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Trump sacks Tillerson as secretary of state

The president also nominated Gina Haspel to become the first woman director of the CIA.

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US President Donald Trump has sacked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, replacing him with the director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo.

Thanking Mr Tillerson for his service on Twitter, Mr Trump said the new state secretary would do “a fantastic job”.

Mr Tillerson, a former chief executive of ExxonMobil, was only appointed to the job just over a year ago.

The president also nominated Gina Haspel to become the first woman director of the CIA.

A senior White House official told the BBC about the timing of the announcement: “The president wanted to make sure to have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with North Korea and various ongoing trade negotiations.”

Mr Tillerson was on an official tour of Africa last week when he was apparently caught unawares by Mr Trump’s announcement that he would hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The top US diplomat’s team said he was feeling unwell on Saturday and later in the weekend the state department said he would cut short his tour by a day.

On Monday, Mr Tillerson appeared to depart from White House talking points when he backed British authorities in blaming the Kremlin for the poisoning of a former Russian spy near his home in southern England.

The secretary of state said the nerve agent attack “clearly came from Russia” and “certainly will trigger a response”.

But earlier in the day the White House declined to point the finger at Russia.

Reports have swirled of a schism in the Trump administration between the commander-in-chief and his top diplomat, as the US faces a host of vexatious foreign policy conundrums, from North Korea to Iran.

Last October Mr Tillerson was forced to convene a news conference to deny reports that he was considering quitting, though he did not comment on a report that he had called his boss a moron after a meeting last July at the Pentagon.

Last autumn, Mr Trump publicly undercut the former Texas oilman by tweeting that he was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with nuclear-armed North Korea.

Mr Tillerson was reported to be astonished at how little Mr Trump grasped the basics of foreign policy.

The New York Times quoted sources as saying Mr Trump was irritated by Mr Tillerson’s body language during meetings.

Mr Tillerson was said to roll his eyes or slouch when he disagreed with the decisions of his boss.

America

Trump prepared to meet Kim again: Pompeo

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Washington, Sep 24 (IANS) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said President Donald Trump was prepared to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un again.

“President Trump very much is prepared to meet with Chairman Kim at the right time, and we hope that’ll happen in the not-too-distant future,” the top US diplomat told NBC on Sunday, Xinhua news agency reported.

The White House revealed over a week ago that it has been coordinating a possible second summit between Trump and Kim after Pyongyang sent a letter to Washington in early September requesting another top-level meeting following the first one in June in Singapore.

“We have to build it out, we have to set up the logistics, we’ve got to set the right conditions,” said Pompeo.

Tension on the Korean Peninsula has been further eased as South Korean President Moon Jae-in paid a historic trip to Pyongyang last week, bonding closer ties with Kim and signing the Pyongyang Declaration on further steps towards the Korean Peninsula’s denuclearization.

Welcoming the positive steps on inter-Korean relations, Pompeo announced earlier that he has invited his North Korean counterpart to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in the following week.

However, differences remain in current North Korea-US talks, including the scale of denuclearization, US sanctions, and whether to issue a war-ending declaration.

The US State Department said on Thursday the denuclearization of Pyongyang has to come first before the US side gives any corresponding reciprocal measures.

The US so far has largely ignored North Korea’s request in the Pyongyang Declaration for “corresponding measures” as the precondition for its further actions on the denuclearization, such as the permanent destruction of its main Yongbyon nuclear facility.

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America

Trump announces White House counsel to quit in fall

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Washington, Aug 30 (IANS) US President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday on Twitter that White House counsel Don McGahn, who has played a key role in defending the President in the Russia probe, will leave his post in the fall.

McGahn, who began serving as White House counsel in January 2017, was questioned several times by the special prosecutor heading the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller, and his testimony could be key for determining if Trump tried to obstruct that investigation, Efe reported.

“White House Counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his position in the fall, shortly after the confirmation (hopefully) of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!” tweeted Trump.

Although it had nothing to do with McGahn’s departure, Trump took advantage of the occasion to mention in his tweet the process of confirming Kavanaugh, his nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat, who must receive the approval of the Senate.

Trump’s announcement comes a few hours after the Axios Web site, citing White House officials and sources close to McGahn, reported that the White House counsel was intending to leave his post as the administration’s top legal adviser sometime this autumn.

According to Axios, McGahn wants his successor to be veteran attorney Emmet T. Flood, who was one of the lawyers who represented former President Bill Clinton during his 1998 impeachment in Congress after lying to lawmakers about his relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky.

Trump hired Flood last May with the aim of making his legal strategy more “aggressive” in responding to the Mueller investigation of his 2016 presidential campaign’s potential connections with the Kremlin.

Since May 2017, May has been investigating the scope of the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 vote and whether there was any kind of coordination between Moscow and members of the Trump campaign.

According to The New York Times earlier this month, McGahn has been cooperating with Mueller’s investigation and during the past nine months has been questioned by the special counsel’s team three times.

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Trump once again compares Russia probe to McCarthyism

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Washington, Aug 20 (IANS) President Donald Trump on Sunday once again, as he has regularly done, compared the Russia probe investigation to McCarthyism, the anti-communist campaign pursued by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.

“Study the late Joseph McCarthy, because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby! Rigged Witch Hunt!” said Trump on Twitter.

This kind of comparison has become a staple of Trump’s tweets, in which he regularly refers to the probe headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as McCarthyism and a “witch hunt,” Efe reported.

Since May 2017, Mueller has been tasked with heading an independent investigation of possible links between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

US media reported Saturday that Mueller’s team of prosecutors have proposed up to six months in prison for George Papadopoulos, a former adviser to Trump, for having lied to the FBI during questioning of him for the Russia probe.

Papadopoulos is expected to be sentenced on Sept. 7.

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