Reviewed in the United States on October 30, 2018
Complete nonsense from Gregg Jarrett, a Fox News contributor. Jarrett sloppily attempts to craft an alternate reality in which Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Christopher Steele, Glenn Simpson, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Loretta Lynch, and Rod Rosenstein cooked up the phony Trump-Russia conspiracy to frame Trump. The book is published by HarperCollins, which, like Fox News, is owned by Rupert Murdoch. It is a shoddy propaganda effort held together with laughable legal arguments and unsupported conclusions.
Note: Notice I didn't mention Robert Mueller as one of the conspirators. He's a ghost in this book.
The first four chapters (about a quarter of the book) put Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation on trial for harmless emails, a widely debunked conspiracy theory about Uranium One, and bogus pay-for-play rumors. It's like a summary of Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer. In other words, it consists of rumor, innuendo, gossip, bizarre conjecture, and legal mumbo jumbo. Complete trash. And, of course, it has nothing to do with the "Russia hoax," so it doesn't even belong in this book.
The rest of the book describes the "fraudulent" case against Donald Trump. Here are some of the nuggets:
- Sure, Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election, but they do that every election, so nobody cares. Well, former V.P. Dick Cheney cares. He said that Russia's interference in the 2016 election was a significant escalation in their election dirty tricks and it could be called "an act of war." Facebook estimates that 126 million people were served content from Russia-linked pages. The book Cyberwar by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania, persuasively argues that Russian trolls and hackers likely changed the outcome of the 2016 election.
- The "hoax" was manufactured by high-ranking officials with the FBI and the DOJ. Their motives, never revealed in the book, were "impure." But what were they? Jarrett never tells us, a departure from his usual approach: unsupported conjecture.
- When the FBI launched its investigation into the Trump campaign it had no legitimate basis for doing so. Really? The FBI determined that Russia hacked the DNC, and Trump campaign assistant George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat in a London bar about the theft of the DNC emails and their upcoming publication. That's what kicked off the counterintelligence investigation. Dozens of indictments later, it's now a criminal investigation. What more was needed to make the investigation "legitimate"?
- "Collusion" is not a crime. Gee, who said it was? Of course, conspiracy to defraud the United States is a crime. So is espionage, campaign finance violations, money laundering, bribery, tax fraud, bank fraud, and racketeering. In fact, Manafort was charged with most of those crimes. Jarrett, a lawyer, knows this, but he's being disingenuous. Warning: If you quote Jarrett and say that "collusion is not a crime," people will mock you. Don't do it.
- It's not a crime to talk to a Russian. However, it is a crime to talk with a Russian about sanctions and then lie about that meeting under oath to Congress. Also, did Jarrett talk to any Russians? It appears not.
- The Steele dossier was a "preposterous collection of rumors, innuendos, supposition, and wild speculation." However, other than the story of Trump and prostitutes at the Ritz Carlton, the dossier's content was largely corroborated by U.S. intelligence.
- The Steele dossier was the sole pretext for the FBI's probe of Trump. That's simply not true. Again, it was Trump campaign's foreknowledge of leaks of Russian-hacked emails stolen from the DNC that caused the FBI to conduct an investigation.
- There was no reason to conduct surveillance of Carter Page, and DOJ officials may have violated several statutes. Actually, Carter Page had numerous contacts with Russian government officials, and he was either wittingly or unwittingly acting as a Russian agent. In a 2013 letter, Page called himself an “informal adviser” to Russia. U.S. intelligence services would have been negligent had they not surveilled Carter Page.
- Meeting with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower and discussing Russian adoptions is not a crime. Well, why did Donald Trump Jr. lie about the meeting? Why did the president dictate a phony press release about the meeting? Why wasn't the meeting disclosed? What does Paul Manafort say happened in the meeting? When there are multiple accounts of what happened at a meeting, you can bet that someone is lying.
- National Security Advisor Michael Flynn committed no crimes. C'mon, he pleaded guilty to a felony, lying during an FBI interview about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. He's been cooperating with the Mueller investigation for the past year, and his sentencing is scheduled for December.
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions mistakenly recused himself from the Trump-Russia investigation. I guess Jarrett is saying that had Sessions not recused himself, Mueller would never have been appointed as Special Prosecutor, and then Jarrett couldn't have cashed in with this book. Doh! Actually, Sessions had been caught lying about his Russian contacts multiple times. Other than resigning, recusal was his only option. He chose to recuse because he desperately wanted to be Attorney General.
- FBI Director James Comey should have been fired in July 2016 after he botched the announcement that Hillary Clinton would not be charged with a crime. Hey, I actually agree with this! This is the only thing Jarrett got right in the book.
- Firing Comey in 2017 was not obstruction. Actually, Trump told NBC's Lester Holt that he fired Comey because of the Trump-Russia thing. He admitted obstruction. But Jarrett argues that Trump also said Comey was incompetent, and that was his real reason for firing him. Whatever. Mueller has an abundant menu of obstruction to investigate: interference in the Flynn case, attempts to get Sessions to reverse his recusal, attempts to fire Mueller, attempts to fire Rosenstein, and dictation of a phony cover story to explain the Trump Tower meeting.
- Comey stole classified government records and leaked them to the press. Actually, the documents were unclassified, and his friend leaked them. He also wrote about the documents in a book that was cleared for publication by the government.
- The Mueller appointment was invalid. Jarrett says that when Mueller was appointed there was no actual crime to investigate. Huh? That's a mind-boggling assertion. Of course there was a crime: Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Everyone acknowledges this, even Putin. But Jarrett perhaps still believes it was a 400-pound man on a bed somewhere. Jarrett makes much of the fact that the Trump-Russia investigation began as a counterintelligence investigation, not a criminal investigation, so there was no need for a special prosecutor. Well, now it's a criminal investigation, and it's resulted in several convictions.
- Mueller had conflicts and should have recused himself. Actually, the DOJ granted Mueller an ethics waiver for possible conflicts. Surely Jarrett knows that. Anyone can google it.
- Rosenstein should have recused himself. Jarrett is on solid ground here. Yes, based on his being a fact witness to the Comey firing, Rosenstein should have recused himself. But he didn't. However, he said he would recuse if necessary. For instance, if Trump is indicted for obstruction.
In the epilogue, Jarrett explains that his book is not a defense of Trump. He wrote it as a defense of the rule of law. Ha! It's both a terrible defense of Trump and a terrible defense of the rule of law. It makes a mockery of law, distorting the law to make it sound like Trump is innocent but is being framed by evil, unscrupulous Democrats (and Republicans--Comey, Rosenstein, and Mueller, for instance).
As a book purportedly about the "Russia hoax," there's very little information about Trump and Russia in it. Nothing about Trump's trip to Moscow, his ownership of the Miss Universe pageant, his attempts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, his relationships with Russian mobsters, his fawning and bootlicking behavior toward Putin, and his reliance on Russian money for the past two decades. Numerous other books have been written about the Trump-Russia story--most prominently Collusion by Luke Harding, Russian Roulette by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, and House of Trump, House of Putin by Craig Unger--so it's surprising that Jarrett doesn't at least acknowledge that other people have covered the same territory with more depth and accuracy.
What's most shocking about this book is that Jarrett provides no coverage of Mueller's actual investigation. The book was published in July 2018, so Jarrett went to press before Manafort's conviction and his subsequent plea agreement. Some of the arguments that Jarrett attempts were made at Manafort's trial (for example, his contention that the Mueller appointment was invalid), but they collapsed under scrutiny. Four Trump aides (Manafort, Gates, Flynn, and Papadopoulos) have been convicted, Richard Pinedo of California was convicted of providing Russians with stolen identities, and about two dozen Russians have been charged with election interference (including Russians employed by the Internet Research Agency and 12 members of Russian military intelligence, or GRU). In addition, Mueller's team also investigated Michael Cohen and Sam Patton but referred them to the DOJ for prosecution. Mueller is investigating several other people, including Roger Stone, Julian Assange, Eric Prince, Donald Trump Jr., and, of course, president Donald Trump.
The book is thin at 286 pages, and it feels padded. Jarrett includes several footnotes to pretend there's a factual basis for his unsupported conclusions, but there is none. In fact, the book routinely resorts to conjecture. Take these sentences:
- "It also appears to have been criminal."
- "It appears they buried the evidence from Congress..."
- "It appears that McCabe was a party to the suspected plot."
- "It appears to have been covered up."
- "It appears there was coordination between the White House, the CIA, and FBI at the outset of this investigation and it's troubling."
Unlike a real journalist, Jarrett doesn't back up any of these inferences with evidence. Maybe the book should have been called "It Appears."
At this point, it's absurd for anyone to claim that the Trump-Russia story is a hoax. Mueller's team has found evidence of serious crimes. To date he has indicted 36 individuals and 3 companies, and several people (Flynn, Gates, Manafort, Papadopoulos, Pinedo, and van der Zwaan) have already pleaded guilty. But there is still something we don't know: Did anyone in the U.S. coordinate with Russians in the conspiracy to install Trump in the White House? We'll have to wait a few more weeks to find out.