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American Kompromat

How the KGB Cultivated Donald Trump, and Related Tales of Sex, Greed, Power, and Treachery

By Craig Unger
12-minute read
Audio available
American Kompromat by Craig Unger

American Kompromat (2021) tells the dark and unsettling tale of how the Russian KGB began cultivating Donald Trump as an asset –⁠ and then hit the jackpot when he became the president of the United States. Drawing connections between Trump, Jeffrey Epstein, and a mysterious Catholic sect called Opus Dei, it explores the reasons why Trump repeatedly did Putin’s bidding –⁠ and who enabled him to do so.

  • Americans trying to make sense of Trump’s connection to Russia
  • Fans of political gossip and conspiracies
  • Citizens concerned about how politicians and businessmen weaponize their power

Craig Unger is a journalist who has contributed to Vanity Fair for 15 years and formerly served as editor in chief of Boston magazine. He is the author of several books, including the best sellers House of Bush, House of Saud and House of Trump, House of Putin.

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American Kompromat

How the KGB Cultivated Donald Trump, and Related Tales of Sex, Greed, Power, and Treachery

By Craig Unger
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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American Kompromat by Craig Unger
Synopsis

American Kompromat (2021) tells the dark and unsettling tale of how the Russian KGB began cultivating Donald Trump as an asset –⁠ and then hit the jackpot when he became the president of the United States. Drawing connections between Trump, Jeffrey Epstein, and a mysterious Catholic sect called Opus Dei, it explores the reasons why Trump repeatedly did Putin’s bidding –⁠ and who enabled him to do so.

Key idea 1 of 7

The KGB had established contact with Donald Trump by 1980.

The time? The late 1970s. The place? Manhattan, inside a 16-story building at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street.

Today, this location is home to Eataly, a huge marketplace for Italian specialty foods. But back then, it housed a number of different businesses. One of these was a store called Joy-Lud Electronics.

Joy-Lud attracted a very particular clientele: Soviet diplomats, KGB officers, and members of the Politburo. So, why did they choose Joy-Lud? Well, its owners were Soviet émigrés, people who emigrate for political reasons. Plus, Joy-Lud was the only place you could get televisions that, thanks to certain technical specifications, actually worked in the Soviet Union. Soviet customers went to Joy-Lud to buy gadgets that were unavailable back home –⁠ often to resell them at exorbitant prices.

But Joy-Lud had one client who was a bit different than the rest. That person was Donald Trump.

The key message here is: The KGB had established contact with Donald Trump by 1980.

It was through one of Joy-Lud’s owners, Semyon Kislin, that the KGB began to court Donald Trump. Kislin denies having a relationship with the KGB, but in those days, émigrés working with KGB agents was the norm, not the exception. That’s because the KGB enforced ultimatums: if you wanted to emigrate, you had to help them. 

So, what was Kislin’s likely role? He seems to have been a “spotter agent.” His job entailed searching for potential targets for KGB recruitment, and reporting his findings to his handlers. 

At some point, it appears that Kislin began targeting Trump. We know this because of a strange transaction that occurred between Trump and Joy-Lud Electronics around 1980. At the time, Trump was in the process of converting an old hotel, the Commodore, into the Grand Hyatt New York. As part of its renovation, Trump purchased hundreds of television sets from Kislin’s modest electronics store on credit. 

This purchase was unusual for a couple reasons: the store had been willing to sell the sets in such bulk and on credit. Why was Kislin extending these favors to Trump? Was he just eager to make a massive sale? Or had the KGB installed bugging devices inside the TVs?

Whatever the reason, Kislin reported the sale to his KGB handlers. Contact with Trump had officially been established, and the KGB could begin cultivating him as an asset.

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