cover image The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy

The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy

Greg Miller. Custom House, $29.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-06-280370-2

President Trump is but the bumbling apprentice to Vladimir Putin's master political manipulator, according to this penetrating study of Trump's Russia problem. Pulitzer-winning Washington Post national security correspondent Miller (The Interrogators) builds on his own reporting to recap, in novelistic style, Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump's campaign and administration. He covers the Russian government's hacking of Democratic National Committee computers and its pro-Trump social media propaganda, contacts between Trump campaign figures and Russian officials and operatives, Trump's hostility toward special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation, and Trump's ardent admiration (expressed in speeches, tweets, and summits) for the Russian president. Well-paced but rich in detail, Miller's narrative is one of the best of the many new books on this evolving saga. His treatment of Trump's possible obstruction of justice in trying to influence investigations by former FBI director James Comey and other intelligence officials is especially good. But on the underlying issue of collusion, there's no smoking gun here; Miller doesn't demonstrate that Russian machinations won Trump the presidency, and his incisive examination of the Trump administration's Russia policy shows that Washington politics%E2%80%94aka democracy%E2%80%94has forced Trump to accept hard-line measures against Russia. The problem that stands out in this account isn't Russian subversion, but a biased, erratic, and self-centered American president. Photos. (Sept.)