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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)

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India, China and Russia hold consultation on Afghanistan

Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia currently enjoy observer status while Sri Lanka, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal are dialogue partners.

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Nikolai Patrushev

Moscow/Beijing, May 22 : Afghanistan is a major source of terrorist threats for the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said on Tuesday, four days after he held consultation on the issue with India and China.

For the SCO member-states, the threat of terrorism and extremism comes first and foremost from Afghanistan’s territory. We are convinced that any unilateral attempts to solve the situation in the Islamic republic by force bypassing the norms and principles of the international law may only worsen the situation and create additional security risks, Patrushev said.

His comments followed talks India, China and Russia held on Afghanistan and exchanged views in the Russian capital on May 17.

India’s Deputy National Security Adviser Rajinder Khanna, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou and Assistant to the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Aleksandr Venediktov consulted each other. Patrushev then held a group meeting with the delegation members of the three countries who took part in the consultation.

The three sides agreed to strengthen coordination and cooperation under the frameworks of the SCO and the BRICS countries, and to hold the next round of consultation in due course, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

They also exchanged views on the situation in the Asia-Pacific region and cooperation under the frameworks of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the BRICS countries, reaching broad consensus, said the statement.

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin at their informal summit in Sochi expressed concern over terrorism and radicalisation. In this context, they endorsed the importance of restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan in an atmosphere free from the threat of terrorism, and agreed to work together towards achieving this objective, said the Ministry of External Affairs.

Patrushev said Russia jointly with other SCO members had been calling for restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan through political settlement led by Afghan citizens.

The Tashkent conference on Afghanistan on March 26-27 confirmed the need to step up multilateral cooperation, including in the SCO framework. We view this meeting, and also meetings in the framework of the Kabul process as a logical continuation of consultations as part of the Moscow format and the SCO-Afghanistan contact group, TASS news agency quoted Patrushev as saying.

Any initiatives on the Afghan track should take into account the interests of regional states and rule out the prospects of imposing unacceptable scenarios on them. In this context, we support the Chinese side’s proposal to hold the second meeting of the contact group in Beijing, he said.

The SCO was formed in Shanghai in 2001 by six founding states – Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

In 2017, India and Pakistan became full-fledged members.

Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia currently enjoy observer status while Sri Lanka, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal are dialogue partners.

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16 killed in Afghanistan blast

No group, neither the Taliban or the Islamic State, have claimed responsibility for the incident.

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IED Blast
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Kabul, May 22 : At least 16 people were killed when a vehicle, packed with explosives detonated in the southern Kandahar province on Tuesday, authorities said.

Provincial Governor Tooryalai Wesa said that at least 16 people were killed and 38 others wounded in the explosion, Ariana News reported.

According to Wesa, the death toll is expected to rise, as most of the injured were in critical condition.

No group, neither the Taliban or the Islamic State, have claimed responsibility for the incident.

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India’s Ola in 3 more Australian cities

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Ola

New Delhi, May 22: Indian ride-sharing major Ola on Tuesday expanded its services in Australia to three more cities — Brisbane, Gold Coast and Canberra.

To celebrate its launch in these cities, Ola is offering discounted rides from Tuesday. Customers can download the Ola app either from Google Play or iOS App Store, register for an Ola account and begin booking their rides.

“Customers in these cities can book discounted rides using Ola app starting Tuesday,” the city-based online cab aggregator said in a statement here. The online transportation network company has been operating in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne since it forayed into the island-nation early in 2018.

So far, over 30,000 driver-partners have registered themselves with the company since its launch in Australia on January 30, the statement said.

“Over the coming months, Ola is working on its rollout in other Australian cities Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart,” it added.

Founded in 2011, Ola has been competing against Uber in the Indian ride-hailing market. The seven-year-old Ola claims to have over 125 million users in 110 cities across India.

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