Five novelists imagine Trump’s next chapter

By Laura Lipman

The tape arrived at my apartment on June 1, 2015, although it took months, if not years, before I understood the significance of that date. It was in a plastic bag from a local store, on a USB drive. Who knows where I live? More people than you might imagine – I have a life, I go to work, I run errands, I ride the subway – but I never doubted the video on the player was from an official source . I assumed it was a way of taunting me. Watch how a famous man behaves in your country. That’s what bothers them the most about me, is that I love the United States. After all, I did what I did because I’m a patriot.

I didn’t look at it right away, but it wasn’t more than three days before I plugged it into my computer. It’s less salacious than one might imagine, more conventional sex than outright deviance. That’s why I downplayed it as irrefutable evidence that proves collusion. There is clearly something wrong with her hair. We spot a patch of skin at some point; it reminded me of that scene in “The Empire Strikes Back” when we see Darth Vader’s scalp. Not bald, but thinning hair, pink and damaged skin. I think there might be plastic surgery scars. Is he vain enough to kill anyone who sees this? This is not a rhetorical question.

What little audio there is – other than heavy breathing – is harmless. He mocks the hall, saying that only a “terrible, classless president who knows no luxury” would settle for such accommodations. He tells the women: “My hotels are so much better, they are the best, they are beautiful, come to the United States, I will show you what real luxury is.” Not a serious insult, but serious enough, apparently. The tape, as I tried to point out in an interview earlier this year, does not prove collusion, only the possibility of collusion. So why did someone send it to me? That’s the question I asked myself, but it wasn’t the right question.

I am trained in intelligence. And I believe what I’ve always said, that massive data collection is not only illegal, it’s ineffective. Much of the information we need has already been gathered, through legal sources, or is hiding in plain sight. The USB key was dropped off at my doorstep on June 1, 2015. It was not the contents of the key but the timing of delivery that mattered. Donald Trump announced his candidacy two weeks later. Putin didn’t need to agree to appoint him president, but he had to blackmail him into functioning.

And although Trump tried to tank him, he just couldn’t. That is to say how incompetent he is, how badly he understands the voters whose hatred he woos and stirs up, the so-called deplorables whom he secretly regards as losers. The joke was about the United States. Russia chose our president and they chose a fool. Because he made fun of a room at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow.