Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign is one of the biggest news stories of the last several years. News organizations have published thousands of articles about contacts that occurred between Trump associates and Russian officials but no one had compiled all of the information into one place. The pace and volume of news makes covering the Trump administration a challenge. We decided it would be a public service to piece together everything we now know about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the election and outreach to Trump associates in a single piece.
What makes this project innovative?
We spent weeks scrubbing court records and documents submitted to Congress to create a database of every interaction between Trump or one of his associates (campaign officials, etc.) and a Russian official. We also catalogued every official who was told that another person had a contact. We used the database to create the first-ever complete analysis of every member of the Trump team who either had a contact with a Russian or Russian intermediary, or was told about a contact. The resulting graphic and article showed that the contacts began earlier, were more frequent, and involved more people than previously known. Many of the people who had or knew about contacts were on record as denying any such contacts had ever occurred.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
This piece was shared tens of thousands of times on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets. Within hours of publication, the authors were asked to appear on cable news. It is one of our top-performing interactive stories so far this year.
Source and methodology
We analyzed thousands of documents from the Senate Judiciary Committee, House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Department of Justice’s Special Counsel’s Office, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to create our database.
Google docs, ArchieML, Adobe Illustrator, ai2html, good old-fashioned reporting and data scrubbing.
Karen Yourish and Larry Buchanan