A spirited argument that President Donald Trump is in the pocket of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and is shielded from scrutiny by right-wing media.
Debut authors O’Connor and Szajer take no prisoners in this relentless analysis of Trump’s rise to the presidency. They forcefully argue that Putin specifically targeted the 2016 U.S. presidential election in order to increase Trump’s chances of victory, and that the latter wasn’t a passive recipient of Russian assistance but an active collaborator. Furthermore, they contend that Trump has responded to the governmental investigation into Russian interference by aggressively obstructing it—a defensiveness that only serves to confirm suspicions of his guilt. The authors unravel Trump’s business interests in Russia, as well as the connections between that country and his political associates—some of which, they assert, are demonstrably illegal. O’Connor and Szajer argue that Trump’s unprecedented governance style is based on the cultivation of a “cult of personality” and a peculiar talent for “whipping his fans into a frenzy of tribal hatred.” The U.S. president is also given enormous latitude, they say, by a fawning conservative media that spreads partisan propaganda. The authors include a helpfully synoptic timeline of the entire affair as they see it, as well as a painstakingly detailed account of evidence against Trump. They also provide an astute account of Putin’s commandeering of power in Russia, and how he “recognized his country’s vast talent pool of skilled hackers…and weaponized its enormous and terrifying potential.” However, their lawyerly case isn’t coolly analytical; it appears to be motivated more by a desire to persuade than to supply a disinterested appraisal of fact. For example, they discuss the ways in which Putin has benefited from Trump’s presidency but ignore the ways that he hasn’t; for example, Trump has taken positions regarding Syria, Iran, and the oil industry that have clearly rankled the Russian strongman. They also make errors; for instance, the Justice Department is not an “independent authority,” as it answers to the executive branch. Finally, they never convincingly establish that Russian interference appreciably altered the 2016 election results.
A scattered political study that fails to make a convincing case.