Review of “American Kompromat: How the KGB Cultivated Donald Trump, and Related Tales of Sex, Greed, Power, and Treachery” by Craig Unger

Craig Unger is an investigative journalist, writer, and analyst on national security. American Kompromat is a follow-up to his 2018 book, House of Trump, House of Putin, in which he made the case for Russian collusion. Kompromat, he explains, is the Russian term for compromising information which can be used in blackmailing, discrediting, or manipulating someone, typically for political purposes. It forms the basis for Russian intelligence control of human assets.

This book begins in October, 2020 with an examination of the leadership of Donald Trump before looking backward in time. Unger writes:

To most of the country, he was vulgar and vile, a misogynistic, racist firebrand, a buffoon who knew only his own pecuniary interests and prejudices and would stop at nothing to satiate them. He was clownish and repellent. But as the election approached, it became increasingly clear that he was far more dangerous than that suggested, that his buffoonery masked real demagoguery, that he was a tyrant who had mesmerized tens of millions of people, and that it didn’t matter to them what he said or did.”

And he wrote this even before the insurrection of January 6, 2021.

The author then goes on to present a wealth of material to establish that Donald Trump was cultivated and used by Russian intelligence to further their aims. Trump’s awareness of their efforts to control him was not necessary to the process. Unger writes:

From the KGB’s point of view, the most appealing quality about Trump was probably that he had a personality that was ideal for a recruit – vain, narcissistic, highly susceptible to flattery, and greedy.”

. . .

“Trump was a dream for KGB officers looking to recruit an asset…. Everybody has weaknesses. But with Trump it wasn’t just weakness. Everything was excessive. His vanity, excessive. Narcissism, excessive. Greed, excessive. Ignorance, excessive.”

Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was an influx of Russian Mafia and oligarchs into the U.S. who needed to launder billions of dollars, “a need that could best be filled by a wealthy real estate developer who had loads of luxury condos to sell and was willing to look the other way when it came to the source of the money.” This was a perfect set-up for the “perpetually bankrupt Donald Trump.”

Trump, Unger suggests, was compromised through “lucrative money-laundering schemes, sycophantic flattery, pie-in-the-sky Trump Tower Moscow projects, extravagantly well-paid franchising projects, and more.”

More critically, he details, “Russian intelligence had essentially hijacked Trump’s foreign policy in plain sight and nobody noticed,” especially because there was nothing explicitly unlawful about what they did. (The author quotes journalist Michael Kinsley’s observation: “The real scandal isn’t what’s illegal; it’s what is legal.”)

The author also discusses the ways in which it appears as if Donald Trump, Jr., Rudi Giuliani, and Trump’s Attorney General William Barr had also been compromised. With regard to Barr, the author goes into details of some of the shadier activity of Opus Dei,, the secretive, extremist right-wing Catholic organization. Barr’s affiliation with Opus Dei, the author avers, has influenced him to endorse an ideologically-driven understanding of religious liberty that reviles secularism, and a belief in extensive executive power, both of which helped further Trump’s autocratic and anti-liberal agenda.

As for deceased sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, he is included because he supposedly was in possession of the most kompromat of anyone, even more than the Russians. So far, however, what Epstein had or didn’t have has not been revealed, but even the threat of its existence is powerful. Epstein’s contact list was extensive, and included of course, Donald Trump.

At the very least, what this book shows us is that electing a president with Trump’s weaknesses was a foolhardy proposition – he would never even have received low-level security clearance for government work in normal circumstances.

Evaluation: This book is disturbing and scary, even without written confirmation of its conclusions. They are based on an overwhelming compilation of circumstantial evidence and bizarre behaviors, particularly with respect to Russia, that are not otherwise explainable.

That mystery aside, Unger’s book is effectively argued and riveting in its detailed description of the unseemly side of spy craft.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2021