Nikki Haley Resigns as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

President Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, has resigned, ahead of what Mr. Trump promised on Twitter on Tuesday was a “Big announcement” with Ms. Haley at the White House.

Ms. Haley, a former governor of South Carolina, had been an early and frequent critic of Mr. Trump, so when he named her the envoy to the world body weeks after his election in November 2016, the appointment was seen as an olive branch.

@realDonaldTrump Big announcement with my friend Ambassador Nikki Haley in the Oval Office at 10:30am.
 
The daughter of immigrants from India, Ms. Haley favored free markets and global trade and earned international attention for speaking out against the Confederate battle flag in the aftermath of the 2015 massacre at a black church in Charleston. During Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, she sharply criticized his demeanor and warned what it might mean for American diplomacy — even suggesting that his tendency to lash out at critics could cause a world war.
 
As ambassador, Ms. Haley was an outspoken and often forceful envoy — someone whom foreign diplomats looked to for guidance from an administration known for haphazard and inconsistent policy positions. She was quick to voice her own opinions on the big policy issues that are high on her agenda, like Iran and North Korea. And she has cast herself as someone who can sway her mercurial boss on issues like Russia sanctions, refugee resettlement and the value of the United Nations itself.
 
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Mueller probe winding down? Prosecutors leave team while proof of ‘Russia collusion’ remains elusive

The departure of two prosecutors from the team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller has signaled that at least part of his probe is winding down. The investigation has yet to reveal any collusion between Russia and Donald Trump.

The two prosecutors, who had worked on the criminal cases involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, are returning to their previous posts at the Justice Department. They join two other attorneys who left the team over the summer.

[CBS/FOX/AP SAYS 2; ABC SAYS … 13?]

The pair’s exit from the special counsel team comes less than a month after Manafort pleaded guilty to two criminal charges – neither related to the alleged collusion with Russia which Mueller’s team set out to uncover. Manafort reportedly met with Mueller’s investigators on Monday, as part of his cooperation agreement with the special counsel’s investigation.

Some pundits reacted to the news by feigning surprise about the existence of the probe – perhaps a reference to the investigation’s long but unfruitful attempt to fulfil its mandate.

@AndrewKirell Hey remember the Mueller probe?
 
@cvpayne Hey, what ever happened with the Mueller Probe? Seriously.

However, others have insisted that the probe is still going strong despite the downsizing of the team. ABC interviewed a former federal prosecutor who said that the departures were “not unexpected and simply reflect the evolving nature of this investigation,” adding that Mueller “is narrowing his focus and he no longer needs some areas of expertise.”

Whatever form the probe may now take, it appears that Mueller isn’t any closer to finding links between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Kremlin. Meanwhile, the probe’s entire premise has become increasingly scrutinized, with congressional investigations revealing that the probe may have been launched without any concrete evidence of an alleged Trump-Russia link even being established.

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Putin: Don’t know if it would have been better or worse if Trump had not been elected

The Russian President said there was no way of knowing if Russia had benefited from Donald Trump’s presidency, but promised to work with the current administration no matter what. Politics knows no ‘what ifs,’ he added.

“The United States is a great power, and leads the world in many respects,” said the Russian leader, who had been asked repeatedly about relations between Moscow and Washington during the Russian Energy Week International Forum. “We consider it our natural partner on a whole range of issues, including security, non-proliferation, anti-terrorism and environmental solutions.

“I don’t know if it would have been better or worse if Trump hadn’t won the election – there are no 'what ifs' in politics, and we will work with what we have,” he told the audience during the open session in Moscow.

Read more Putin to Trump: ‘Donald, look into mirror to find culprit for surge in oil prices’

© Mike Segar

Putin said that he hoped to sway Trump towards signing the Paris climate accord, which the US has exited under the current administration. He agreed with his US counterpart that oil prices, which are inching upwards to $100 per barrel, are too high; but said that America’s Iran sanctions were contributing to the volatility.

The Russian president also hoped that the “nonsense” of the Russia election meddling probe would soon be put to bed, and urged Trump to “restore internal balance” to American politics.

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FBI probe is the next battle in war over Kavanaugh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. senators expressed concern on Sunday over reports the White House was working with Republicans to narrow the scope of an FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

President Donald Trump bowed to pressure from moderate members of his Republican Party on Friday and ordered the probe after Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor, detailed her allegations at a Senate hearing that Kavanaugh assaulted her in 1982, when the two were in high school.

The stunning reversal capped two weeks of allegations, followed by furious denials, that roiled prospects for Trump’s nominee, a conservative federal appeals court judge once expected to easily become the second Trump nominee to win a lifetime appointment to the top U.S. court.

Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s accusation, as well as those of two other women.

Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee made public late on Sunday a previously unreleased interview with Kavanaugh from Sept. 26, before a public hearing with Ford, in which he denied all the allegations against him and committee Democrats declined to ask questions, saying they felt the FBI should investigate the allegations.

Republicans, who are trying to retain control of the U.S. Congress in November elections, are seeking to balance their desire for another conservative justice on the court with sensitivity about how they handle sexual misconduct allegations amid the reverberations of the #MeToo movement.

It did not take long, however, for the FBI probe to become an object of partisan division.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the White House had defined the parameters of the probe for the FBI and that the investigation would start with interviews with only four people.

NBC News, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal previously reported that the White House was constraining the investigation, prompting Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to express concern.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s top Democrat, wrote to White House counsel Donald McGahn and FBI Director Christopher Wray and asked that the committee be provided with a copy of the written directive the White House sent to the FBI, as well as the names of any additional witnesses or evidence if the probe is expanded.

The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

LIMITING THE PROBE

The administration denied it was trying to control the probe, which the Judiciary Committee said on Friday “would be limited to current credible allegations” and wrapped up within a week.

“We’re staying out of the way,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told “Fox News Sunday.”

However, the administration made clear there would be limits. “It’s not meant to be a fishing expedition,” White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Trump vowed on Saturday that the FBI could interview “whoever they deem appropriate.”

On Sunday, he criticized Democrats for expressing concerns about the length and scope of the probe.

“For them, it will never be enough!” he wrote on Twitter.

The FBI will question Deborah Ramirez, who said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when both were students at Yale University, the White House official told Reuters.

It will also question Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh who Ford said witnessed the assault, and Leland Keyser and P.J. Smyth, who she said were at the gathering.

A third accuser, Julie Swetnick, was not on the initial list of witnesses to be interviewed.

Senate Republicans compiled the list of four witnesses and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell shared it with the White House, the official and another source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The New York Times, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that the White House asked the FBI to share its findings after the initial interviews and that Trump and his advisers would then decide whether the accusations should be investigated further.

Neither the FBI nor a Judiciary Committee representative would comment on details of the probe.

Senator Susan Collins, among a handful of moderates who joined Republican Senator Jeff Flake, said in an email: “I am confident that the FBI will follow up on any leads that result from the interviews.”

Flake was instrumental in forcing the investigation.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said it would not be unlawful for the White House to restrict the investigation’s scope because the FBI is under the executive branch.

However, Tobias said FBI agents were usually allowed to act independently and it would be a “clear conflict of interest” for White House officials involved in Kavanaugh’s confirmation process to interfere with the FBI’s investigation.

 

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Trump uses Kavanaugh delay as rallying cry for midterm elections

WHEELING, WVa. (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday used the stalled nomination of his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a rallying cry for Republican voters in November congressional elections.

At a West Virginia rally, Trump did not say a word about the testimony of university professor Christine Blasey Ford who detailed her sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh at an extraordinary hearing on Thursday.

After that hearing, Trump bowed to pressure from moderate Senate Republicans and ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation to further investigate.

Trump told supporters, who packed a hockey rink to the rafters for a raucous and freewheeling speech, that the delay showed why they need to vote against “mean and nasty and untruthful” Democrats in the Nov. 6 midterms.

“I will tell you, he has suffered. The meanness, the anger,” Trump said.

Trump was campaigning in a state he won by more than 40 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election to try to boost support for Republican Senate candidate Patrick Morrisey, who is trailing in polls behind Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

Manchin is one of a handful of senators seen as key swing votes on Kavanaugh’s appointment.

It was the first of five rallies for Trump this week to energize supporters and volunteers ahead of Nov. 6 congressional elections, where Republicans are at risk of losing control of Congress.

“A lot of what we’ve done - some people could say all of what we’ve done - is at stake in November,” Trump said, urging supporters to get involved.

“We are just five weeks away from one of the most important congressional elections in our lifetimes,” he said.

Kavanaugh’s troubled confirmation has disappointed conservative voters and energized Democrats.

Trump touted a poll done in West Virginia after the Senate hearing by the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative activist group that is backing Kavanaugh with a $1.5 million ad campaign.

The polling showed 58 percent of voters in the state want the confirmation to go ahead, while 28 percent are opposed.

“We think that in general, the attention on this hasn’t swayed opinion so much as it has hardened intensity,” a White House official said, speaking on background.

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"No Way": North Korea Says Will Not Disarm Without Trust In US

United Nations, United States: North Korea's foreign minister on Saturday told the United Nations there was "no way" that his country would disarm first as long as the United States continued to push for tough enforcement of sanctions against Pyongyang.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Ri Yong Ho accused Washington of creating a deadlock in talks on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. 

"The recent deadlock is because the US relies on coercive measures which are lethal to trust-building," Ri told the assembly.

"Without any trust in the US, there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances, there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first."

The United States is insisting on a "denuclearization-first" policy that "increases the level of pressure by sanctions to achieve their purpose in a coercive manner," said the foreign minister.

"The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe dream of the people who are ignorant about us."

Led by the United States, the UN Security Council adopted three sanctions resolutions last year aimed at depriving North Korea of revenue for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

A landmark summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June led to a warming of ties and a halt in Pyongyang's missile launches, but there has been little concrete progress since.

While in New York, Ri met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who agreed to return to Pyongyang next month to discuss US demands that the North scrap its weapons programs.

Pompeo will also try to arrange a second summit between Trump and Kim, whose June meeting in Singapore was the first ever between sitting leaders of the long-time enemy states.

Russia, China want sanctions relief

The North Korean foreign minister told the UN assembly that his government had stopped nuclear and missile tests, dismantled a nuclear test site and continued to make efforts to build trust.

"However we do not see any corresponding response from the US," he said.

North Korea's complaints have gotten a sympathetic ear from Russia and China, which this week called for an easing of sanctions to encourage Pyongyang to make concessions.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the "positive developments" in relations between North and South Korea -- combined with warmer US-North Korean ties -- should lead to sanctions relief.

The United States however has pushed for full enforcement of the tough measures that include a cap on oil and fuel deliveries, a ban on exports of North Korea's raw commodities and an end to contracts for its workers abroad.

China is Pyongyang's top trading partner, while Russia has welcomed tens of thousands of North Korean laborers that provide a vital source of hard currency. Human rights groups say the laborers often work in slave-like conditions. 

The United States is also hearing calls for step-by-step sanctions relief from ally South Korea, whose left-leaning President Moon Jae-in helped arrange Trump's diplomatic drive.

That view is not shared by Japan, which wants complete and verified disarming of North Korea as a condition for lifting any sanctions.
 

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Barbra Streisand takes aim at Donald Trump on new song Don't Lie to Me

Barbra Streisand has released Don’t Lie to Me, a new song that takes aim at Donald Trump.

Over a bombastic string-laden backing, Streisand sings: “How do you win if we all lose? / You change the facts to justify / Your lips move but your words get in the way” – an allusion to Trump’s notoriously liberal attitude to the truth, with the Washington Post calculating he has made 5,000 “false or misleading claims” since his presidency began.

Barbra Streisand - Don't Lie to Me (Official Audio)

She describes the American people as “on our knees”, and says “all that we built has come undone”. The song climaxes with the plea, “Can’t you see we’re crying? Where’s the new horizon?” before asking, “How do you sleep?”

While Trump isn’t mentioned by name, there are clear indicators that Streisand is singing about the US president, including lines like: “You can build towers of bronze and gold.”

It’s an explosive return for Streisand, who, at 76, is releasing one of the most politically outspoken songs of her career. A Hillary Clinton supporter, she has been a frequent critic of Trump in interviews, calling his prospective presidency “terrifyingly scary” in 2015, before saying earlier this year: “I call him the liar in chief, the misogynist in chief. He’s so crazed.” She said she believed that the 2016 election was rigged: “I do believe, like I believed during Bush, they were playing with those voter machines.” Yesterday, she tweeted: “Accused of sexual assault by 19 women … how did Trump get to be the President of the United States?”

Don’t Lie to Me is taken from her forthcoming album, Walls, her first collection of primarily original material since 2005 – she has released albums featuring cover versions in the interim, including 2014’s Partners, an album of duets with Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel and John Legend among others. In a tweet announcing the album, Streisand wrote: “This collection of songs reflects what’s been on my mind lately, and I look forward to sharing that with you.”

  • Published in Culture

Laughter at Trump’s UN Speech Sign of Growing US Isolation – Tehran

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Laughter at US President Donald Trump’s claims of US achievements during his speech at the UN General Assembly is a sign of his country’s deepening isolation, the chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps said on Wednesday, according to the Tasnim news agency.

Mohammad Ali Jafari called laughter heard during Trump’s address to the assembly "a major political scandal" that spelled "further isolation of the US."

The commander also slammed the US leader for his "cheap comments" on Iran’s alleged villainy, saying the United States and its Gulf allies were the ones destabilizing the Middle East.

READ MORE: UN Sec. Council Will Isolate Trump, Not Iran, Against US Wishes — Iran Deputy FM

In his speech at the general assembly on Tuesday, the US president praised the "extraordinary" work of the current White House administration, while some delegates laughed and muttered. He then accused Iran of sowing "chaos, death and destruction" in the Middle East.

According to the media reports, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan left the hall of the UN General Assembly while Trump was talking, however, later correspondent of the Turkish government newspaper Sabah Ragip Soilu stressed that Erdogan left in order to prepare his own speech, not to protest against the US statements.

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