Jeffrey Toobin's account of the Mueller investigation and the impeachment of the president takes readers behind the scenes of the epic legal and political struggle to call Trump to account for his misdeeds.
Toobin’s narrative unfolds like a tragedy ... Toobin primarily relies on details from the Mueller report and the public record to reconstruct the investigation, but his own reporting yields striking new information, especially in the case against the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company that weaponized social media to manipulate voters ... Toobin’s absorbing, fast-paced narrative is anchored by detailed scenes of chaos inside the Trump administration and meetings between Trump’s and Mueller’s lawyers. But it provides no hard information about how and why Mueller came to make his most significant and ill-fated decisions. As a former prosecutor and legal analyst, Toobin can offer somewhat satisfying educated guesses, but ultimately Mueller’s caution and restraint remain an enigma ... If he is right, then True Crimes and Misdemeanors stands as a chilling preview of what to expect should Trump win a second term, and also as a road map for all that needs repair should he lose.
This 450-page work is more than a journalist emptying his notebook of all his interviews and insights. It is more than a legal expert analyzing how the best work of talented and committed lawyers could be frustrated by governmental rules and rivalries within the executive and legislative powers in our federal system ... Perhaps its highest function is as a condensation of the best evidence against the presidency and character of Donald Trump, a summation offered up much as a prosecutor would do in seeking to sway a jury ... There is a great deal of detail amassed here that even hardcore Trump investigation junkies will not have seen. Much of it has to do with behind-the-scenes strategizing and negotiating by the myriad lawyers involved on all sides — the FBI, Mueller's team, the White House, other executive offices and both parties in both chambers of Congress. Toobin is fascinated not only by the language of, say, the impeachment articles themselves, but by the individuals who drafted them, reviewed them or lent their imprimatur ... In fact, while True Crimes offers a one-stop catalog of the legal proceedings surrounding the Trump presidency, it can also be read as a who's who of the legal profession in Washington and New York. More than a dozen key attorneys each rate pages of description and detailed narrative, while dozens more make cameo appearances or get drive-by mentions ... Most of what is new here is at the level of detail. The broad outlines and the key quotations from the Mueller saga and from the subsequent impeachment and trial of the president have been the stuff of nightly news, daily papers and constant Twitter feeds for years ... But Toobin has gathered such a weight of evidence and such a chorus of witnesses that his summation is more damning than the sum of its parts. By integrating the Russian interference story with all the twists and turns of Trump's defensive moves and the segue to the Ukraine arms-for-favors deal, Toobin presents a persuasive summation to the jury of his readers.
Any writer would struggle to make this material thrilling. Even if there were some suspense or mystery around the outcome, the topic is the bureaucracy of governance. This dry terrain is not just the context of the book’s events, but also the field of struggle on which Democrats chose to battle Trump. As in the news cycle, so in the hardcover book: the chosen areas of investigation are so circumscribed, and the fine details of the potential crimes so difficult to grasp, that they slip from the attention almost as they enter it ... Shorn of his real abuses, the Trump of institutional Democrat antipathy appears as a kind of jester figure, the holy fool of the tarot card, bravely teetering forward into eternity like a buoyant stock market. He has a raw, desperately intuitive clarity about others, scanning the field of the social like a resting apex predator. Everything about Trump’s language is more alive than the dry social technocracy articulated by the heroes of this book—centrist politicians and government lawyers ... Toobin’s advocacy for tedium starts to feel like a direct expression of the problem facing the Democrats, which is that they are boring to the point of immorality ... It starts to feel like Trump’s crass gluttony might be preferable to the joyless managerial propriety favored by the center-leaning lawyers Toobin praises ... In focusing on constitutional wrangling, Toobin misses the point: the Constitution is only powerful to the extent it reflects real relations of power. The law is inside the building.