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House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia by Craig Unger, Dutton, US $30.00, Pp 368, Aug 2018, ISBN  978-1524743505

As Republicans gathered in Cleveland, Ohio, prior to the Republican Convention to hammer out their platform, they realized that they had had little input from the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, on most national and international issues, with the striking exception of Trump’s policy thinking with regard to Ukraine. Throughout the campaign, Trump had been less than supportive of Ukraine in its ongoing battle with Russia. He had told NBC’s Chuck Todd that “I wouldn’t care.” He also told him that Ukraine was “really a problem that affects Europe a lot more than it affects us.” He had also told Bill O’Reilly that “I would have a great relationship with Putin.” Anti- Russia activists in Ukraine called Trump a “Kremlin agent.” Right or wrong, the epithet has struck permanently. Former director of national intelligence James Clapper calls him an intelligence “asset” serving Russian president Vladimir Putin, or as former CIA national intelligence officer Glen Carle told Newsweek, “My assessment is that Trump is actually working directly for the Russians.”

In House of Trump, House of Putin, Unger shows that, over the last forty years, President Trump and many of his associates have had significant ties to at least fifty none people who facilitated business between Trump and the Russians, including relationships with dozens who have alleged ties to the Russian Mafia. Unger shows that President Trump has allowed the Trump-branded real estate to be used as a vehicle that likely served to launder enormous amounts of money — perhaps billions of dollars — for the Russian Mafia for more than three decades. Unger says that President Trump provided an operational home for oligarchs close to the Kremlin and some the most powerful figures in the Russian Mafia in Trump Tower — his personal and professional home, the crown jewel of his real estate empire — and other Trump buildings on and off for much of that period.

Unger argues that, during the last three to four decades, the Russian Mafia has likely been a de facto state actor serving the Russian Federation, and that many of the people connected to Trump had strong ties to the Russian FSB, the state security service that is the successor to the KGB. Unger reveals that President Trump was likely the subject of one or more secret operations that produced ‘kompromat’ (compromising material) on him regarding sexual activities. Apparently, the Russian secret agencies have been blackmailing President Trump into doing things that are against the interests of the United States. Unger also tries to establish President Trump’s links with the Russian Mafia. He argues that for decades, Russian operatives, including key figures in the Russian Mafia, studiously examined the weak spots in America’s pay-per-play political culture — from gasoline distribution to Wall Street, from campaign finance to how the K Street lobbyists of Washington ply their trade — and hired powerful white-shoe lawyers, lobbyists, accountants, and real estate developers by the scores, in an effort to compromise America’s electoral system, legal process, and financial institutions.

He argues that President Trump, far from being the only potential “asset” targeted by the Russians, was one of the dozens of politicians and businessmen who became indebted to Russia and that millions of dollars have been flowing from individuals and companies from, or with ties to, Russia to GOP politicians, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, for more than twenty years. Many powerful figures in the American national security –including two FBI directors, William Sessions, and Louis Freeh, and special counsel to the CIA Mitchel Rogovin ended up working with Russians who had been deemed serious threats to the United States. President Trump was $4 billion in debt when Russian money came to his rescue and bailed him out. It is quite natural that President Trump was and remains deeply indebted to them for reviving his business career and launching his new life in politics.

House of Trump, House of Putin is an important and timely addition to the existing and fast growing research on President Trump’s links with Russian state and Russian Mafia. This is a meticulously researched work that provides new perspectives and shines a light on some less explored aspects of President’s supposed or presumed links with Russian government and Mafia. It is a must-read to understand current American politics and the US-Russian relations.

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