File Photo
File Photo

Yet to complete a year in office, the US President Donald Trump may have already become a lame duck. Given his abrupt and unsophisticated ways, and his habit of riling both domestic and foreign audiences  with  ill-considered remarks, Trump is unlikely to find support from his own party should the on-going probe about the Russian links to his election get closer home. Fear of what may follow next after two of his closest aides in the presidential campaign were indicted by the  federal investigator is bound to distract the Trump administration. Paul Manafort, campaign manager between March and August 2016 who attended the meeting with a Moscow-linked lawyer in the Trump Tower in June, was accused of money-laundering, tax evasion and conspiracy to defraud the US Government. Trump’s long-time business associate and a key campaign aide, Rick Gates, too was booked on similar charges. Both were presented in a federal court on Monday and pleaded not guilty. But probably  far more significance lay in another development.  George Papadopoulos, a mid-level foreign policy adviser in the Trump campaign,  turned approver following threat of imprisonment for misleading the   Special Investigator Robert Mueller. His plea bargain closely links the Trump campaign to the Russians. An attempt to dismiss him as a low-level unpaid volunteer with no links to the  presidential campaign is unlikely to succeed in view of the visual and other evidence. Papadopoulos in order to save his skin is singing like a canary. He tried, though not successfully,   to make the then presidential candidate   speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin through a Moscow-based professor who had links to the Kremlin establishment. Papadopoulos pressed the Russians to give `dirt’ on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s  Democratic rival for presidency. Foreign intervention/assistance in a US  election is a cognizable offence which, if proved, can cast a shadow over Trump’s election,  even impeachment. Small wonder, then, Trump has tweeted, dismissing the charges against Mueller and Gates, saying these   pertain  to a period long before they were members of his campaign team. He tweeted `there is no collusion’, a reference to the indicted duo’s contributions to his election. As for Papadopulos, the President’s  press officer  dismissed him as a minor figure without any role in the campaign. Following Monday’s developments, it is unlikely that the US President will sleep well, fear of the `next’ from the special investigator and during the  court proceedings assailing him constantly. Indeed, a section of the Trump-linked media and his aides have not ruled out the possibility of the President exercising special powers to dismiss Muller and pardoning Manafort and Gates.

Trump is now desperate to enlist the Republican Party, the very party whose tallest leaders he regularly abuses and humiliates, in his effort to undermine the special investigator. Regardless of the effort to project `business as usual’, there is no denying that the already toxic atmosphere in Washington has got further spiked with an air of uncertainty and conspiracy. Trump is scheduled to go on a five-nation tour beginning  Sunday, and, importantly, meet the leaders of China, South Korea and Japan, in the backdrop of the continuing faceoff with the nuclear-armed North Korea.  His mounting troubles on account of the Muller probe are unlikely to lend weight to his voice. The 45th President cuts a very poor figure whether at home or abroad. He does not act and speak presidential. The  vagaries of the electoral system may have catapulted him into the most powerful office in the world, but for the sake of global peace and order, it is important that the ~system~ already in place in Washington takes `charge’ of him. He should realize his lack of intellectual wherewithal and allow himself to be `handled’ by his highly qualified aides, including senior cabinet ministers. In this respect, he can learn from India. Both Sonia Gandhi, and, lately, her son, Rahul, have been aware of their shortcomings, allowing the backroom aides to take charge of what they say in public, what they tweet, etc.  Why cannot Trump do that and save the self-respecting Americans blushes is puzzling.

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