The early books detailing investigations of the Trump campaign and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election tend to have lame, repetitive endings.
“Mueller’s investigation was far from over,” concludes Luke Harding in “Collusion,” published in late 2017. “The agony of Donald J. Trump was just beginning.”
Illustration by Rob Dobi for The Washington Post Carlos Lozada is the nonfiction book critic of The Washington Post. He has also served as The Post’s economics editor, national security editor and Outlook editor. He received the 2015 National Book Critics Circle’s citation for excellence in reviewing. Follow @CarlosLozadaWP Illustration by Rob Dobi for The Washington Post
“The Russia scandal was far from over — for Mueller, Congress, and the American people,” write Michael Isikoff and David Corn at the close of their best-selling “Russian Roulette,” out in March.
And in “Trump/Russia: A Definitive History,” released in May, Seth Hettena riffs on the president’s quest for a border wall to craft this final sentence: “So far, the only wall that is being built is the legal one that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is erecting around the White House, and it increasingly seems too high for America’s forty-fifth president to escape.”
Painful. But understandable. How do you satisfyingly finish a book — let alone one claiming “definitive” status — about an unfinished story? In the race to capture the scandal of our time, journalists are producing works that feel out of date the instant they’re published. It is impossible to include the latest indictment, the most recent testimony, the newest disclosure. Yes, everyone wants to know how the story ends. But we don’t know yet. We can’t know.
What we can know, and must know, is how the story begins.
It begins with decades’ worth of ties between an overstretched Manhattan real estate developer and questionable Russian investors. It begins with the smoldering suspicions through which a Russian president has always viewed the United States. It begins with frustrating cycles of engagement and animosity between Washington and Moscow, chronicled in Michael McFaul’s “From Cold War to Hot Peace.” It begins with the erasure of historical memory and self-understanding in the Soviet Union, which gave us the nostalgic and paranoid Russia of Masha Gessen’s “The Future Is History.” And it begins with the susceptibility of America’s people and politics to distraction and manipulation, which, as Timothy Snyder argues in “The