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House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia

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House of Trump, House of Putin offers the first comprehensive investigation into the decades-long relationship among Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and the Russian Mafia that ultimately helped win Trump the White House. It is a chilling story that begins in the 1970s, when Trump made his first splash in the booming, money-drenched world of New York real estate, and ends wit House of Trump, House of Putin offers the first comprehensive investigation into the decades-long relationship among Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and the Russian Mafia that ultimately helped win Trump the White House. It is a chilling story that begins in the 1970s, when Trump made his first splash in the booming, money-drenched world of New York real estate, and ends with Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States. That moment was the culmination of Vladimir Putin’s long mission to undermine Western democracy, a mission that he and his hand-selected group of oligarchs and Mafia kingpins had ensnared Trump in, starting more than twenty years ago with the massive bailout of a string of sensational Trump hotel and casino failures in Atlantic City. This book confirms the most incredible American paranoias about Russian malevolence. To most, it will be a hair-raising revelation that the Cold War did not end in 1991—that it merely evolved, with Trump’s apartments offering the perfect vehicle for billions of dollars to leave the collapsing Soviet Union. In House of Trump, House of Putin, Craig Unger methodically traces the deep-rooted alliance between the highest echelons of American political operatives and the biggest players in the frightening underworld of the Russian Mafia. He traces Donald Trump’s sordid ascent from foundering real estate tycoon to leader of the free world. He traces Russia’s phoenixlike rise from the ashes of the post–Cold War Soviet Union as well as its ceaseless covert efforts to retaliate against the West and reclaim its status as a global superpower. Without Trump, Russia would have lacked a key component in its attempts to return to imperial greatness. Without Russia, Trump would not be president. This essential book is crucial to understanding the real powers at play in the shadows of today’s world.


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House of Trump, House of Putin offers the first comprehensive investigation into the decades-long relationship among Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and the Russian Mafia that ultimately helped win Trump the White House. It is a chilling story that begins in the 1970s, when Trump made his first splash in the booming, money-drenched world of New York real estate, and ends wit House of Trump, House of Putin offers the first comprehensive investigation into the decades-long relationship among Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and the Russian Mafia that ultimately helped win Trump the White House. It is a chilling story that begins in the 1970s, when Trump made his first splash in the booming, money-drenched world of New York real estate, and ends with Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States. That moment was the culmination of Vladimir Putin’s long mission to undermine Western democracy, a mission that he and his hand-selected group of oligarchs and Mafia kingpins had ensnared Trump in, starting more than twenty years ago with the massive bailout of a string of sensational Trump hotel and casino failures in Atlantic City. This book confirms the most incredible American paranoias about Russian malevolence. To most, it will be a hair-raising revelation that the Cold War did not end in 1991—that it merely evolved, with Trump’s apartments offering the perfect vehicle for billions of dollars to leave the collapsing Soviet Union. In House of Trump, House of Putin, Craig Unger methodically traces the deep-rooted alliance between the highest echelons of American political operatives and the biggest players in the frightening underworld of the Russian Mafia. He traces Donald Trump’s sordid ascent from foundering real estate tycoon to leader of the free world. He traces Russia’s phoenixlike rise from the ashes of the post–Cold War Soviet Union as well as its ceaseless covert efforts to retaliate against the West and reclaim its status as a global superpower. Without Trump, Russia would have lacked a key component in its attempts to return to imperial greatness. Without Russia, Trump would not be president. This essential book is crucial to understanding the real powers at play in the shadows of today’s world.

30 review for House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    If you are a Trump/Russia nut like I am, a lot of the stuff Unger writes about in House of Trump, House of Putin is stuff you have heard before. Still, I must give him credit: because of his meticulous, detailed reporting, at least one tantalizing, largely-ignored passage in the Steele Dossier is clearer to me now than it was before I read his book. So I guess I won’t have to email Rachel Maddow after all. The Dossier passage which fascinates me so is this: . . . in terms of established operation If you are a Trump/Russia nut like I am, a lot of the stuff Unger writes about in House of Trump, House of Putin is stuff you have heard before. Still, I must give him credit: because of his meticulous, detailed reporting, at least one tantalizing, largely-ignored passage in the Steele Dossier is clearer to me now than it was before I read his book. So I guess I won’t have to email Rachel Maddow after all. The Dossier passage which fascinates me so is this: . . . in terms of established operational liaison between the TRUMP team and the Kremlin, the [Russian] emigre [a Trump associate and confidential source] confirmed that an intelligence exchange had been running between them for at least 8 years. Within this context PUTIN'S priority requirement had been for intelligence on the activities, business and otherwise, in the US of leading Russian oligarchs and their families. TRUMP and his associates duly had obtained and supplied the Kremlin with this information. The implications are clear. As early as 2008, intelligence was flowing between Putin and Trump, but it was flowing mostly from Trump to Putin—information about the oligarchs and their families, who they were associating with, how and where they were laundering their money. Now the question I want to know is this: exactly how—and from whom—was Putin receiving his "Trumped up" information? The answers are hinted at in Unger’s chapters 12–14: “International Man of Mystery,” “Bayrock,” and “Moth, Flame.” It tells the story of two development companies, Bayrock Group LLC and the Sapir Organization, owned by emigres from the Soviet Union, that in the early years of the 21st century made the debt-enmired Trump an offer he couldn’t refuse: they would finance major real estate projects, slap Trump’s name above the front entrance, and give the Donald 18% of the equity in return. The key figure in all of this was Michael Cohen’s boyhood pal, Felix Sater, the 21st Century version of Eric Ambler’s Dimitrios Makropoulos: One of the most enigmatic figures in the entire Trump-Russia saga, Sater was Bayrock’s international man of mystery. A stocky olive-complexioned, Porsche-driving super salesman straight out of Glengarry Glen Ross who was always on, pushing a pump-and dump scam, or going undercover for the CIA, the DIA, the FBI—whomever to try to buy Stinger missiles from al-Quaeda or undertake other mind-boggling feats of derring-do. From his earliest years, Slater was connected. His father Mikail was a member of the Mogalevich syndicate (“Brainy Don” Semion Mogalevich, notorious for his money-laundering expertise), an associate of the Genovese crime family, and a client of Trump’s mentor and lawyer Roy Cohn. Felix could get you anything you wanted: a chance to sit behind Putin’s desk in the Kremlin (if you are the young Ivanka) or the cell phone number of Osama Bin Laden (if you are the CIA.) He could get away with anything he chose: he was so valuable to the FBI that he was known as “another Whitey Bulger," that is, an informant who is permitted to literally get away with murder. And he would work with absolutely anybody: the Italian mob, the Russian Mafya, the FBI, Donald Trump, even Putin himself. If anyone could find out where all the oligarch’s were parking their money, it was Felix Sater. And his Bayrock office was conveniently located too: on the twenty-fourth floor of Trump Tower. Sater may be one of the most remarkable emigres associated with the Trump/Russia saga, but he is only one of many. (See appendix at the end of the Unger book: “Trump’s Fifty-Nine Russian Connections.”) Unger introduces us to all of them, from the ‘70’s Brighton Beach Mafya boss Evsei Agron and his murderer and successor Marat Balagula (both of whom kept an office in the El Caribe Country Club, owned by Michael Cohen’s Uncle Morty); to David Bogatin, mastermind of the "Red Daisy" gas-tax scam, who in 1984 bought a six million dollar apartment in Trump Tower, becoming the first Russian gangster to buy a share in a building which Unger describes as "a cathedral of money laundering"; and to Alimzhan “the Little Taiwanese” Tokhatakhounov who tried to fix the 2002 Winter Olympics and was later busted for operating a gambling ring out of his Trump Tower apartment in 2013. And of course let’s not forget “Red Sparrow” Mariia Butina of the NRA, or the celebrated Trump Tower Meeting trio of lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya (admitted Putin informant), lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin (expert hacker, formerly Russian military intelligence), and Aglarov real estate rep Irakly "Ike" Kevelazde (money laundering expert). One of the things I found valuable about House of Trump, House of Putin is that Unger makes clear—if such a thing can be made clear—what a strange, amorphous organism Russian/Ukrainian organized crime can be: equal parts legitimate business and human trafficking, government influence and illegal money laundering, threats of blackmail whispered in darkness and bold murder on the daytime streets. When I was halfway through the book, I began to wonder: does Putin pull Trump’s strings, or has the Mafya been manipulating Donald the Marionette for years? Then I read a little further, exploring the chapters on Putin’s ruthless rise and his unscrupulous methods for maintaining control, and I decided that, in Putin’s Russia, when you compare the government to organized crime, they are so intertwined, so equally vicious, that there isn’t a helluva lot of difference.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Katzman

    This is the most terrifying horror story that you will ever read. To know that the U.S. has elected a President who is utterly beholding to Putin and Russian interests and is also not just a criminal in his policies but literally A CRIMINAL in the traditional sense of the word. Not as a metaphor. Not in the sense of of lying or obstruction of justice nor even in the sense of collusion with a foreign country. But as an active partner with the Russian mafia. Trump is essentially a Russian mafia as This is the most terrifying horror story that you will ever read. To know that the U.S. has elected a President who is utterly beholding to Putin and Russian interests and is also not just a criminal in his policies but literally A CRIMINAL in the traditional sense of the word. Not as a metaphor. Not in the sense of of lying or obstruction of justice nor even in the sense of collusion with a foreign country. But as an active partner with the Russian mafia. Trump is essentially a Russian mafia asset. If you read this book, you will leave with little doubts that he is a made man. I’ve believed Trump was a criminal, in a general way, for a while. I was already aware that he had illegal business practices as, for example, demonstrated by the recent lawsuit in NYC against his charitable foundation, which has alleged that he used the foundation as a checkbook for non-charitable purposes. On the flipside, I also knew, in a general way, that Russian oligarchs had plundered Russia when the Soviet Union fell, although I didn’t fully comprehend what that meant. And I knew that Putin suppressed human rights and freedom of the press. House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia reveals the details of the criminality that connects these two in ways that are both shocking and sickening. More than half of this book is focused on the development of Putin’s power, his government, and the ways in which it interacts with the world. Did you know that Putin is reputed to be the richest man in the world? His estimated worth is roughly $200 billion. Did you know that he made many of his friends into billionaires? Almost all the current oligarchs “bought” companies from the government after the fall of communism for what were essentially pennies on the dollar value. They would pay a few million dollars for a billion-dollar company. They were sold natural gas for a fraction of the actual value by the government that they then sold to the rest of the world at an outrageous profit. They were simply made rich because they supported Putin. They plundered and continue to plunder all the natural resources Russia has at the direction of Putin. One of the most shocking revelations for me about Russia is that even more than Russia being a kleptocracy by stealing the country's wealth for a handful of individuals including its President, it is also a literal criminal enterprise. The Russian mafia is a division of the FSB (the current name for the former KGB). And Putin is its boss. He’s the don of the Russian mafia, and the President of the country, and the head of the FSB and the master of the oligarchs. The one to rule them all. The Russian mafia deals in the usual criminal enterprises—selling guns and drugs, extortion, and prostitution and human trafficking. And further, the Russian mafia has now diversified into white collar crime. They run companies that engage in real businesses, such as energy trading, but while doing so they perpetrate every scam you can name including cheating taxes, skimming profits and more. They have skillfully blended corporate institutions with organized crime tactics. Unger outlines the evolution of the Russian mafia and its relationship with Putin and other oligarchs both internationally and in the United States. Brighton Beach New York is a center of Russian organized crime in the U.S. Interestingly, they have frequently teamed up with Italian mafia characters on diverse financial scams, such as skimming tax money from hundreds of gas stations. Now how does this connect with Trump? Repeatedly. Frequently. Constantly. Here are some highlights of the numerous connections. Trump was bankrupt after his Atlantic casino failed in the 1980s. He was in huge debt and no reputable banks in the U.S. would loan to him. He was on the brink of complete failure. Then Russian oligarchs and Russian mafia connected figures began to rebuild his wealth. How? They developed a simple symbiotic relationship with him. They made him wealthy again, and he laundered their criminal wealth. The oligarchs want to get their money out of Russia, since that economy was a field for plunder but not a reliable source to maintain wealth, and Trump real estate properties helped them launder it. Many shady practices have surrounded Trump properties. For example, a group of Russian mafia figures were running a sports-betting corporation out of Trump tower until they were eventually arrested. They had bought an entire floor. The overarching key point to be aware of is that roughly 1/3 of Trump’s wealth, after his casino collapse, came directly from Russian oligarchs and other Russian figures buying Trump condo units and properties—usually through untraceable LLCs. And that doesn’t even account for his properties in other countries, where the author has no access to financial records. It’s quite likely that an even larger percentage of his wealth came directly from Russian oligarchs. And beyond Russians buying properties in his towers to launder their money, he actually partnered with a company called Bayrock (that is now defunct due to diverse legal issues), that was run by Russian-oligarch connected individuals to develop Trump-branded properties. Bayrock would finance the properties (likely with Russian or Ukrainian sourced funds) then arrange for all the construction and development. Trump made money from sales by licensing Bayrock his name. Through his partnership with Bayrock, Russia was funneling money to make Trump wealthy again (with Trump himself having to do next to nothing) and simultaneously creating properties to launder more Russian wealth. As former KGB operatives have told Unger, the Russian government is constantly seeking political assets in other countries. They also seek to destabilize democratic institutions and global partnerships, such as between the U.S and the EU. Chaos and right-wing regimes provide Russian criminal enterprises more opportunities to make money, and they weaken criticism and opposition to his regime. So grooming Trump to do Putin’s bidding would be a no-brainer for the FSB ever since they discovered he was a great tool for money laundering. Unger presents the story of numerous oligarch and mafia connected figures who have connections to Trump in diverse ways, beyond the money laundering. In fact, he carefully itemizes nearly 60 individuals with Russian mafia and oligarch connections who have had relationships with Trump ever since the 1980s. One fact that surprised me—Trump had Presidential aspirations that date back to that time. The Russians had long term plans to build him up and groom him as both a financial and political asset. Regarding the question of whether Russia has “kompromat” on Trump. Unger provides some interesting background. Per his interviews with former KGB agents, they explained that developing kompromat on potential assets is common practice. It is one of the many tools that the Russian secret service leverage to achieve their ends. They are trained in getting it. Trump’s first trip to Russia was planned by Intourist, a department of the FSB. He has unaccounted for days in his Miss Universe trip. He’s a womanizer. What do you think? I want to reiterate some key point. Russia is a criminal state. The Russian mafia is a division of the Russian government. Putin is the head of Russian mafia. He can grant support to criminal enterprises or summarily withdraw it and have a billionaire thrown in prison or killed. Trump pursues goals that align with Russian interests, such as destabilizing the U.S./E.U. partnership. Trump has facilitated billions and billions of dollars of money laundering by Russia oligarchs and other shady Russian mafia connected figures. He’s even partnered directly with them through Bayrock. Regardless of whether Putin has kompromat on Trump, it hardly matters. They made him a billionaire after his wealth collapsed. Of course he’s a Russian asset. They own him. House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia is thoroughly and compellingly argued. Unger outlines the case in arresting and irresistible fashion. This is high drama and high treason. I wish every citizen would read this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    When I began reading Craig Unger’s new book HOUSE OF TRUMP HOUSE OF PUTIN: THE UNTOLD STORY OF DONALD TRUMP AND THE RUSSIAN MAFIA, I did so with great anticipation. Unger’s previous monographs, HOUSE OF SAUD HOUSE OF BUSH and THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF BUSH immediately captured my interest and developed themes that were strongly supported by documentary evidence and interviews. In his newest effort, Unger has not totally measured up to preceding works. First, if one has followed the news the last When I began reading Craig Unger’s new book HOUSE OF TRUMP HOUSE OF PUTIN: THE UNTOLD STORY OF DONALD TRUMP AND THE RUSSIAN MAFIA, I did so with great anticipation. Unger’s previous monographs, HOUSE OF SAUD HOUSE OF BUSH and THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF BUSH immediately captured my interest and developed themes that were strongly supported by documentary evidence and interviews. In his newest effort, Unger has not totally measured up to preceding works. First, if one has followed the news the last twelve months the material should be very familiar especially if one thinks about news accounts on cable television, newspaper articles, and exposes in magazines like The Atlantic. Second, a good part of the book reads like excerpts from a Russian version of “Goodfellahs,” as Unger describes the development of Russian mob influence and wealth accumulation following the fall of the Berlin Wall, and tries to link Donald Trump to every Russian oligarch he has come across. Third, the book promises to deliver the untold story of the Trump-Putin relationship, but it seems to rehash what is already in plain sight in the media. Lastly, the book‘s focus is predominantly about the spread of the Russian mob, the rise of Putin and the Russian autocrat’s strategy to undermine the west, and though it presents a strong case for the Trump-Russian nexus Unger could have developed this component in greater depth. Unger’s goal as outlined in his introduction is very bold and I thought that I was about to read a book that would replace Michael Isikoff’s and David Corn’s RUSSIAN ROULETTE as the preeminent work on Trump and his Russian connection. Unger states he will tie Trump to 59 individuals with alleged ties to the Russian Mafia; the use of Trump’s brand to launder billions of Russian mob money; Trump’s providing an operational home to Russian oligarchs in Trump Tower; the significant role the Russian Mafia plays in the Russian government; Russian intelligence targeting of Trump as a possible source for over forty years; how the Russian mob used American groups such as K Street lobbyists to gain influence and intelligence; how Russia took advantage of Trump’s $4 billion debt to coopt him, whether willingly or unwillingly; a description of Trumps relationship with Russian mobsters like Felix Sater; and how Trump became an intelligence “asset” for the Russians. This is quite an undertaking, a puzzle whose pieces do not always seem to fit, resulting in a narrative that too often does not make a concrete case. Everything Unger states may be accurate, but he does not present his arguments without raising a certain amount of doubt. In Unger’s defense, at this point it would difficult for any author to write the definitive account of the Trump-Putin/Russian relationship. Unger develops his narrative on two parallel tracks. First, he describes the development of the Russia Mafia (or Mob) and how they have made inroads in the United States and countries abroad. He correctly points to the Jackson-Vanik Amendment in a 1974 Congressional Trade bill that called for allowing hundreds of thousands of Jews to leave Russia. In doing so, the Kremlin let out many Jews, but also many criminals, rapists, and other unsavory characters. Many of these Jews and their lesser types migrated to the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn and set up the “new Odessa” as they turned the neighborhood into a Russian enclave. This provided an area for the Russian Mafia to dominate, set up businesses to launder money, and carry out extortion and other nefarious activities. Unger goes on describe how the Russian Mafia plundered and came to control much of their country’s resources and corporations after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and followed the trajectory of Vladimir Putin’s career. Unger will detail the actions taken by numerous individuals like Semion Mogilevich, the “brainy don” of the Russian mob, worth billions derived from illicit trade in weapons, women etc. and Serge Mikhalov, the head of the biggest crime gang in Russia, and how their relationships with Putin, who employed his own cunning, and manipulation of earlier politicians allowed him to develop his own personal kleptocracy. The second track follows Donald Trump’s career dating back into the early 1980s when he was a target of interest for Soviet intelligence. The story is a familiar one as Unger takes us through Trump’s trips to Moscow in the mid-eighties and nineties as he tries to put together a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow. Unger describes how Trump went from debt of $4 billion due to the collapse of his casino empire in Atlantic City to solvency as he learned to trade on his name, and brilliantly made his own name a trademark that Russian oligarchs seem to crave in business deals and high rise condos (a problem in that it provided the Russian mob a place to launder about $1.5 billion as they used shell companies to pay for condo apartments throughout Trump’s real estate empire). Trumps relationships with men like Felix Sater and others comes to the fore as more and more Trump develops relationships with Russian oligarchs for investment capital, and business projects. The author tries to unscramble the web of relations surrounding Russian oligarchs and mobsters with ties to Putin and Trump throughout the book, and in many cases the links are solid, and in other cases less so, but the arcane world he is describing is really difficult to totally nail down. Unger will then take these two tracks which encompasses about two thirds the book and turns to their nexus - how the Russians used their investment in Trump to interfere in the 2016 election, and reap the rewards of a Trump presidency. Perhaps in Unger’s strongest presentation he develops the concept of non-linear warfare as a Russian strategy to overturn western gains that included moving the Ukraine closer to the European Union. For Putin, this was a red line that could not be allowed. The key to this new approach as put forth by Vladislav Surkov and Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia was to create a false reality consisting of fake news and alternative facts for both within and without Russia. Putin and his cohorts set out to destroy the truth and create a never ending conflict about perception that helped the Russian autocrat to control and manage his country. Hybrid warfare and active measures were employed to weaken the U.S., Britain, NATO, and the European Union and roll back the gains they had made since the Cold War. Money would be poured into pro-Russian parties in former Soviet states, as well supporting right wing candidates in the U.S. and Western Europe who wanted to dismantle the Western Alliance. There were spies, hackers, and informational soldiers who carried out sophisticated attacks on social media. The Russian Mafia was just one weapon in Russia’s arsenal. Once the strategy was developed Russian intelligence zeroed in on Donald Trump who had years before established a relationship with the Russian mob. The story of how Trump’s candidacy announced in June, 2015 gave Putin his candidate and allowed him to wreak the benefits of his penetration of K Street, white collar law firms, the Republican political establishment, and former justice and senatorial figures has been told elsewhere and Unger may strengthen details, but the overall storyline remains the same. The Russian cyber warfare campaign against the U.S. and Hillary Clinton is now well known, but at the time the government did not seem to have a full grasp of what was actually occurring. Unger digs deep into the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, analyzing who participated, and what agendas they represented. It is clear that the Trump campaign was now in bed with the Russians, even if the Trump people did not realize how deep, or maybe they did. Meetings between Trump officials and Russian diplomats and intelligence operatives abound in Unger’s account, as do the role of leaked emails receiving undo attention as opposed to warnings of Russian hacking and penetration of the American electoral process. As disconcerting as Unger’s account is, we will have to wait until the Mueller investigations concludes to learn the truth. In summation, Unger has done prodigious research into what is available, but much of what he uncovers is not new. However, he has done a service by unraveling the role of Russian organized crime, the Putin regime, and its links to Donald Trump and his circle.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    There is nothing light-hearted about this book; it is frighteningly serious. If you want a giggle about the US Pres, well, there's Unhinged, Everything Trump Touches Dies, and several other more or less serious entries. This book will scare you shitless if you live anywhere in the so-called Western world. Unger paints Russia as basically a country controlled by organized crime lords (Oligarchs, if you like) with Putin being the capo di tutti capi and the richest man in the world (circa 200 billi There is nothing light-hearted about this book; it is frighteningly serious. If you want a giggle about the US Pres, well, there's Unhinged, Everything Trump Touches Dies, and several other more or less serious entries. This book will scare you shitless if you live anywhere in the so-called Western world. Unger paints Russia as basically a country controlled by organized crime lords (Oligarchs, if you like) with Putin being the capo di tutti capi and the richest man in the world (circa 200 billion!)...oh, and maybe a pedophile. Putin's aim is clearly to "conquer" the west and as such has useful idiots in virtually all countries working toward that end...Trump, Marine Le Pin from France, Viktor Orban from Hungary, Conte from Italy, etc. There is no doubt that Trump is deeply involved with the Russians and has been for decades. This review may sound paranoid as hell but you definitely will not be thinking that after reading this very scary book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mary Abbott

    Frightening! It's taking me longer than usual to write a review because I am speechless! I fear for Mr Unger's life with this book's release. Putin and his murderous thugs will find a way for him to have an accident.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    Americans at this present moment in time can seemingly find little to agree on. One area of consensus however is that there are a glut of books about Donald Trump flooding the shelves. Most explore his presidency but few seemingly have looked at his formative years before assuming office. Craig Unger’s “House of Trump, House of Putin” fills that void. It is a parallel biography of two very different men both in background and temperament, who through a complex web of intermediaries, celebrities Americans at this present moment in time can seemingly find little to agree on. One area of consensus however is that there are a glut of books about Donald Trump flooding the shelves. Most explore his presidency but few seemingly have looked at his formative years before assuming office. Craig Unger’s “House of Trump, House of Putin” fills that void. It is a parallel biography of two very different men both in background and temperament, who through a complex web of intermediaries, celebrities, and mobsters, forged a mutually beneficial relationship over the years that culminated in Trump becoming president. What is particularly striking in this book is the sheer number of unsavory Russian and Ukrainian connections that circle the Trump orbit. From Paul Manafort to Jared Kushner to Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn to Felix Sater and Trump’s children, no figure no matter how tangental to Trump seems to be immune from some significant connection to Russia. That Trump would spend the majority of the last campaign claiming he had no ties to Russia is, as the reader goes deeper and deeper into the tangled webs of links, exposed as perhaps the most baldfaced lie of all his baldfaced lies. One could even skip the 300 pages where Unger chronicles the first Russian mobster to buy an apartment in Trump Tower (the first of many that would lead to Trump properties essentially being a money laundering entity for the Russian mafia that, if Trump was not intimately involved, at the very least turned a blind eye to the millions of Russian dollars that propped up his businesses) and skip to the appendix where Unger succinctly lists 59(!) major underworld and political figures with links to Donald Trump. While he lays out some compelling evidence to suggest it, Unger stops short of openly accusing Trump of being beholden to Vladimir Putin. When he lacks definitive evidence from a source, he says so. Perhaps because there is little need to make up or embellish any of the facts here. They are so numerous and often blatant that to deny them all is to stick one’s head in the sand. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m pretty liberal on most issues. I detest the division that Trump promotes and the gleeful destruction of civility. These things are dangerous but need not be fatal. Being in debt to a foreign power, dismantling alliances, moving America toward an autocracy, and weakening American prestige to repay that debt however is something exceedingly difficult to come back from once too far down that road. Unger’s book is a warning about who Donald Trump was and how it seeps into everything he is today. This book won’t tittilate you in the way that books like Omorosa’s might, but it provides invaluable insight into the most powerful man in the world, and the man in Washington who may be beholden to him.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert A. Yaffee, Ph.D.

    Craig Unger, in his "House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia presents a thesis as to how Donald Trump was compromised by Russian money laundering after having been followed by the Checkoslovakian STB, and later evaluated, targeted, and cultivated by Russians. The book is well researched, written, and replete with the scholarly documentation. Unger's approach focuses on the evolution of the personal connections and mob networks of Donald Trump and hi Craig Unger, in his "House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia presents a thesis as to how Donald Trump was compromised by Russian money laundering after having been followed by the Checkoslovakian STB, and later evaluated, targeted, and cultivated by Russians. The book is well researched, written, and replete with the scholarly documentation. Unger's approach focuses on the evolution of the personal connections and mob networks of Donald Trump and his real estate business; it also focuses on their links to Russia, it's "near-abroad", Brighten Beach, Israel, and New York since the Rise of Vladimir Putin. It provides an invaluable perspective of how Donald Trump ran for President. To understand the political forces within Russia that gave rise to Putin, Ambassador Michael McFaul's From Cold War to Hot Peace (2017) is an excellent analysis. Luke Harding's book, "Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia helped Trump Win (2017) is a superb treatment of a conspiratorial thriller. In the same genre to explain Trump's run for President, Michael Issikoff and David Corn's Russian Roulette (2017) is a similarly exciting work. Malcolm Nance's (2018) The Plot to Destroy Democracy and 2016 The Plot to Hack America yield a slightly more scholarly presentation of the background and development a Putin covert strategy to re-establish Russian dominance in world affairs vis-a-vis the West. Gen. Michael Hayden's The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies, and James R. Clapper's (2018) Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life of Intelligence (2018), provide essential critiques of Trump's organization and naive approaches to comprehend the challenges facing U.S. intelligence during recent years. Both of these books are more analytical treatments of the contemporary political situation in the U.S.. All of these works help to explain Putin's covert hybrid warfare waged against the 27 Western Democracies, in a endeavor to re-establish the pre-eminence of Russia in world affairs by overwhelming the influence of NATO and its member states. To understand what happened in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, all of these works deserve a place on the required reading list. Both former Director of National Intelligence and Craig Unger believe that Putin succeeded in effectively swaying enough of the vote to give Trump the electoral victor because it only took about 78,000 votes in three swing states, each of which was targeted by Russian active measures, to make that difference. There are some educational implications. We will have to teach critical analysis in school. It may have to include studies of ontology and epistemology so our students develop the ability to apply a modicum of healthy skepticism, logic, and rationality in order to identify propaganda projected through information warfare. Youngsters will have to become sensitive to purveyers of inconsistency, exaggeration, hyperbole, mendacity, and frequent repetition of fallacies and falsehoods devoid of proper substantiation. Observation, measurement, testing, consistency, criterion validation, and replicability should be taught as the criteria of reality. Students should learn to be wary of salesman inclined to do use oversimplified stereotypical branding to mobilize a tyranny of fatuous partisan conformity. They will have to learn how to challenge such progenitors of political snake-oil to a civil debate. Rational and civil public debate should be used for conflict resolution rather than immature duels of honor around the corner at the OK Corral. There are political implications as well. We need to recognize that our system of elections is in serious need of periodic upgrading to fortify it against partisan gerrymandering, floods of dark money, and institutionalized bribery through legal loopholes allowing layered shell corporations to funnel unlimited funds to candidates from other countries (as provided for in the Citizens United vs. FEC (2010) majority opinion). Without such reforms we will be plagued with a flawed election system that will be targeted by other adversaries seeking to undermine governmental legitimacy in our polity.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bettie☯

    Description: It is a chilling story that begins in the 1970s, when Trump made his first splash in the booming, money-drenched world of New York real estate, and ends with Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States. That moment was the culmination of Vladimir Putin’s long mission to undermine Western democracy, a mission that he and his hand-selected group of oligarchs and associates had ensnared Trump in, starting more than twenty years ago with the massive bailout of a string of sen Description: It is a chilling story that begins in the 1970s, when Trump made his first splash in the booming, money-drenched world of New York real estate, and ends with Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States. That moment was the culmination of Vladimir Putin’s long mission to undermine Western democracy, a mission that he and his hand-selected group of oligarchs and associates had ensnared Trump in, starting more than twenty years ago with the massive bailout of a string of sensational Trump hotel and casino failures in Atlantic City. This book confirms the most incredible American paranoias about Russian malevolence. To most, it will be a hair-raising revelation that the Cold War did not end in 1991—that it merely evolved, with Trump’s apartments offering the perfect vehicle for billions of dollars to leave the collapsing Soviet Union. In House of Trump, House of Putin, Craig Unger methodically traces the deep-rooted alliance between the highest echelons of American political operatives and the biggest players in the frightening underworld of the Russian Mafia. He traces Donald Trump’s sordid ascent from foundering real estate tycoon to leader of the free world. He traces Russia’s phoenixlike rise from the ashes of the post–Cold War Soviet Union as well as its ceaseless covert efforts to retaliate against the West and reclaim its status as a global superpower. Without Trump, Russia would have lacked a key component in its attempts to return to imperial greatness. Without Russia, Trump would not be president. This essential book is crucial to understanding the real powers at play in the shadows of today’s world. Yep, I agree with those that say nothing really new here, yet there are further details new to me so worth the engagement. Kudos to Craig Unger, indeed, a doff of the hat to all the brave reporters, agents and authors who take on topics of this magnitude. I feel Mueller is now investigating the world, don't forget we haven't started to see how the diamonds, drilling, mercenary armies, shipping lines, ponzi schemes and such, which have been hinted at, impacts this procedure. Maybe in the end, fingers crossed, stolen monies will find their way way back to the peoples of the countries that were shafted. Though engaging, this fresh look at Donald Trump’s links to Russia adds little to the story

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dorothy

    A thoroughly researched and comprehensive assessment of everything we know about the Russian asset in the WH. Only time will tell if we can make it out if this mess and stop denying what is in plain sight before us.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mirek Jasinski

    I have found no new information for me, as I have followed the story closely over the years. The book is a good read, though, and might be an eye-opener to somebody who does not know much about the situation in Russia.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    There's not much "new" here. It's resourced thoroughly from journalists and FBI files. I'm only left wondering how he was allowed to run for president in the first place. He should've been and should be in jail.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Kelly

    Absolutely amazing! After reading this book many of Trump’s more bizarre moves suddenly make sense. If this information became well known, even the Trumpiest of Trumpsters might have to rethink their positions.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lance Johnson

    I was debating what to rate this book; a part of me felt it was worth five stars due to the contemporary relevance of the content but another part felt it was more of a three due to some flaws with the book. So, I split the difference and went with four stars. The book spends most of its time discussing the rise of the international Russian criminal organizations and their ties to both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. While very interesting, the book doesn't really present much new information s I was debating what to rate this book; a part of me felt it was worth five stars due to the contemporary relevance of the content but another part felt it was more of a three due to some flaws with the book. So, I split the difference and went with four stars. The book spends most of its time discussing the rise of the international Russian criminal organizations and their ties to both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. While very interesting, the book doesn't really present much new information since most of it seems to be pulled from old news articles rather than original research. In this sense the book functions best as a summary of what is known so far, a role which it performs admirably. However, it is not without flaws. There are many paragraphs where the author makes some broad claims as if they were fact but provides no indication as to where he got the information: no annotations, no mentions, nothing. In other areas the author is so vague about the connections he is describing that I felt unclear whether or not the relationships were legitimate or criminal in nature. Again, limited citations in these areas. Admittedly, this mostly occurred with smaller details and people rather than with the larger connections but it still irked me and left me feeling dissatisfied. It is a worthwhile read, but not a bombshell.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rogier Konings

    Very thoroughly investigated book that dives deeply into the connection between Trump & Putin. Although the book sometimes falls into giving the reader a summary of known connections, they do keep the reader interested. The book reads like an investigative spy journal, and makes the reader sometimes forget that this is actually the hard reality of the world the we currently live in. Do not expect a memoire. If you are, however, interested in politics than I highly recommend reading this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sharon C. Robideaux

    Powerful and persuasive Like many people, I was not persuaded by what I saw on the news channels (I watch about 6 different programs) about a Russian connection. Now I am. After reading Unger's thoroughly documented, densely factual book, I am persuaded that Putin is behind much that is corrupt in the world. I am persuaded that Donald Trump has an illegitimate claim to the White House. And I am persuaded that Mitch McConnell is a bigger traitor than Benedict Arnold.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Beth

    This is a terrifying and important read. The history of many Trump associates, as well as Trump himself, tie back to the Russian mafia. For all of us living through this illegitimate Putin-backed coup, it's worth a read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David

    Not fun but certainly fascinating.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    Necessary and frightening.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Haur Bin

    Convoluted web that entangle Donald Trump’s life and Russia leading up to 2016 election. Started with a convenient marriage between Donald Trump’s failing real estate business and Russian mafia’s need to get money out of Russia against the backdrop of a collapsing Soviet Union. Trump’s condo business presented a low barrier for entry into the American investment that benefited both parties. Whilst direct ties with the Russian mafias isn’t clearly established other than Trump’s presence in Moscow Convoluted web that entangle Donald Trump’s life and Russia leading up to 2016 election. Started with a convenient marriage between Donald Trump’s failing real estate business and Russian mafia’s need to get money out of Russia against the backdrop of a collapsing Soviet Union. Trump’s condo business presented a low barrier for entry into the American investment that benefited both parties. Whilst direct ties with the Russian mafias isn’t clearly established other than Trump’s presence in Moscow for Miss Universe, the evidence against the Trump campaign particularly campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was involved behind the scene in Ukrainian election, was astounding. Other staffers e.g. Kellyanne Conway, Mike Flynn, Michael Cohen and even his son-in-law Jared Kushner each can be traced to some relationship with Russian mafias with the latter being through his Jewish roots. Neverthrless, the extent in which each of these ties influenced the election is debatable. The author painted Putin as the clever mastermind and each character being a mere pawn fully in his control sounds a bit too far fetched. Having said that, the naivety of the Trump family did make them an easy target for the Russians to take advantage of. The election was probably more influenced by the misinformation spread in the cyberspace during the election lead up as well as Russian’s well-timed releases of information related to Hillary Clinton. While winning the election was the first step, the scary part lies in how these Russian leaning individuals are currently in the White House dictating national and foreign policies of the country that has the biggest economy and strongest military. Hopefully Robert Muller’s investigation will unearth the truth sooner before it’s too late.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ramona Dixon

    Chock full of details... Chronological version of the Russia/Trump relationship. Much of which is available in the press today, but Unger puts all the details together. Shocking what Russia did to our 2016 election. If we had been paying attention, we could likely have help put a stop to some of it before it went as far as putting Putin’s puppet in the White House.

  21. 4 out of 5

    AC

    Meh... superficial and under sourced

  22. 4 out of 5

    Foggygirl

    Both illuminating and infuriating.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    The cover blurb says: This book tells the story of one of the greatest intelligence operations in history, a campaign by Russian operatives years in the making, ending with either a willfully ignorant or an inexplicably unaware Russian asset in the White House. Actually, he is both. And it’s been in plain sight all through the campaign, but media and political opponents were so inept at seeing and exposing it with appropriate alarm.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Impressively researched Writing in the first two thirds is pretty good; easy to read if a bit hard to follow (those darn long Russian names!), but the latter third felt rushed Clearly lays out case for money laundering by trump. No surprise he didn’t release his taxes...but does that make him a Russian agent, or just an asset?

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    Although much of the book had been covered by the mainstream media, the book pulled all the strings together to paint a picture of a corrupt and dishonest Donald Trump going back decades. Now I feel really angry with the Russians and so many naive Americans who were hoodwinked by the Russians social media influence that they voted for Trump. The rest of the story is yet to come.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ryland Quillen

    Nothing eye-opening but it’s nice to have the timeline all in one spot, and to learn about Trump’s dirty money ties which I feel like the media doesn’t emphasize quite enough.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mike Worley

    4.25 stars, a mass of information that fully indicts Trump, his family, and an overwhelming cast of goons that includes American citizens, Russians, and others that put the fix into our 2016 election. I have to say that it sickens me the number of outright stupid or corrupt (or both) "Americans" that put this monster into office. Trump, the man that does not deserve a dog catchers job.

  28. 4 out of 5

    James Schiada

    Tells it all ... Very readable

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cristy Harts

    Well sourced. Terrifying.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sassan

    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 / Russ 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.

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