Jeff Pegues’ “Kompromat”

Timing is everything.

In 2016, Jeff Pegues published Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between the Police and Black America.

The author — a 1988 Staples High School graduate who rose through the broadcast ranks to WABC-TV News, and now is CBS News justice/homeland security correspondent — spoke with hundreds of officers, police chiefs, community activists, even then-FBI director (and Westporter) James Comey. Pegues’ unbiased view of both sides of the cop/community divide came out in the midst of a national debate over police/citizen relations.

Earlier this month he published Kompromat: How Russia Undermined American Democracy. It too is the right book, at the exact right time.

Jeff Pegues

Russia’s influence on our elections was a hot topic during the 8 months Pegues researched and wrote it.

But even he had no idea his book would hit the shelves just days before President Trump’s Helsinki Summit moved the title — “kompromat” means “compromising material” — out of obscurity, and into our national dialogue.

Pegues’ interest in the subject was piqued during the summer of 2016. In his CBS News role, he was one of the first people to hear — from reliable intelligence sources — about Russia’s interference in our election.

“Intelligence and law enforcement people who do not usually panic were really worried,” Pegues recalls.

He watched as American media focused on the presidential campaign — not on “the story behind the campaign, which was Russia’s hacking and influence.”

His own network was part of that surface coverage, Pegues notes. “I was stomping around the newsroom, saying we should be covering the Russian story every night.”

He spent 24 hours traveling with then-CIA director John Brennan, who told the CBS correspondent, “Unusual stuff is happening.” Pegues says, “It felt like we were living in a movie script.”

Pegues pitched a book idea to publishers. Some did not think it was a story. Prometheus — which published Black and Blue — trusted the author’s judgment. “I told them this would be a story for the ages,” he says.

During the day, Pegues talked to sources for his “Evening News” or “CBS This Morning” reports. On weekends and during vacations, he wrote Kompromat.

The more he dove into his research, the more it surprised him. “This is really remarkable,” Pegues says. “We haven’t gotten all of it yet. This is a new kind of warfare.”

But Kompromat is not just a frightening tale of ongoing Russian influence in our elections. Pegues confronts a related question: What will it take to protect American democracy?

“The intelligence community says this is ongoing,” the journalist says. “I’m worried about 2018 — and 2020.”

And he worries about kompromat — not the book title, but the actual activity.

“If in 2016 you’d told people we’d be where we are this week — with national talk about the president possibly being compromised — everyone would say ‘impossible,'” Pegues says.

“But officials are behind bars. They’re on trial. They’re cooperating with prosecutors. It’s amazing. And what’s happening now has serious repercussions for our entire democracy.”

Russians do not have to actually change votes in order to have an impact, Pegues emphasizes. “They just have to to change how we think. What we see and read has an impact on how we vote.”

The ultimate goal of the Russians, Pegues says, is not about Donald  Trump. “It’s about weakening our democracy, so Putin can point to us, and our fragile democracy, and use our example to build up the Russian Federation. That’s really what he wants.”

So is Pegues hopeless about our future?

“Reporters are doing incredible work,” he says. “The New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC — these are not easy stories to do.

“Intelligence people don’t give out information like candy. It’s hard to get. But we’ve seen very good, collective reporting. Like Watergate, it’s important for democracy to dig, so we can move forward.”

It is crucial, Pegues adds, that reporters “get this story right. We’ve been called ‘the enemy of the state,’ and Trump’s supporters believe we are.”

Pegues thinks special counsel Robert Mueller will deliver a report before the midterm elections. He also thinks “35% of the country probably won’t buy what he says.

“But I think at some point the public will realize this story is about the future of our country. Our adversary is trying to change who we are, and how we think. That’s not about partisan politics at all. It’s about our democracy.”

Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last week. Jeff Pegues played youth soccer in Westport, then earned a football scholarship to Miami University in Ohio.

Pegues expects “a couple of years of trials. Even so, it will be quite a while before we get the full story. And I don’t think 100% of the country will ever think we got all the answers.”

When Pegues began writing Kompromat, he knew it was an important story. He had no idea though that his book would be published the same month the American president met alone — for 2 hours — with his Russian counterpart.

In book publishing — as in politics — timing is everything.

22 responses to “Jeff Pegues’ “Kompromat”

  1. A. David Wunsch

    I’m going to be bragging that I went to the same high school as Pegues did.
    ADW Staples 1956

  2. This is absolutely frightening! Every time I think it can’t get worse, it does.

  3. Fred Cantor

    “But I think at some point the public will realize this story is about the future of our country. Our adversary is trying to change who we are, and how we think. That’s not about partisan politics at all. It’s about our democracy.”—I very infrequently weigh in here on anything related to politics but I feel that you, in this succinct summary, capture perfectly the essence of what is really transpiring. I hope your book is very successful.

  4. Isabelle Breen

    Check this out. I just saw this yesterday, though it’s 40 years old.

  5. Emi

    Sent from my iPhone


  6. I do not think it should be so surprising that Russia, and no doubt other, rivals of the United States intervene in elections here. Just as the U.S. itself has a long history of doing the same wherever it feels its political and economic interests are at stake.
    But I think Trump has a point in discounting that this intervention explains his narrow victory at the polls. He won (of course, not by any imaginary landslide) because of changes taking place inside the United States that have nothing to do with Russia and everything to do with growing anger and frustration among those who were feeling the impact of these changes.
    For all the self-adulation of the liberal Democratic establishment and those who live so comfortably in the society over which it had presided, there were many more people who have been living increasingly desperate lives, and who saw no clear road forward.
    Many of these people had voted for Obama in 2012, but did not do so in the next election. “Hope” does not spring eternal in the human breast!
    While most of these people simply didn’t vote (or voted for Bernie Sanders), a significant minority of them, the most backward, who were happy with his racist, misogynist, and xenophobic policies, were swept up in Trump’s demagogy and gave him the margin he needed in a few states.
    Declaring the people in these regions as “deplorable” no doubt cost Clinton support in those troubled regions–where her party offered no solid program for the crisis they were experiencing. In fact, whose programs for the previous eight years had deepened that crisis!
    The insistence by the Democratic Party that the election was somehow “stolen” by foreign influence, instead of having been lost “fair and square” as a result of growing popular discontent, is accelerating a vacuum of political leadership in the U.S. and creating opportunities for rightists. We see similar events throughout Europe. To me, there are parallels here with the decline of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s in Germany.
    It’s not hard for me to see how the incredibly comfortable life enjoyed by most Westporters makes it hard to understand these uncomfortable political facts. But history has shown that “outside agitators” are never the reason for big historical shifts. They are only a construction of those who can’t imagine that anyone could be discontented with things on the plantation!

  7. Tom Feeley Sr

    “the most backward”‼️⁉️
    You don’t know these Americans. 🇺🇸

  8. I feel like I do, but what do you mean?

  9. Bob Stalling

    What he means is, he feels like ‘You don’t know these Americans”.

  10. Tom Feeley Sr

    Thanks Bob 😂⁉️
    What I mean is you have no basis for calling “them” backward, but saying that about them proves you might well be.
    Have a nice day 🇺🇸

  11. More proof that I know them as well as I need to.

    • Bob Stalling

      More proof? You have yet to give any proof…just feelings.

      • In the shortened form best employed for these kinds of comments, I simply said: “the most backward, who were happy with his racist, misogynist, and xenophobic policies.” I believe that this is accurate, although perhaps some of his supporters are not so much happy with these backward aspects as willing to accept them as the price for other policies they think will “Make America Great Again.” The very phrase, in its reference to the 1950s and ’60s epitomizes a backward view of what was really going on in those times, a view that ignores the fact that millions of people did not enjoy the fruits of the economic boom of those times, but suffered greatly and began to fight back against racial and gender inequality, the war in Vietnam, and so forth.
        Perhaps the difference here is over whether these aspects of Trumpism should be defined as “backwards.” I do so, and not as an attempt to smear people with whom I disagree, but simply to define the areas of disagreement. I hope that many of them can be won to what I would call a more “advanced” consciousness, one based on human solidarity and a realization that no country can be “great” when it oppresses others and fosters inequality within its own borders. It was through such an advanced consciousness that most of the social progress we enjoy today was achieved. It is SAD to see it under attack.

        • So, you expect to win people over to your point of view by insulting them how Has that been working out?

          • Actually Michael, I spend a lot of time trying to have objective, non-confrontational discussions with people I know who supported Trump. It is clear to me that some of them supported him out of a genuine, and warranted, disgust with the pretensions of the Democratic Party’s meritocratic liberals and a desire to do do anything to drain their particular brand of swamp. We have had a lot of good talks about why Trump’s brand of demagogic, rightist politics is not the solution to their concerns and problems. It is another kind of swamp, filled with the worst imaginable kinds of poison.
            In these discussions, we frankly talk about racism, immigration, and women’s rights; no name-calling is involved.We sometimes reach agreement that what is important in politics is not what you are against, but what you are for. And there is no party around right now which is for the interests of solidarity among working people and a fight to put human needs ahead of profits, war, and pollution. That’s where Trump finds his political space.
            But there are other Trump supporters who find a voice for their racist, xenophobic, and sexist prejudices in the President’s policies, which are carefully tailored to appeal to them while, ironically, actually advancing the interests of a wealthy minority at their expense. These people are not actually interested in discussing their prejudices, for they do not stand up to rational argument. This is what I consider to be backward. What about you?
            After trying to win them over, I have concluded that some people cannot learn, they have to be “learned.” That is why it is so important to organize protests that publicly oppose what the government is doing now. These should be articulated to win over as many people as possible, but not give an inch to ignorance or prejudice.

            • So, not working is it? Maybe you should reconsider your approach.

              • Bob Stalling

                If he can’t “learn” them to his way of “feeling”, then “they” must be deplorable, ignorant, backward, racist, sexist, homophobic, throw grandma off the cliff, anti environment, heartless, uneducated, Russian sympathizers….it’s the only possible answer.

                “Hey all you deplorable, ignorant, backward, racist, sexist, heartless, Trump supporting xenophobes….be more like me!”

              • What I find curious in your responses is that you have so far failed to define yourself in terms of the issues: are you OK with Trump’s racist policies, with his sexism, with his persistent lying and contempt for environmental science, with his brutal policies at our border? If you are, why not just say so instead of being a cry baby about people being unfair? If you’re as appalled by these things as I am, why serve as a pro bono apologist for the President’s so-called base? If you think these policies are OK, again–why not say so and have the discussion on substance.

  12. A. David Wunsch

    Whenever I run into one of these Trumpers wearing a Make America Great Again shirt I ask him (it’s usually a man) when America was great . I get back an answer : the 1950’s. Great ? You gotta be kidding. I don’t recall a single black American in my freshman class of 2000 students at Cornell. This was 1956. There were still lynchings in the south. My female cousin was told, circa 1950, by the Dean of the Vet school at Cornell that he wouldn’t take in any female student. In the 50’s we were still testing atomic bombs in the atmosphere. The good old days ?
    ADW Staples 1956

    • Lisa Marie Alter

      I am so with you, A.David Wunsch…

      Oh, and I’m still “With Her” – cuz I believe she IS the rightful President.

      I’m also interested to read Mr. Pegues book.

      There is NO doubt Russia put their finger on the scale — and it appears that trump & co – along with Bannon & Cambridge Analytica — provided the “roadmap”… who to target, where the swing votes were, and perhaps even where the voting machines could be hacked…

      BTW, all this was coming out on social media in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017, often times using info that is in the public domain… folks were “connecting the dots” between trump, his rotten kids and his campaign (along with Erik Prince, Wilbur Ross, Manafort, Page, Stone, Flynn, Bannon, the Mercers, Parscale, Deutsche Bank, Bank of Cyprus, Nunes, Rohrbacher and other GOP members) and their overwhelming connections to Putin and the oligarchs… all of which is now being confirmed by the justice system.

      And then there are those surprising bits of news (e.g. it appears that Justice Kennedy was part of a dirty play for a Supreme Court seat) …

      Anyone who doesn’t know all this by now must be watching FauxNews, cuz all they can talk about is HRC’s emails – STILL 🙄

      Lisa Marie Alter

      • Michael Daniel confirmed Wednesday that former national security adviser Susan Rice ordered him and his staff to “stand down” in 2016 in regard to Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 election.

        Daniel, special assistant to former President Barack Obama and White House cybersecurity coordinator, told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that quotes attributed to him in the book, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, were an “accurate rendering of the conversation” he had with Rice and his staff.

        Daniel’s staff reportedly responded to the order in “disbelief.”