According to the indictments handed down by Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday — naming 13 Russians as part of an illegal Russian social media operation to secretly support Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election — the Russian operation began "in or around 2014."
On Saturday, Trump seized on that fact in a tweet responding to the indictments.
"Funny how the Fake News Media doesn't want to say that the Russian group was formed in 2014, long before my run for President," Trump said on his Twitter account. "Maybe they knew I was going to run even though I didn't know!"
Trump's assertion the he "didn't know" he would run for president, appears to be contradicted by the fact that he applied to trademark what became his campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," in November of 2012 — just six days after Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in that year's presidential election.
When Trump applied for the trademark, he listed the purpose of the slogan as "fundraising in the field of politics."
At the same time that Trump was apparently first plotting his 2016 presidential bid, by trademarking his campaign slogan, Russians close to that country's president Vladimir Putin were beginning to discuss how they could support him — according to Kremlin propagandist Konstantin Rykov, who formerly held a seat in Russia's parliament as a member of Putin's United Russia Party.
Remarkably, Rykov posted a narrative of the plot to support Trump on his own Facebook page just days after Trump emerged victorious, despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes.
In his post, which may be viewed at this link, Rykov said that after the "disaster" of an Obama victory on November 6, 2012, he had his cohorts had "four years and two days" to put into place the mechanisms to create a Trump victory.
"It was necessary to get into the brain and seize all possible means of mass perception of reality," Rykov recounted. "Ensure Donald's victory in the U.S. President's election. Then create a political union between the United States, France, Russia (and other states) and establish a new world order."
Rykov said that he was encouraged by the fact that on that 2012 election night, Trump sent him a direct message — a photo of himself, Trump, making his signature "thumbs up" gesture. Rykov took the texted photo as an indication that the plan should proceed.
About a week later, Trump applied for the "Make America Great Again" trademark.
Trump visited Russia a year later, in November of 2013, to host the Miss Universe beauty pageant in Moscow — but also to hold talks with Russian oligarchs Aras and Emin Agalarov about building a Trump Tower Moscow. He was hosted on that trip by Russian economic development official Alferova Yulya, the wife of one of Rykov's close friends and associates, cyber expert Artem Klyushin.
Yulya came away from her experience chaperoning Trump apparently believing that Trump would run, and that Russia would support him — as she said in a Tweet posted about two months after Trump's visit.