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State Department Meeting With Congress on Refugee Cap

The U.S. State Department says it is scheduling meetings with members of Congress, after the country’s top diplomat this week proposed a record-low cap on refugees coming to the United States in the next year.

When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday told reporters the “proposed” cap would be 30,000 refugees for Fiscal Year 2019, lawmakers and refugee advocates swiftly criticized the announcement.

What Pompeo did not explain — and it took the State Department a day to clarify in a news conference with the agency’s chief spokesperson Heather Nauert — is that Pompeo’s announcement was a proposal included in an annual report submitted to Congress, not the final number.

A State Department spokesperson told VOA on Wednesday that the agency sent the report, with the proposed refugee ceiling, to Congress on Sept. 17, the same day as Pompeo’s announcement.

“We are working to schedule an in person consultation with Members and a briefing for their staffs as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement to VOA.

The report is created by the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of the president.

Every year, the president sets the so-called “ceiling” on refugees — the maximum number that will be allowed in over the 12-month period starting Oct. 1 — by a “presidential determination.” Part of the process is a consultation with Congress before the figure can be finalized.

The president has until the end of the month to make the presidential determination on the refugee ceiling. The full report is expected to be made public in the coming days, the State Department spokesperson added.

If the president sticks to the 30,000-refugee cap for FY2019, it will be the lowest ceiling on record since the U.S. refugee program began in the early 1980s.

The decision will come after a series of Trump administration decisions that have whittled down the program, citing unproven national security concerns.

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State Department Meeting With Congress on Refugee Cap

The U.S. State Department says it is scheduling meetings with members of Congress, after the country’s top diplomat this week proposed a record-low cap on refugees coming to the United States in the next year.

When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday told reporters the “proposed” cap would be 30,000 refugees for Fiscal Year 2019, lawmakers and refugee advocates swiftly criticized the announcement.

What Pompeo did not explain — and it took the State Department a day to clarify in a news conference with the agency’s chief spokesperson Heather Nauert — is that Pompeo’s announcement was a proposal included in an annual report submitted to Congress, not the final number.

A State Department spokesperson told VOA on Wednesday that the agency sent the report, with the proposed refugee ceiling, to Congress on Sept. 17, the same day as Pompeo’s announcement.

“We are working to schedule an in person consultation with Members and a briefing for their staffs as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement to VOA.

The report is created by the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of the president.

Every year, the president sets the so-called “ceiling” on refugees — the maximum number that will be allowed in over the 12-month period starting Oct. 1 — by a “presidential determination.” Part of the process is a consultation with Congress before the figure can be finalized.

The president has until the end of the month to make the presidential determination on the refugee ceiling. The full report is expected to be made public in the coming days, the State Department spokesperson added.

If the president sticks to the 30,000-refugee cap for FY2019, it will be the lowest ceiling on record since the U.S. refugee program began in the early 1980s.

The decision will come after a series of Trump administration decisions that have whittled down the program, citing unproven national security concerns.

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Trump Rips Attorney General Over Russia Probe, Other Issues

U.S. President Donald Trump launched an array of attacks Wednesday on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, disparaging Sessions’ performance as the country’s top law enforcement official.

“I’m disappointed in the attorney general for many reasons,” Trump told reporters at the White House. His remark came hours after a television interview with HillTV aired in which Trump declared, “I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad.”

Trump for more than a year has railed against Sessions, the first senator to declare his support for then-candidate Trump in 2016. Trump continues to vent his anger at Sessions for removing himself from oversight of the long-running investigation of Russia links to Trump’s campaign and whether, as president, Trump obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.

Sessions has said that he was required by Justice Department dictates to recuse himself from overseeing the probe because he staunchly backed Trump’s campaign and also had two contacts in 2016, when he was a senator from Alabama, with Russia’s then-ambassador to Washington. Oversight of the Russia probe then fell to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who in turn, over Trump’s objections, appointed Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as special counsel to head the investigation.

Mueller has now won several convictions of top Trump aides and continues to investigate Trump’s campaign and his actions as president.

In the television interview, Trump attacked Sessions on a range of issues. The Justice Department, which Sessions heads, declined to comment. But Sessions, after another Trump attack on him last month, pushed back, saying, “While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”

‘We’ll see how it goes’

Even though Sessions has proved to be a hardline foe of illegal immigration into the U.S., Trump said, “I’m not happy at the border, I’m not happy with numerous things, not just” Sessions’s removal of himself from oversight of the Russia investigation.

Trump suggested he did not foresee what would happen when he named Sessions as attorney general.

“I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it,” he said.

“And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly,” Trump recalled. “I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers. Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.”

Despite his frequent complaints about Sessions, Trump has refrained from firing him, warned by Republican lawmakers that Trump would have great difficulty winning Senate confirmation for any replacement who did not pledge to allow Mueller to complete the Russia probe, an investigation that Trump derides on almost a daily basis.

Some Republican lawmakers have said they might be open to Trump replacing Sessions after the November 6 national congressional elections.

One Republican lawmaker who talks frequently with Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham, said recently, “The president’s entitled to having an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that is qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time sooner rather than later where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice. Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”

Trump recently said Sessions was safe in his job until after the elections.

In the television interview, he said, “We’ll see what happens. A lot of people have asked me to [fire him]. And I guess I study history, and I say I just want to leave things alone, but it was very unfair what he did.”

“And my worst enemies, I mean, people that, you know, are on the other side of me in a lot of ways, including politically, have said that was a very unfair thing he did,” Trump said.

“We’ll see how it goes with Jeff,” Trump concluded. “I’m very disappointed in Jeff. Very disappointed.”

 

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Trump Rips Attorney General Over Russia Probe, Other Issues

U.S. President Donald Trump launched an array of attacks Wednesday on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, disparaging Sessions’ performance as the country’s top law enforcement official.

“I’m disappointed in the attorney general for many reasons,” Trump told reporters at the White House. His remark came hours after a television interview with HillTV aired in which Trump declared, “I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad.”

Trump for more than a year has railed against Sessions, the first senator to declare his support for then-candidate Trump in 2016. Trump continues to vent his anger at Sessions for removing himself from oversight of the long-running investigation of Russia links to Trump’s campaign and whether, as president, Trump obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.

Sessions has said that he was required by Justice Department dictates to recuse himself from overseeing the probe because he staunchly backed Trump’s campaign and also had two contacts in 2016, when he was a senator from Alabama, with Russia’s then-ambassador to Washington. Oversight of the Russia probe then fell to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who in turn, over Trump’s objections, appointed Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as special counsel to head the investigation.

Mueller has now won several convictions of top Trump aides and continues to investigate Trump’s campaign and his actions as president.

In the television interview, Trump attacked Sessions on a range of issues. The Justice Department, which Sessions heads, declined to comment. But Sessions, after another Trump attack on him last month, pushed back, saying, “While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”

‘We’ll see how it goes’

Even though Sessions has proved to be a hardline foe of illegal immigration into the U.S., Trump said, “I’m not happy at the border, I’m not happy with numerous things, not just” Sessions’s removal of himself from oversight of the Russia investigation.

Trump suggested he did not foresee what would happen when he named Sessions as attorney general.

“I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it,” he said.

“And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly,” Trump recalled. “I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers. Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.”

Despite his frequent complaints about Sessions, Trump has refrained from firing him, warned by Republican lawmakers that Trump would have great difficulty winning Senate confirmation for any replacement who did not pledge to allow Mueller to complete the Russia probe, an investigation that Trump derides on almost a daily basis.

Some Republican lawmakers have said they might be open to Trump replacing Sessions after the November 6 national congressional elections.

One Republican lawmaker who talks frequently with Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham, said recently, “The president’s entitled to having an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that is qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time sooner rather than later where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice. Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”

Trump recently said Sessions was safe in his job until after the elections.

In the television interview, he said, “We’ll see what happens. A lot of people have asked me to [fire him]. And I guess I study history, and I say I just want to leave things alone, but it was very unfair what he did.”

“And my worst enemies, I mean, people that, you know, are on the other side of me in a lot of ways, including politically, have said that was a very unfair thing he did,” Trump said.

“We’ll see how it goes with Jeff,” Trump concluded. “I’m very disappointed in Jeff. Very disappointed.”

 

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Trump: ‘Hard for Me to Imagine’ Kavanaugh Assaulted Teen in 1982

U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that “it’s very hard for me to imagine” that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a teenage girl 36 years ago when both were in high school, an alleged attack the woman says left her fearful for her life.

Trump said he hopes Kavanaugh’s accuser, California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, testifies at a hearing next Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering Kavanaugh’s nomination for a life-time seat on the country’s highest court.

“I really want to see her, to see what she has to say,” Trump said of Ford, now 51. The U.S. leader said it “would be unfortunate” if she does not appear.

Ford’s lawyers late Tuesday called for an FBI probe of her claims before she testifies, but Trump and Republicans that control the Senate panel say an FBI investigation is unnecessary. Kavanaugh, who says he will appear at the Senate panel’s hearing, has adamantly denied knowledge of the purported 1982 party at a suburban Washington home and said he has never attacked any woman.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House as he headed to North Carolina to view vast flood damage from Hurricane Florence, praised the 53-year-old Kavanaugh as “an extraordinary man.” But Trump said “it’s really up to the Senate” to decide how to proceed with the confirmation process.

Meanwhile, Anita Hill, the law professor at the center of lurid 1991 confirmation hearings involving Clarence Thomas as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, supported Ford’s call for an FBI investigation of her claims.

Hill told ABC’s “Good Morning America” show, “The American public really is expecting something more. They want to know that the Senate takes this seriously.”

Hill, now a law professor at Brandeis University, said Republican leaders are in an unnecessary rush to confirm Kavanaugh.

“Either they don’t take this seriously,” she said, “or … they just want to get it over. I’m not sure which is in play. Maybe they’re not concerned, or maybe they don’t know how to handle this kind of situation.”

The specter of Hill’s allegations 27 years ago that Thomas often sexually harassed her when they both worked for a federal government agency hangs heavy over the current Kavanaugh confirmation proceedings.

 Hill’s accusations were largely dismissed then by the all-male Senate committee, but many American women sympathized with her claims against Thomas, saying they resonated with their own experiences in the workplace. Thomas was confirmed on a narrow Senate vote and remains a conservative stalwart on the court to this day.

The chairman of the Senate panel, Republican Senator Charles Grassley, said, “The invitation for Monday still stands” for both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify.

“Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events,” Grassley said. “Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay.”

Republican lawmakers are trying to win Senate confirmation for Kavanaugh ahead of the court’s start of a new term on October 1, or if not by then, ahead of the November 6 nationwide congressional elections, to show Republican voters they have made good on campaign promises to place conservative judges like Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.

Ford’s lawyers told Grassley in a letter late Tuesday that some of the senators on the committee “appear to have made up their minds” and believe Kavanaugh.

“A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a nonpartisan manner and that the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions,” the letter said.

Death threats

The lawyers also said Ford has become the subject of death threats and harassment, and expressed fears that the committee planned to have her “relive this traumatic and harrowing incident” while testifying at the same table as Kavanaugh and in front of national television cameras.

“Nobody should be subject to threats and intimidation, and Dr. Ford is no exception,” Grassley said in a statement later Tuesday.

The Republican senator said there were no plans to have Ford and Kavanaugh appear at the same time, and that the committee had offered her the opportunity to appear before a private hearing.

Ford alleged in a Washington Post interview that Kavanaugh groped her at the house party when she was 15 and he was 17. 

She said Kavanaugh, “stumbling drunk,” threw her down on a bed, grinding his body against hers and trying to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she was wearing over it. Ford said when she tried to scream, he put his hand over her mouth.

She said she feared Kavanaugh might inadvertently kill her before she managed to flee.

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Trump: ‘Hard for Me to Imagine’ Kavanaugh Assaulted Teen in 1982

U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that “it’s very hard for me to imagine” that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a teenage girl 36 years ago when both were in high school, an alleged attack the woman says left her fearful for her life.

Trump said he hopes Kavanaugh’s accuser, California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, testifies at a hearing next Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering Kavanaugh’s nomination for a life-time seat on the country’s highest court.

“I really want to see her, to see what she has to say,” Trump said of Ford, now 51. The U.S. leader said it “would be unfortunate” if she does not appear.

Ford’s lawyers late Tuesday called for an FBI probe of her claims before she testifies, but Trump and Republicans that control the Senate panel say an FBI investigation is unnecessary. Kavanaugh, who says he will appear at the Senate panel’s hearing, has adamantly denied knowledge of the purported 1982 party at a suburban Washington home and said he has never attacked any woman.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House as he headed to North Carolina to view vast flood damage from Hurricane Florence, praised the 53-year-old Kavanaugh as “an extraordinary man.” But Trump said “it’s really up to the Senate” to decide how to proceed with the confirmation process.

Meanwhile, Anita Hill, the law professor at the center of lurid 1991 confirmation hearings involving Clarence Thomas as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, supported Ford’s call for an FBI investigation of her claims.

Hill told ABC’s “Good Morning America” show, “The American public really is expecting something more. They want to know that the Senate takes this seriously.”

Hill, now a law professor at Brandeis University, said Republican leaders are in an unnecessary rush to confirm Kavanaugh.

“Either they don’t take this seriously,” she said, “or … they just want to get it over. I’m not sure which is in play. Maybe they’re not concerned, or maybe they don’t know how to handle this kind of situation.”

The specter of Hill’s allegations 27 years ago that Thomas often sexually harassed her when they both worked for a federal government agency hangs heavy over the current Kavanaugh confirmation proceedings.

 Hill’s accusations were largely dismissed then by the all-male Senate committee, but many American women sympathized with her claims against Thomas, saying they resonated with their own experiences in the workplace. Thomas was confirmed on a narrow Senate vote and remains a conservative stalwart on the court to this day.

The chairman of the Senate panel, Republican Senator Charles Grassley, said, “The invitation for Monday still stands” for both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify.

“Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events,” Grassley said. “Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay.”

Republican lawmakers are trying to win Senate confirmation for Kavanaugh ahead of the court’s start of a new term on October 1, or if not by then, ahead of the November 6 nationwide congressional elections, to show Republican voters they have made good on campaign promises to place conservative judges like Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.

Ford’s lawyers told Grassley in a letter late Tuesday that some of the senators on the committee “appear to have made up their minds” and believe Kavanaugh.

“A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a nonpartisan manner and that the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions,” the letter said.

Death threats

The lawyers also said Ford has become the subject of death threats and harassment, and expressed fears that the committee planned to have her “relive this traumatic and harrowing incident” while testifying at the same table as Kavanaugh and in front of national television cameras.

“Nobody should be subject to threats and intimidation, and Dr. Ford is no exception,” Grassley said in a statement later Tuesday.

The Republican senator said there were no plans to have Ford and Kavanaugh appear at the same time, and that the committee had offered her the opportunity to appear before a private hearing.

Ford alleged in a Washington Post interview that Kavanaugh groped her at the house party when she was 15 and he was 17. 

She said Kavanaugh, “stumbling drunk,” threw her down on a bed, grinding his body against hers and trying to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she was wearing over it. Ford said when she tried to scream, he put his hand over her mouth.

She said she feared Kavanaugh might inadvertently kill her before she managed to flee.

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Oregon Using Facebook to Remind Inactive Voters to Register

In this era of manipulators using social media to interfere in elections, Oregon officials moved Tuesday to use Facebook to bolster participation by reminding as many as hundreds of thousands of inactive voters to update their registration.

“Utilizing cutting-edge technologies to empower eligible voters isn’t just something we can do — it’s something we must do if we’re serious about outreach,” Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson said in announcing what he called the first-of-its-kind program.

The initiative comes as Facebook tries to recover from a privacy scandal in which a political consulting firm with ties to President Donald Trump improperly accessed the data of tens millions of Facebook users.

In addition, California-based Facebook stepped up policing of its social network after authorities said Russian agents ran political influence operations on its platform aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook applauded the Oregon initiative.

“We’re glad the Oregon Secretary of State’s office is able to use Facebook to help reach inactive voters and let them know how they can cast a ballot this fall,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman.

Oregon law

Oregonians can become inactive voters after being mailed a ballot or other election material that is returned as undeliverable; not voting or registering in 10 years or as few as five years in some counties; if their ballot has been challenged; or if they’re imprisoned on a felony conviction.

Under Oregon law, the right to vote is restored upon release from incarceration. Oregonians receive ballots by mail and can either mail them back completed or deposit them in drop boxes.

Richardson’s chief of staff Deb Royal said the inactive voter list was cross-referenced with Facebook users who are Oregon residents.

“Facebook users who meet those two criteria will see the placement,” Royal said in an email. Oregon has 447,000 inactive voters, Royal said.

Having inactive status means a person is still registered to vote but won’t receive a ballot unless he or she provides a county with updated registration information to return their registration status to active. An inactive-status voter can also complete an online voter registration form at OregonVotes.gov to become active again.

Video outreach

As of August, 2.7 million people were registered to vote in Oregon — a 3 percent increase over 2017, according to elections division statistics. Oregon’s total population is around 4.1 million.

The video outreach features Richardson speaking directly to voters who have been listed as inactive, encouraging them to update their registration to receive a ballot in the mail. A link will be included for voters to take care of their registration, Royal said.

“Recent digital advances have created voter outreach opportunities never previously imagined,” Richardson said. A Republican, he holds the second-highest state office, second only to Democratic Governor Kate Brown in this predominantly blue state.

The outreach will run until the voter registration deadline on Oct. 16, his office said.

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Oregon Using Facebook to Remind Inactive Voters to Register

In this era of manipulators using social media to interfere in elections, Oregon officials moved Tuesday to use Facebook to bolster participation by reminding as many as hundreds of thousands of inactive voters to update their registration.

“Utilizing cutting-edge technologies to empower eligible voters isn’t just something we can do — it’s something we must do if we’re serious about outreach,” Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson said in announcing what he called the first-of-its-kind program.

The initiative comes as Facebook tries to recover from a privacy scandal in which a political consulting firm with ties to President Donald Trump improperly accessed the data of tens millions of Facebook users.

In addition, California-based Facebook stepped up policing of its social network after authorities said Russian agents ran political influence operations on its platform aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook applauded the Oregon initiative.

“We’re glad the Oregon Secretary of State’s office is able to use Facebook to help reach inactive voters and let them know how they can cast a ballot this fall,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman.

Oregon law

Oregonians can become inactive voters after being mailed a ballot or other election material that is returned as undeliverable; not voting or registering in 10 years or as few as five years in some counties; if their ballot has been challenged; or if they’re imprisoned on a felony conviction.

Under Oregon law, the right to vote is restored upon release from incarceration. Oregonians receive ballots by mail and can either mail them back completed or deposit them in drop boxes.

Richardson’s chief of staff Deb Royal said the inactive voter list was cross-referenced with Facebook users who are Oregon residents.

“Facebook users who meet those two criteria will see the placement,” Royal said in an email. Oregon has 447,000 inactive voters, Royal said.

Having inactive status means a person is still registered to vote but won’t receive a ballot unless he or she provides a county with updated registration information to return their registration status to active. An inactive-status voter can also complete an online voter registration form at OregonVotes.gov to become active again.

Video outreach

As of August, 2.7 million people were registered to vote in Oregon — a 3 percent increase over 2017, according to elections division statistics. Oregon’s total population is around 4.1 million.

The video outreach features Richardson speaking directly to voters who have been listed as inactive, encouraging them to update their registration to receive a ballot in the mail. A link will be included for voters to take care of their registration, Royal said.

“Recent digital advances have created voter outreach opportunities never previously imagined,” Richardson said. A Republican, he holds the second-highest state office, second only to Democratic Governor Kate Brown in this predominantly blue state.

The outreach will run until the voter registration deadline on Oct. 16, his office said.

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Mattis Dismisses Reports He May Be Leaving Trump Administration

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday flatly dismissed reports suggesting he may be leaving President Donald Trump’s  administration in the coming months, saying flatly: “I wouldn’t take it seriously at all.”

“How many times have we been through this, now, just since I’ve been here? It will die down soon, and the people who started the rumor will be allowed to write the next rumor, too,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

“Just the way the town is,” he added. “Keep a sense of humor about it.”

The remarks were the most direct by Mattis to date about intensifying rumors about his future as Trump approaches the half-way mark of his four-year term amid speculation about changes to his cabinet after upcoming November mid-term elections.

Mattis has become a focus in media stories in recent weeks about the Trump administration, particularly after the release of a book this month by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward that portrayed Mattis privately disparaging Trump to associates.

Mattis strongly denied making any such remarks. Trump on Sept. 5 said he defense chief would remain in his job, adding: “He’ll stay right there. We’re very happy with him. We’re having a lot of victories.”

But a New York Times report on Sept. 15 said Trump had “soured on his defense secretary, weary of unfavorable comparisons to Mattis as the adult in the room.”

It also noted this year’s arrival in the White House of Mira Ricardel, who now has the powerful post of deputy national security adviser and who current and former officials tell Reuters is believed to dislike Mattis.

Western officials privately extol Mattis, whose standing among NATO allies has risen as they become increasingly bewildered by Trump’s policies on trade and Iran and disoriented by his outreach to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Inside-The-Beltway Journalism

Mattis has a dim view of journalism about inside-the-beltway politics in Washington, using the word “fiction” to describe Woodward’s book and similar reporting about closed-door conversations among U.S. national security leaders.

Asked about the recent reports speculating about his departure, Mattis said: “It’s like most of those kinds of things in this town.

“Somebody cooks up a headline. They then call to a normally chatty class of people. They find a couple of other things to put in. They add the rumors… Next thing you know, you’ve got a story,” he said.

Still, Mattis is not political by nature, and previously made no secret of the fact that he was not looking to become secretary of defense – or even return to Washington – when Trump was elected.

The retired Marine general had stepped down from the military in 2013 and taken a job at Stanford University. He told his Senate confirmation hearing last year he was “enjoying a full life west of the Rockies” when the call came about the position.

After answering questions about his future, Mattis was asked whether he never considered life after the Pentagon. Mattis joked: “Of course I don’t think about leaving.”

“I love it here,” he said with a smile. “I’m thinking about retiring right here. I’ll get a little place here down on the Potomac.”

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Mattis Dismisses Reports He May Be Leaving Trump Administration

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday flatly dismissed reports suggesting he may be leaving President Donald Trump’s  administration in the coming months, saying flatly: “I wouldn’t take it seriously at all.”

“How many times have we been through this, now, just since I’ve been here? It will die down soon, and the people who started the rumor will be allowed to write the next rumor, too,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

“Just the way the town is,” he added. “Keep a sense of humor about it.”

The remarks were the most direct by Mattis to date about intensifying rumors about his future as Trump approaches the half-way mark of his four-year term amid speculation about changes to his cabinet after upcoming November mid-term elections.

Mattis has become a focus in media stories in recent weeks about the Trump administration, particularly after the release of a book this month by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward that portrayed Mattis privately disparaging Trump to associates.

Mattis strongly denied making any such remarks. Trump on Sept. 5 said he defense chief would remain in his job, adding: “He’ll stay right there. We’re very happy with him. We’re having a lot of victories.”

But a New York Times report on Sept. 15 said Trump had “soured on his defense secretary, weary of unfavorable comparisons to Mattis as the adult in the room.”

It also noted this year’s arrival in the White House of Mira Ricardel, who now has the powerful post of deputy national security adviser and who current and former officials tell Reuters is believed to dislike Mattis.

Western officials privately extol Mattis, whose standing among NATO allies has risen as they become increasingly bewildered by Trump’s policies on trade and Iran and disoriented by his outreach to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Inside-The-Beltway Journalism

Mattis has a dim view of journalism about inside-the-beltway politics in Washington, using the word “fiction” to describe Woodward’s book and similar reporting about closed-door conversations among U.S. national security leaders.

Asked about the recent reports speculating about his departure, Mattis said: “It’s like most of those kinds of things in this town.

“Somebody cooks up a headline. They then call to a normally chatty class of people. They find a couple of other things to put in. They add the rumors… Next thing you know, you’ve got a story,” he said.

Still, Mattis is not political by nature, and previously made no secret of the fact that he was not looking to become secretary of defense – or even return to Washington – when Trump was elected.

The retired Marine general had stepped down from the military in 2013 and taken a job at Stanford University. He told his Senate confirmation hearing last year he was “enjoying a full life west of the Rockies” when the call came about the position.

After answering questions about his future, Mattis was asked whether he never considered life after the Pentagon. Mattis joked: “Of course I don’t think about leaving.”

“I love it here,” he said with a smile. “I’m thinking about retiring right here. I’ll get a little place here down on the Potomac.”

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