It is the season for giving, and what I am giving this year is thanks for the gratifying reception given to my latest book, Ball of Collusion (Encounter Books, August 2019). Naturally, for a writer, positive critical reviews are always welcome. But I was especially grateful for the reaction the book got from National Review readers and from supporters of National Review Institute (NRI), the nonprofit 501(c)(3) journalistic think tank that supports the NR mission and NRI fellows such as myself.
Thanks to NRI, I’ve been on a book tour that, once it finally ends early next year, will have taken me all around the country: northern and southern California, Dallas and Houston in Texas, Palm Beach, and Chicago, as well Madison, Jackson, Oklahoma City, and a couple of stops in Minnesota, starting in Rochester and winding up in Minneapolis. There have also been several sessions at home base in New York City.
NRI has been invaluable to this effort, allowing me to reach new audiences around the country. The Institute enables me, and my fellow NRI fellows, to do what we do best: Advance principled and practical conservatism. NRI seeks to raise over $200,000 before the end of the year to support our work. Therefore, I hope you will consider giving — and giving generously — to support NRI’s End-of-Year Fund Appeal with a tax-deductible contribution.
It is an extraordinary time in our nation’s history. My book is about the real collusion in the 2016 election — not the Russiagate narrative that roiled the country for three years, but the Obama administration’s placement of the government’s awesome law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus in the service of politics, first undermining a solid criminal case against Hillary Clinton for destroying government documents and mishandling classified information; then struggling to weave together, in the absence of real proof, a case that Donald Trump conspired with the Kremlin to steal the 2016 election through cyberespionage — and continuing to pursue that case well after President Trump entered office, straitjacketing his administration.
The point of these machinations was threefold: to prevent Mr. Trump from becoming president; to build an impeachment case against him if he managed to win; and to render him unelectable by the time the stretch run of the 2020 election campaign arrived.
Obviously, that is a dynamic set of goals. The amazing thing is how it has played out, even as I’ve been touring the country to speak about the book.
While an author of these kinds of books always hopes to edify readers with the finer points of some controversy he has studied closely, learning is very much a two-way street. In many ways, this was no surprise to me. I started writing for National Review about 17 years ago, so I am very familiar with how well informed and deeply engaged our readers are. Ball of Collusion was warmly received in the best way: by readers who were very familiar with the story and its underlying facts. Many times, I’ve been able to help the audience grasp why this or that development led to some legal or political strategy in response by the Trump administration and its antagonists. But just as often, I was asked hard questions that forced me to rethink matters I thought were settled.
A great example: No matter where I went in the country, readers pressed the same question: How and when are government officials going to be held accountable for such serious misconduct as abusing laws that allow intelligence agents to monitor the activities of American citizens — even listen to their phone calls and read their emails — on what turns out to be a bogus claim that they were engaged in clandestine activities on behalf of a foreign power? Knowing this was a major concern, I prepared to explain to audiences that abuses of power are not easy to prosecute because many are not listed as crimes in the penal code; therefore, the most important thing is to get to the bottom of what happened and fix our laws and procedures to the extent they need fixing.
This was extremely disturbing to readers, who passionately countered that unless officials are held accountable when their powers are abused, the government cannot be trusted with such intrusive intelligence-gathering tactics. This, naturally, was equally disturbing to me — having first become acquainted with these powers as a prosecutor handling international terrorism cases, and knowing how critical they are to protecting the country.
Needless to say, our readers were right. I hit the books as if I were still a government lawyer and started looking at penal statutes that might apply. Then, as the book tour rolled on, the Justice Department announced that it was conducting not merely an administrative review of the Russiagate probe but a full-blown criminal investigation. We don’t know where this will lead, but we do know that informed Americans — and there are none more informed than NR readers and NRI supporters — are effectively telling their government that they won’t be content with another dusty blue-ribbon-commission report that results in no action. They want accountability.
The other remarkable development was that, even as one impeachment gambit collapsed in a heap, another took flight. While I was out on the trail, talking to readers about Ball of Collusion, Washington came up with more collusion — this time, contending that President Trump was colluding with Ukraine to undermine the 2020 election.
The new allegation clearly had legs. Unlike its Russian precursor, Ukrainegate moved quickly through the investigative phase (the better to conceal its flaws — such as the fact that nothing much actually happened), as the Democratic-controlled House conjured up two articles of impeachment, notwithstanding its failure to prove that the president had committed any crimes.
The tour was thus an extraordinary opportunity for me to meet with highly informed readers and examine the Ukraine impeachment push by collectively applying the lessons learned from the Russia impeachment push that forms the heart of the book. I have been doing extensive impeachment commentary, both in NR and in national media, and I cannot begin to quantify how valuable it has been to get the feedback of NRI supporters — their assessment of how the use of impeachment as a partisan political weapon is evolving, and what it portends for the 2020 elections and our nation’s governance going forward.
I am proud to say that Ball of Collusion has been a success — a New York Times bestseller, in fact. The support from NR readers and NRI supporters has obviously been a significant part of that, and I could not be more thankful. So if you have not yet contributed to NRI’s End-of-Year Fund Appeal, I hope you will consider doing so today. Your support is both needed and deeply appreciated.