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“A Russian Asset in the White House”: Author Craig Unger on Trump, Putin, and the GOP

TNR editor Michael Tomasky speaks with bestselling author Craig Unger on the deep, multimillion-dollar relationships between Russia and the American right.

Craig Unger in front of a green and black background
Illustration by The New Republic

Investigative journalist and bestselling author Craig Unger has spent decades researching the profound connection between figures on the American right and autocrats and authoritarians of various stripes around the world. His most recent book, American Kompromat: How the KGB Cultivated Donald Trump, and Related Tales of Sex, Greed, Power, and Treachery, explores the relationships between Donald Trump and other conservative U.S. politicians and Russia (and even the Soviet Union, since in Trump’s case the relationship goes back that far).

Unger speaks here about Vladimir Putin’s likely state of mind these days and whether it should worry us. He talks about the relationship between Putin and the oligarchs—one, he says, in which the Russian president holds most but not all of the cards. “The oligarchs have strategic resources” that Russia, especially a Russia at war, needs desperately, giving them some leverage over Putin.

When our conversation turns toward Trump and the Republican Party, Unger peels back the layers of history: He notes that Trump was identified as a potential KGB asset back in the Cold War days, details a lavish junket held for powerful former GOP Congressman Tom DeLay, and talks about the tens of millions poured into super PACs aligned with Russian interests. He also discusses ways that the GOP has done Russia’s bidding at crucial times, like when it changed the Ukraine plank in its 2016 platform. Finally, we speculate about what Trump could do with respect to Russia and NATO if he winds up back in the Oval Office.

You’ll have to watch to find out: