Review of “True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump” by Jeffrey Toobin

Jeffrey Toobin is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law who now serves as a legal analyst for CNN and “The New Yorker.” His book about the inquiry into Russian electoral interference as well as the Ukraine scandal that led to Trump’s impeachment can be summarized succinctly: Trump lied, lied, lied.

The main focus of the book is the investigation by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller into, as he was instructed by the Justice Department when appointed in 2017, “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” as well as any crimes arising from his investigation.

Toobin is critical of Mueller in several ways. One is the somewhat ironic criticism that Mueller followed the rules and tried to respect honor and fairness; Trump recognized no such boundaries, and Mueller should have anticipated that. Toobin also argues that Mueller wrongly did not investigate Trump’s finances. Toobin claims that Mueller thought such an investigation was unnecessary to prove intent even though it might have shown motive. [Other books, however, notably Michael S. Schmidt’s Donald Trump v. the United States report that Mueller was prevented from exploring that avenue by then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.] Toobin also laments that Trump gained further advantage when Mueller declined to subpoena Trump for a personal interview, and finally, when he opted not to characterize Trump’s guilt definitively in his summary, thus letting the new unabashedly sycophantic “Trump apologist” attorney general William Barr whitewash the report in Trump’s favor.

Toobin argues that “Trump’s victory over Mueller was tactical not strategic. The president and his allies outmaneuvered Mueller, but Trump’s character – and his behavior – didn’t change.”

Toobin is also critical of former FBI Director James Comey (again differing in this respect from Michael Schmidt), who he found to be sanctimonious and egotistical, definitely tipping the scales in the 2016 election toward Trump. He criticizes Rosenstein for having committed “malpractice,” and gives Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani “credit” both for steering Trump into the Ukraine disaster, and then deflecting attention away from Trump’s shenanigans.

Toobin ends the book with a withering criticism of Trump on his handling (or lack thereof) of the Corona virus. Trump, Toobin avers, responded to the coronavirus with the same belligerent dishonesty, vindictiveness, and blame shifting that characterized his treatment of Mueller and impeachment.

Somehow, Toobin points out, with all of Trump’s dishonesty and immorality, he survives and continues to wield power.

Evaluation: Toobin’s book is especially enlightening when it is read, as I read it, in conjunction with Michael Schmidt’s book. Both authors do an excellent job reporting on how Trump has managed to circumvent the law, but from slightly different perspectives. Coming together like a kaleidoscopic image, they provide a powerful lens into the Mafia-like operations of the Trump Administration.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House, 2020

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