What happens next in Trump’s dark fairy-tale matters to all of us, not just because Trump pursues an Economic Nationalism that is damaging to world prosperity and to the climate, but that he does so after allegedly aligning US foreign policy to his business ambitions. He is almost certain to face a blizzard of impeachment, unprecedented in US history, according to Seth Abramson author of Proof of Collusion, How Trump Betrayed America. Abramson is a former trial attorney, a Harvard Law School graduate and currently assistant professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at the University of New Hampshire.
In this book he joins up all the dots in what he describes in the “most multifaceted, wide-ranging, high-stakes federal criminal investigation in American history” beginning with the statement that he cannot find “any exculpatory evidence suggesting the president of the United States did not conspire to violate federal law”. Abramson reminds readers that he’s poured over thousands of witness statements, police reports and evidence and is trained to find information helpful to a defence, concluding that he “never before encountered a criminal investigation in which the entirety of the evidence is as damning as it is in the Trump-Russia investigation”.
Abramson then takes readers on a detailed chronology across 320 pages and over several years across seemingly disparate, but connected facts, which he’s backed up by a large volume of sources, strong and weak. It has to be remembered that President Trump hotly denies these allegations and considers Robert Mueller’s investigation to be a waste of public resources and a political witch hunt. He certainly is in no mood to compromise and while Mueller has scored significant hits on people surrounding Trump, no compelling evidence has yet emerged about Trump himself who, as President, enjoys Executive Privilege, meanwhile Mueller’s investigation is buttoned up tight, so we await events to take their course.
Unlike the Washington Post in 1972-1974 journalistic investigation of Nixon’s White House, Abramson is not in a position to follow campaign money as directed by “deep throat” the FBI insider, but what he has done is to follow Trump’s Russian connections starting in the 90’s and takes readers through Russian lines of credit, to Trump’s ambition to build large scale Russian developments with Russian partners, his dealings in 2013 when he may or may not have been compromised by Russian intelligence, to his election campaigns and his Presidency. It is a remarkable tale where Abramson paints a picture of an American developer whose narcissism, sophism and appetites may have led to his compromise and captivity to Russian interests. It certainly seems to fit his actions, most especially Trump’s remarkable press conference with Putin in Helsinki in July and his open rejection of intelligence findings and criminal indictments by US prosecutors.
There is no smoking gun moment, but instead Abramson tries to make the connections hum, not always in a fully convincing manner, but when taken together there is a common sound coming from a range of actors identified by Abramson and allegedly involved in a range of matters including, but not limited to, campaign finance violations, bribery, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, failure to register as a foreign agent, money laundering and tax evasion. Thus far on the expansive investigation by Robert Mueller, currently a target for Trump’s ire, this list of flipped actors includes his personal lawyer and bagman, Michael Cohen, his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. Mueller has also secured indictments against a long list of Russian agents and connected companies engaged in proven interference with the 2016 election. Most worryingly for Trump, his long-time CFO and the co-trustee of the Trump Foundation, 71-year-old Allan Weisselberg, was granted witness immunity by prosecutors in their investigation into Cohen.
Trump has fired Comey, the head of the FBI, who refused to swear personal loyalty to him and his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the Department of Justice Investigation that is ongoing.
Abramson establishes a wide variety of links to the Russian oligarchy, over which Putin is thought to exercise a tight grip, and doesn’t spare in his conclusion that the USA “elected a man capable of corporate crime, astonishing greed and personal cruelty”. “What ties together the dizzying number of lies, misdirections and degradations endemic to this era is quite simply that this presidency is not an American presidency, but a Trump presidency: a course of ill governance that is for Trump, about Trump and inextricably tethered to the interests of Trump”.
“Never has a presidential campaign birthed so many lies from so many mouths”, Abramson writes as he looks back through his proofs, “lies of indifference, lies of carelessness, lies of callousness, lies of malicious intent, lies of ulterior motive”.
It is a damning conclusion by Seth Abramson, but one that is unlikely to shake Trump’s messianic support so long as he convinces his base that he’s draining the swamp, that he’s the victim of Fake News and so long as negative tax dollars are putting hard cash into voter bank accounts all across America, despite adding $1.5 trillion to US national debt.
In the fevered and hostile atmosphere of bipartisan politics, one person’s proof of collusion with a foreign power is another person’s evidence of a Deep State conspiracy against an unconventional President. It is impossible to change beliefs if, in doing so, you are asking Trump supporters to accept that the extra cash adding to their bank accounts is the price of ongoing blindness. Neither will polarised opinions change by reasoned debate or by media opinion, it is far too late for that.
Change may come only through the Justice system, from relentless, forensic investigation by Mueller and by New York authorities. But there is a momentum shift against Trump, bolstered by information from former insiders, and it runs right up to the guardhouse door of the remaining praetorians, meanwhile, if President Trump dares to fire Robert Mueller, he risks everything in a political firestorm. This does not mean Trump will be found to have a case to answer.
But should Trump face articles of impeachment with evidence that is so overwhelming that the Republican Senate is forced to raise the white flag for the first time since Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater visited Richard Nixon on 7th August 1974, then and only then will Americans, see him as Seth Abramson does and begin to find a way to a new birth of freedom.
Meanwhile, for those coming into the complex detail of Trump’s dimly lit story for the first time, Proof of Collusion is, unquestionably, where the breadcrumbs start and leads through a forest of detail to the house made of candy. What happens after that, well that may be the stuff of nightmares or just a good yarn. We will see.
Trump is everyone’s problem for reasons outlined in the two essays below, which followed the release of Bob Woodward’s Book FEAR in September.
20th November 2018