • Clinton becomes the presumptive Democratic nominee.
    • At a primary night rally in New York, Trump promises a speech discussing information about Clinton.

      Trump says "I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week [June 13], and we are going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons".[12]

  • July 18–21: Republican Convention in Cleveland[13]
  • July 21: Trump formally accepts the Republican nomination at the Republican Convention.[14]
  • July 22: WikiLeaks publishes 20,000 emails from seven key DNC officials.

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    The emails show them disparaging Bernie Sanders and favoring Clinton in the 2016 presidential primaries.[15]

  • July 24: DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is forced to resign because of the WikiLeaks email publication.[16]
  • July 25–28: Democratic Convention in Philadelphia.[17]
  • July 28: Clinton formally accepts the Democratic nomination.[18]
  • August 17:
  • August 25: Trump names Sam Clovis as a campaign national co-chairman.[20]
  • October 7:
  • November 8: Trump is elected President of the United States.[28]

Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin[edit]

Main article: Maria Butina § Timeline

Maria Butina was the founder of the Russian "Right to Bear Arms [ru]" association, and has worked with Alexander Torshin, who was the Russian Senator from Mari El Republic (2001–2015) and Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia (2015–2018).

From 2011 to 2016, Torshin and Butina developed contacts with the National Rifle Association (NRA), the foremost American gun lobby.

Paul Erickson is a Republican activist involved in several presidential campaigns, and was a romantic partner of Butina.

Internet Research Agency[edit]

The Internet Research Agency (IRA) is a Russian entity, sometimes called a "troll farm", tasked with coordinating online propaganda efforts to interfere in American elections. It is funded by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, nicknamed "Putin’s chef", owner of the Concord company group.

The IRA's finances were managed by Elena Khusyaynova, a Russian accountant, under the code name "Project Lakhta".

2014
  • April: The IRA creates a department called the "translator project". The department's focus is on interfering in the U.S.

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    election.[29][30]

  • May: The IRA begins its election interference campaign of "spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general."[29][30]
  • June 4–26: Aleksandra Krylova and Anna Bogacheva, two IRA employees, travel to the U.S.

    to collect intelligence. Maria Bovda, a third employee, is denied a visa.[29] All three are indicted in February 2018 for their work on election interference.[30]

  • September 11: The IRA spreads a hoax they created about a fictitious chemical plant fire in Centerville, St.

    Mary Parish, Louisiana, purportedly started by ISIS. The hoax includes tweets and YouTube videos showing a chemical plant fire.

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    Centerville is home to many chemical plants, but the plant named in the tweets does not exist. Initial tweets are sent directly to politicians, journalists, and Centerville residents.[31]

  • September 21 – October 11: The Material Evidence art exhibition is displayed at the Art Beam gallery in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City.

    It portrays the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine in a pro-Russian light. It is promoted by Twitter accounts that also spread the September 11 chemical plant fire hoax.[31] The exhibition is partly funded by the IRA.[32]

  • November 26–30: An unnamed IRA employee travels to Atlanta.[29][30]
  • December 13:
    • The IRA uses Twitter to spread a hoax about an Ebola outbreak in Atlanta.

      Many of the Twitter accounts used in the September 11 chemical plant fire hoax also spread this hoax.

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      The hoax includes a YouTube video of medical workers wearing hazmat suits.[31]

    • Using a different set of Twitter accounts, the IRA spreads a hoax about a purported police shooting of an unarmed black woman in Atlanta. The hoax includes a blurry video of the purported event.[31]
2015
  • July onward: Thousands of fake Twitter accounts run by the IRA begin to praise Trump over his political opponents by a wide margin, according to a later analysis by The Wall Street Journal.[33][34]
  • November 3:The IRA Instagram account "Stand For Freedom" attempts to organize a confederate rally in Houston, Texas, on November 14.

    It is unclear if anyone showed up. The Mueller Report identifies this as the IRA's first attempt to organize a U.S. rally.[35][36]:29

  • November 19: The IRA creates the @TEN_GOP Twitter account. Purporting to be the "Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans," it peaks at over 100,000 followers.[37]
2016
  • February 10: IRA instructs workers to "use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump—we support them)." [38]
  • March 15: In St.

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    Petersburg, shift workers posing as Americans follow instructions to attack Clinton on Facebook and Twitter.[7]

  • April: The IRA starts buying online ads on social media and other sites. The ads support Trump and attack Clinton.[29][30]
  • April 4: A rally is held in Buffalo, New York, protesting the death of India Cummings. Cummings was a black woman who had recently died in police custody.

    The IRA's "Blacktivist" account on Facebook actively promotes the event, reaching out directly to local activists on Facebook Messenger asking them to circulate petitions and print posters for the event. Blacktivist supplies the petitions and poster artwork.[39]

  • April 16: A rally protesting the death of Freddie Gray attracts large crowds in Baltimore.

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    The IRA's Blacktivist Facebook group promotes and organizes the event, including reaching out to local activists.[40]

  • April 19: The IRA purchases its first pro-Trump ad through its "Tea Party News" Instagram account. The Instagram ad asks users to upload photos with the hashtag #KIDS4TRU to "make a patriotic team of young Trump supporters."[41]
  • April 23: A small group of white-power demonstrators hold a rally they call "Rock Stone Mountain" at Stone Mountain Park near Stone Mountain, Georgia.

    They are confronted by a large group of protesters, and some violent clashes ensue. The counterprotest was heavily promoted by IRA accounts on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook, and the IRA website blackmatters.com. The IRA uses its Blacktivist account on Facebook to reach out, to no avail, to activist and academic Barbara Williams Emerson, the daughter of Hosea Williams, to help promote the protests.

    Afterward, RT blames anti-racist protesters for violence and promotes two videos shot at the event.[39]

  • May 2: A second rally is held in Buffalo, New York, protesting the death of India Cummings. Like the April 4 rally, the event is heavily promoted by the IRA's Blacktivist Facebook account, including attempted outreach to local activists.[39]
  • May 21: Two competing rallies are held in Houston to alternately protest against and defend the recently opened Library of Islamic Knowledge at the Islamic Da'wah Center.

    Topical timeline of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections

    The "Stop Islamization of Texas" rally is organized by the Facebook group "Heart of Texas". The Facebook posting for the event encourages participants to bring guns. A spokesman for the group converses with the Houston Press via email but declines to give a name. The other rally, "Save Islamic Knowledge", is organized by the Facebook group "United Muslims of America" for the same time and location. Both Facebook groups are later revealed to be IRA accounts.[42][43]

  • May 25: The Westboro Baptist Church holds its annual protest of Lawrence High School graduation ceremonies in Lawrence, Kansas.

    The "LGBT United" Facebook group organizes counterprotesters to confront the Westboro protest, including by placing an ad on Facebook and contacting local people. About a dozen people show up. Lawrence High School students do not participate because they are "skeptical" of the counterprotest organizers. LGBT United is a Russian operatives account that appears to have been created specifically for this event.[44]

  • May 29: The IRA hires an American to pose in front of the White House holding a sign that says, "Happy 55th Birthday, Dear Boss." "Boss" is a reference to Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin.[29][30]
  • June 1: The IRA plans a Manhattan rally called "March for Trump" and buys Facebook ads promoting the event.[29][30]
  • June 4: The IRA email account [email protected] sends news releases about the "March for Trump" rally to New York City media outlets.[29][30]
  • June 5: The IRA contacts a Trump campaign volunteer to provide signs for the "March for Trump" rally.[29][30]
  • June 23: The IRA persona "Matt Skiber" contacts an American to recruit for the "March for Trump" rally.[29][30]
  • June 24: The IRA group "United Muslims of America" buys Facebook ads for the "Support Hillary, Save American Muslims" rally.[29][30]
  • June 25:
  • July: The IRA's translator project grows to over 80 employees.[29][30]
  • Summer: IRA employees use the stolen identities of four Americans to open PayPal and bank accounts to act as conduits for funding their activities in the United States.[29][30]
  • July 5: "United Muslims of America", an IRA group, orders posters with fake Clinton quotes promoting Sharia Law.

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    The posters are ordered for the "Support Hillary, Save American Muslims" rally they are organizing.[29][30]

  • July 6–10: The IRA's "Don't Shoot" Facebook group and affiliated "Don't Shoot Us" website try to organize a protest outside the St.

    Paul, Minnesota, police headquarters on July 10 in response to the July 6 fatal police shooting of Philando Castile. Some local activists become suspicious of the event because St.

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    Paul police were not involved in the shooting: Castile was shot by a St. Anthony police officer in nearby Falcon Heights. Local activists contact Don't Shoot.

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    After being pressed on who they are and who supports them, Don't Shoot agrees to move the protest to the St. Anthony police headquarters. The concerned local activists investigate further and urge protesters not to participate after deciding Don't Shoot is a "total troll job." Don't Shoot organizers eventually relinquish control of the event to local organizers, who subsequently decline to accept any money from Don't Shoot.[47][48]

  • July 9: The "Support Hillary, Save American Muslims" rally occurs in Washington, D.C.

    The rally is organized by the IRA group "United Muslims of America."[29][30]

  • July 10: A Black Lives Matter protest rally is held in Dallas. A "Blue Lives Matter" counterprotest is held across the street.

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    The Blue Lives Matter protest is organized by the "Heart of Texas" Facebook group, controlled by the IRA.[43][45][49]

  • July 12: An IRA group buys ads on Facebook for the "Down with Hillary" rally in New York City.[29][30]
  • July 16: The IRA's Blacktivist group organizes a rally in Chicago to honor Sandra Bland on the first anniversary of her death.

    The rally is held in front of the Chicago Police Department's Homan Square building.

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    Participants pass around petitions calling for a Civilian Police Accountability Council ordinance.[50][51]

  • July 23: The IRA-organized "Down with Hillary" rally is held in New York City. The agency sends 30 news releases to media outlets using the email address [email protected].[29][30]
  • August 2–3: The IRA's "Matt Skiber" persona contacts the real "Florida for Trump" Facebook account.

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    The "T.W." persona contacts other grassroots groups.[29][30]

  • August 4:
    • The IRA's Facebook account "Stop AI" accuses Clinton of voter fraud during the Iowa Caucuses.

      They buy ads promoting the post.[29][30]

    • IRA groups buy ads for the "Florida Goes Trump" rallies. The 8,300 people who click on the ads are sent to the Agency's "Being Patriotic" Facebook page.[29][30]
  • August 5: The IRA Twitter account @March_For_Trump hires an actress to play Hillary Clinton in prison garb and someone to build a cage to hold the actress.

    The actress and cage are to appear at the "Florida Goes Trump" rally in West Palm Beach, Florida on August 20.[29][30]

  • August 11: The IRA Twitter account @TEN_GOP claims that voter fraud is being investigated in North Carolina.[29][30]
  • August 12–18: The IRA's persona "Josh Milton" communicates with Trump Campaign officials via email to request Trump/Pence signs and the phone numbers of campaign affiliates as part of an effort to organize pro-Trump campaign rallies in Florida.[36]:35
  • August 15: A Trump campaign county chair contacts the IRA through their phony email accounts to suggest locations for rallies.[29][30]
  • August 16: The IRA buys ads on Instagram for the "Florida Goes Trump" rallies.[29][30]
  • August 18:
    • The IRA uses its [email protected] email account to contact a Trump campaign official in Florida.

      The email requests campaign support at the forthcoming "Florida Goes Trump" rallies. It is unknown whether the campaign official responded.[29][30]

    • The IRA pays the person they hired to build a cage for a "Florida Goes Trump" rally in West Palm Beach, Florida.[29][30]
  • August 19:
    • A Trump supporter suggests to the IRA Twitter account "March for Trump" that it contact a Trump campaign official.

      The official is emailed by the agency's [email protected] account.[29]

    • The IRA's "Matt Skiber" persona contacts another Trump campaign official on Facebook.[29][30]
  • August 20: 17 "Florida Goes Trump" rallies are held across Florida. The rallies are organized by Russian trolls from the IRA.[30][53]
  • August 27: The IRA Facebook group "SecuredBorders" organizes a "Citizens before refugees" protest rally at the City Council Chambers in Twin Falls, Idaho.

    Only a small number of people show up for the three-hour event, most likely because it is Saturday and the Chambers are closed.[54]

  • August 31:
  • September 3: The IRA Facebook group "United Muslims of America" organizes a "Safe Space for Muslim Neighborhood" rally outside the White House, attracting at least 57 people.[55]
  • September 9: The IRA sends money to its American groups to fund the September 11 rally in Miami, and to pay the actress who portrayed Clinton at the West Palm Beach, Florida, rally.[29][30]
  • September 20–26: BlackMattersUS, an IRA website, recruits activists to participate in protests over the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    The IRA pays for expenses such as microphones and speakers.[56]

  • September 22: The IRA buys ads on Facebook for "Miners for Trump" rallies in Pennsylvania.[29][30]
  • October 2: "Miners for Trump" rallies are held across Pennsylvania.

    The IRA uses the same techniques to organize the rallies as they used for the "Florida Goes Trump" rallies, including hiring a person to wear a Clinton mask and a prison uniform.[29][30]

  • October 16: The IRA's Instagram account "Woke Blacks" makes a post aimed at suppressing black voter turnout.[29][30]
  • October 19 The IRA runs its most popular ad on Facebook.

    The ad is for the IRA's Back the Badge Facebook group and shows a badge with the words "Back the Badge" in front of police lights under the caption "Community of people who support our brave Police Officers."[57]

  • October 22: A large rally is held in Charlotte, North Carolina, protesting the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

    The IRA website BlackMattersUS recruits unwitting local activists to organize the rally.[58] BlackMattersUS provides an activist with a bank card to pay for rally expenses.[56]

  • November 2: The IRA Twitter account @TEN_GOP alleges "#VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida." Trump Jr.

    retweets it.[29][30]

  • November 3: The IRA Instagram account "Blacktivist" suggests people vote for Stein instead of Clinton.[29][30]
  • November 5: Anti-Clinton "Texit" rallies are held across Texas.

    The IRA's "Heart of Texas" Facebook group organizes the rallies around the theme of Texas seceding from the United States if Clinton is elected. The group contacts the Texas Nationalist Movement, a secessionist organization, to help with organizing efforts, but they decline to help.

    Small rallies are held in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and other cities. No one attends the Lubbock rally.[59][60][61]

  • November 8: Hours after the polls close, the hashtag #Calexit is retweeted by thousands of IRA accounts.[61]
  • November 11: A large banner is hung from the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C., showing a photo of Obama with the words "Goodbye Murderer" at the bottom.

    The IRA Twitter account @LeroyLovesUSA takes credit and is an early promoter of the banner.[7][62][63]

  • November 12: A Trump protest called "Trump is NOT my President" attracts 5,000–10,000 protestors in Manhattan who march from Union Square to Trump Tower.

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    The protest is organized by the IRA using their BlackMattersUS Facebook account.[29][30][64]

  • November 19: The IRA organizes the "Charlotte Against Trump" rally in Charlotte, North Carolina.[29][30]
  • December 8: The IRA runs an ad on Craigslist to hire someone to walk around New York City dressed as Santa Claus while wearing a Trump mask.[41][36]:32

Hacking incidents[edit]

2013
  • Apparent security hackers gain access to the Trump Organization's domain registrar account at GoDaddy and register hundreds of "shadow" subdomains with IP addresses located at a company in St.

    Petersburg Russia known for hosting websites containing malware. In November 2017, the subdomains disappeared after the Trump Organization was notified of the issue, although the company denies that any breach occurred. August is specifically noted.[65]

2015
  • Summer: Hackers linked to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) gain access to the Democratic National Committee's computer network.[11] Dutch intelligence services alert their U.S.

    counterparts that a hacking group known as Cozy Bear has penetrated the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers.[66]

  • September: An FBI special agent reports to the DNC that at least one of its computer systems has been hacked by an espionage team linked to the Russian government. The agent is transferred to a tech-support contractor at the help desk, who makes a cursory check of DNC server logs and does not reply to the agent's follow-up calls, allegedly because of a belief that the call might have been a prank.[67]
2016
  • March 15: In Moscow, Russian military intelligence hacker Ivan Yermakov, working for Fancy Bear, begins probing the DNC computer network.[7]
  • March 19: Podesta is asked to change his email password in an apparent phishing attempt, believed to be spearheaded by Russian hackers.

    They gain access to his account,[11] and proceed to steal the entire contents of his account, about 50,000 emails.[38]

  • March 21: Russian hackers steal over 50,000 emails from Podesta's account.[68]
  • April: Hackers linked to the GRU gain access to the DNC computer network.[11]
  • April 6: Hackers spearphish the credentials of a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) employee.[68]
  • April 12: Russian hackers use stolen credentials to infiltrate the DCCC's computer network and install malware.[38]
  • April 18: Russian hackers break into the DNC's computers.[38]
  • April 19: Russian hackers create a fictitious online persona, "Carrie Feehan", to register the domain DCLeaks.com, paid for in bitcoin, to release stolen documents.[38][68]
  • Late April: The DNC's IT department notices suspicious computer activity.

    Within 24 hours, the DNC contacts the FBI, and hires a private cybersecurity firm, CrowdStrike, to investigate.[69]

  • May: CrowdStrike determines that sophisticated adversaries—denominated Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear—are responsible for the DNC hack.

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    Fancy Bear, in particular, is suspected of affiliation with Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).[70]

  • May 4: Starting May 4,[71] and continuing through September, a pair of servers owned by Alfa-Banklook up the Trump Organization's domain on a server housed by Listrak and administered by Cendyn more than 2,000 times. Alfa-Bank performed the most lookups during this period, followed by Spectrum Health, and then Heartland Payment Systems with 76 lookups; beyond that no other visible entity made more than two.[72]
  • May 25: Thousands of DNC emails are stolen.[38]
  • June: The FBI sends a warning to states about "bad actors" probing state voter-registration databases and systems to seek vulnerabilities; investigators believe Russia is responsible.[73]
  • June 8: The DCLeaks website comes online.[68]
  • June 11–12: The DNC expels Russian hackers from its servers.

    Some of the hackers had been accessing the DNC network for over a year.[74]

  • June 14: The DNC publicly alleges that they have been hacked by Russian state-backed hackers.[74][75] Following this news, a small group of politically diverse prominent computer scientists scattered across the US, including a member Dexter Filkins calls "Max" in his October 2018 New Yorker article, begin combing the Domain Name System (DNS).[72]
  • Mid June: Shortly after the DNC announced that it had been hacked, the RNC informs the FBI that some Republican campaign email accounts hosted by Smartech have been hacked.

    Compromised accounts include the campaign committees of "Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham, [...] Representative Robert Hurt[,] [s]everal state GOP organizations, Republican PACs, and campaign consultants." Approximately 300 emails from May through October 2015 are eventually posted on DCLeaks.com.[76][36]:41

  • June 23: GRU hackers successfully use an SQL injection attack to breach servers belonging to the Illinois State Board of Elections and steal voter registration data.[77][78][36]:50
  • July 12: The Illinois State Board of Elections discovers some of its servers have been hacked and closes the security hole used to compromise the systems.[77][78]
  • July 13: The Illinois State Board of Elections takes its website offline.[77][78]
  • July 19: The Illinois State Board of Elections informs the Illinois Attorney General (IAG) and the Illinois General Assembly of the breach.

    The IAG notifies the FBI, which brings in the Department of Homeland Security to help investigate.[77][78]

  • July 21–August 12: The Illinois State Board of Elections brings its website back online. The GRU attacks the system five times per second before giving up on August 12.[77][78]
  • August 18: The FBI issues a nationwide "flash alert" warning state election officials about foreign infiltration of election systems in two states, later reported to be Arizona and Illinois.

    The alert includes technical evidence suggesting Russian responsibility, and urges states to boost their cyberdefenses. Although labeled for distribution only to "NEED TO KNOW recipients," a copy is leaked to the media.[79]

  • August 26: The Illinois State Board of Elections produces a report on the June–August hacking of their systems by the GRU.[77][78]
  • August 28: Peter W.

    Smith sends an encrypted email to an undisclosed list of recipients that includes Trump campaign co-chair Sam Clovis. The email says that after two days of meetings in D.C. on Clinton's private email server, he determined that the server was hacked by "State-related players" as well as private mercenaries. He writes, "Parties with varying interests, are circling to release ahead of the election."[36]:63[80]

  • August 29: The Washington Post is the first to report that Illinois discovered in July that its voter registration servers were hacked, and that the user ID and password of an Arizona election official in Gila County was stolen in June.

    Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan shut down the state's voter registration system for a week but did not find that any state or county systems were compromised.[77][81]

  • August 31: Smith sends an email to an undisclosed list of recipients in which he claims KLS Research met with parties who had access to Clinton's missing emails, including some with "ties and affiliations to Russia".

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    Mueller's team is unable to determine whether such meetings occurred or find any evidence that Smith's team was in contact with Russian hackers.[36]:65

  • September 3–5: Wealthy Republican donor Peter W.

    Smith gathers a team to try to acquire the 30,000 deleted Clinton emails from hackers.

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    He believes Clinton's private email server was hacked and copies of the emails were stolen.[82] Among the people recruited are former GCHQ information-security specialist Matt Tait,[83]alt-right activist Charles C. Johnson, former Business Insider CTO and alt-right activist Pax Dickinson, "dark web expert" Royal O'Brien, and Jonathan Safron.[84] Tait quickly abandons the team after learning the true purpose of the endeavor.[84] Hackers contacted in the search include "Guccifer 2.0