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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 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.

368 pages, Kindle Edition

First published August 14, 2018

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About the author

Craig Unger

10 books76 followers
Craig Unger is an American journalist and writer. His most recent book is The Fall of the House of Bush, about the internal feud in the Bush family and the rise and collusion of the neoconservative and Christian right in Republican party politics, viewing each group's weltanschauung and efforts concerning present and potential future US policy through a distinctly negative prism. His previous work, House of Bush, House of Saud explored the relationship between the Bush family and the House of Saud. Craig Unger's work is featured in Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11. Unger has served as deputy editor of the New York Observer and was editor-in-chief of Boston Magazine. He has written about George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush for The New Yorker, Esquire Magazine and Vanity Fair.

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Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.2k followers
June 16, 2020

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.
Profile Image for David Katzman.
Author 3 books445 followers
April 25, 2019
So now it's clear that Mueller found enough evidence for obstruction of justice that Trump can and should be impeached. He found enough to indicate collusion with the campaign as well, but not enough to make a criminal charge for conspiracy. That merely means he didn't FIND the evidence, not that it didn't occur. I think there is still more to come out, and I'm hopefully that impeachment proceedings will begin and a RICO charge will be filed against the Trump Enterprise in Southern District of NY.

I found a link to an interview with Craig Unger on Youtube that highlights much great detail from this book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIn2L...

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.
Profile Image for Steven Z..
574 reviews115 followers
September 3, 2018
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.
742 reviews19 followers
August 20, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Elizabeth A.G..
164 reviews
January 16, 2019
Craig Unger convincingly presents the frightening manipulations, lies, conspiracies, murders, greed, foreign incursions by Putin and his oligarchs, and the spread of the Russian mafia into Europe and the U.S. in order to expand the power base and return Russia to what Putin views as the rightful restoration of its past glory and importance in the world. The Russian connections to power brokers and politicians point to collusions on all levels, including to Mr. Trump, wittingly or unwittingly, and enhance the ultimate goal of Putin to sabotage Western democracy.

Mr. Unger describes the ascent of both Putin and Trump and the ensuing entanglements are mind boggling. Some reviewers of the book have stated that much of the information Unger provides is already known and taken from other sources--that may be (Unger has supplied a long list of his sources) but for those who may not know the backgrounds and inter-relationships of all the players, this is an enlightening read. There are some caveats that I noticed in the writing wherein Mr. Unger cannot be definitive in some of the allegations and uses the word "likely" to describe Trump interactions..."Trump has allowed Trump-branded real estate to be used as a vehicle that likely served to launder enormous amounts of money..." and "...the Russian Mafia has likely been a de facto state actor serving the Russian Federation..." and ...Trump...was likely the subject of ... operations that produced kompromat (comprising materials) on him regarding sexual activities." So, there are some questions remaining about how knowingly involved Trump was in some events; but as Mr. Unger's investigations indicate, there are more provable involvements about his connections dating back 40 years.

We all await the results of the Mueller investigation!
Profile Image for Louise.
1,628 reviews284 followers
January 12, 2019
I’m glad I’m not taking a test on the “House of Putin” part of this book. There is name after name, crime after crime, outrage after outrage. The sums of money are huge. The author makes it clear at the start of the book, Trump's Russian connections have been public for years. The result is that regardng The“House of Trump”, I could pass the test without reading the book... it's all been published before.

The Putin part seems to be there to show the extent of Russian corruption. It shows how Putin, by essentially being a non-entity rose through the chaos that followed communism. There are episodes on the individuals who were able to capture Russia’s resources; Putin’s undermining the west and the fate of activists and journalists.

There is little new on Trump, other than a hint that Trump’s connections go back to his first wife Ivanna. Her father was under surveillance in Russian controlled Czechoslovakia, making the family’s foreign travel highly unusual. Besides re-telling the Trump-Russia story, noting at which steps Russia’s investments increased, Unger documents the extent of Putin’s purchase of influence in the US through paying lobbyists, lawyers and consultants. Putin's contributions go to (mostly Republican) campaign funds often made through Russians that have US citizenship.

At the end, there is an annotated list of primary Trump-Russia connections. There are some photos. The material is well documented.

In general, the book contains too much information to digest on the individuals in the Russian Mafia and a rehash of people and events leading to the Trump presidency.
Profile Image for Mary Abbott.
51 reviews2 followers
August 19, 2018

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.
Profile Image for Zak.
406 reviews28 followers
October 25, 2018
Ok, there's a lot of stuff about the Russian mob, crooked oligarchs, etc. A lot of this is lifted off books like Robert Friedman's "Red Mafiya". At some point it felt like I was reading a book about the Russian mob instead of about Trump. Did Trump sell a lot of properties to Russians of dubious character? Yes. But the point is, it was legal, there were no laws preventing him from selling his properties to offshore corporations. Did people in his campaign and/or administration have a lot of dealings with some Russians? Again, yes. But the book tries to make the point that Trump is a Russian mole, put into the White House and controlled by Putin and the mobsters. On this, I'm afraid the book fails to make a conclusive case. A lot of smoke, but no fire.
Profile Image for Mirek Jasinski.
423 reviews13 followers
September 3, 2018
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.

36 reviews2 followers
September 20, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Kusaimamekirai.
647 reviews215 followers
September 15, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Misfit.
1,637 reviews275 followers
October 25, 2018
These books are all starting to run together on the facts, and yes I know I should quit reading them ;)

There were a few new to me nuggets of factoids, but I did find myself skimming a bit when getting to facts I've read in other books.

Robert Mueller just please hurry and wrap it up so we have some answers and more books to be written.
Profile Image for Dorothy.
196 reviews
September 3, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Karel Baloun.
389 reviews33 followers
January 9, 2020
Written before the release of the Mueller Report and before the Impeachment, this deeply researched document shows why the GOP is circling the wagons, and how deeply Russian money has infected that party. Pelosi picked her battle brilliantly, and future investigations will reveal much much more… because the truth is already documented in court filings, and just needs to become known. If financial documents are opened, they can clearly demonstrate that Trump has laundered many billions of Russian mafia dollars through his property sales and casino transactions AND he’s so bad at business that he still is chronically near bankruptcy.

The institutionalized rule of law is key to modern civilization, and democracy cannot even pretend to function without it. China’s authoritarianism claims to be benevolent, for the people. It legitimacy is secured by popular benefit and security from corruption. NK’s Kim and Putin’s rule have no legitimacy, enforced only by power, fear, and history. Mob rule over critical resources is exactly how civilization would collapse into tribalism, and technology networks become impossible.

It is indeed Amazing how small a group of strategically positioned criminals were able to take control of a large chunk of the global economy, and laundry 10s of billions of dollars into conventional economic assets. The Ukrainian energy trade and political control of Ukraine were a huge element of Putin’s power, which explains Pelosi choosing this hill for her one big stand. Remember the names Firtash and Mogilevich, key bad guys, including as possibly joining Mercer and Bannon as owners of Cambridge Analytica. Christopher Steele of GPS Fusion Dossier fame, earlier investigated at least one of Putin’s UK murders for MI6 British intelligence. “during the 2015-16 election cycle, McConnell took $2.5M” from Russian-Ukrainian oligarch Leonard Blavatnik’s companies. (p216) WikiLeaks and Assange were all direct deliveries from Russian intelligence. Manafort, Hannity, Cohen and Stone all appear bigly.

Perhaps the shock would have been stronger in reverse chronological order... I’m not shocked by a Trump pattern that began in the 80s. Certainly it establishes his character, but I already know he was a lying immoral pos, and I’m more interested in crimes that have not passed their statute of limitations.

The danger to ordinary rule of law is astounding, since globalization of basic needs including food depends completely on trade and global monetary structures. I don’t like how these are tied to top-down “global finance”, but they also organize the fiction that is the global economy. Putin was even just a new national votes shy of control over Interpol around 2018, with Chinese support.

Fortunately, I guess they control less than 3% of production, and probably less than 5% of assets. For example, even if shell companies and tax shelters contain $2-3T in assets (30x a bill gates), it is still a sliver of the $100T annual global economy. So the system can reform, and reset. These black market segments of the economy are not somehow guaranteed legitimacy, and can be hindered by ordinary law enforcement, public service anti-marketing, and vice taxes.

Surprises included: inclusion of Orban though only through weak allegations, the key involvement of Israel’s Russian dual nationals, that the Chechen war started as Putin’s KGB’s false flag operation, specific bribes paid to GOP house majority leader Tom Delay and disgraced criminal Jack Abramoff, Iceland’s 2008 bank collapse, Tony Podesta working with Manafort(??!), the participation of Erdogan, for FBI Director William Sessions, and yeah Giuliani. (See index for page number.) I’m also amazed that Tad Devine (Sanders campaign 2015-2019) and Tony Podesta (brother of Hillary’s campaign manager John) were also both clearly implicated in aiding Russian activity. And that the DNC communications that led me to hate Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for king making Hillary over Bernie were actually Russian leaked.

The fight for the heart of Judaism seems central, with Putin having reorganized Russian Orthodox Judaism under a tiny conservative American Hasidic sect called Chabad, supported strongly by Charles Kushner, Jared’s dad and Ivanka’s father in law. It is deeply ironic that the grandchildren of nazi supporters, now aligned politically with white nationalists, will be using outrage against anti-semitism to defend Russian Jewish mafia activity (and it’s likely relation Netanyahu/Sheldon Adelson conservative Zionism.)

Russian individual objectives seem similar to Saudi Arabian royalty: maximize wealth by selling Russian natural resources to the West cheaply, and escaping completely into a respectable and elite position when the game is up. And Putin becomes the richest, by protecting the entire racket and maintaining enough social order for it to continue.

The large section dedicated to eulogies and epitaphs for murdered journalists and opposition politicians, consistently over 20 full years, are tragic, disgusting and should be required knowledge for everyone in the free world. Putin is a thug, and every democracy needs to stay far far away, and Putin’s economy should be completely isolated from the world, except for energy sales by which he keeps us all at some small level hostage.

Putin’s political and media advisor Surkov’s strategy predicted Trump’s chaos: “Rather than fight for control of the narrative […] Surkov set out to destroy the very idea of reality. And by undermining the whole notion of truth, of what actually happened, Surkov was able to create a never-ending conflict about the perception that helped the Putin regime’s ability to control and manage Russia. […] the opposition was completely befuddled because the ceaseless flood of contradictory stories meant that no one knew what the enemy was up to or even who they really were, or what was really going on. Meanwhile, supporters who listened to lie after lie were allowed to choose whichever fiction they preferred to believe” (p194) This is possible because Putin directly controls every single broadcast, internet and print media source in Russia, so it is all consistent propaganda, like our media being all Fox, only Fox, all the time.

Amazing allegations (p220) that in 2015 Putin’s bombings of Syrian civilians, somewhat on behalf of Assad, intentionally created the refugee crisis from which european far right politicians benefited, and was a singular key driver for Brexit. Millions of lives destroyed.. would that be a small, discountable cost to a KGB operative?

The book closes with great reference material: a 15 page annotated listing of Trump’s 59 Russian connections.

Who will win this propaganda war is so important to global governance, and recent election outcomes matter a lot. Investigations must be able to complete, and the entire story needs to come widely revealed as truth, even more so than the 2008 financial crisis investigations, but if journalists continue to die, these truths could become as buried as the Panama Papers.
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,988 reviews15 followers
September 5, 2018

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
Profile Image for Daniel Kelly.
46 reviews1 follower
August 24, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Stephen Selbst.
408 reviews7 followers
March 28, 2019
This is what reporters call a "clip job", a rewrite of previously written stories told in a hyperventilated style. Most of the book is about Russian organized crime; relatively little is about Trump or Putin. There's nothing in this book that hasn't been reported elsewhere. Don't waste your time. If I could give it zero stars I would.
Profile Image for Christopher.
145 reviews2 followers
August 27, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Mike Boutot.
34 reviews2 followers
March 8, 2020
An excellent resource for those interested in Trump’s connections to Russia and that’s country’s efforts in the U.S. The book goes into great depth about the influx of Russian organized crime into the U.S. and how Soviet, then Russian intelligence used that network for its own ends. The on criticism I have is that there’s almost too much detail. Unger frequently gives lists of names of those attached to a more important figure or event, but many of those people do not become relevant later on. It would have been better to focus the narrative and leave more of the trivia to footnotes or an appendix. In any event, this was a very informative book that I’ll keep around as a resource as I learn more about the subject.
Profile Image for Sharon C. Robideaux.
163 reviews1 follower
September 9, 2018
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.
49 reviews17 followers
May 3, 2020
If you follow the Trump/Russia story (or just the news in general), there isn't much new here. I was hoping the author, an accomplished journalist, would put some of the Trump hotel deals under the microscope like the New Yorker did with the failed Trump project in Baku a couple of years back.

The book is good at tracing different storylines and highlighting the sordid characters with links to Russian organized crime who have swirled around Trump over the years (decades). The early chapters rely heavily on a book called, "Red Mafiya," about the early days of the Russian mafia in Brighton Beach. The later chapters rely on articles from places like the NYT, Buzzfeed, and court records.

If you're up to date on Trump, oligarchs, and shady Russian crime figures, I'd say skip it.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,693 reviews11 followers
October 27, 2021
If you pay much attention to the news (outside of Breitbart or Fox) there really wasn't much new information outside of Putin. I really didn't know much about him. Presented in a way that as a reader I wanted to continue on reading.

How did I find this book? I was flipping through CloudLibrary and came across it.
Profile Image for Dan.
220 reviews67 followers
March 12, 2019
You always hear about people saying that a book, movie, whatever "changed " their life. THIS is a life-changing book. It has, in effect RUINED my life. I am consumed with dread, hopelessness, shock, disbelief. If what Craig Unger says in this book is true.....what hope is there for this country? Forget horror novels, THIS is the scariest book that I have ever read.
68 reviews39 followers
August 26, 2018
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.
8 reviews1 follower
September 3, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Courtney Beth.
2 reviews
September 7, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Donna Nix.
413 reviews2 followers
February 1, 2019
OK, make that 7 stars.

I expect loyalty from my cabinet.
My way or the highway...
I could shoot someone on 5th ave.....
My former lawyer is a RAT...

Sound like mob talk? It did to me. So, I've been wondering if DJT (I won't use his name) has mob ties. This book has the answers and more. This will answer almost all the questions about DJT, V. Putin, and organized crime. (The connections are much much deeper than the average person realizes.)

It's not a fast read. In fact it's very dense with all the Russian names and vocabulary, so it requires a patient reader. At the same time, it is a MUST read for all Americans who care about our future as a free country!!

My only small complaint is that I read the ebook, and most of the pictures in the back are missing. Copyright restrictions I guess..
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