In your face, America! | Anjum Niaz

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You’re fired! Donald Trump told director of FBI James Comey. Why? Because Comey smelled something fishy between Trump and Russia. So, he had to be let go. With a devil-may-care attitude, the next day, Trump cosied up to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his top spy-cum-ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, at the White House.

Earlier, inside the State Department, when the press sought the visiting foreign minister’s comment on Comey’s sacking, Lavrov feigned ignorance and joked: “Was he fired? You’re kidding.” In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin sneered while dryly praising Trump’s move. Americans were mocked by their No 1 enemy, courtesy their president. As media shot the breeze with Nixonian comparison, of an under siege president Richard Nixon who fired Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor, investigating him in the Watergate scandal, Trump met with a fossilised Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s secretary of state, before the White House press corps.

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Counsellor Kellyanne Conway, nicknamed the ‘wicked witch of the West Wing’, and other mouthpieces insisted that Comey’s removal came at the hands of the assistant attorney general and not Trump. These poor hapless souls were handed down a script by Trump to crow before their audiences, only to be contradicted later by himself who said he wanted Comey out. Political pundits wrung their hands fearing that “America was in a constitutional crisis.”

Watching Trump go ballistic, reminds me of March 9, 2007 when another ruler acted so: the army chief and President, Pervez Musharraf. He sacked the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, on the ‘advice’ of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. That was baloney. The president wanted the ‘meddlesome’ judge out of his way. A long hot summer followed with lawyers up in arms (literally) for Chaudhry’s restoration. Four months later, Chaudhry was back only to be arrested when Musharraf declared a state of emergency in November. He also suspended 60 judges who refused to take the oath of allegiance. A month later the emergency was lifted. Enter Benazir Bhutto in the fray, only to be assassinated on December 27th. Next year, her party with her widower at the helm swept the 2008 general elections. Asif Zardari forced Musharraf out via threats of impeachment and became the unchallenged king of Pakistan with his spineless courtiers bowing before him.

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Today, Trump is America’s unchallenged king with the Republican Party doing his bidding, while he appears to be following the Russians’ bidding. Remember how the army, bureaucracy and political parties like the MQM and the PML-Q sold their souls to the dictator Musharraf? The Republican Party has pawned its future for Trump. Muffled murmurs of impeachment among Trump’s opponents may well get louder if an independent commission discovers an unholy alliance between Trump and Russia.

But America is not Pakistan where the law bends towards the influential and wealthy. In America, the law doesn’t spare offenders, including the president. Nixon had to quit when two investigative reporters of The Washington Post linked the president’s role in bugging the Democratic National Committee situated inside the Watergate Hotel in Washington. Another president narrowly escaped impeachment when he had an affair with a White House intern Monica Lewinsky but lied about it. Bill Clinton’s humiliating fall from grace haunts him till date. Trump, too, is terrified of reporters who expose his daily tranche of lies and fabrications on their front pages. He denigrates their reporting as ‘fake news’. What is it that the American president is hiding? Is it the fear of being exposed? Lest we forget, there exists a damaging dossier circulating in cyberspace compiled by a former British intelligence officer. It shows Russia allegedly holding compromising information on Trump, including a sex tape of a hotel room in Moscow where he stayed. In the end, he may take America down with him.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2017.