Book Review: ‘Russian Roulette’ Documents Decades-Long Relationship Between Trumputin & Russian Interests


By Charles Kaiser
The Guardian (3/20/18)

Whenever I finish a book like Russian Roulette, I ask myself the same question: why is anyone still debating whether there was collusion between the Russians and Donald Trump?

Like Collusion, a comprehensive volume by the Guardian’s Luke Harding, this narrative by investigative reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn leaves the reader nearly overwhelmed by evidence that Trump and Vladimir Putin have been striving to collaborate for years.

It was 2013 when Trump first tweeted that he wanted to be Putin’s “best friend”. Later he told Fox Putin looked “like a great leader”. Putin’s constant goals have been to destroy Nato and the EU. Trump was a big advocate of Brexit, which was a body blow to the EU, and in the 2016 campaign he called Nato “obsolete”. Trump began visiting Moscow in 1987 and his on again, off again effort to build a Trump Tower there continued for three decades – right through the presidential election.

Vice-President Joe Biden had a “visceral reaction: “If this is true, it’s treason.”

In 2006, Trump became executive producer of a Russian version of The Apprentice. Years later he dismissed the massive evidence that Putin routinely orders the murder of journalists and other dissidents, telling MSNBC: “I haven’t seen that. I don’t know that he has. Have you been able to prove that?”

Then of course there’s the Palm Beach estate he bought for $45m in 2004. After the housing bubble burst, he sold that house for $95m – to a Russian oligarch, Dmitry Rybolovlev.

Nearly all the other stations of the twisted Trump-Russian cross are covered here, including the famous Trump Tower meeting between Russian emissaries and Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner. Although the Russians failed at that moment to produce promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, the authors point out that “Trump’s senior advisers now had new reason to believe that Putin’s regime wanted Trump to win and was willing to act clandestinely to boost his chances. The campaign did not report this private Russian outreach to the FBI.”

Russian government officials, Corn and Isikoff write, could well have “interpreted that as a signal that Trump would not mind or protest if Moscow took other actions to benefit the Republican candidate. The Russians had offered to help, and Trump’s campaign had demonstrated a willingness to take what Moscow had to offer.”

Missed opportunities

Almost any of these details would have been enough to torpedo any other presidential campaign, but Trump somehow managed to weather every single crisis. A big reason for that was the astonishingly poor news judgment of the mainstream media, including, in particular, the New York Times.

Harvard study of mainstream election coverage revealed that there were “roughly four times as many Clinton-related sentences that described scandals as opposed to policies – whereas Trump-related sentences were one-and-a-half times as likely to be about policy as scandal”. There were also more than 60,000 sentences published about Clinton and her emails – and less than 10,000 about Trump’s connections to Russia.

Barack Obama’s dithering in the face of Russian intrusions also contributed to the disastrous outcome. …

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