My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Author Garrett Graff in The Threat Matrix takes us on a journey of the history of the FBI to the present day circa 2013 near the end of Robert Mueller’s extraordinary 12-year term as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In it, he takes us through this journey starting with the foundation of the bureau and the historically controversial tenure of J. Edgar Hoover to the decades following through to the various threats our country has faced and the responsibilities and actions that the bureau took or failed to take. In doing so, Mr. Graff assists the reader in having a more full and thorough understanding of the bureau through its ups and downs, its successes and failures, and the consequential tenure of Robert S. Mueller III.
The Threat Matrix is given its title by the actual threat matrix that accompanied the PDB or the President’s Daily Brief in the years after the terrorist attacks that shook our nation on that fateful September Tuesday morning in 2001. At first it was chaotic filled with streams of raw intelligence that contained very little actionable intelligence. Robert Mueller himself had become director of the FBI just a week before 9/11 and the changes that Mueller would have to implement at the bureau were drastic and significant. No longer would the FBI serve as simply an investigative agency that solved crimes but rather and most importantly became a counterintelligence domestic organization that sought to prevent terrorist attacks before they happened. As Mueller has said in the past, this shook his foundations as he had become accustomed to dealing with criminal matters as a prosecutor. Nevertheless, Mueller the lifelong Marine that he is hunkered down and implemented drastic changes within the bureau that shook some feathers among the bureau rank and file but when he finally left in 2013, the bureau had become much more efficient and better because of it.
In one of the most important missions of his life, Robert Mueller supervised the terrorist attack that brought down Pan Am Flight 103. For Robert Mueller, walking through Lockerbie where this terrorist attack took place was the equivalent for him of what walking through the rubble of 9/11 would be. As Graff notes, “it was the moment when he rededicated himself to the pursuit of justice” in a very personal way (Graff, 152). In fact, he walked not only the mostly barren landscape but a small wooden warehouse where the items of the victims of this terrorist attack were stored impacted him greatly. He would carry this same zeal and determination for truth and justice for the decades to follow. He had this same drive and determination after 9/11 and there is no doubt that he has this same drive and determination now as Special Counsel in his quest to revealing to the American public the possible treachery of those Americans who may have sold our country out to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
I highly recommend this book for various reasons. The first is the most obvious that it helps the reader learn and understand the historic nature of the development of the bureau from the very beginning of the bureau’s existence traveling to the bureau that Robert Mueller left in 2013. There were failures and successes but the determination of those in the bureau to help protect and persevere against our nation’s enemies have never been in question. Additionally, the reader is able to better understand the trajectory of the bureau with the various crime elements involved whether it has been the Italian mafia, domestic terrorists, international terrorism, the Russian mafia or a whole host of other nefarious actors. And most importantly it helps the reader learn and come to understand the tidbits that reveal the true character and nature of the lifelong Marine, public servant and patriot that is Robert Swan Mueller, III. Garrett Graff in “The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror” through his interviews with Robert Mueller and those that were close to him helps one understand the meticulous, thorough nature of Mueller in his pursuit for truth and justice. As I have always said, history and our grandchildren will judge all of us accordingly.
My Review of Tom Nichols’ “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters”
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
We live in a time in which there is more information available at our fingertips than ever before in the course of human history. Consequently, it seems as if our attention spans are shortening and the overflow of information available at our disposal has in a way made us less intelligent in terms of basic critical thinking skills which include reasoning and logical skills. For a myriad of reasons this has led to the death of expertise as the author Tom Nichols phrases the cultural phenomenon that has taken root within our society and culture. Lest people believe that this is harmless without any real-world implications, one must not only look at the flow of misinformation and disinformation that flowed within our electoral process. This made it difficult for laypersons to be able to spot and distinguish accurate information from disinformation. This lack of trust in what we can term as a lack of trust of experts within our society has led to the disintegration and widespread distrust of our institutions writ large. Such a breakdown has enabled outside nefarious actors to take advantage of this vulnerability within our society at large and cause further disintegration as we have seen take place since the so-called election of Donald Trump. In order for us to better address this issue with both its causes and solutions, we must better understand the phenomenon that is occurring. In doing so, the author and intellectual Tom Nichols makes a most convincing case of the deterioration of the trust between laypeople and experts and what that means in terms of societal and real-world implications.
The real-world implications of the death of expertise or the campaign against established knowledge do not result simply in the disruption of our political process by outside nefarious actors, but it can result in much more severe and grave circumstances as the author Tom Nichols notes with the “AIDS denialists” phenomenon that took root in the early 1990s (Nichols, 1). There was a small group of these denialists who pushed this phenomenon outside of the United States as it caught root in South Africa when the President at the time Thabo Mbeki took notice of the denialists and what were the spurious claims that were being put out from the other side of the world. Mbeki came to believe that AIDS was not caused by HIV but rather from other factors such as malnourishment (Nichols, 2). As a result, Mbeki and his government refused outside help of drugs and other forms of assistance to help treat the disease which would have helped prevent HIV among newborns which the drugs could assist with (Nichols, 2). As a result of this ignorance and a lack of trust of the expertise of the vast majority of scientists and medical professionals, it is estimated that three hundred thousand lives and the births of thirty-five thousand HIV-positive children could have been avoided if Mbeki had followed the advice of scientists and medical professionals that were urging him to accept outside relief and assistance. Imagine the situation in which the deaths of over 300,000 lives including tens of thousands of children could have been avoided if it wasn’t for this distrust in medical professionals and outside expertise which could have helped alleviate and lessen this problem in which hundreds of thousands of less people would have perished from the face of this Earth. This is the sad consequence and just one example in which a distrust of experts and established knowledge caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people which could have otherwise been prevented. A monstrosity indeed.
Principled, reasoned, informed arguments in which we are open minded to the facts and evidence to changing or altering our preexisting viewpoints are the hallmarks of intellectual and moral honesty. Instead of being skeptical but critical readers of information, so many within society at large have come to not only be skeptics but to actually disdain experts and the concept of expertise. What are the causes of such maladies? There are various reasons and theories that can help explain these phenomena within the various contexts and circumstances in which they occur but I believe based on the evidence and reasoning provided by Mr. Nichols that one significant contributor are the vast amounts of information available at our fingertips. Coupled with a lack of critical thinking skills being taught within our educational system, it has made it more difficult for everyday consumers and laypersons to be able to differentiate between valid sources and information from the vast amounts of junk, disinformation, misinformation and other quackery available freely via the information superhighway. Additionally, what has contributed to this phenomenon has been the advent and widespread use of smartphones in which we are able to stay connected to our devices and our computers twenty-four hours a day. As Mr. Nichols points out, “not only do increasing numbers of laypeople lack basic knowledge, they reject fundamental rules of evidence and refuse to learn how to make a logical argument” (Nichols, 3). Nichols argues and makes a rational and convincing case that “the death of expertise is not just a rejection of existing knowledge” but that “it is fundamentally a rejection of science and dispassionate rationality, which are the foundations of modern civilization” (Nichols, 5). Indeed.
If you were asked a simple question on foreign aid, would you be able to answer it? Before reading further, please take a guess at the following question. How much foreign aid as a percentage of the national budget do, we give to other nations for development and other aid? If you guessed 10% you were quite off. If you guessed 5% you were still off. The amount of the federal budget that constitutes foreign aid is less than three quarters of one percent of our annual budget. Seemingly shocking, the average American when asked this question believes that over 25% of our annual budget goes to foreign aid (Nichols, 27). Without a baseline of facts that we can all agree with, then argumentation and disputation become nearly impossible. This is one of the primary reasons that I believe that the death of expertise and the campaign against established knowledge is so harmful and detrimental. If we are unable to agree to a baseline of facts such as 1+1=2, then how can we progress as a society and as a civilization at large? These are very pressing questions and concerns facing it now as we approach 20 years into the new millennium.
Tom Nichols is a brilliant writer and a brilliant intellectual who has provided his expertise to laypersons like you and me. I highly recommend “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters.” It most definitely does matter.
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.