The Abramson Theiory

I’ve been following, and also quoting, Seth Abramson, a University of New Hampshire professor — also a lawyer and criminal defense attorney — and his prolific (arguably TOO prolific) tweets about Trump and the Russian Collusion scandal.

The Washington Post did an expose on Abramson, and his sometimes sensible, sometimes not, theory:

As Seth Abramson tells it, Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with the Russian government is not in doubt, not hard to understand and happens to read like a crime thriller.

The University of New Hampshire professor has become virally popular by reframing a complex tangle of public reporting on the Russia scandal into a story so simple it can be laid out in daily tweets — and so dramatic his fans can’t stop reading, even if critics point out the plot holes.

It goes, in short, like this:

After trying for many years to expand his business empire into Russia, Abramson asserts, Trump visited Moscow in 2013 to personally meet agents of Russian President Vladmir Putin, using his beauty pageant as cover.

There, Abramson writes, a secret deal was struck: Putin agreed to open up his country’s rich real estate market to Trump, and Trump agreed to campaign for president while promoting pro-Russian policies.

Simple as that. And everything that has happened since — the election hacking, Trump’s improbable win and a special counsel’s investigation into his campaign and administration — follows from that deal, in Abramson’s telling.

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Abramson’s tweets link copiously to sources, but they range in quality from investigative news articles to off-the-wall Facebook posts and tweets from Tom Arnold. The New Republic and Atlantic have both dismissed the professor as a conspiracy theorist.

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Abramson will be the first to tell you he has no special knowledge of the investigation. Much of his analysis is based on his experience as a criminal defense lawyer in the 2000s.

But sound or not, his theory of the Trump Russia scandal has won thousands of devotees and appears to be breaking into the mainstream.

“I don’t like conspiracy theorists,” Abramson told The Washington Post. “Their answer to every situation is some dramatic explanation.”

That said, he acknowledged his explanation for the Trump campaign’s many ties to Russia is as dramatic as possible: that the president of the United States has been corrupted by a foreign power. And he’s often conflated with the cranks he despises.

“Yes, I have a dramatic reading from what did happen here and what’s going to happen here. And that’s because I consider this to be an extraordinary criminal investigation and prosecution,” Abramson said. “It’s a singular event.”

So singular that he repeatedly warns his readers they need to prepare for a political scandal the likes of which the United States has never seen.

Part of his appeal is that he purports to boil the special prosecutor’s opaque investigation — and the confusing web of Trump businesses, Kremlin associates and conflicting explanations that intersect with it — down to a few key names and dates and a simple motive: greed.

“The CORE NARRATIVE is simple,” as Abramson wrote in a typically styled Twitter thread over the weekend. “America was SOLD OUT by men who wanted POWER and were willing to trade U.S. POLICY to get it.”

Citing news reports that date back to the late 20th century, Abramson argues that Trump has long wanted to expand his real estate holdings into Russia’s lucrative markets.

On this point, at least, he’s in good company. Many mainstream writers, have argued the same, including David Ignatius in The Washington Post.

But Abramson departs from those writers in his description of a weekend trip Trump took to Moscow in 2013, when he brought his Miss Universe pageant to the Russian capital.

Trump ended up spending part of the weekend with Russians associated with the Crocus Group. While Ignatius describes the company as a “shopping mall developer,”

Abramson calls it “essentially the Kremlin’s no-bid real estate developer.”

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Ignatius and others have noted that Trump returned from the trip crowing about his plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and The Post has reported on his company’s pursuit of the hotel deal two years later, when he was running for president.

Abramson’s theory squares the circle: He argues that Trump signed a real estate contract with Putin’s agents on the 2013 visit and “used his run for the presidency as a chit — a valuable asset to be offered to Putin — to ensure Putin’s assistance with the multibillion-dollar Trump Tower Moscow deal.”

The fact that Trump Tower Moscow was never actually built Abramson blames on an accident of history: Trump never expected to win the election and conflict himself out of the deal.

His evidence isn’t so clear cut. Abramson cites a 2014 tweet from a Russian lifestyle blogger  (“I’m sure @realDonaldTrump will be great president! We’ll support you from Russia!“)  as “proof” that Trump’s companions on the Moscow trip knew he’d run for president long before he announced it.

But this ignores that Trump was openly flirting with a presidential run for years. Indeed, his own Twitter feed at the time was filled with people hoping and assuming he’d run.

Other parts of Abramson’s analysis may be better grounded. A Forbes article supports his contention that Putin-connected developers talked about a real estate deal with Trump during the Moscow trip. And Abramson notes that one of Trump’s hosts in 2013, Emin Agalarov, was later implicated in arranging a meeting in which Trump campaign officials sought to obtain politically helpful information from Russia.

But these facts are sprinkled into his threads with more fantastic sounding claims. Read deep down into Abramson’s Twitter feed and you’ll find what he describes as a “confession” from a “Kremlin agent,” who detailed a five-year plot to help Trump win the election in a public Facebook post.

It’s dramatic stuff. But would those involved in a Kremlin-orchestrated plot to put Trump in the White House really spill the beans unprompted on Facebook?

Absolutely, says Abramson — and tried to explain the difference between a conspiracy theory, which he deplores, and the “criminal conspiracy” he asserts Trump involved himself in during the campaign.

“This was very unsophisticated and the people involved were largely moronic,” he told The Post. “I’ve represented thousands of criminal defendants and what they have in common is they were very unsophisticated, and we might say stupid. Watergate was stupid. The people involved were stupid. President Nixon was very stupid, and that’s how he got caught.”

There are, as the article suggests, a lot of holes in Abramson’s theory, but I have warmed up to the notion that Trump’s relationship with Putin — or perhaps Putin’s oligarchs — goes back long before Trump ran for President in 2016. It has been reported (and disputed by Trump’s lawyers) that Mueller has subpoenaed Trump’s records from Deutsche Bank, the only bank in the world still willing to deal with Trump because of his bad credit. So it appears that Mueller is thinking along the same lines (that Trump’s issues go back several years).

In any event, history will prove Abramson right or wrong, or somewhere in the middle.  In the meantime, stay tuned.

What do you think?