Review: Proof Of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy By Seth Abramson
Seth Abramson is a member of the “resistance”, a group of anti-Trump activists who use Twitter to confront their bête noir. Abramson brings an unusual skill set to the task. He is a former defence attorney and a prize winning poet who currently teaches digital journalism, legal advocacy and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. If President Donald Trump divides opinion, Abramson sub divides it. He has been called everything from a conspiracy theorist to a “diarrhoea tweeter” to someone who uses other people’s work without their permission. The criticism emanates from all political positions and none.
Abramson currently has 572k Twitter followers. His notoriety originates, in the main, from a so-called megathread attached to a Tweet he wrote in March, 2017. It read “The plot to sell America’s foreign policy for foreign oil_and_steal an election in the bargain began at the Mayflower Hotel.” This is a reference to Trump’s first foreign policy speech which took place in DC’s Mayflower, after a late venue change from the National Press Club.
Abramson subsequently claimed that the official reason for the change – a larger room – was specious and that the real reason was to provide a place where the sale of stock in Russian oil giant Rosneft could be discussed in private. From there he went on a tear: tweeting and retweeting about every actual and potential Trump scandal including his conduct at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, the projected Trump Tower in the same city and the various scandals surrounding his political appointees and acolytes.
In autumn, 2018 Abramson decided to “bookify” his twitter feed which sounds like something Trump himself might say. The process of bookification was not a long one and a mere three months later “Proof of Collusion” appeared. In fact, he did not bookify his twitter feed; a dreadful prospect that would at least have had the benefit of being something new.
Instead he “aggregates and curates” information that is already out there, much of it from standard media sources. Despite being extremely repetitive the book gives an impression of rigour with over 100 pages of endnotes and innumerable citations.
This kind of synthesis is nothing new and has been long favoured by historians with no ideas of their own. Abramson, however, gives the process a new name. “Curatorial journalism” is sold here as a public service, collecting the output of reporters and commentators and “filling in gaps”.
Specifically, it is for “Americans” who otherwise “are likely to stay in the dark for months” or are incapable of understanding the complex issues at stake. His “theory of the case” is that “Donald Trump and a core group of about ten to twenty aides, associates and allies conspired with a hostile foreign power to sell that power control over America’s foreign policy in exchange for financial award and – eventually – covert election assistance.”
At the time of writing, Abramson’s pinned tweet boasts that Proof of Collusion is “The book that keeps you AHEAD of Trump-Russia news”. The use of dramatic capital letters is, again, reminiscent of Trump’s own style, but the tweet raises the issue of how a finity of print can keep you ahead (or even AHEAD) of an ever-evolving situation.
The truth is, of course, that it can’t. Abramson may not have bookifyed his twitter feed but, if he had, the result would have been slighter than this collation but not dissimilar to it. The same situations and characters that populate his twitter feed, feature again in the book: sundry Russians with putative ties to Putin, Hilary Clinton and her emails, Flynn, Papadopoulos, Trump Jr, Kushner and all the rest of them. The most recent information that the book contains on any of them is from two months or so before it was published.
That is not to say that “Collusion” is without interest. It has the car crash quality that always attaches itself to Trump and the piling on that Abramson orchestrates makes the condition of the American presidency seem all the more appalling. What it doesn’t do is prove anything despite Abramson’s insistence in the introduction that “Proof of collusion in the Trump-Russia case is in plain sight”. Amassed theories and suggestive juxtapositions notwithstanding, we end up with something closer to the Scottish “not proven” verdict with its unique mix of moral conviction of guilt and inability to conclusively prove the case.
This is not to say that it will be this way for much longer. Special counsel Robert Mueller doesn’t have a Twitter account and has operated under the radar to such an extent that his investigations force Abramson to speculate even more intensely that usual.
Things are moving so quickly that the book already requires a second volume which itself would be out of date by the time it is printed. Since the first sentence of this review was penned, Trump’s charity foundation closed down amid allegations that funds were used for private and political gain and Abramson’s pinned tweet changed to “Hi everyone: I’m going to be away for bit. I will be back. Stay strong.” What that means is anybody’s guess but it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that his adversary will tweet something similar in the not-too-distant future.
CNN analyst Abramson’s muddled follow-up to Proof of Collusion alleges a “Red Sea Conspiracy” hatched in 2015 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates and then Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. Their plan, according to Abramson, was to illicitly help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in order to gain his support for a “grand bargain” that would end U.S. sanctions on Russia in exchange for Vladimir Putin’s help in evicting Iran from Syria, pave the way for dozens of new Saudi and Emirati nuclear plants, and forge an anti-Iranian, pro-Israeli military alliance among Sunni Arab nations. Abramson’s talk of quid-pro-quo is unconvincing since the “bargain” to end sanctions never materialized and the only specific election meddling he identifies is an unproven theory that the UAE funded pro-Trump social media operations. His disorganized, repetitive, almost unreadable narrative instead traces labyrinths of murky “ties,” meetings, and business deals that add up only to nebulous insinuations. Buried beneath the avalanche of conjecture are Abramson’s serious criticisms of Trump’s foreign policy, including his support of the Saudi regime’s brutal war in Yemen. The result is a confused proof of nothing that obscures more than it reveals.
"A richly documented indictment of power and corruption that bears urgent discussion in the coming electoral cycle." ―Kirkus Reviews
"[Proof of Conspiracy] alleges a 'Red Sea Conspiracy' hatched in 2015 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates and then Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. Their plan....was to illicitly help Donald Trump's presidential campaign in order to gain his support for a 'grand bargain' that would end U.S. sanctions on Russia in exchange for Vladimir Putin's help in evicting Iran from Syria, pave the way for dozens of new Saudi and Emirati nuclear plants, and forge an anti-Iranian, pro-Israeli military alliance among Sunni Arab nations....[CNN analyst Abramson] traces labyrinths of murky 'ties,' meetings, and business deals....[and offers] serious criticisms of Trump's foreign policy, including his support of the Saudi regime's brutal war in Yemen." ―Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Seth Abramson is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, legal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is the author of eleven books and editor of five anthologies. Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the PhD program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two one-year-old rescue hounds, Quinn and Scout. Read more about him at SethAbramson.net.
#DisneyDeniszen could not have read Proof of Conspiracy, as he published his review early on the day it was published, and clearly he says nothing that would have required him to have the book in hand at all. I have read about 100 pages, reading carefully, checking the endnotes, and the other sources I have. I have read his earlier book, Proof of Collusion and all of the serious books on the subject that I could find, including the Mueller report--Isikoff and Corn, Hardy, McCabe,Clapper, and others. I have looked for serious books presenting the case that might present Trump’s action in a more positive light. Facts that might balance the argument are hard to find. I tried to read Jerome Corsi’s book, which announces in its title that it is intended as rhetoric and not research, and it is page after page conspiratorial speculation, in which Bush I and II, Clinton and Obama are presented equally as evil leaders of the deep state. It cannot be balanced because it has no weight. As there is no evidence of the existence of a deep state in Corsi’s book or anywhere else, as far as I know, a careful reader can only think that it is baloney. The evidence is not much stronger than that adduced by WWG1WGA in QAnon: An Invitation to the Great Awakening (which is fiction posing as factual reporting and barely literate).
Abramson’s two volumes are completely responsible and useful research. He gives us the narrative in a straight-forward form. Every questionable claim is footnoted. Abramson’s narrative is consistent with Mueller. One wishes he would have had access to the investigative resources that Mueller did not or was not allowed to use. The writing of Proof of Conspiracy is solid and serviceable. The Disney reviewer might mislead readers to think there is a lot of fancy dancing in the prose. There is none. Abramson’s let’s the story carry the weight, and it does.
I challenge other reviewers to bring forth claims that they find untrue and evidence to support their suspicions. It is highly unlikely that a book of this size and scope does not have some mistaken information. I am sure Abramson himself would be happy to have it pointed out.
#It's sad to say that Seth Abramson, in all likelihood, knows more about DJT's corrupt business dealings and international entanglements than does Robert Mueller. While the scope of Mueller's investigation was tightly curtailed, and his testimony before congress even more tight-lipped, Abramson paints the big picture in sickening detail. This book should rattle you to the core.
Abramson is a humble citizen (with a stellar legal background and communication skills) who has answered the call of conscience and taken up the task of gathering reportage from around the world and assembling it into a cohesive and damning narrative. This task should have been accomplished by the House and Senate and Intelligence committees through hearings and reports, but they have failed us. While the FBI counterintelligence probe may include this same information and more, it will not be made public as long as this administration is in power--if ever. For the foreseeable future, "Proof of Conspiracy" is the most thorough account you will read about DJT's foreign policy and how it came to be.
Every member of congress should read "Proof of Collusion" and "Proof of Conspiracy." Alas, we know that many Republican congressmen didn't even read the Mueller Report. And the Speaker of the House (as of the writing of this review) has been unwilling to educate the public and hold this administration accountable using the constitutionally-provided remedy of impeachment hearings, despite continued criminal acts and self-enrichment by DJT and his cronies on a daily basis.
After nearly 3 years of this "crime spree masquerading as an administration" (in Andrea Chalupa's phrase), no one with power in Washington has defiantly declared "no more--this ends now." And so, it's left up to all of us in 2020. Thank you, Seth, for helping to inform the electorate.
Proof of Conspiracy, Seth Abramson