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Trump era: House of Cards or the Russian roullette? (Washington Diary)

IANS  |  Washington 

Donald Trump was fretting and fuming, but he did not fire as is his wont, at first. It was some 14 hours later that the POTUS found his tweet.

"It's the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history," he thundered denouncing the appointment of a special counsel to probe alleged Russian interference in the November election that made him President.

Only a week ago, Rod Rosenstein, his hand-picked second-in-command at the Justice Department, had recommended that he fire FBI director James Comey for "usurping" his superior's authority in probing Hillary Clinton's email scandal.

And now that very man had named Robert Mueller, who had served as FBI director for 12 years under both George Bush and Barack Obama, without telling him or attorney general Jeff Sessions first.

"I respect the move," a blindsided Trump told reporters, again calling it "a witch hunt" and insisting "there is no collusion" between him "and the Russians -- zero." But then "I can only speak for myself".

Rosenstein told lawmakers that he knew that the President was going to fire Comey any way -- with that "Russia thing" on his mind, as Trump himself acknowledged later -- when he was asked to write a memo a day earlier.

But it was no hatchet job, the prosecutor insisted. Trump had "sought my advice and input" and he had on his own concluded that "notwithstanding my personal affection" for Comey, "it was appropriate to seek a new leader".

"I wrote it, I believe it. I stand by it," maintained the career prosecutor affirming that "there never has been, and never will be, any political interference in any matter under my supervision".

Rosenstein also shot down a media report that Comey had sought additional resources for the Russia probe before he was fired.

Democrats, who had their "shaken" faith in Rosenstein restored somewhat after the appointment of Mueller, now felt cheated with one lawmaker calling his briefing "useless" and another ruing the "loss of an hour" of his precious life.

Meanwhile, stories citing Comey's friends started surfacing about a memo he had written after a "troubling" February 14 meeting with POTUS.

Days earlier Comey himself had affirmed that there wasn't any political interference in his work. Yet his memo claimed Trump had asked him to ease his probe of sacked National Security Advisor Michael Flynn saying, "I hope you can let this go. He is a good guy."

The "failing" New York Times, as Trump loves to call his home town daily, also suggested that Comey was "unsettled" by his contacts with Trump.

So much so that he wanted to blend in with the curtains in the Blue Room during an event. He was "disgusted" by a "hug" from the President there and considered people "not honourable", claimed the friend.

But Trump denied that he had ever asked Comey to drop the Flynn probe with a flat "No, no" before ordering reporters to move on to the "next question".

The media also went to town with a story that Trump had spilled highly secret intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office a day after firing Comey.

Even as they acknowledged that they had seen no evidence of Trump-Russia "collusion", Comey's firing and his alleged spilling of secrets sent his critics salivating with several Democrats using the "I" word -- Impeachment.

But it made no dents in Trump country with his passionate supporters caring two hoots about the revelations.

However, the "fake media" was not done yet. As Trump embarked on his first foreign trip, the Times fired another shot.

Trump, it claimed, had told the visiting Russians in the Oval Office that firing a "crazy" and "a real nut job" Comey had eased "great pressure" over the Russia probe.

His mouthpiece Sean Spicer did not dispute the story, but suggested Comey's "grandstanding and politicising" Russian probe had "created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia".

As the plot thickened, Robin Wright, who plays the plotting wife of the President in the popular political TV drama "House of Cards", complained that "Trump has stolen all of our ideas".

But it looked more like self-flagellating pundits and politicians were playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette with America!

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

--IANS

ak/tb

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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