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9780593182536 60df0e179a2fc742e80a1d63 American Kompromat: How the KGB Cultivated Donald Trump, and Related Tales of Sex, Greed, Power, and Treachery https://cdn1.storehippo.com/s/607fe93d7eafcac1f2c73ea4/60df0e189a2fc742e80a1d98/webp/51mirccskol-_sx329_bo1-204-203-200_.jpg **THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER** Kompromat n.—Russian for "compromising information" This is a story about the dirty secrets of the most powerful people in the world—including Donald Trump. It is based on exclusive interviews with dozens of high-level sources—intelligence officers in the CIA, FBI, and the KGB, thousands of pages of FBI investigations, police investigations, and news articles in English, Russian, and Ukrainian. American Kompromat shows that from Trump to Jeffrey Epstein, kompromat was used in operations far more sinister than the public could ever imagine. Among them, the book addresses what may be the single most important unanswered question of the entire Trump era: Is Donald Trump a Russian asset? The answer, American Kompromat says, is yes, and it supports that conclusion backs with the first richly detailed narrative on how the KGB allegedly first “spotted” Trump as a potential asset, how they cultivated him as an asset, arranged his first trip to Moscow, and pumped him full of KGB talking points that were published in three of America’s most prestigious newspapers. Among its many revelations, American Kompromat reports for the first time that: • According to Yuri Shvets, a former major in the KGB, Trump first did business over forty years ago with a Manhattan electronics store co-owned by a Soviet émigré who Shvets believes was working with the KGB. Trump’s decision to do business there triggered protocols through which the Soviet spy agency began efforts to cultivate Trump as an asset, thus launching a decades-long “relationship” of mutual benefit to Russia and Trump, from real estate to real power. • Trump’s invitation to Moscow in 1987 was billed as a preliminary scouting trip for a hotel, but according to Shvets, was actually initiated by a high-level KGB official, General Ivan Gromakov. These sorts of trips were usually arranged for ‘deep development,’ recruitment, or for a meeting with the KGB handlers, even if the potential asset was unaware of it. . • Before Trump’s first trip to Moscow, he met with Natalia Dubinina, who worked at the United Nations library in a vital position usually reserved as a cover for KGB operatives. • In 1987, according to Shvets, the KGB circulated an internal cable hailing the successful execution of an active measure by a newly cultivated American asset who took out full page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe promoting policies promoted by the KGB. The ads had been taken out by Donald Trump, who, Shvets said, would become a “special unofficial contact” for the KGB, that is, an intelligence asset whose role has been compared to that of the late industrialist, Armand Hammer. A number of America’s highest national security officials have said they believe Trump is a Russian asset, but neither the Mueller Report nor the numerous congressional investigations throughout Trump’s presidency pursued that vital question. American Kompromat does. In addition to exploring Trump’s ties to the KGB, American Kompromat also shows that from Donald Trump to Jeffrey Epstein, Russian kompromat operations documented the darkest secrets of the most powerful people in the world and transformed those secrets into potent weapons. It also reveals: • How Jeffrey Epstein and Trump jostled for influence and financial supremacy for years. A college dropout let go from his prep school teaching job, Epstein became a millionaire in part with the help of Ghislaine Maxwell’s father—media tycoon Robert Maxwell, who allegedly served as a Soviet and Israeli spy and likely gave Epstein a sum estimated between $10 and $20 million before his death in 1991. • How the Jeffrey Epstein-Ghislaine Maxwell sex-trafficking operation provided a source and marketplace for sexual kompromat – dirty secrets of the richest and most powerful men in the world. While Epstein had a rule when it came to selecting women, namely, “the younger, the better,” he also knew that a multimillionaire –or future leader – caught committing adultery is nothing compared to getting caught on video in the act with a minor. • How the Epstein-Maxwell ring helped enable young women with possible ties to Russian intelligence to gain access to the highest levels of Silicon Valley and the worlds of artificial intelligence, supercomputers, and the internet. This, at a time when Vladimir Putin has asserted, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere [artificial intelligence] will become the ruler of the world.” • How Epstein had ties to Russia through sex-trafficking. Epstein partnered with Jean-Luc Brunel, head of MC2 modeling agency and a major sex trafficker, who, in turn, had worked with Peter Listerman, the celebrated procurer, or “matchmaker” as he prefers, for Russian oligarchs. • How John Mark Dougan, a former deputy sheriff in Mar-a-Lago’s Palm Beach County, says he acquired 478 videos confiscated from the Jeffrey Epstein investigation, fled to Moscow, became only the fourth American to win asylum in Russia, and immediately gained access to Putin’s inner circle, showing the ongoing power that comes from kompromat and how its value is highest before it is “used.” Product description Review Praise for American Kompromat "For the first time a former KGB employee has gone on record to describe Donald Trump's historic relationship with the Kremlin. It's a bombshell that must be looked into."—Robert Baer, former CIA operative and author of See No Evil “I said in 2017 that Trump had more Russian connections than Aeroflot, and American Carnage documents every flight. Trump’s loyalty to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was deeper and more insidious than merely envying his wealth and power. America has removed Putin’s puppet from the White House, but the KGB man who controlled him is still in the Kremlin, eager to repeat the success of his greatest operation: President Trump. Read Craig Unger to understand why the danger to American democracy is far from over.”—Garry Kasparov, Chairman of the Renew Democracy Foundation and author of Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped "By compiling decades of Trump’s seedy ties, disturbing and consistent patterns of behavior, and unexplained contacts with Russian officials and criminals, Unger makes a strong case that Trump is probably a compromised trusted contact of Kremlin interests."—John Sipher, Washington Post "Craig Unger has just published a wonderful, well-written book. The jewel in the crown is how the KGB cultivated Donald Trump. With assistance of the eminent former KGB officer Yuri Shvets, American Kompromat establishes how it really took place."—Anders Åslund, senior fellow, The Atlantic Council “A must-read. The gun’s not quite smoking, but the barrel’s plenty hot, and there are Russian shell casings all around.”—Kirkus (starred review) “Make[s] the unassailable case that Donald J. Trump has been cultivated by Soviet and Russian leaders.”—CounterPunch About the Author Craig Unger is the author of seven books, including the New York Times bestsellers American Kompromat, House of Trump, House of Putin and House of Bush, House of Saud. For fifteen years he was a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, where he covered national security, the Middle East, and other political issues. A frequent analyst on MSNBC and other broadcast outlets, he was a longtime staffer at New York Magazine, has served as editor-in-chief of Boston magazine, and has contributed to Esquire, The New Yorker, and many other publications. He also appears frequently as an analyst on MSNBC, CNN, and other broadcast outlets. Unger has written about the Trump-Russia scandal for The New Republic, Vanity Fair, and The Washington Post. He is a graduate of Harvard University and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. CHAPTER ONE THE MONSTER PLOT November 2020 It had been the worst of times—like in Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, but without the hope and light. It was the age of foolishness, the season of darkness, the winter of despair. America had been on the road to authoritarianism, and the pace had been relentless. There was disorder, chaos, and uncertainty throughout the United States. Democracy had been hanging in the balance, and it was dangling by a thread. The entire country was on tenterhooks, still waiting for the final results. The nation was polarized in a way that it had not been since the Civil War. A line had been drawn. You were on one side or the other. It was us versus them. To most of the country, he was vulgar and vile, a misogynistic, racist firebrand, a buffoon who knew only his own pecuniary interests and prejudices and would stop at nothing to satiate them. He was clownish and repellent. But well before the election, it had become clear that he was far more dangerous than that suggested, that his buffoonery masked real demagoguery, that he was a tyrant who had mes- merized tens of millions of people, and that it didn’t matter to them what he said or did. He spoke for them. To them, he was a great leader. Even though he had implemented anti-science-based policies that had led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, he could do no wrong—thanks to a cult of personality created and aroused by his Trumpian spectacles and amplified by a sycophantic right-wing media. He was America’s own autocrat. Everyone was exhausted. There was widespread unemployment. He had put federal troops in the streets—American soldiers fighting American citizens on American soil. He installed foxes in every bureaucratic henhouse in government. The Russians had undermined the US elections in 2016 and Trump had collaborated with them. Now, everyone was waiting to see what he would do next. These were the signposts of a new era. Police killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other unarmed black men and women. White supremacists killed protesters—and were celebrated for it in some quarters. Far-right militias bearing automatic weapons rode in caravans up the West Coast and planted their Confederate flags in front of protesters. In Portland, Oregon, the shooting had begun—teenagers, assault weapons—with the promise of more to come. The Justice Department had designated New York, Portland, and Seattle as “anarchist jurisdictions,” as if it were a precursor to d claring martial law. Paranoid conspiracy theories were promoted by QAnon and other right-wing groups. Trump urged his followers to vote twice—once by mail, once in person. He repeatedly refused to promise that he would cede the presidency if Joe Biden won. In the first presidential debate, Trump called on white supremacists—the Proud Boys—to go on standby. It was as if he knew in advance that he would lose the election and was doing everything he could to discredit the results and stay in office. Everything. He even said as much at a White House press conference in September: “We’ll want to have—get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very—we’ll have a very peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.” There won’t be a transfer. Fascism was in the air. Now that the election had taken place, it was more evident than ever. All the votes had not yet been counted, and Joe Biden clearly appeared to be winning, but Donald Trump falsely claimed victory. With so much undecided and the nation in limbo, one thing had become horrifyingly clear: This really was America, and it wasn’t pretty. One way or another, the nightmare we were living through would likely go on and on. For months, much of the country had been self-isolated, quarantined, and/or curfewed during the COVID pandemic, the days blending together Groundhog Day–style, “a recurring horror show” as Fintan O’Toole wrote in the Irish Times in April 2020, “in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.” Time had collapsed. It had no meaning to tens of millions of Americans who stayed home day after day, locked down in semi-isolation. And truth had collapsed as well. News cycles could b measured in nanoseconds, huge parts of them so tainted with disinformation that many viewers were unsure what to believe. Born with the original sin of slavery, the United States, thanks to a virus, was pulling back the curtain to reveal its dark, dark secrets for all to see—an impossibly decadent shadow world of kompromat (the Russian term for compromising material), treachery, sex trafficking, racism, and greed. Even after the election, a malevolent narcissist was still at the helm, a man who had deliberately infected the nation with a murderous stupidity that was followed blindly by millions of supporters who lived in a cultlike world of paranoid fantasies and magical thinking, blithely spreading the dual virus of Trumpian hate and lethal disease. All this was promoted and amplified by Fox News, Breitbart News, and other right-wing outlets, weaponized by Russian intelligence via social media, and incorporated into paranoid conspiracies by QAnon and other extremist cults. Under Trump, the entire country had devolved into an authoritarian state in which Trump brazenly used the power of the state to help his electoral chances. Deceit was the new norm. The count of Trump’s lies from the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” had passed twenty thousand.3 And now it was not just any kind of deceit, but lies that were anti-science and free of reason. Lies that killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. One after another, the institutions and practices Americans had taken for granted—honoring the rule of law, having free and fair elections, the United States Postal Service, congressional oversight, reliable health care information in the face of a deathly pandemic—had been defunded, politicized, weaponized, and compromised so thoroughly that they scarcely existed anymore. And in the Department of Justice, Attorney General William P. Barr held sway as Trump’s chief enabler, granting Trump imperial powers, emasculating Congress, eliminating inspectors general (the guardians of checks and balances) right and left, granting clemency to criminals who played key roles in subverting the 2016 election, and, through phony investigations of Ukraine and Joe Biden, rewriting history so as to exculpate both Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin. In effect, as attorney general, Barr, a leading figure in the newly emergent Catholic right—with its ties to Opus Dei, a mysterious fringe sect with roots in fascist Spain—was bringing in a new strain of religious authoritarianism and theocratic nationalism to join forces with Trumpism on their way to collision after collision with the US Constitution. All this in a world of decadence and depravity tied to figures like Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, whose pedophile operation trafficked in underage girls as young as eleven, and also had links to Russian intelligence. This was a war for the soul of America. And at the heart of it all were seemingly simple questions that had never been answered. Indeed, almost absent from the presidential campaign was any discussion of what put Trump in the White House in the first place: Russia. Even Trump’s most stalwart Republican supporters had been stunned at the Helsinki summit in July 2018 when, during a press con- ference, he kowtowed to Putin and accepted at face value Putin’s denial that Russia had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. Why had Trump thrown American intelligence agencies, all seventeen of them, under the bus and sided with Putin instead? Why did he pull US troops out of Syria—as Putin wished? Why did he cut back on American troops in Germany—as Putin wished? Why did Trump do and say nothing when it was widely reported that Russia was offering bounties to be paid to Afghan troops who killed American soldiers? How did it come to this? What did the Russians have on him? Could Donald Trump really be a Russian asset? In a New York Times op-ed written three months before the 2016 election, the former Central Intelligence Agency director Michael Morell answered that last question in the affirmative, writing, “In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” In January 2017, shortly before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Michael Hayden, the former head of both the CIA and the National Security Agency, called Mr. Trump “a clear and present danger” to America’s national security and “a useful idiot,” a term often attributed to Vladimir Lenin that refers to naive Westerners who were especiall susceptible to manipulation for propaganda and other purposes. (He later added, “That is actually the most benign explanation I can come up with.”) In December 2017, the former n tional intelligence director James Clapper asserted that Trump was, in effect, an intelligence “asset” serving Russian president Vladimir Putin. And in 2019, the former CIA director John Brennan declared Trump to be “wholly in the pocket of Putin” and went further on Meet the Press, where he added that he had called Trump’s behavior “treasonous, which is to betray one’s trust and aid and abet the enemy, and I stand very much by that claim.” Far from being partisan left-wing Democrats, these men are intelligence professionals whose analyses are based on factual reality rather than on their political interests. There are boundaries in America’s political discourse—or at least there were until Trump’s presidency. There still were taboos. One simply didn’t say that the president of the United States is a Russian asset. And yet, in one form or another, Brennan, Clapper, Hayden, and Morell did precisely that. Yet somehow these extraordinary allegations—that the president of the United States was an operative for a hostile foreign power—have not been taken seriously enough to become part of the national conversation. It’s as if the entire country was in denial—even after Donald Trump’s impeachment. Even after the election. What really happened? The mere suggestion of a Russian asset in the Oval Office calls to mind The Manchurian Candidate, the classic 1962 movie depicting brainwashing and mind control as a means for communists to seize power— in other words, the kind of paranoia that is often dismissed as the stuff of wild-eyed conspiracy theorists. But what if a version of The Manchurian Candidate’s nightmarish scenario really did take place, not in the same way, of course, but with Donald Trump? What if the Soviets had groomed Trump as an asset who eventually found his way into the White House? What if they had approached Trump long ago—not as someone destined to be president but as one of many assets they carefully cultivated—and somehow or other they had hit the jackpot? What if they had installed an operative in the Oval Office without firing a single shot, executing the most devastatingly effective attack on American sovereignty in plain sight? Those questions were posed by Glenn Carle, a former CIA national intelligence officer, sometime around January 2016, ten months before the presidential election. By that time, Carle was deeply alarmed by the various connections he saw between Trump’s team and the Russians, but he wasn’t quite sure who to talk to. He had served twenty-three years in the clandestine service, in European, Balkan, and political-military affairs, but now that he was retired and growing organic tomatoes in New England, he no longer had standing in Langley, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency. “I was really hopping up and down about this,” he told me. “I couldn’t sit here without telling someone that we’re about to have The Manchurian Candidate story realized!” For all the mystique of the CIA, Carle lived in a world very much based on empirical reality, and it was jarring to be thrust into such a shadowy, paranoid universe. Part of the problem was that the question itself was so horrifying, so dire, that no one wanted to take it seriously. The natural response was that this can’t be so. That it can’t happen here. Anxious to alert authorities, he reached out to a former ambassador, someone from an oversight committee, and a colleague or two in the agency. Those who were no longer serving in the government shared his alarm when he described his assessment. But no one on the inside responded to him. Finally, Carle talked to another retired CIA official, someone who was considerably older and who’d had ample experience with Soviet operations. “And he said, ‘At end of the 1960s, we were concerned about what we called the Monster Plot.’” The Monster Plot was a theory propagated by James Jesus Angleton, the famed Cold Warrior and chief of counterintelligence for the CIA from 1954 to 1975, who had become notorious for his obsessive Ahab-like pursuit of the notion that the Soviets had placed an asset at the very top of the CIA or the US intelligence community, and that they would put someone in place at the highest levels of the executive branch. In the course of his quest, Angleton came to personify a powerful, dark component of American culture, the deranged and paranoid Cold War mole hunter fanatically searching for real or imagined spies planted in the heart of the CIA and deception plots aimed at the American government. In a country where elemental questions remain unanswered about what the government does behind closed doors, Angleton’s dark pursuits suggested a cosmic hole at the center of the American psyche and helped define the genre of spy books and movies including Norman Mailer’s Harlot’s Ghost and Jefferson Morley’s biography The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton as well as movies such as The Good Shepherd. Few people questioned Angleton’s brilliance, but according to a 2011 article in Studies in Intelligence, the paranoia that was such an elemental part of his theories paralyzed CIA operations against the Soviets for almost two decades because he “became convinced that the KGB had penetrated CIA at high levels Angleton took the position that virtually every major Soviet defector or volunteer was a KGB provocation.” His studies of a single Soviet defector sometimes went on for ages. In the intelligence academies of the Soviet Union, trainees delighted in studying Angleton because he had paralyzed the CIA for so long. Though the CIA devoted enormous resources to get to the bottom of it, in the end, Angleton, who died in 1987, came up empty-handed. After decades of analyzing his data, the CIA concluded that his theories were not feasible. He had been wrong. The Monster Plot was still a sore point with the agency even fifty years later, and as a result, Carle’s friend warned him that it had torn apart the agency. Nevertheless, when the call was over, Carle had persuaded him to poke around a bit. After all, it would be surprising if the Russians didn’t try to place an asset as high as possible in the American government. There was already plenty of evidence that Russian intelligence had focused enormous amounts of attention on Trump, his family members, and people who had access to him. 9780593182536
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American Kompromat: How the KGB Cultivated Donald Trump, and Related Tales of Sex, Greed, Power, and Treachery

ISBN: 9780593182536
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  • ISBN: 9780593182536
  • Author: Craig Unger
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • Pages: 352
  • Format: Hardback

Book Description

**THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER** Kompromat n.—Russian for "compromising information" This is a story about the dirty secrets of the most powerful people in the world—including Donald Trump. It is based on exclusive interviews with dozens of high-level sources—intelligence officers in the CIA, FBI, and the KGB, thousands of pages of FBI investigations, police investigations, and news articles in English, Russian, and Ukrainian. American Kompromat shows that from Trump to Jeffrey Epstein, kompromat was used in operations far more sinister than the public could ever imagine. Among them, the book addresses what may be the single most important unanswered question of the entire Trump era: Is Donald Trump a Russian asset? The answer, American Kompromat says, is yes, and it supports that conclusion backs with the first richly detailed narrative on how the KGB allegedly first “spotted” Trump as a potential asset, how they cultivated him as an asset, arranged his first trip to Moscow, and pumped him full of KGB talking points that were published in three of America’s most prestigious newspapers. Among its many revelations, American Kompromat reports for the first time that: • According to Yuri Shvets, a former major in the KGB, Trump first did business over forty years ago with a Manhattan electronics store co-owned by a Soviet émigré who Shvets believes was working with the KGB. Trump’s decision to do business there triggered protocols through which the Soviet spy agency began efforts to cultivate Trump as an asset, thus launching a decades-long “relationship” of mutual benefit to Russia and Trump, from real estate to real power. • Trump’s invitation to Moscow in 1987 was billed as a preliminary scouting trip for a hotel, but according to Shvets, was actually initiated by a high-level KGB official, General Ivan Gromakov. These sorts of trips were usually arranged for ‘deep development,’ recruitment, or for a meeting with the KGB handlers, even if the potential asset was unaware of it. . • Before Trump’s first trip to Moscow, he met with Natalia Dubinina, who worked at the United Nations library in a vital position usually reserved as a cover for KGB operatives. • In 1987, according to Shvets, the KGB circulated an internal cable hailing the successful execution of an active measure by a newly cultivated American asset who took out full page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe promoting policies promoted by the KGB. The ads had been taken out by Donald Trump, who, Shvets said, would become a “special unofficial contact” for the KGB, that is, an intelligence asset whose role has been compared to that of the late industrialist, Armand Hammer. A number of America’s highest national security officials have said they believe Trump is a Russian asset, but neither the Mueller Report nor the numerous congressional investigations throughout Trump’s presidency pursued that vital question. American Kompromat does. In addition to exploring Trump’s ties to the KGB, American Kompromat also shows that from Donald Trump to Jeffrey Epstein, Russian kompromat operations documented the darkest secrets of the most powerful people in the world and transformed those secrets into potent weapons. It also reveals: • How Jeffrey Epstein and Trump jostled for influence and financial supremacy for years. A college dropout let go from his prep school teaching job, Epstein became a millionaire in part with the help of Ghislaine Maxwell’s father—media tycoon Robert Maxwell, who allegedly served as a Soviet and Israeli spy and likely gave Epstein a sum estimated between $10 and $20 million before his death in 1991. • How the Jeffrey Epstein-Ghislaine Maxwell sex-trafficking operation provided a source and marketplace for sexual kompromat – dirty secrets of the richest and most powerful men in the world. While Epstein had a rule when it came to selecting women, namely, “the younger, the better,” he also knew that a multimillionaire –or future leader – caught committing adultery is nothing compared to getting caught on video in the act with a minor. • How the Epstein-Maxwell ring helped enable young women with possible ties to Russian intelligence to gain access to the highest levels of Silicon Valley and the worlds of artificial intelligence, supercomputers, and the internet. This, at a time when Vladimir Putin has asserted, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere [artificial intelligence] will become the ruler of the world.” • How Epstein had ties to Russia through sex-trafficking. Epstein partnered with Jean-Luc Brunel, head of MC2 modeling agency and a major sex trafficker, who, in turn, had worked with Peter Listerman, the celebrated procurer, or “matchmaker” as he prefers, for Russian oligarchs. • How John Mark Dougan, a former deputy sheriff in Mar-a-Lago’s Palm Beach County, says he acquired 478 videos confiscated from the Jeffrey Epstein investigation, fled to Moscow, became only the fourth American to win asylum in Russia, and immediately gained access to Putin’s inner circle, showing the ongoing power that comes from kompromat and how its value is highest before it is “used.” Product description Review Praise for American Kompromat "For the first time a former KGB employee has gone on record to describe Donald Trump's historic relationship with the Kremlin. It's a bombshell that must be looked into."—Robert Baer, former CIA operative and author of See No Evil “I said in 2017 that Trump had more Russian connections than Aeroflot, and American Carnage documents every flight. Trump’s loyalty to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was deeper and more insidious than merely envying his wealth and power. America has removed Putin’s puppet from the White House, but the KGB man who controlled him is still in the Kremlin, eager to repeat the success of his greatest operation: President Trump. Read Craig Unger to understand why the danger to American democracy is far from over.”—Garry Kasparov, Chairman of the Renew Democracy Foundation and author of Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped "By compiling decades of Trump’s seedy ties, disturbing and consistent patterns of behavior, and unexplained contacts with Russian officials and criminals, Unger makes a strong case that Trump is probably a compromised trusted contact of Kremlin interests."—John Sipher, Washington Post "Craig Unger has just published a wonderful, well-written book. The jewel in the crown is how the KGB cultivated Donald Trump. With assistance of the eminent former KGB officer Yuri Shvets, American Kompromat establishes how it really took place."—Anders Åslund, senior fellow, The Atlantic Council “A must-read. The gun’s not quite smoking, but the barrel’s plenty hot, and there are Russian shell casings all around.”—Kirkus (starred review) “Make[s] the unassailable case that Donald J. Trump has been cultivated by Soviet and Russian leaders.”—CounterPunch About the Author Craig Unger is the author of seven books, including the New York Times bestsellers American Kompromat, House of Trump, House of Putin and House of Bush, House of Saud. For fifteen years he was a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, where he covered national security, the Middle East, and other political issues. A frequent analyst on MSNBC and other broadcast outlets, he was a longtime staffer at New York Magazine, has served as editor-in-chief of Boston magazine, and has contributed to Esquire, The New Yorker, and many other publications. He also appears frequently as an analyst on MSNBC, CNN, and other broadcast outlets. Unger has written about the Trump-Russia scandal for The New Republic, Vanity Fair, and The Washington Post. He is a graduate of Harvard University and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. CHAPTER ONE THE MONSTER PLOT November 2020 It had been the worst of times—like in Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, but without the hope and light. It was the age of foolishness, the season of darkness, the winter of despair. America had been on the road to authoritarianism, and the pace had been relentless. There was disorder, chaos, and uncertainty throughout the United States. Democracy had been hanging in the balance, and it was dangling by a thread. The entire country was on tenterhooks, still waiting for the final results. The nation was polarized in a way that it had not been since the Civil War. A line had been drawn. You were on one side or the other. It was us versus them. To most of the country, he was vulgar and vile, a misogynistic, racist firebrand, a buffoon who knew only his own pecuniary interests and prejudices and would stop at nothing to satiate them. He was clownish and repellent. But well before the election, it had become clear that he was far more dangerous than that suggested, that his buffoonery masked real demagoguery, that he was a tyrant who had mes- merized tens of millions of people, and that it didn’t matter to them what he said or did. He spoke for them. To them, he was a great leader. Even though he had implemented anti-science-based policies that had led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, he could do no wrong—thanks to a cult of personality created and aroused by his Trumpian spectacles and amplified by a sycophantic right-wing media. He was America’s own autocrat. Everyone was exhausted. There was widespread unemployment. He had put federal troops in the streets—American soldiers fighting American citizens on American soil. He installed foxes in every bureaucratic henhouse in government. The Russians had undermined the US elections in 2016 and Trump had collaborated with them. Now, everyone was waiting to see what he would do next. These were the signposts of a new era. Police killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other unarmed black men and women. White supremacists killed protesters—and were celebrated for it in some quarters. Far-right militias bearing automatic weapons rode in caravans up the West Coast and planted their Confederate flags in front of protesters. In Portland, Oregon, the shooting had begun—teenagers, assault weapons—with the promise of more to come. The Justice Department had designated New York, Portland, and Seattle as “anarchist jurisdictions,” as if it were a precursor to d claring martial law. Paranoid conspiracy theories were promoted by QAnon and other right-wing groups. Trump urged his followers to vote twice—once by mail, once in person. He repeatedly refused to promise that he would cede the presidency if Joe Biden won. In the first presidential debate, Trump called on white supremacists—the Proud Boys—to go on standby. It was as if he knew in advance that he would lose the election and was doing everything he could to discredit the results and stay in office. Everything. He even said as much at a White House press conference in September: “We’ll want to have—get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very—we’ll have a very peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.” There won’t be a transfer. Fascism was in the air. Now that the election had taken place, it was more evident than ever. All the votes had not yet been counted, and Joe Biden clearly appeared to be winning, but Donald Trump falsely claimed victory. With so much undecided and the nation in limbo, one thing had become horrifyingly clear: This really was America, and it wasn’t pretty. One way or another, the nightmare we were living through would likely go on and on. For months, much of the country had been self-isolated, quarantined, and/or curfewed during the COVID pandemic, the days blending together Groundhog Day–style, “a recurring horror show” as Fintan O’Toole wrote in the Irish Times in April 2020, “in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.” Time had collapsed. It had no meaning to tens of millions of Americans who stayed home day after day, locked down in semi-isolation. And truth had collapsed as well. News cycles could b measured in nanoseconds, huge parts of them so tainted with disinformation that many viewers were unsure what to believe. Born with the original sin of slavery, the United States, thanks to a virus, was pulling back the curtain to reveal its dark, dark secrets for all to see—an impossibly decadent shadow world of kompromat (the Russian term for compromising material), treachery, sex trafficking, racism, and greed. Even after the election, a malevolent narcissist was still at the helm, a man who had deliberately infected the nation with a murderous stupidity that was followed blindly by millions of supporters who lived in a cultlike world of paranoid fantasies and magical thinking, blithely spreading the dual virus of Trumpian hate and lethal disease. All this was promoted and amplified by Fox News, Breitbart News, and other right-wing outlets, weaponized by Russian intelligence via social media, and incorporated into paranoid conspiracies by QAnon and other extremist cults. Under Trump, the entire country had devolved into an authoritarian state in which Trump brazenly used the power of the state to help his electoral chances. Deceit was the new norm. The count of Trump’s lies from the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” had passed twenty thousand.3 And now it was not just any kind of deceit, but lies that were anti-science and free of reason. Lies that killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. One after another, the institutions and practices Americans had taken for granted—honoring the rule of law, having free and fair elections, the United States Postal Service, congressional oversight, reliable health care information in the face of a deathly pandemic—had been defunded, politicized, weaponized, and compromised so thoroughly that they scarcely existed anymore. And in the Department of Justice, Attorney General William P. Barr held sway as Trump’s chief enabler, granting Trump imperial powers, emasculating Congress, eliminating inspectors general (the guardians of checks and balances) right and left, granting clemency to criminals who played key roles in subverting the 2016 election, and, through phony investigations of Ukraine and Joe Biden, rewriting history so as to exculpate both Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin. In effect, as attorney general, Barr, a leading figure in the newly emergent Catholic right—with its ties to Opus Dei, a mysterious fringe sect with roots in fascist Spain—was bringing in a new strain of religious authoritarianism and theocratic nationalism to join forces with Trumpism on their way to collision after collision with the US Constitution. All this in a world of decadence and depravity tied to figures like Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, whose pedophile operation trafficked in underage girls as young as eleven, and also had links to Russian intelligence. This was a war for the soul of America. And at the heart of it all were seemingly simple questions that had never been answered. Indeed, almost absent from the presidential campaign was any discussion of what put Trump in the White House in the first place: Russia. Even Trump’s most stalwart Republican supporters had been stunned at the Helsinki summit in July 2018 when, during a press con- ference, he kowtowed to Putin and accepted at face value Putin’s denial that Russia had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. Why had Trump thrown American intelligence agencies, all seventeen of them, under the bus and sided with Putin instead? Why did he pull US troops out of Syria—as Putin wished? Why did he cut back on American troops in Germany—as Putin wished? Why did Trump do and say nothing when it was widely reported that Russia was offering bounties to be paid to Afghan troops who killed American soldiers? How did it come to this? What did the Russians have on him? Could Donald Trump really be a Russian asset? In a New York Times op-ed written three months before the 2016 election, the former Central Intelligence Agency director Michael Morell answered that last question in the affirmative, writing, “In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” In January 2017, shortly before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Michael Hayden, the former head of both the CIA and the National Security Agency, called Mr. Trump “a clear and present danger” to America’s national security and “a useful idiot,” a term often attributed to Vladimir Lenin that refers to naive Westerners who were especiall susceptible to manipulation for propaganda and other purposes. (He later added, “That is actually the most benign explanation I can come up with.”) In December 2017, the former n tional intelligence director James Clapper asserted that Trump was, in effect, an intelligence “asset” serving Russian president Vladimir Putin. And in 2019, the former CIA director John Brennan declared Trump to be “wholly in the pocket of Putin” and went further on Meet the Press, where he added that he had called Trump’s behavior “treasonous, which is to betray one’s trust and aid and abet the enemy, and I stand very much by that claim.” Far from being partisan left-wing Democrats, these men are intelligence professionals whose analyses are based on factual reality rather than on their political interests. There are boundaries in America’s political discourse—or at least there were until Trump’s presidency. There still were taboos. One simply didn’t say that the president of the United States is a Russian asset. And yet, in one form or another, Brennan, Clapper, Hayden, and Morell did precisely that. Yet somehow these extraordinary allegations—that the president of the United States was an operative for a hostile foreign power—have not been taken seriously enough to become part of the national conversation. It’s as if the entire country was in denial—even after Donald Trump’s impeachment. Even after the election. What really happened? The mere suggestion of a Russian asset in the Oval Office calls to mind The Manchurian Candidate, the classic 1962 movie depicting brainwashing and mind control as a means for communists to seize power— in other words, the kind of paranoia that is often dismissed as the stuff of wild-eyed conspiracy theorists. But what if a version of The Manchurian Candidate’s nightmarish scenario really did take place, not in the same way, of course, but with Donald Trump? What if the Soviets had groomed Trump as an asset who eventually found his way into the White House? What if they had approached Trump long ago—not as someone destined to be president but as one of many assets they carefully cultivated—and somehow or other they had hit the jackpot? What if they had installed an operative in the Oval Office without firing a single shot, executing the most devastatingly effective attack on American sovereignty in plain sight? Those questions were posed by Glenn Carle, a former CIA national intelligence officer, sometime around January 2016, ten months before the presidential election. By that time, Carle was deeply alarmed by the various connections he saw between Trump’s team and the Russians, but he wasn’t quite sure who to talk to. He had served twenty-three years in the clandestine service, in European, Balkan, and political-military affairs, but now that he was retired and growing organic tomatoes in New England, he no longer had standing in Langley, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency. “I was really hopping up and down about this,” he told me. “I couldn’t sit here without telling someone that we’re about to have The Manchurian Candidate story realized!” For all the mystique of the CIA, Carle lived in a world very much based on empirical reality, and it was jarring to be thrust into such a shadowy, paranoid universe. Part of the problem was that the question itself was so horrifying, so dire, that no one wanted to take it seriously. The natural response was that this can’t be so. That it can’t happen here. Anxious to alert authorities, he reached out to a former ambassador, someone from an oversight committee, and a colleague or two in the agency. Those who were no longer serving in the government shared his alarm when he described his assessment. But no one on the inside responded to him. Finally, Carle talked to another retired CIA official, someone who was considerably older and who’d had ample experience with Soviet operations. “And he said, ‘At end of the 1960s, we were concerned about what we called the Monster Plot.’” The Monster Plot was a theory propagated by James Jesus Angleton, the famed Cold Warrior and chief of counterintelligence for the CIA from 1954 to 1975, who had become notorious for his obsessive Ahab-like pursuit of the notion that the Soviets had placed an asset at the very top of the CIA or the US intelligence community, and that they would put someone in place at the highest levels of the executive branch. In the course of his quest, Angleton came to personify a powerful, dark component of American culture, the deranged and paranoid Cold War mole hunter fanatically searching for real or imagined spies planted in the heart of the CIA and deception plots aimed at the American government. In a country where elemental questions remain unanswered about what the government does behind closed doors, Angleton’s dark pursuits suggested a cosmic hole at the center of the American psyche and helped define the genre of spy books and movies including Norman Mailer’s Harlot’s Ghost and Jefferson Morley’s biography The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton as well as movies such as The Good Shepherd. Few people questioned Angleton’s brilliance, but according to a 2011 article in Studies in Intelligence, the paranoia that was such an elemental part of his theories paralyzed CIA operations against the Soviets for almost two decades because he “became convinced that the KGB had penetrated CIA at high levels Angleton took the position that virtually every major Soviet defector or volunteer was a KGB provocation.” His studies of a single Soviet defector sometimes went on for ages. In the intelligence academies of the Soviet Union, trainees delighted in studying Angleton because he had paralyzed the CIA for so long. Though the CIA devoted enormous resources to get to the bottom of it, in the end, Angleton, who died in 1987, came up empty-handed. After decades of analyzing his data, the CIA concluded that his theories were not feasible. He had been wrong. The Monster Plot was still a sore point with the agency even fifty years later, and as a result, Carle’s friend warned him that it had torn apart the agency. Nevertheless, when the call was over, Carle had persuaded him to poke around a bit. After all, it would be surprising if the Russians didn’t try to place an asset as high as possible in the American government. There was already plenty of evidence that Russian intelligence had focused enormous amounts of attention on Trump, his family members, and people who had access to him.

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