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Trump fires FBI Director James Comey

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New York, May 10 :  In a move laden with ironies, US President Donald Trump suddenly dismissed James Comey, the controversial head of the FBI, who had earned the wrath of the Democratic Party for his interference in last year’s elections but was in the middle of an investigation into whether Trump’s campaign had links to Russia.

Democrats, who had blamed Comey for Trump’s victory and their candidate Hillary Clinton’s defeat, reacted swiftly to Tuesday’s firing of the powerful domestic intelligence chief by calling for an independent investigator to take over the probe into Trump’s campaign.

Trump wrote in the dismissal letter to Comey that he was firing him on the advice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein because of his handling of the bungled Clinton investigation.

The dismissal was a continuation of the election mess affecting both parties in which Comey was embroiled.

His letter to Congress on October 28, about investigations into Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for official work as Secretary of State, started the sordid controversy.

Clinton and the Democrats say Comey’s disclosure of the investigation – that ultimately came to naught – 11 days before the election cost her the presidency as it made some voters suspicious of her.

Comey himself admitted at a Senate hearing last week that it made him “mildly nauseous” to think that he had affected the November 8 election.

Then the mercurial Trump praised Comey, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, over the action, saying it took “guts.”

But in a political twist, with Comey launching an investigation into his own campaign, Trump turned around and made the Clinton investigation as the official reason for the firing.

Trump cited Rosenstein’s letter to him, in which he wrote, “I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”

But Democrats were not gloating at the turn of events — had she been elected Clinton would have herself fired Comey.

Indian American Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat, said in a statement: “No matter how you view Comey, this is not a ‘gotcha’ moment.”

Krishnamoorthi noted that Comey “was leading a counter-intelligence investigation of the President’s 2016 campaign” and called for an independent Commission or prosecutor to take over the investigation.

Republican Representative, Justin Amash, tweeted his support for an independent probe, adding his voice to the calls by several other Democratic Party leaders.

Trump, however, made a reference to the Russia probe in the dismissal letter, but only to highlight the fact that he was himself not under investigation.

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Trump wrote to Comey.

In March, Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI was investigating if anyone from Trump’s campaign had coordinated with Russia the hacking of Democratic Party computers “and whether crimes were committed.

In January, Comey joined other heads of US intelligence agencies to say that Russia had interfered in the US elections. The likely beneficiary of Moscow’s actions was Trump.

CNN reported that court orders had been issued seeking records of people connected to Michael Flynn, whom Trump had fired as National Security Adviser in April.

The subpoenas issued by a grand jury were a sign that a preliminary legal process was underway. Grand jury, made up of citizens, is the first step to determine if there was a prima facie case for prosecution.

On Monday Sally Yates, who was dismissed by Trump as Acting Attorney General, told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee that Flynn could be blackmailed by Russia.

By Arul Louis

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected])

(IANS)

Europe

Belgian court ends extradition case against Catalan leader Puigdemont

The judge had declared the case to be “without merit” during an in-camera hearing.

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Carles Puigdemont

A Belgian court formally closed extradition proceedings against deposed Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont on Thursday.

Puigdemont and four of his deputies fled to Belgium in October to avoid charges of rebellion, sedition and misusing public money in relation to Catalonia’s independence bid. The Spanish Supreme Court withdrew the European arrest warrants last week.

The judge had declared the case to be “without merit” during an in-camera hearing, Paul Bekaert, Puigdemont’s Belgian lawyer, told AFP.

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North Korea: Trump taking dangerous step to nuclear war by seeking naval blockade

Pyongyang also lashed out at the possible US move in a commentary on Sunday in the communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

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Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald

US President Donald Trump is taking an “extremely dangerous” and “big step” towards nuclear war by seeking a naval blockade, North Korea has stated, according to the official KCNA news agency.

Pyonyang also said it will take “merciless self-defensive” measures against any blockade, as it would consider such a move an “act of war.” The North Korean government also believes any blockade would be a “wanton violation” of its sovereignty and dignity, KCNA reported, citing a foreign ministry spokesman.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson previously mentioned the “right to interdict maritime traffic transporting goods” to and from the North, following Pyongyang’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test on November 29.

Pyongyang also lashed out at the possible US move in a commentary on Sunday in the communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

Earlier on Thursday, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin warned that North Korea now finds itself in a position where it “doesn’t see any other way for self-protection rather than developing weapons of mass destruction and missile technologies.” Having reiterated that Moscow in no way supports Pyongyang’s nuclear program, the Russian leader stressed that the Kremlin calls for steps by all sides towards a peaceful solution.

Both the US and North Korea “should stop fueling tensions,” Putin told international media at his annual press conference, adding that everyone should be “extremely cautious” about the situation on the Korean peninsula. “One launch from North Korea will be enough for catastrophic consequences,” the president warned.

The comments come just one day after State Department spokesperson Heath Nauert appeared to backtrack on statements made by Tillerson, in which the secretary of state said the US was “ready to have the first meeting” with Pyongyang “without preconditions.” Nauert said on Wednesday that North Korea would have to suspend its weapons tests before such talks could take place.

Earlier this month, Moscow said it was ready to help facilitate talks between Washington and Pyongyang, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stating that “North Korea wants to talk to the US about its own security assurances.”

Russia and China have proposed a so-called “double freeze” plan which would see the US suspend joint drills with South Korea in exchange for Pyongyang halting its missile and nuclear tests. However, that plan was swiftly rejected during the summer by the US, which asserted its right to conduct military exercises with its ally South Korea.

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India ready to work with new Nepal government

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Nepal election
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New Delhi, Dec 14: Welcoming the parliamentary and provincial election results in Nepal, India on Thursday said it was looking forward to working with the new government in Kathmandu.

“India has age-old unique time-tested ties of friendship with the country,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in his weekly media briefing here.

“We look forward to working with the next democratically elected government in Nepal to advance our close and multi-faceted partnership across all sectors and to support Nepal in its pursuit of peace, stability, economic prosperity for all round development,” he said.

Nepal’s CPN-UML emerged as the largest party in the Himalayan nation. The vote count for Parliament and provincial assembly elections in Nepal ended on Wednesday.

IANS

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