Washington, July 15 (IANS) When Narendra Modi came calling, Donald Trump “conspired” with his “true friend” from India to keep the big Russian bear at bay.
But no such luck for POTUS in Paris where it followed him like Mary’s little lamb. As he and the French President Emmanuel Macron emerged after talking about climate pact, Syria and terrorism, media hounds had only one thing on their minds — Russia.
Was Trump’s nominee to replace the fired FBI chief James Comey “wrong” to suggest that instead of meeting a Russian lawyer promising dirt on his rival Hillary Clinton, Don Jr. should have alerted the FBI about it, shot one.
How “very proud” was he of his choice of an accomplished lawyer like Christopher Wray who he believed would be a “great FBI director”, reflected Trump with a masterly display of the art of deflection.
And “most people would have taken that meeting” like his son, “a wonderful young man”, did to get some “opposition research, or even research into your opponent”.
“Honestly,” the press had made a “very big deal” about a “very short meeting” at Trump Tower last year where “zero happened”, asserted Trump, echoing his son.
Macron declined to “interfere in US domestic policy” to the delight of Trump, who could not help interjecting amid laughter, “What a good answer that was”.
But noting France has “a longstanding relationship with Russia as well”, Macron thought “it’s important that both of us have direct discussion and contact” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Back in Washington, pundits talked their heads off about how Trump had contradicted his own FBI nominee and how junior Don’s email chain about the meeting had brought the Russia story right at the White House door.
Democrats crying “smoking gun” demanded revocation of the security clearance of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who too had briefly sat in on the meeting.
Kushner, they insinuated, had amended his security clearance form to acknowledge the meeting only after Don Jr. was caught “Red Handed”, as the Time titled its cover story.
Flying into Paris, Trump had talked at length about from North Korea to Syria to healthcare to his big beautiful wall on the border with Mexico and his “good relationship” with all the other 19 members of G20 ” — Modi — you saw that”.
Yet the “failing New York Times”, as the POTUS loves to call it, chose to focus on how “Trump backed off Putin” over Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election after two denials because as he had joked, “What do you do? End up in a fistfight?”
Wray himself told a Senate panel that unlike Comey, who claimed that Trump had demanded a loyalty pledge, no one asked him for such an oath. “And I sure as heck didn’t offer one.”
And on Trump calling the Russia probe as the “greatest political witch hunt in history”, Wray parried. He did not consider Special Counsel, former FBI director Robert “Mueller to be on a witch hunt”.
And if the President asked him to drop an investigation or do something unethical or unlawful, he asserted: “First, I would try to talk him out of it, and if that failed, I would resign.”
In contrast, in similar circumstances, Comey had simply gone home to write a memo that he gleefully leaked after he was fired, ostensibly for mishandling the Clinton email scandal probe.
As the chatterati relentlessly searched for something to hang Don Jr. for, most legal luminaries saw no crime in his meeting with a Russian lawyer even in the “worst case scenario”.
Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, for one, affirmed: “You are allowed legally to use material that was obtained illegally” by someone else.
“That’s what the New York Times did with the Pentagon Papers, that’s what the Washington Post” and others did with information leaked by two whistleblowers, he pointed out.
“If Russia actually did whatever they want to do, they got to be laughing,” declared Trump, noting “how much time” the media had spent on what he again dismissed as a “witch hunt” that was “bad for the country”.
But with Putin keeping their pot boiling the media appears to be in no mood to say dasvidaniya to him anytime soon!
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])