My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Michiko Kakutani in her masterful philosophical thoughts and musings shares with us the reader an outlook on how objective truth, facts and reality can be defined; and in the ways that demagogues throughout history have utilized language to distort truth and reality. Of particular interest, she places emphasis on Donald Trump and the current time that we live in. It is important to note that Kakutani emphasizes throughout her short book “The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump” that Donald Trump is a symptom of a cause that has been permeating within American society and culture for quite some time. In particular, demagogues such as Donald Trump have throughout history used “nationalism, tribalism, dislocation, fears of social change, and the hatred of outsiders” as a method of pushing people to be locked in their “partisan silos and filter bubbles” resulting in the loss or sense of a “shared reality” and the “ability to communicate across social and sectarian lines” (Kakutani, 6). We can see this in the reality that we live in today as a country and a nation. Donald Trump through his simple rhetoric, lies and distortion of reality helped along with the Russian interference have ripped up these fault lines within our society and nation at large.
As Michiko Kakutani shows in her reading, the “assault on truth is not confined to the United States” as around the world “waves of populism and fundamentalism are elevating appeals to fear and anger over reasoned debate, eroding democratic institutions, and replacing expertise with the wisdom of the crowd” (Kakutani, 8). As a result of various circumstances and social changes from globalism to the shifting of immigration populations, demagogues use these fault lines and the fears of change to scapegoat entire groups of populations. Thus, the demagogue is pushed up in the ashes of history. The question is can we as a nation, a people and western liberal democracy itself survive this onslaught coming from within, from the outside and through subversion in order to restore truth, facts, and a common sense of decency?
In order to be able to live in a free and just society in which reason and a fact-based way of life is the way that helps our country and humanity itself move forward, we need to be able to reply on a basic set of shared facts. In essence, a basic sense of a reality-based world in which up is up and down is down rather than the previously anachronistic but relevant in our time once again of up is down, down is up, 1+1=3.
Truth matters. Facts matter. Evidence matters. Basic decency matters. This book has helped provide us reasoned, rational and logical arguments and evidence that may help the reader have a clearer understand of how truth and reality itself can be distorted. A decent and good read.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Greg Miller, a national security correspondent with The Washington Post presents to us his recently released book, “The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy.” Mr. Miller is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and in writing this review, I may have been a little unfair to his book. I am an avid reader and of particular with Trump/Russia books; and what I found particular interesting in this read is the weaving of the overall narrative of the Trump/Russia story aimed more at a general novice reader wanting to recap him or herself with the overall framework of Donald Trump and how he is inextricably linked back to Russia and to the Kremlin. In doing so, Mr. Miller’s book is one that I would definitely recommend for the average person who is trying to gain a better understanding of how the entire narrative fits together with Donald Trump being in debt to and under the sway of Russian oligarchs and more specifically, Vladimir Putin.
“The Apprentice” doesn’t take you deep into the names and figures in the Russian underground world who have had ties to Donald Trump; but it does provide you the context and narrative of the Russian hacking and interference in our 2016 election to other such election interference in other European countries partaken by the Kremlin. It is important and vital for the reader to understand that in helping to install Donald Trump into the office of the Presidency, the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin’s goal has been to cause discord among the Western alliance in favor of a world order that is no longer led by the United States and our European allies. As Miller notes, “In late July, the agency had gained access to an extraordinary stream of information showing that Russian president Vladimir Putin was himself directing the “active measures” operation aimed at disrupting the U.S. Presidential race” (Miller, 8). “The Apprentice” does not also take you into the psyche of Donald Trump as much as the events surrounding this man from the moment, he became a serious contender to the present-day situation of denying the intel provided by our own intelligence community. In fact, when Donald Trump had the chance and opportunity to confront Vladimir Putin personally, he instead took his side against the unanimous consensus of our intelligence agencies. As Miller notes in regards to Donald Trump’s traitorous behavior, “He equated the credibility of U.S. intelligence officials sworn to defend the Constitution with that of the former KGB agent standing next to him” (Miller, 266).
In trying to understand the possible reasons as to why Donald Trump is apparently and clearly subservient to Vladimir Putin, Greg Miller in “The Apprentice” does a fabulous job in laying the framework of the Russian election interference with Donald Trump’s own personal interests. While this is a good read for the introductory beginner, this is all I would recommend it as: a good introductory beginning and summary of the Trump/Russia nexus. Greg Miller provides his analysis in a clear and easy read which will help the average layperson have a clearer understanding of 1) Why Donald Trump is subservient to Vladimir Putin and 2) Why Vladimir Putin spent time and effort in installing Donald Trump into the office of the United States presidency.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Craig Unger’s “House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia” is a masterful work of evidentiary facts and evidence along with untold interviews with sources and retired law enforcement that helps put together a coherent framework in understanding Donald Trump’s longstanding ties with Russia, the Russian Mafia and the Kremlin. Unger’s book reminds me of the masterful book written by the esteemed journalist and author Seth Hettena in his book “Trump / Russia: A Definitive History” in laying bear the long-lasting connections and web of relationships that ties Donald Trump back to Russian money and the Russian mafia going back to his earliest days. What Mr. Unger does that is unique is he helps weave these various characters and connections not only in relation to Mr. Trump, but to the underworld of the illicit Russian economy to the present-day Donald Trump. In doing so, the question as to whether the Kremlin anticipated Donald Trump to actually become President from their earliest days of surveilling and cultivating him is one that is not so important; as it is obviously clear that the Kremlin has historically and routinely collected “kompromat” or blackmail information from various wealthy figures in the west. Who better to do so in a vain, insecure, petty, amoral and immoral malignant narcissist like Donald Trump? How fortunate would it be to have their man leading the western world like a piece on a checkerboard that would ultimately be controlled and maneuvered by Vladimir Putin himself?
For the majority of Americans who have worries about going to work and making ends meet in providing for their families, the narrative and tale of Donald Trump’s past can be sordid and hard to follow. The myth of Donald Trump the businessman has been dispelled, but one would be strained to explain how this connection has gone back decades to his earliest days. Some people might ask, what did the Russians do anyways or why would Donald Trump have to rely on Russian money? Dealing with morals or moral judgment has never been a requisite in doing business with Donald Trump. In fact, the less you have a moral backbone, the more Donald Trump prefers you. Donald Trump started providing havens for Russian mobsters and members of the Russian mafia before even the infamous Trump Tower was completely finished and ready to go. Why would such a spot be an attraction to many from the underworld? Simply put, Donald Trump had set up a unique arrangement in which individuals could use third party shell corporations to conceal their identities. In doing so in addition to encouraging cash only transactions, this was and is a vehicle for money laundering. In fact, Donald Trump was nearly $4 billion in debt when Russian money came to his rescue and bailed him out from his demise (Unger, 11). This book clearly lays out the evidence and the facts and helps the average person understanding clearly and without any doubt that at the very least, Donald Trump has been dependent on dirty Russian money to stay afloat; and without the Russians, Donald Trump would not be where he is today.
Donald Trump learned from the best or better yet stated, the most nefarious. His father was instrumental to him in acquiring his wealth as without him, he would have been a nobody. One can see this truth with the recent New York Times expose that has been released detailing the nearly $400 million in inheritance that Donald Trump received from Fred Trump. In relying on the most nefarious of characters early in his career was none other than Roy Cohn. Mr. Cohn was Donald Trump’s personal attorney who was known for representing Joseph McCarthy in addition to figures in the underworld of the mafia. One can say that Donald Trump learned some of us hardball tactics of attacking his opponents from Mr. Cohn himself. Trump Tower was set up in a way that condos could be sold to buyers using shell companies such as limited liability companies in order to shield and conceal the true identities of individuals. In fact, Trump Tower was one of two buildings in New York City that allowed such an arrangement (Unger, 18). In this way, illicit money was seen flowing into Trump Tower as such an ideal arrangement allowed persons with money obtained illicitly to be able to launder their money while obtaining ownership of the property (Unger, 18). Therefore, Donald Trump’s adventure into building high rises coincided with a unique time in history in which the Soviet Union was dissolving into lawlessness, corruption and oligarchy along with the shady figures of the Russian mafia underworld mixing along with the bureaucrats to create the post-Soviet era that we see today.
As Unger describes the mid to late 80s of the Soviet era, “two powerful forces in a newly created global underground economy had begun to come together. On the one hand, the disintegration of the Soviet Union had opened a fire-hose-like torrent of hundreds of billions of dollars in slight capital that began to pour forth from oligarchs, wealthy apparatchiks, and mobsters in Russia and its satellites” (Unger 19). And Unger continued, “Donald Trump’s zeal to sell condos, no questions asked, to shell companies meant that Russians could launder vast amounts of money while hiding their personal identities” (Unger 19). This book helps put together these interchanging pieces in time and place and demonstrates with evidence and clarity how Donald Trump is uniquely compromised and indebted to the Kremlin.
As Craig Unger describes the new form of hybrid cyberwarfare conducted by Vladimir Putin and Russia was that in its most striking and unique characteristic was that “barely anyone noticed that it was taking place” (Unger, 23). He further states that “Vladimir Putin had attacked the sovereignty of America and other Western nations, but almost no one reported on it in the newspapers, on TV, on the radio, on the Internet” (Under, 24). I will take it a step further and assert that the media was in fact complicit. Instead of focusing attention on the Russian attacks on our sovereignty and democratic process, the only focus they seemed to have was not to investigate Donald Trump’s encouragement of the Russian subversion but the banal contents of the hacked and leaked emails themselves. This was most probably done for ratings and bottom line profit; but by treating the Russian hacked information as novelties to be dissected and discussed on a daily basis, the media was emboldening and doing Vladimir Putin’s dirty work for him. Ironically, the media and the press that Donald Trump slanders and calls “fake news” or other slanderous terms enabled not only his rise but the work of the Kremlin on his behalf. As our intelligence community has stated unanimously and repeatedly, the goal of Vladimir Putin was to not only undermine and disrupt our civil society and democratic process, but to do so by undermining Hillary Clinton and actively supporting Donald Trump with the aim of installing him to office. Craig Unger’s book, “House of Trump, House of Putin” makes the case clear that we are currently living in a unique time in our history in which we have a person that occupies the highest office in the land that was assisted to office with the active assistance of a foreign adversary; a foreign adversary that Donald Trump is in debt to and owes his allegiance to. As I have stated previously, I strongly believe that this unique time in our history will be judged upon by our grandchildren and by the historic record. Think wisely and uniquely as to how you want to be remembered in the context of this unique time in history that we are currently living in; and one that will soon pass by to the ashes of history and the historical record.
Glenn Kirschner is a former federal prosecutor who in the past worked personally with Robert Mueller. Mr. Kirschner was a 30-year federal prosecutor with the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office and the D.C. Chief of Homicide. He started his career as an Army JAG also known as the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, United States Army. You can follow him on his Facebook page and on Twitter @glennkirschner2.
Mr. Kirschner, thank you for your time. It is truly an honor and a privilege to be able to ask you a few questions. As seen with your exhaustive and illustrated career, you have had a lengthy and experienced tenure working as a federal prosecutor. What made you decide to take such a painstaking but conscientious and rewarding career path?
I wish I had an interesting answer to the question, “why did you decide to become a prosecutor.” But the reality is it was sort of a slow evolution. Before becoming a high school football coach, my father had served in the Army for three years. Even as a teenager, I felt like I wanted to find a way to serve my country. In college, I decided to compete for an Army ROTC scholarship in an effort to cover the cost of my tuition at Washington and Lee University, which would mean I’d be required to serve four years in the Army once I graduated. As my senior year approached, I decided to take an educational delay in my Army service to attend law school at New England School of Law in Boston. In law school, found that I loved the study of criminal law, the Constitution and trial practice. I put myself through law school and then entered active duty with the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
As a JAG, I lucked out and landed an assignment as “Trial Counsel,” which is what the Army calls its prosecutors. I prosecuted court-martial cases beginning in 1988 while assigned to Ft. Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska. After three years I was transferred to the Army’s Government Appellate Division (GAD) in Falls Church Virginia. At GAD, I briefed and argued criminal cases on appeal for the government. I briefed and argued on some extremely interesting cases, including espionage and death penalty cases. Upon completing a three-year tour at GAD, I decided to leave the Army and join the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia as an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA). I served in DC as a federal prosecutor for 24 years until retiring from federal service.
I found that there were three things that motivated me to spend 30 years as a prosecutor: working with and seeking justice for crime victims, trying cases in court and doing what I could to keep the criminal justice system fair, honest and collegial.
THREE THINGS THAT MOTIVATED ME TO SPEND 30 YEARS AS A PROSECUTOR: WORKING WITH AND SEEKING JUSTICE FOR CRIME VICTIMS, TRYING CASES IN COURT AND DOING WHAT I COULD TO KEEP THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM FAIR, HONEST AND COLLEGIAL
As we see with our institutions and the Department of Justice under constant attack from the current occupant in the White House, do you think that the damage that has been done and is continuing to be done will have a lasting impact on our country and how do you think we will be able to eventually overcome it?
I think it’s beyond rational dispute that our institutions have been and are being damaged every day. The president has worked long and hard to undermine the country’s faith in the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the intelligence community, not to mention the rule of law and objective truth. Having recently retired from the Department of Justice (think of AUSAs as the DOJ’s field prosecutors) I am troubled and saddened by the president’s incessant, unwarranted attacks of the DOJ and its officials. There are more than 100,000 DOJ employees working tirelessly to protect our country, enforce our federal laws and hold criminals accountable. When the president attacks the DOJ and the FBI, he undermines the public’s confidence in our law enforcement agencies and, I believe, runs the risk inspiring lawlessness. People may very well hear the president say the FBI and DOJ are corrupt and conclude that they should therefore not be required to obey our laws. In my opinion, our country is in very deep hole that has been dug by the president and his cronies. It will be a long, slow climb out of that hole, but I believe our country is strong enough to make that climb.
As indicated in the opening of this interview, you have in the past worked with the current Special Counsel of the Trump/Russia investigation. Can you tell our followers a personal characteristic or anecdote about Robert Mueller than can ensure us that justice will be delivered and that his investigation will be able to reach a full and final conclusion?
Bob Mueller was my Chief of Homicide at the US Attorney’s Office in the late 1990s. I learned a great deal from him, not only about how to prosecute murder cases but also how to run the Homicide Section (I served as Chief of Homicide from 2004 – 2010). Bob is probably the single best supervisor I ever worked for. He is an honest, ethical, straight-forward man who is extremely supportive of the people he supervises. However, if you do wrong he will call you on it, counsel you on it, and tell you how you can do better next time. He is both extremely supportive and extremely demanding.
When I joined the Homicide Section in early 1997, I inherited a case for trial that Bob had investigated and indicted. At that point, I had been prosecuting cases for nearly a decade and felt like I knew my way around a criminal investigation. But, when I saw the incredibly thorough investigation Bob had conducted in the case, I realized that I still had a lot to learn. Thereafter, I aspired to investigate cases as thoroughly as Bob did, but I’m not sure I ever fully hit that mark.
You also worked as the D.C. Chief of Homicide. It is public knowledge that Robert Mueller left a plushy job at a white shoe law firm, and instead got a job at D.C. homicide. Was this when you also worked with him? What can you share with us about Bob Mueller’s integrity and pursuit for justice that he would take such a distinctive and morally dignified path by giving up a hefty salary to work homicide?
BOB IS GOVERNED EXCLUSIVELY BY THE EVIDENCE, THE RULE OF LAW AND THE ETHICS OF OUR PRACTICE
Bob made it clear that he did not enjoy private practice. After about one year at a law firm, he chose to come to the DC USAO and be a line guy in Homicide, investigating and trying murder cases. He is a government guy at heart who enjoys holding criminals accountable and protecting our communities. In my experience, Bob is governed exclusively by the evidence, the rule of law and the ethics of our practice. Politics do not enter the equation. I find it laughable when the president keeps complaining about how ‘Mueller is conflicted’ and he is heading up a team of ‘angry democrats.’ When Bob was assembling his team, I am certain that he did not ask the applicants about their politics. That’s just not done. There is no political litmus test to work on a criminal case. If there was, the results of ALL criminal investigations would be unreliable.
Do you personally believe that Robert Mueller will ultimately be allowed to finish his investigation and share the complete truth to the public? You had mentioned that the question of whether a sitting President can or cannot be indicted is an unanswered question and indeed even has legal precedent for the former. Do you think Bob Mueller would consider pursuing such a path?
I believe to my core that Bob Mueller is an innocent man’s best friend and a guilty man’s worst nightmare. As Special Counsel, he will hold all wrong-doers accountable. In my opinion, he will need to answer three questions for himself in deciding how to proceed against the president: 1. Is there sufficient evidence of criminal conduct to support criminal charges, 2. Is there a procedural pathway to indicting a sitting president and 3. Is there any legal prohibition against indicting a sitting president. Needless to say, we are all waiting to see what the evidence is regarding Russian-Trump campaign collusion/conspiracy, cover-up/obstruction of justice, etc. But given what we have seen reported, there seems to be ample evidence of collusion/conspiracy as well as obstruction of justice. Indeed, in my time as a prosecutor, I investigated, indicted and successfully tried conspiracy and obstruction cases with less evidencing then I have seen just in the public reporting. I also believe there is a procedural pathway to indicting a sitting president. Although there is a DOJ Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) policy memo saying that the DOJ will not indict a sitting president, there is an exception that Mueller can ask for under the Code of Federal Regulations (the rules governing Special Counsel) to depart from the general policy. Without getting down in the procedural weeds, there is a procedural pathway to indicting a sitting president. Finally, there is nothing in the Constitution or in Supreme Court case law that prohibits the indictment of a sitting president. Assuming he can answer those three questions to his satisfaction, I think there is a strong likelihood that Mueller will ask the grand jury to indict Trump. I just don’t think he will leave it up to the vagaries of Congress to impeach the president if Bob concludes that the president has committed criminal offenses, particularly if those criminal offenses undermined our free and fair elections.
I BELIEVE TO MY CORE THAT BOB MUELLER IS AN INNOCENT MAN’S BEST FRIEND AND A GUILTY MAN’S WORST NIGHTMARE. AS SPECIAL COUNSEL, HE WILL HOLD ALL WRONG-DOERS ACCOUNTABLE
Any last comments or personal insight about yourself or the rule of law that you would like to share with us?
Without confidence in our public institutions we are in serious trouble as a country. I look forward to a time when wrongdoers are held accountable and we can begin the long, hard uphill climb back to a place of decency, civility, and integrity.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Omarosa’s “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House” is a gripping exposé that takes us through the life and trials of Omarosa from her earliest times to her time to the White House and immediately following that. A word of caution, this book is not solely about her time at the White House but also provides insight not only to her life story but also to the fifteen or so years that she had gotten to know Donald Trump from appearing on “The Apprentice” television reality program. Considering this, I am an avid reader of a variety of books that helps one understand the person that is Donald Trump because understanding the person occupying the highest office in the land is of vital importance for us as a people and as a nation. It is of vital importance on both a societal scale as well as to the national security implications that such a person can have on the lives of people not solely in our nation but of millions of people worldwide.
In considering the validity and accuracy of the book, one must only turn to other authoritative books written on the Trump White House. Namely, Bob Woodward’s “Fear”. Omarosa was in a high position within the White House in which she had regular contact with the occupant of the highest office in the land and she has the evidence to prove it. Since the release of her book, “Unhinged”, we have seen and heard the constant revelations that she has provided to the public in the forms of audio, text messages and personal recordings including the recording in which John Kelly summoned her into the Situation Room to let her go. Taking into account both Omarosa’s account, which she has backed up with evidence along with other books such as Woodward’s aforementioned, “Fear”, I would state that Omarosa’s account is fairly accurate and reliable. This is particularly true with the specific instances and scenes that she portrays inside the Trump White House as well as her time with Donald Trump during “The Apprentice”, the election campaign of 2016 in addition to the transitional period before Donald Trump was installed to the office of the Presidency.
Omarosa is a unique individual who has taken polarized positions in the past in terms of her appearances in the media so once must also consider this. There is no doubt that her long history with Donald Trump provides her sharing a narrative that is unique and helpful in understanding the sociopathic malignant narcissist that is Donald Trump. Omarosa herself seems to be a bit of a narcissist but she definitely is not a narcissist without the basic human emotion of empathy. She is capable of employing and expressing empathy with the various work that she has done in her own personal capacity both before she worked in the White House and even afterwards. Additionally, she grew up as a black woman from the projects, witnessed the death of her father, and experienced the death of her brother later on in life. Her upbringing and being raised by a single mother with a big family was not a circumstance that is most favorable to most people that were put into her situation. Her narcissism may have inflicted defense mechanisms for her to be able to cope and succeed in life. Human beings are complicated in their disposition and character. As long as she is able to express empathy on a micro and macro scale, then I have no problem with believing that although she may be outspoken and vocal in addition to having defended Donald Trump in the most horrid of ways, she has now apologized for her “complicity” as she calls it and is now seeking atonement. You may or may not believe her to be genuine in this regard but I will give her the benefit of the doubt based on her life history, upbringing, perseverance and success in life. As she herself states in her book, at a young “tender age, I learned the bittersweet complexity of life, that joy and pain are two sides of the same coin” (Omarosa, 23). I can appreciate the fact that after leaving the White House she has been able to admit her complicity and has asked the public for her forgiveness.
As mentioned earlier in this review, Omarosa’s provides snippets and insights into actual scenes and circumstances in which she relates an insider’s account as to the person that is Donald Trump. In addition, Omarosa’s relates situation after situation in which the reader is able to expressly see the insecure, needy and petty individual that is Donald Trump. Omarosa also shared several scenes in which she was around Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka that made her and everyone else in the room quite uneasy. There definitely seems to be some perverse infatuation between Donald Trump and his daughter. Moreover, as most people know, Donald Trump is an individual that lacks the basic human emotion of empathy. As Omarosa says, this is a person that she has known to be a “human being” possessing a “complete and total lack of empathy” (Omarosa, 118). Omarosa’s book most definitely provides an overall picture of Donald Trump with the specificity of being able to relate with Omarosa’s picture in mentally and visually being able to picture being in the same room as this nincompoop occupying the highest office in the land.
Most people do not know but Omarosa also had previous stints working in politics including working with Vice President Al Gore and subsequently a short stint in the Clinton White House as well. Omarosa may be many things and some people describe her in scornful terms, but there is no doubt that she possesses a level of intelligence and wit to be able to have come as far as she had. Again, human beings are complicated. Does she come across as a bit narcissistic and full of herself as a person? Most possibly. At the same time, she grew up in the projects and was able to work herself up through education, intelligence, wit and sheer determination and dedication. I am glad that I read this book and I encourage others to do so as well.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Bob Woodward’s “Fear: Trump in the White House” is the legendary Woodward’s latest insider account of a sitting U.S. President. In this authoritative account honed through hours and hours of meticulous investigative reporting and interviews, Bob Woodward adds his own historical account to the unprecedented chaos and madness that is the current occupant of the White House.
Many in the past have wanted to discount other similar books of insider accounts from authors such as Michael Wolff or from former White House insider Omarosa Manigault Newman. What Mr. Woodward adds that these individuals were not able to provide in their books is the authoritative voice and record of accomplishment that Bob Woodward provides and represents. As for those who simply discount any of the insider accounts written, Mr. Woodward has said that the notes and audio recordings will be provided in the future for the purposes of the posterity of history.
“Fear” is a most accessible read for the average reader with simple to read English provided in a straightforward manner. What this book provides is an outlet for the average American to have a better understanding and narrative of the mindset and mentality of the person occupying the highest office in the land. The level of specific quotes is astounding. “Fear” is truly an insider account that helps the average layperson to have a better understanding of the lack of cognitive intellect, and cognitive decision making that overruns the current inhabitant of the White House. As Woodward states, “The reality was that the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader.” Moreover, he continues, “Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses. It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world (Woodward, 13). Woodward even provides a primary source document in a draft trade document that was pulled from the desk of Donald Trump by Gary Cohn and Rob Porter. Cohn and Porter who were in high-level positions of the White House as chief economic adviser and White House staff secretary respectively. A document in which Donald Trump was about to compromise and put into jeopardy the U.S. relationship with South Korea with a so-called dispute over trade. In doing so, Donald Trump might very well have jeopardized the THAAD missile system in South Korea. Additionally, the U.S. had an early warning system agreement in which the U.S. would be alerted within seven seconds of a nuclear test by North Korea versus the fifteen minutes it would take if the system were based in Alaska. The sheer level of incompetence and lack of cognitive faculties of the current occupant of the White House poses great threats to the stability of our country to an even greater degree moving forward.
In closing, nearly all those who work for Donald Trump understand him to be an incompetent nincompoop. Bob Woodward provides a narrative in which so many of the top level officials in the White House and those associated with the White House are simply working for this President to “hold the ship” for the country until this Presidency ends. Additionally, the further Donald Trump is stressed, the more he holds on to attempted acts of self-preservation through impulsive actions without any consideration for foresight or long term consequences. As Robert Mueller continues to close in on this President, there is no telling what kind of rash actions this President may take in an attempt to hold on to power and to avoid paying the consequences for his crimes. History and our grandchildren will judge us all and Bob Woodward equips the skeptical layperson in better understanding the chaos and happenings from a temperamentally unfit and ninny of a President.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Trump/Russia: A Definitive History” written brilliantly by reporter Seth Hettena is a very well sourced and investigative exposé which takes the reader on the journey of Trump’s life through his business dealings and shady connections going back 10, 20, 30 years in time. In doing so, the author enables us to better understand the character and nature of the man and the ways in which he is compromised and most probably an asset to Vladimir Putin.
As someone who is well versed and knowledgeable with the background of Donald J. Trump, I did not have high expectations before reading this book. I have read other books about the background and life of Donald Trump, but Seth Hettena provides a more detailed perspective and background, which includes interviews of dozens of pertinent individuals providing the reader with the intricate details of the mobsters that Donald Trump has come across in business relationships his entire life. Whether it was looking the other way and allowing people with nefarious backgrounds to buy and launder their money through Trump Tower to the shady individuals that Donald Trump has formed business relationships with, this book allows us more fully understand the characters involved.
Based on all the publicly available facts and evidence, I believe that Donald Trump’s Achilles heel that will bring him down and remove him from office is through his illegal financial dealings and money laundering activities going back decades and comprised largely of Russian oligarchs tied directly to the Kremlin and now Vladimir Putin. These illegal financial transactions that Donald Trump has been able to weasel himself out of and avoid criminal prosecution have been set up through elaborate networks of shell companies that have enabled him to avoid detection. I believe that he will no longer be able to avoid justice once the American public knows the full nature of these connections.
The biggest myth of all in Donald Trump’s entire life is that he has been a good businessman. Nothing is further from the truth. Donald Trump his entire life has been a con man that has barely survived in getting by. Once American banks and lenders caught on to his delinquencies and would no longer lend him a penny, he relied on what he was familiar with and that was dirty money coming from sources throughout the world, but particularly from then Soviet Union which is now the present day Russia. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, wealthy Russian oligarchs had to park their monies outside of their motherland and found the best place to be with someone like Donald Trump who did not care that the money that they were providing in purchasing cash transactions at Trump Towers and his other properties funneled through illicit channels. Seth Hettena in this brilliant book takes us on the journey of these odious and corrupt individuals with criminal backgrounds and the nature of the relationships that they had with Donald Trump. As the author notes, “the chaos that followed the collapse of the USSR saw Russia’s gangsters emerge into the daylight and take their place in the new ruling class of the country (Hettena, 15). Moreover, he continues, “In Russia, one cannot tell the difference between the activities of the government and those of its organized-crime groups” (Hettena, 16). Understanding the nexus of these relationships and the details of these individuals enables the reader in better understanding the intricate relationship and financial entangled webs that make Donald Trump a compromised and illegitimate President beholden to the Kremlin and to Vladimir Putin himself.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Malcolm Nance is a former United States Navy senior chief petty officer specializing in naval cryptology. He also was involved working within the intelligence community and has brought his expertise and knowledge in “The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West”.
This expose by Mr. Nance is a detailed and thorough masterpiece of history and current events entwined in together for us in better understanding the warped perspective of Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin and the steps that they took to cultivate Donald Trump into their sphere of influence. This book is meticulously in depth unlike Mr. Nance’s previous introductory book, “The Plot to Hack America”. He helps us better understand the depths that Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin have gone to in not only subverting American democracy in favor of the objectives of the Kremlin but rather how the same tactics have been used to further their illiberal objectives throughout Western and Eastern Europe. In particular, Mr. Nance takes us into an extensive review and analysis of how Vladimir Putin has carefully and thoroughly cultivated and co-opted Evangelical Christians in America; along with other organizations such as the NRA. The Kremlin has used these various cultural and touch point issues to further divide societies such as us in America while at the same time advancing interests that are for the benefit of a wealthy few in Russia, the oligarchs.
Weaving the history of the Kremlin pre-Soviet and post-Soviet to the rise of Vladimir Putin and the turn of the 21st century, helps us better understand the predicament that we are in today. Vladimir Putin has used co-opting and cultivating international fringe players into the mainstream by playing on the cultural fears and divides that may exist. It is most interesting to see how so many components of the religious right have embraced not only Donald Trump, but also Vladimir Putin himself. In better understanding the so-called President we have now, reading this book is a prerequisite. It helps us better understand how the Kremlin operates and as to why Donald Trump takes the perplexing actions that he does in attacking our friends and allies while at the same time carrying act the desired actions of Vladimir Putin. There is no doubt that Donald Trump is financially in debt to Russian oligarchs and to Putin himself, but the full depth of this treachery and deceit on the American people will come to light in the upcoming months as Robert Swan Mueller, III releases his findings to the public. I am confident that as long as we the people have a basic understanding of knowledge, history, and the facts that we will overcome this demagogue. America is too great of an idea and a country to allow one aspiring tyrant to tear us down for good. Truth and justice will prevail.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
James Clapper is a lifelong public servant who has sacrificed his life for the safety and security of America. He is a lifelong public servant that has always been non-political and first was enticed with the intelligence business following his father who was an intelligence analyst for the military. As a young kid under the age of 12, he used his grandparents black and white television, was able to hack into the Philadelphia police department, and took meticulous notes on their operations and operating procedures. This man was destined to serve America and to serve her well. Each time as it seemed as if he was ready to retire, public service kept calling his name. This book takes us through the journey of Mr. Clapper from a young kid to him in the present day. This book does not focus on the Russian meddling into our 2016 election so much as it takes us on the journey of Mr. Clapper’s unusual sacrificial life. A life in which he exhibits a persona of moral dignity, moral character, intelligence, wit, self-effacement and being humble and a steady hand in situations and key pivotal moments. Pivotal moments, which these character traits were vital and important in his contribution to protecting America and American national security interests. As Mr. Clapper emphasizes repeatedly throughout the book, he has always been a person who has not been afraid to speak “truth to power” in whatever positions or capacities that he has served. Whether briefing the President or a 4-star general in South Korea, facts and reality matter.
Mr. Clapper is an individual who started out flying fighter jets but eventually settled down in the intelligence business as soon as his security clearance cleared after having joined the Marines. He took interested routes in his service hopping from branch to branch and agency to agency. He shares with us his experience in the DMZ between the North Korea and South Korea border and the time and effort he put into understanding the complex history and situation that has compromised this conflict. Humorously, he shares us his experience in which in a life-threatening situation when the military helicopter that crossed over to the DMZ unintentionally; and they had to make it back before it became disabled under the cover of darkness.
Director Clapper also shares with us his varied experiences throughout his life and how speaking about the facts and objective evidence has played such a vital role in the intel community and in the positions that he has occupied. As he says in reflecting on the times we are currently living in with the war on truth and the war on facts, “My fear is that many Americans are questioning if facts are even knowable, as foreign adversaries and our national leaders continue to deny objective reality while advancing their own alternative facts” (Clapper, 8). We live in a time in which the war on truth and basic shared facts and values are under assault from a President that history may very well record as illegitimate. A President that may very well be compromised by a foreign adversary.
In sharing his life experiences throughout the years, he also cites the moment in which at a military banquet that his family was in, his mother went over and spoke to an African American soldier and subsequently had him sit at the table with them. This took place in an age in which that sort of basic value of human equality was not widespread and cherished even within the ranks of the military. As General Clapper says, “When I was at a very impressionable age, my mother showed me that the color of someone’s skin doesn’t determine the human dignity they deserve.” He continues, “That lesson stayed with me and influenced decisions I’ve made in both my personal and professional lives” (Clapper, 16). He also shares with us the support and experiences he has had with the LGBQT community; and how one of the greatest prides that he has taken with him is how he helped reform the intelligence community so that intelligence analysts of all walks of life could live in the open as to who they are as people without having to hide behind the shadows. James Clapper also shares with his experience as to how the intelligence community along with himself got the intel wrong with Saddam’s “WMDs”. He is a man who is clearly self-reflexive, humble, and a patriot of the highest degree.
We are living in a perilous time in our nation’s history in which we may very well have a President that is compromised and in debt to a foreign adversary. This President has used demagogic tactics of the highest degree and has shown an adversarial attitude towards our allies while embracing our enemies. Many patriots like Mr. Clapper have retired from public service but remain in the public eye to make sure that the public does not fall asleep to the egregious actions of this “administration” and most importantly does not normalize the actions of this feckless administration. I truly believe that as time passes, history and our grandchildren will judge all of us accordingly as to where we stood and the actions that we took in this unique time in history that we are all currently living in. Mr. Clapper will definitely go down as a public servant who served America apolitically with the highest regard for facts and “truth to power”.
General Mark Hertling is a retired U.S. general who commanded U.S. Army Europe and the Seventh Army and knows the responsibilities of a soldier and the responsibilities of a leader. You can follow him on Twitter @MarkHertling.
General Hertling, it is a pleasure and the deepest honor in having the opportunity to conduct this brief interview with you. In your book “growing physician leaders”, what is the number one take that our followers can take with them in applying to their own lives, whether they are working within the medical profession or not?
What I try and provide in the book is how the military – specifically the army – has approached the subject of leadership development. As an organization, the army has used sound transformational leadership theory and has incorporated over two hundred years of experience in its leadership doctrine…and we find that it works. Leadership development in the army is systematic, we are taught how to deal with increasingly complex issues as we grow in our profession, and because the army is a profession that deals with life and death and influencing individuals who are part of large organizations to accomplish a critical mission (defense of our country), what we do and how we do it is pretty fascinating and unique.
I have attempted to apply the military approach to another profession – healthcare – because the healthcare industry has some unique challenges and interprofessional requirements that are more difficult to address than other organizations.
What I provide in the book is simplicity: by understanding certain leadership attributes and competencies, by determining our own individual values and elements of character, and by knowing how to influence other people in different situations, anyone can improve their leadership skills. The book is written based on my work with doctors, but the principles are applicable to anyone in any career or profession.
I HAVE ATTEMPTED TO APPLY THE MILITARY APPROACH TO ANOTHER PROFESSION – HEALTHCARE – BECAUSE THE HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY HAS SOME UNIQUE CHALLENGES
I would like to ask you about your personal life growing up. What would you say were the biggest influencers in your life growing up that helped guide you towards the moral and ethical leadership you later showed through your service in the military and then later as an esteemed and accomplished general?
I attended faith-based (catholic) education programs in grade school and high school in my hometown of St Louis, Missouri.
These were terrific educational opportunities that set the base for me in terms of character development. Then I went to the us military academy at West Point and the focus on duty, honor, country and the honor code that is required there contributed to further personal development of character. Having the honor to serve in the military, and work with the diversity of individuals that wear our country’s uniform also contributed to my development. I also had the opportunity to have mentors that gave of their time to develop me, to ask me tough questions that I had to ponder, and who gave me guidance and insight about life. There are too many of those individuals who gave me help to mention all of them, but each affected me in a positive way.
But one can also learn from those who don’t provide a good example. I think I learned just as much from the few negative or toxic leaders I worked with in my life, realizing I never wanted to provide the same example to others that they provided to me. We learn from all people every day…we just need to focus on the positive ones to carry their actions forward.
You describe in your book on how you have to lead not only by words but also through your actions and deeds. As a leader, one must understand that others are following their lead by example and emulation. In your book, you describe a situation in which you had to take cover as you and your crew were taking sniper fire; and it was a colleague of yours who ended up leading by example. Do you think that the impact and influence that Donald Trump has as leader of the free world will have a negative and lasting impact on our youth and for those in the military? If so, how significant do you think this impact might be and what can we as a nation and a people do to overcome the perverse lack of leadership coming from the highest office in the land?
I’d prefer not to comment on any political figure. But what I will say is that leadership is a combination of the attributes of character, presence, and intellect and those are things we each develop to generate trust. By building trust and communicating, developing others, and taking the right actions, we affect the world around us, whether it be on a small team, a large organization, or the global environment. I have seen where toxic leaders have negatively affected organizations, and it takes a long time to overcome that toxicity when they leave. To overcome, you need even better leaders, with pure hearts, empathy, humility and the kind of values which focuses on moving ahead rather than stagnating or going backwards.
Any team can eventually overcome a negative leader…but it takes a lot of hard work, and stronger leaders to help set the standards and hold others responsible.
We have a great nation with a history of terrific leaders who step up and look to create progress and inclusion. I truly believe America can overcome any negative leaders…but it takes hard work and a reliance on our values.
LEADERSHIP IS A COMBINATION OF THE ATTRIBUTES OF CHARACTER, PRESENCE, AND INTELLECT AND THOSE ARE THINGS WE EACH DEVELOP TO GENERATE TRUST
Can you share with us a story of leadership that you did not specifically share in your book? More specifically on how you used that leadership on the battlefield and applied it to adjusting to the real world back at home once you retired from your years of service for our country?
I once had to relieve (i.e., “fire”) a subordinate commander in combat because of some things he was doing. It was one of the tougher things I had to do in my life, because he was a friend, a son of a retired general who i admired, and he had a terrific career up to the point where I fired him and he was heading to even greater jobs of increased responsibility. But because he began to think too highly of himself, he had begun to lose his empathy for those he was working with, he wasn’t taking advice, and it became obvious to me that everything he was doing was about him and not about the organization, the people or the mission that it was time for me to make that tough call. I had counseled him previously on what I had detected, and it became obvious that he was saying all the right things to me, but he wasn’t correcting his behavior. So finally, I told him he could no longer continue commanding his unit. He reacted as I thought he would, he asked his father and a bunch of other retired generals to intercede on his behalf, but I stuck to my decision. After he departed, his organization started performing to a high standard again, and many of his subordinates approached me thanking me for relieving him, and even told me additional stories of his toxicity that I didn’t know. So while it was tough doing it, and I questioned myself, I realized after that no individual is bigger than the organization or the team, and sometimes the hardest thing a leader does is determine when other leaders should not be in their position and take action accordingly.
Do you plan to write a book or memoir about your life and leadership any time in the future? I think it would have a great following and it would be an important part of leaving a mark on your legacy for future generations.
Perhaps. I’d like to tell the story of all the people I served with, and what they accomplished…but that’s likely a long way off.
Thank you for your time general. You are truly a role model in terms of grace, character, intellect and humility. You are what i deem as an “intellectual warrior”. Thank you for your years of service and your continued moral leadership today. It is now needed more than ever.