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Trump administration imposes sanctions against 19 Russians over interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

Trump himself ignored a question about the new sanctions Thursday during a short press availability in the Oval Office. He did respond to a question on the U.K. attack, saying it “certainly looks like the Russians were behind it.”

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration took a tougher tone on Russia Thursday, signing on to a statement sharply criticizing Moscow for allegedly orchestrating a chemical weapons attack against an ex-Russian spy in the U.K., and issuing long-awaited sanctions against Russian “cyber actors” for interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

The new sanctions — against five entities and 19 individuals — come amid criticism that President Donald Trump had failed to firmly confront and aggressively counter alleged Russian attacks on allied soil and continued efforts to destabilize U.S. politics.

The sanctions, while new from the Treasury Department, overlap with previous steps taken by the U.S., including naming all 13 Russians previously indicted by Robert Mueller for 2016 election meddling. The president has previously sought to delegitimize Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” and called claims that his campaign colluded with Russia “phony.”

On a call with reporters Thursday a senior national security official called the sanctions “just one of a series of ongoing actions we’re taking to counter Russian aggression.”

“There will be more to come,” said the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity and offering no further specifics.

Speaking to the disinformation campaign that Russia employed during the 2016 U.S. election, another senior national security official advised that propaganda disinformation campaigns “lose their effect if the American people are aware of foreign actors attempting to manipulate them.”

That awareness could be bolstered by the president, who has been reluctant to speak out at length about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. An official demurred when asked if Trump would speak out as part of these stepped up efforts.

Trump himself ignored a question about the new sanctions Thursday during a short press availability in the Oval Office. He did respond to a question on the U.K. attack, saying it “certainly looks like the Russians were behind it.”

The president begrudgingly signed a bill last year that imposed sanctions on Russia, pressured by his Republican Party not to move on his own toward a warmer relationship with Moscow in light of Russian actions during the 2016 elections. Trump called the bill “seriously flawed — particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate.”

The sanctions announcement came shortly after the release of a joint statement from the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and France on Thursday morning in which the U.S. said it shared British assessments “that there is no plausible alternative explanation” to the military-grade nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, adding that “Russia’s failure to address the legitimate request by the government of the United Kingdom further underlines Russia’s responsibility.”

The White House’s tough response on the chemical attack comes after an initially tepid one from the briefing room lectern on Monday. Asked if the Trump administration shared the U.K.’s assessment that Russia was behind the attack, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered “the fullest condemnation” of the “reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible” act — falling short of saying Russia was definitely behind it.

Just hours before his surprise firing-via-Twitter, outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson broke with the administration on the issue, telling reporters traveling with him on an overseas trip that the poisoning attack “clearly came from Russia” and “certainly will trigger a response.”

The administration’s response evolved by midweek, however, culminating in a forceful and direct statement from Ambassador Nikki Haley at the United Nations Security Council in New York in which she said “the United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent.” She also voiced the “absolute solidarity” of the U.S. with Britain after the U.K.’s decision to expel 23 Russia diplomats in response to the chemical attack.

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US unemployment rate falls to 50-year low

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The U.S. unemployment rate fell in September to a new five-decade low of 3.5%, while employers added a modest 136,000 jobs.

The Labor Department says that despite the ultra-low unemployment rate, which was down from 3.7% in August, average hourly wages slipped by a penny. Hourly pay rose just 2.9% from a year earlier, lower than 3.4% at the beginning of the year.

Hiring has slowed this year as the U.S.-China trade war has intensified, global growth has slowed, and businesses have cut back on their investment spending. Still, hiring has averaged 157,000 in the past three months, enough to lower the unemployment rate over time.

The unemployment rate for Latinos fell to 3.9%, the lowest on records dating from 1973.

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Trump embarrassed by TV channel

As Trump was speaking to the media after meeting Zelensky to clarify his position, MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace cut into it, saying: “We hate to do this but the President isn’t telling the truth.”

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New York, Sep 26 : US President Donald Trump was subjected to an embarrassment when the MSNBC news channel cut away from his press conference while he was speaking on the controversy surrounding him over the Ukrainian probe against former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump on Wednesday was addressing the press conference against the backdrop of impeachment proceedings announced against him by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following allegations that he put pressure on the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to order a probe against Biden whose family has business interests there.

The allegation against Trump came to light because of a whistleblower and a transcript of the conversation between him and Zelensky in July, which has become public.

As Trump was speaking to the media after meeting Zelensky to clarify his position, MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace cut into it, saying: “We hate to do this but the President isn’t telling the truth.”

She added that Trump was trying to do it to deflect the attention from his impeachment.

According to the transcript of the telephonic conversation that has gone public, Trump is heard asking Zelensky to “do us a favour”, after the latter expresses gratitude for the military aid the US provided to his country.

Trump’s words of “do us a favour” is seen as a quid pro quo for the American military aid, because of which the impeachment proceedings have been announced.

After Wallace cut the press conference, her guest on the programme, justice and security analyst Matthew Miller, rebuked Trump for saying that Biden and his son had done wrong.

“This story has been looked at and thoroughly debunked by everyone involved,” Miller said, adding the real issue was whether Trump’s conduct is “impeachable”.

Trump is facing problem at a time when he is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly.

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Kim Jong-un receives ‘excellent’ letter from Trump

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Pyongyang, June 23 North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has received a personal letter with “excellent” and “interesting” content from US President Donald Trump, Pyongyang’s state media said on Sunday.

“After reading the letter, the Supreme Leader of the Party, the state and the armed forces said with satisfaction that the letter is of excellent content,” the Korean Central News Agency said, referring to its leader.

“Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong-un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content,” it added.

The KCNA did not disclose when and how the letter was delivered to Kim, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The letter appears to be in response to the one Kim sent to Trump recently in time for the anniversary of their first-ever summit in Singapore last June.

Trump had described Kim’s letter as “beautiful” and “very warm”. He also emphasized that the relationship between them remains strong and that “something will happen that’s going to be very positive”.

The exchange of correspondence between the leaders renewed hopes for a resumption of denuclearization talks which have stalled since the breakdown of their second summit in February.

The summit collapsed as Pyongyang wanted sanctions relief as a corresponding measure in exchange for dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear complex, while Washington insisted that sanctions should remain in place until the North completely gives up its nuclear weapons programme.

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