May 8, 2018

What has two thumbs, praise from Jane Mayer, and a new book out on the president’s relationship with Russia? Seth Hettena!


It’s a hell of a time to be alive. Ollie North is enjoying a macabre second act, Israel’s prime minister has insulted Japan’s prime minster by serving him desert in a big old shoe, and the President of the United States of America may just be deeply compromised by a hostile foreign power, which may just have meddled in our electoral process to ease his trip into office. Wow.

Luckily, for all the consternation and perplexity we’re feeling, there’s one guy who knows the road and can help us make sense of what’s happening: award-winning Associated Press reporter, acclaimed author, and all-around dot-connecting genius Seth Hettena. Seth’s book, Trump / Russia: A Definitive History, is timely and urgent as all get-out. The book is exactly what it sounds like — a rigorously-sourced, comprehensive examination of Donald Trump’s many ties  And, thank goodness, it’s on sale today.

This is big news! Excitement’s been building for a couple weeks. First came none other than Dark Money author Jane Mayer, who said of the book, “Hettena is a first-rate reporter and wonderful storyteller, and the tale he tells here is mind-boggling.” No faint praise that. David Cay Johnston, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who wrote The Making of Donald Trump, chimed in, too: “Seth Hettena skillfully weaves many threads—most fresh or previously hidden—into a rich tapestry tying together decades of Donald Trump’s deep involvement with Russia.” Yeah he does. And then Josh Marshall recently wrote at Talking Points Memo:

I strongly recommend getting a copy of Hettena’s book. It’s actually called Trump/Russia: A Definitive History. I plan to dig into my copy tonight.

The Chicago Tribune also told people to read it, as did Don Bauder of the San Diego Reader. Seth showed up on MSNBC’s The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, where gained new admirers, and on Cheddar, where he was interviewed in front of the New York Stock Exchange. This morning around 8:30, catch him on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Probably nothing has done more to stir heated anticipation than two excerpts from the book that have been published. One, on the president’s under-investigation lawyer-cum-flunky Michael Cohen, ran last month in Rolling Stone. A small taste:

A curious episode in Cohen’s life came in 1999 when he received a $350,000 check from a professional hockey player named Vladimir Malakhov, who was then playing for the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. According to Malakhov, the check was a loan to a friend. The friend, however, swore in an affidavit that she never received the money and never even knew the check had been written until it was discovered years later in a Florida lawsuit. So what happened to the money? One interesting lead was an incident involving Malakhov, who was approached in Brighton Beach and shaken down for money by a man who worked for the Russian crime boss, Vyacheslav Ivankov. “Malakhov spent the next months in fear, looking over his shoulder to see if he was being followed, avoiding restaurants and clubs where Russian criminals hang out,” according to testimony an unnamed Russian criminal gave to the U.S. Senate in 1996. Cohen, who said he didn’t know Malakhov or anyone else in the case, offered his own theories as to the origin and fate of the check in a 2007 deposition with Malakhov’s attorneys.

Q. You don’t recall why this check was written to you for $350,000 in 1999 and how these funds left your trust account in any way, shape or form?

A: Clearly Vladimir Malakhov had to have known somebody who I was affiliated to and the only person I can — and I mentioned my partner’s name, Simon Garber, who happens also to be Russian.

Then, just yesterday, another excerpt ran in Talking Points Memo, generating even more excitement. This time, the light was shone on Paul Manafort, the disgraced former lobbyist and Trump campaign chair indicted last October. Manafort has numerous connections to Russia, and spent some serious time under the employment of Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian former president of Ukraine — a country to which he cannot return, as he’s wanted for high treason there.

Almost as soon as he was sworn in, Yanukovych embarked on a platform to rebuild Ukraine’s political alliance with Russia and counter his predecessor’s pro-Western initiatives. He bluntly quashed the long-running NATO membership debate among Ukrainian politicians. And while he publicly called for a free and democratic Ukraine, reports of press censorship proliferated, and his political opponents, including the defeated Tymoshenko, landed in jail on trumped-up charges.…

The one Westerner he didn’t alienate was Paul Manafort, who continued working behind the scenes for President Yanukovych. Manafort had “walk-in” privileges that allowed him to enter the president’s office unannounced. Yanukovych placed such faith in his American advisor that his staff started using Manafort to deliver messages they really wanted the president to hear. “Paul has a whole separate shadow government structure,” Rick Gates, his right-hand man, told a group of Washington lobbyists. “In every ministry, he has a guy.”

All of this, presumably, will leave you wanting more, and we’ve got just the thing: Trump / Russia: A Definitive History, which is on sale today everywhere discomfiting and absolutely crucial books are sold. Get ’em while they’re hot.




Trump / Russia is on sale now. Buy your copy here, or at your neighborhood independent bookstore.