The Trump presidency and its farce/carnival atmosphere is one of those can’t-look-away car-crash things.
Over the last months I’ve found myself going through a phase of gorging on books either about Trump or about Facebook – as they seem somehow to be entwined. That’s why the next reviews will cover books including Inside Facebook, Zucked, and Fire & Fury. And why here I’ll be taking a look at another fascinating book, namely House of Putin, House of Trump.
Author Craig Unger wrote a previous shocker, House of Bush, House of Saud, a New York Times bestseller, and he’s back on the trail of the unjust.
“Reaching back to the 80s and then shunting slowly forwards revelation by depressing revelation”
To be honest, when I bought House of Trump House of Putin and started reading, I found the idea that Trump was – either wittingly or unwittingly – working on behalf of the Russian government just too unlikely. But as I kept reading and wound deeper and deeper into the book, my opinion slowly began to change.
Craig Unger has obviously conducted lengthy and in-depth research for this book, and it’s the slow spooling out of fact after fact after fact that makes the book so effective. Reaching back to the 80s and then shunting slowly forwards revelation by depressing revelation, you find yourself thinking that in fact Trump’s not working on their behalf, in some way, is what is just too unlikely.
Spellbinding and worrying in equal degrees
But what I found extremely interesting reading wasn’t directly related to Trump or Putin: how the Russian mafia functions, the way in which it is so closely tied to the Russian government as to be inseperable from it, how dirty Russian money together with a string of utterly ruthless Russian gangsters made their way into the very infrastructure of America – and most especially New York…all this is spellbinding; and worrying, in equal degrees.
Some of the statements in House of Trump House of Putin that stood out most for me was where Boris Urov, former major crimes investigator for the Russian attorney general says how pleasant it is that the Iron Curtian has come down; but that this very fact enabled a wave of Russian gangsters and their dark money to descend on the west. This book deals with the results of this fact in the US; I’d also be very interested in reading more about similar results in London and the UK (covered to some extent in the equally chilling Moneyland).
“just one example of how Trump directly enabled Russian dirty money to clean itself up and give itself a view”
And also that Trump Tower was one of only two real estate properties in all of New York that don’t make any checks on where the money comes from that is used to buy apartments in those properties – giving just one example of how Trump directly enabled Russian dirty money to clean itself up and give itself a view.
Ultimately this is fascinating reading. Although the Guardian declared the book “a highly competent collation of what we already know”, for people like me who didn’t actually know any of this stuff it’s a readable and highly illuminating account of underworld business and dirty politics in Russia, the US and the world in general.