I have decided to embark on a mission to read a number of books on subjects that will be of great importance to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election. Many of these will focus on actors intricately involved in the process, in hopes that I can understand them better and, perhaps, educate others with the power to cast a ballot. I am, as always, open to serious recommendations from anyone who has a book I might like to include in the process.
This is Book #30 in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge.
This reading challenge has led me along some eye-opening paths. With Election Day almost at hand, I have decided to tackle some more legal and analytical tomes that explore the most sinister aspects of the Trump Administration and their dealings with others. Seth Abramson has penned three decisive books about Trump and those around him, arguing claims of collusion, conspiracy, corruption in the years before he became president and into his authoritarian reign. This is the final of those books, where the corrupt practices receive their time in the limelight. The tome offers a powerful narrative with copious amounts of research and proof to support the arguments, something Trump finds difficult to produce when pressed. Recommended to those who enjoy the political history game and uncovering the deceptive nature of the current White House cronies.
Continuing to develop the foundational statements made in the previous tomes, Seth Abramson effectively argues that corruption was one of the key languages spoken in the Trump Campaign. While the reader familiar with the previous two books will understand that Russia and the Red Sea Conspiracy countries (namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE) played key roles in helping Trump win the White House, the idea of the 2020 re-election campaign was never off the radar. Key to that would be for Trump to be able to sink his likely opponent, who appeared to be Joe Biden by as early as 2018. Trump and his cronies would need to find a way to skewer the longtime politician, honing in on his family. Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine became a key focal point, which proves to be a central theme of this book.
Abramson offer a brief backgrounder to readers about Ukraine and how it was the victim of Russian aggression in 2014, when President Putin forcefully annexed Crimea. This act was condemned by the United States at the time, under President Obama, which led to significant sanctions that remained in place. This Russia-Ukraine strain would prove to be a key turning point later in the narrative, as American policy seemed to change under incoming President Trump.
Ukraine may have been an American ally through the early years of the Trump presidency, but the ambassador there was not keen on how things were being handled. Marie Yovanovitch was quite outspoken when it came to her issues with the Trump Administration, leading the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to poke his head into the country and begin setting up a plan to have her removed. Always one to inject a smear when he could, Giuliani began defaming Yovanovitch amongst senior Ukrainian officials. Giuliani returned to the White House to whisper in Trump’s ear, hoping to have her removed so that her meddling would no longer be an impediment in the region. Trump backed his recommendation and Marie Yovanovitch found herself fired in true Trump fashion, left to speak openly about the issues she uncovered.
The Ukrainian presidential election saw television actor Volodymyr Zelensky win in surprising fashion. Well out of his element, Zelensky relied heavily on those around him. The Trump Administration were not entirely sure of this man or how he would alter the regional dynamic, which included a Russian Government that was still eyeing more territorial acquisitions in Ukraine. Abramson outlines many of the discussions between Trump and his new Ukrainian counterpart, including some of the messaging that came back from Kyiv during the inauguration. The ball was rolling and Trump needed to use his new political ally to help dig a little deeper into the goings-on with Hunter Biden, in hopes of uncovering some dirt that could be used against presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The pressure increased during a call in July 2019, where a quid pro quo discussion arose. Trump would send earmarked military funding to Ukraine (helping to fend off the Russians) if an investigation into Hunter Biden could be green-lighted. Many of those who were part of the call or read the transcripts saw that this was abuse of power, though how it would be handled may shock the reader, as it did some of those journalists covering the events.
Abramson opens up a long discussion about the Ukrainian angle into Hunter Biden, producing many characters who served in a number of roles. Rudy Giuliani was a key member of the assault, though he had no White House role or connection, serving solely as Trump’s personal attorney and lapdog. US Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, appeared repeatedly and appears to have been one of the first who endorsed the quid pro quo idea, but was not the only one who thought it made a great deal of sense. While some of the inner circle supported the approach Trump took, many others did not and made those objections known. True to form, these individuals found themselves fired or stepping down as media outlets began to report on this.
It was a hot potato issue for Congress, to say the least. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives undertook some thorough investigations, much to the chagrin of the Republicans. Using their majority in the House, Democrats pushed to explore Trump’s actions and found that there were strong abuses of power. Tied into some of the findings from the Mueller Investigation, House Democrats pushed for and presented Articles of Impeachment, which Abramson depicts in an interesting narrative. While the vote on the Articles fell almost entirely along party lines, it was only the first step in the process. Trump was the fourth president to be impeached, with his fate left to the Senate, which would act as jury. Abramson has much scorn for the way the Senate handled the impeachment, arguing that the Republican-led House abused the role assigned to them by the US Constitution. It makes for some interesting reading, though is less revealing than much of the remaining narrative Abramson offers throughout.
While the previous tomes offered a few strong villains on which the reader could affix their attention, much of the negativity in this tome rests with Rudy Giuliani. While many will know him as the blowhard who is espousing countless odd conspiracy theories, he also seems to be pulling strings behind the scenes and serving to start fires for his client, President Trump. Abramson illustrates that Giuliani sought to smear anyone he could and bring down those who were not entirely dedicated to Trump. Giuliani also served to keep secret pathways open for Trump with international leaders deemed ‘enemies of America’. One of these would be Venezuela, where Trump was publicly critical of the government, but was seeking to help the country, as it worked to create ties with Russia. Astounding in some regard, but also to be expected when it comes to Trump dealings.
Abramson does not hold back when it comes to Trump either, showing that he was invested in areas he ought not to have had any role. The recent revelations of a Chinese bank account for Trump are substantiated here, as Abramson discusses how Trump real estate deals were ongoing once he became president. While divesting or using blind trusts would be the norm, it seemed as though this was something Trump never thought he needed to do, which is shown in other examples throughout the narrative as well.
Following the lead of his Red Sea conspirators, Trump sought to vilify the Iranians and pushed to engage in military strikes to kill some of their high-ranking leaders. Abramson illustrates how the president wanted nothing more than to stir up trouble and then make it seem as though he were helping out in the region. His incessant need to flex American control, but in ways that lacked any usefulness in advancing geo-political success baffled many, including those within the Republican Party. Many senior members of Congress openly criticised his decisions, going so far as to call them ‘stupid’, ‘poorly executed’, and even, ‘counter to American foreign policy’. And yet… he still got away with it.
Trump’s ties to Turkey created chaos as well, though Abramson draws strong parallels to a pro-Russia sentiment when liaising with the Turkish leader. Much of their connection was tied to Syria and how to handle the civil war there, as well as some of the Middle East strife. Readers will be able to see how Trump linked his views with those who have never espoused democracy, making decisions that left American allies abandoned. Military personnel reacted to seeing how they were being used as chess pieces and received abuse on the ground when told to leave the region, all in an effort to offer Russia and Turkey control of Syrian land in the ongoing dispute.
One domestic issue worth exploring is the COVID-19 response, which Abramson leaves for the final chapter of this book. As the chapter opens, Abramson discusses of a virus simulation done in 2019 by American officials. This simulation offered symptoms that mirror what would come to be called COVID-19. Trump received the simulation report, but was not interested in much, dismissing it as ‘unlikely’. Abramson also explores some medical information that shows China hid the emergence of COVID-19, which began appearing as early as November 2019, perhaps even before that. News emerged in Trump’s daily briefings on January 3rd, 2020, but he appeared less than concerned. As the virus gained momentum, xenophobic comments emerged from the West Wing and Trump continued to downplay the severity. Abramson spends some time discussing the discrepancy between numbers Trump touted to the general public and those the Centers for Disease Control had in reports that made it to the Oval Office. Clearly, there was a desire to shield truths from the public, but for what reason? Abramson may not have the answers, but he certainly offers some strong facts as they relate to the virus, which have only worsened since publication of the book.
Leave it to Trump to politicise a pandemic on the domestic front. While many will know and have heard about much of what Abramson writes, it is telling that one can read something that has already been published and feel as though this is a live stream of things taking place even today. One may have expected that once President Trump contracted COVID-19, he may have had the epiphany that many on the right have had, seeing the light (to hell?) and choosing to sober up. Alas, the rallies are still taking place, the masks are still deemed for “the weak” and funding is tied to kissing the Trump ring. One can hope that, if for no other reason, people will use reaction to COVID-19 within the United States as a key reason to choose wisely at the polls.
Looking at the trilogy as a whole, what does this say about Trump and his band of merry hucksters? A great deal, at least for the attentive (and patient) reader. There is no doubt that collusion, conspiracy, and corruption follow Trump around like an oil slick. He has his fingers in so many pies, both domestically and internationally, though he continues to downplay his role and distances himself from those who are proven to have done something wrong. That Donald Trump does not colour within the lines should shock no one. However, the depths to which he does so surely makes Richard Nixon appear ‘Picasso-esque’. Seth Abramson has shown in as thorough a way as he can, without drowning the reader in information (debatable), just how troubling things have been with Trump since he announced his candidacy for president in 2015.
There is no way to ignore it, particularly as it has been reported so transparently. Some will surely want to scream #fakenews, though I really cannot grapple with how the conspiracy of media outlets can be so all-encompassing. I will ask those who believe the aforementioned assertion to please offer me some proof (as Abramson has done for his points) and not simply vomit up “many people say” or “I’ve read somewhere”. Such vapid responses only show that there are still those drinking the Kool-Aid and cannot engage in an intellectual discussion on their own. Sad, really, as I am always up for something where facts supersede blind ostriching.
This trilogy has opened my eyes to a vast amount of detailed information. While many may have become numb to Trumpers and their conspiracy tweets with nothing to back them up, Abramson’s writing cannot easily be dismissed, substantiated with countless documents and admissions under oath. Each book became progressively more detailed with subtleties about which I was not aware, which added a depth to the learning experience I was not expecting. Each chapter is themed on an event or personality, much shorter than the form used in the previous two tomes. This makes for a more easily digested read and is not as daunting to the curious reader. There are many threads to follow (characters and dates), which can get a little intense at times, as well as moments of overlapping and repetition. Some may find this annoying, but there is a need to revisit portions of the narrative on occasion to see how the pieces fit together. I am pleasantly stunned by the work Seth Abramson has put into this trilogy of Proof tomes. He does a masterful job and had me spellbound throughout as I read it. This is a collection that deeply dedicated political junkies will want to read, leaving them stunned and wanting more.
Kudos, Mr. Abramson, for a stunning series that had me learning with the turn of each page. I can only wonder what else you have in store for readers and if it might be a final roasting of how the end to 2020 led to the first time a president was carted off in chains!
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons