President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the Esperansa hotel June 18, 2012, before the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico. (Photo: European Pressphoto Agency)
The story of alleged Russian hacking aimed at influencing the U.S. election has all the makings of a blockbuster film — computer hackers with goofy names, dueling presidents and accused spies. President Obama announced a series of sanctions against Russia on Thursday and Russian President Vladmir Putin said Friday he wouldn’t retaliate, at least not yet. But how did we get to this point?
Here’s our timeline of the saga:
A special agent from the FBI calls the Democratic National Committee to inform them the FBI had identified a Russian-linked cyber-spy group in its network. The person who answered the call — a tech-support contractor — didn’t do much about the call because, he told The New York Times, he wasn’t sure whether it was real or a prank. The call was not made public until this month.
June 14, 2016
The Washington Post reports that the Russian government hackers were able to penetrate the DNC servers. The report says that opposition files on Republican nominee Donald Trump and email and chat exchanges were compromised. The Russian government denies the allegations.
July 22, 2016
Wikileaks releases private emails from DNC officials just days before the Democratic National Convention. The emails are from early 2016 and the primaries.
July 24, 2016
The night before the Democratic convention, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she will step down as DNC chairwoman. The announcement follows the discovery of emails released in the Wikileaks trove that showed DNC staffers favoring former secretary of State Hillary Clinton over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, despite the fact they were not supposed to pick favorites in the primary.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., looks on as Hillary Clinton speaks Aug. 9 in Davie, Fla. (Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)
July 27, 2016
Members of Clinton’s campaign had been accusing Russia of the hack of DNC emails. During a press conference, Trump says it probably wasn’t Russia. But if it was, he says, “I will tell you this, Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” That was a reference to emails Clinton deemed personal and deleted from her private server before turning over official emails to the State Department. Critics accuse Trump of calling for a foreign government to hack an American.
Sept. 26, 2016
During the first general election debate, Clinton brings up the hacking. Trump continues to express skepticism that Russia was behind it.
“I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?” he says.
Oct. 7, 2016
The Department of Homeland Security and Office of Director of National Intelligence say they are “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations” and that the goal was to “interfere with the US election process.” This is the first time the government weighs in on the hacks.
That same day, Wikileaks releases the first chunk of emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s Gmail account. The emails will continue to trickle out for weeks.
Nov. 8, 2016
Trump elected president in a stunning upset.
President-elect Donald Trump speaks during an election night rally in New York. (Photo: Evan Vucci, AP)
Dec. 9, 2016
The Washington Post also reports that the CIA believes Russia hacked the election in an attempt to help Trump win on Election Day. Trump breaks with intelligence officials in his response: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”
Dec. 12, 2016
Republican lawmakers announce that congressional committees will also investigate the allegations made by the CIA.
Dec. 16, 2016
In a press conference, Obama says that the hacks were initiated by the “highest levels of the Russian government.” Obama suggests he will retaliate but doesn’t specify how. He also attempts to clarify the type of hacking that he believes was done by Russia — it was the hacking of emails, not voting machines, he says.
President Obama speaks during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Dec. 16. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)
Dec. 28, 2016
On reports of impending sanctions, Trump tells reporters, “I think we ought to get on with our lives.”
Dec. 29, 2016
Obama announces sanctions against Russian officials, including expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and the closing of Russian compounds in Maryland and New York on suspicion they were used for intelligence gathering.
“These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior,” Obama says in a statement.
Trump seems unimpressed. “It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation,” the president-elect responds, hours after the announcement.
The Russian government vows retaliation.
Dec. 30, 2016
Putin makes the surprise announcement that he won’t kick U.S. diplomats out of Russia.
“We will not create problems for U.S. diplomats,” Putin says in a statement. “We will not expel anybody.” He even goes a step further and invites children of these diplomats to his New Year’s Eve party in the Kremlin.
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