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Pompeo Sees Chance to ‘Change the Course of History on the Korean Peninsula’

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says President Donald Trump’s plan to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides “an unprecedented opportunity to change the course of history on the Korean Peninsula.” Pompeo was formally sworn in as the 70th U.S. secretary of state in a ceremony attended by Trump. As VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from the State Department, the secretary has been preparing for the summit and dealing with Iran and other foreign policy challenges.

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About Half of Caravan of Asylum Seekers in US

At least 88 Central American asylum seekers from a caravan through Mexico had crossed into the United States by Wednesday, a movement that prompted U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to beef up legal resources on the border.

Dozens more remain just outside the entrance to the port of entry in a makeshift camp, waiting to plead their case.

Women, children and transgender people were among those who waited for hours inside the walkway to the U.S. gate before being allowed to pass through to begin the asylum process.

Those remaining wandered among boxes of cereal and diapers in a labyrinth of giant tents, near-luxury conditions for the bedraggled migrants, compared with the scarcity they had endured for weeks on their journey through Mexico to the U.S. border.

​Dramatic uptick

On Wednesday, U.S. officials let in three groups totaling 63 migrants, a dramatic uptick from the trickle permitted since Monday.

Border officials had allowed through only a few at a time, saying the busy San Ysidro crossing to San Diego was saturated and the rest must wait their turn.

In response, the Justice Department was sending 35 additional assistant U.S. attorneys and 18 immigration judges to the border, Sessions said, linking the decision to the caravan.

“We are sending a message worldwide: Don’t come illegally. Make your claim to enter America in the lawful way and wait your turn,” he said, adding that he would not let the country be “overwhelmed.”

Despite unusual attention on the annual, awareness-raising caravan after President Donald Trump took issue with it last month, the most recent data through December does not show a dramatic change in the number of Central Americans seeking asylum.

Apprehensions of people crossing to the United States illegally from Mexico were at their highest in March since December 2016, before Trump took office.

More than 100 members of the caravan, most from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, have been camped in the square near the entrance of the San Ysidro pedestrian bridge from Mexico to the United States, waiting for their turn to enter the checkpoint.

Pleading their case

At least 28 migrants who made it into the United States Wednesday had anxiously filed through the walkway to the U.S. gate the night before. Two by two, they walked up to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer standing in the gate to ask if they might pass through.

First to try was a man and his small nephew, a football under his arm; then a mother and child; then a woman with her grandsons.

Throughout the caravan’s 2,000-mile (3,220-km) odyssey from southern Mexico, its members maintained hope they would ultimately get the chance to plead their case for asylum in the United States, all the while knowing that U.S. officials might reject them.

The Trump administration cites a more than tenfold rise in asylum claims versus 2011 and growing numbers of families and children, who are more likely to be allowed to remain while their cases await hearing, as signs that people are fraudulently taking advantage of the system.

Trump wants to tighten laws to make it harder for people to claim asylum. For now, though, despite his orders to keep such migrant caravans out of the country, international and U.S. law obliges the government to listen to people’s stories and decide whether they deserve shelter.

The U.S. Department of Justice said on Monday it had launched prosecutions against 11 “suspected” caravan members on charges of crossing the border illegally.

Nicole Ramos, an attorney advising caravan members in Mexico, said she did not believe the individuals facing U.S. criminal charges were part of the caravan group.

“Quite a few people have claimed to be part of the caravan, including a sizeable contingent of Guatemalan men who were never part,” Ramos said.

 

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Trump to Make First Visit to State Department

President Donald Trump makes his first visit to the State Department Wednesday for a ceremonial swearing in of his new secretary of state.

“It’s an important day for the president’s first trip to this important place,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday while speaking to personnel who gathered as he arrived for his first full day at the State Department.

 

Pompeo, the former CIA director, has vowed to bring back the “swagger” to the State Department.

“The United States diplomatic corps need to be in every corner, every stretch of the world, executing missions on behalf of this country, and it is my humble, noble undertaking to help you achieve that,” said Pompeo on Tuesday.

 

Pompeo takes the helm of the State Department after Trump fired then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March, hours after Tillerson had returned from a trip to Africa.

Unlike with Tillerson, Trump is said to have a close working relationship with Pompeo. The president and several Cabinet members will be on-hand on Wednesday for Pompeo’s ceremonial swearing-in, a clear sign that Pompeo enjoys the trust and backing of the president.

 

“Mike Pompeo is someone who I think has the close ear of the president,” said Nile Gardiner of the conservative-leaning Washington-based think-tank, The Heritage Foundation.

Tuesday, Pompeo took selfies with several State Department employees, vowing to reach out to as many staff members as he could.

“I’ll spend as little time on the 7th floor” and meet people in “many parts of this organization,” said the new secretary of state.

 

A U.S. foreign service officer, who did not want to be named, told VOA he hopes Pompeo’s experiences in Congress, the U.S. military, and the intelligence community “highlight that the United States faces real adversaries abroad, and that the [State] Department’s career employees are resources — not the enemy.”

 

Tillerson was under fire at the State Department for leaving many senior vacancies unfilled and proposing dramatic budget cuts, lowering the morale of the diplomatic workforce.

 

Pompeo, who was confirmed last week, boarded a plane just hours after being sworn in Thursday, traveling to the NATO foreign ministerial in Brussels. He continued on to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan.

 

“I do think he is going to be a far bigger presence on the world stage than Rex Tillerson was,” said The Heritage Foundation’s Gardiner.

 

And while former Secretary of State Tillerson brought just one reporter on his first foreign trip to Asia, Pompeo left Washington with six journalists on his plane last week. He picked up two more reporters as he continued his overseas trip to the Middle East, before returning to Washington on Monday.

 

“I think I have the record for the longest trip on the first day of work,” Pompeo joked on Tuesday.

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Trump to Make First Visit to State Department

President Donald Trump makes his first visit to the State Department Wednesday for a ceremonial swearing in of his new secretary of state.

“It’s an important day for the president’s first trip to this important place,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday while speaking to personnel who gathered as he arrived for his first full day at the State Department.

 

Pompeo, the former CIA director, has vowed to bring back the “swagger” to the State Department.

“The United States diplomatic corps need to be in every corner, every stretch of the world, executing missions on behalf of this country, and it is my humble, noble undertaking to help you achieve that,” said Pompeo on Tuesday.

 

Pompeo takes the helm of the State Department after Trump fired then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March, hours after Tillerson had returned from a trip to Africa.

Unlike with Tillerson, Trump is said to have a close working relationship with Pompeo. The president and several Cabinet members will be on-hand on Wednesday for Pompeo’s ceremonial swearing-in, a clear sign that Pompeo enjoys the trust and backing of the president.

 

“Mike Pompeo is someone who I think has the close ear of the president,” said Nile Gardiner of the conservative-leaning Washington-based think-tank, The Heritage Foundation.

Tuesday, Pompeo took selfies with several State Department employees, vowing to reach out to as many staff members as he could.

“I’ll spend as little time on the 7th floor” and meet people in “many parts of this organization,” said the new secretary of state.

 

A U.S. foreign service officer, who did not want to be named, told VOA he hopes Pompeo’s experiences in Congress, the U.S. military, and the intelligence community “highlight that the United States faces real adversaries abroad, and that the [State] Department’s career employees are resources — not the enemy.”

 

Tillerson was under fire at the State Department for leaving many senior vacancies unfilled and proposing dramatic budget cuts, lowering the morale of the diplomatic workforce.

 

Pompeo, who was confirmed last week, boarded a plane just hours after being sworn in Thursday, traveling to the NATO foreign ministerial in Brussels. He continued on to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan.

 

“I do think he is going to be a far bigger presence on the world stage than Rex Tillerson was,” said The Heritage Foundation’s Gardiner.

 

And while former Secretary of State Tillerson brought just one reporter on his first foreign trip to Asia, Pompeo left Washington with six journalists on his plane last week. He picked up two more reporters as he continued his overseas trip to the Middle East, before returning to Washington on Monday.

 

“I think I have the record for the longest trip on the first day of work,” Pompeo joked on Tuesday.

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Pompeo Promises To Help State Department Get Its ‘Swagger’ Back

New Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has promised to boost U.S. diplomacy and help the State Department get its “swagger back.” Hundred of employees at the agency in Washington greeted him enthusiastically Tuesday. Morale at State had plummeted under the threat of sharp budget cuts, with dozens of key posts and ambassadorships left unfilled under his predecessor, former secretary Rex Tillerson. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more from the State Department.

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Pompeo Promises To Help State Department Get Its ‘Swagger’ Back

New Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has promised to boost U.S. diplomacy and help the State Department get its “swagger back.” Hundred of employees at the agency in Washington greeted him enthusiastically Tuesday. Morale at State had plummeted under the threat of sharp budget cuts, with dozens of key posts and ambassadorships left unfilled under his predecessor, former secretary Rex Tillerson. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more from the State Department.

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CNN: Doctor Says Trump Dictated Glowing 2015 Health Report

A letter from Donald Trump’s New York physician released by his campaign in 2015 declaring he would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” was composed by the candidate himself, the doctor said Tuesday.

“He dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter,” Harold Bornstein told CNN.

Bornstein was not immediately available to comment, but in a subsequent interview with NBC News he confirmed the account.

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

“Mr. Trump has had a recent complete medical examination that showed only positive results,” said the letter signed by Bornstein, who said he had treated Trump since 1980.

“Actually, his blood pressure, 110/65, and laboratory results were astonishingly excellent. His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary,” the letter said. “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

Bornstein told NBC News the characterization of “healthiest” was “black humor.”

Dictation in Central Park

Trump read out the language as Bornstein and his wife were driving across Central Park, the doctor told CNN. The campaign released the letter in December 2015.

“[Trump] dictated the letter and I would tell him what he couldn’t put in there,” he said.

Bornstein had previously said he had written the letter in a rush while seeing other patients.

His latest version of the letter’s origins follows his accusation that Trump’s ex-bodyguard, Keith Schiller, raided his office while retrieving Trump’s medical records after he was elected president.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday that the records were retrieved as part of “standard operating procedure.”

“As is standard operating procedure for a new president, the White House Medical Unit took possession of the president’s medical records,” she told a regular news briefing.

Asked whether the operation was a raid, she said: “No, that is not my understanding.”

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CNN: Doctor Says Trump Dictated Glowing 2015 Health Report

A letter from Donald Trump’s New York physician released by his campaign in 2015 declaring he would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” was composed by the candidate himself, the doctor said Tuesday.

“He dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter,” Harold Bornstein told CNN.

Bornstein was not immediately available to comment, but in a subsequent interview with NBC News he confirmed the account.

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

“Mr. Trump has had a recent complete medical examination that showed only positive results,” said the letter signed by Bornstein, who said he had treated Trump since 1980.

“Actually, his blood pressure, 110/65, and laboratory results were astonishingly excellent. His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary,” the letter said. “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

Bornstein told NBC News the characterization of “healthiest” was “black humor.”

Dictation in Central Park

Trump read out the language as Bornstein and his wife were driving across Central Park, the doctor told CNN. The campaign released the letter in December 2015.

“[Trump] dictated the letter and I would tell him what he couldn’t put in there,” he said.

Bornstein had previously said he had written the letter in a rush while seeing other patients.

His latest version of the letter’s origins follows his accusation that Trump’s ex-bodyguard, Keith Schiller, raided his office while retrieving Trump’s medical records after he was elected president.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday that the records were retrieved as part of “standard operating procedure.”

“As is standard operating procedure for a new president, the White House Medical Unit took possession of the president’s medical records,” she told a regular news briefing.

Asked whether the operation was a raid, she said: “No, that is not my understanding.”

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McCain Assails Trump in New Book

U.S. Senator John McCain, in a farewell memoir as he battles brain cancer, lashes out at President Donald Trump as failing to uphold American values.

“He has declined to distinguish the actions of our government from the crimes of despotic ones,” the 81-year-old McCain said of Trump in an excerpt from his new book, The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations.

“The appearance of toughness, or a reality show facsimile of toughness, seems to matter more than any of our values,” McCain wrote.

McCain, a one-time prisoner of war in North Vietnam in the 1960s, the losing Republican candidate for the presidency in 2008 and six times elected as a senator from Arizona, says he has no regrets as he serves what his illness has forced him to admit, that it is his last term in the Senate.

“‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it,’ spoke my hero, Robert Jordan, in For Whom the Bell Tolls,” McCain says in his book.

“And I do, too,” he continued “I hate to leave it. But I don’t have a complaint. Not one.I t’s been quite a ride. I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war, and helped make a peace.I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.”

He wrote, “I’m freer than colleagues who will face the voters again. I can speak my mind without fearing the consequences much. And I can vote my conscience without worry.”

“I don’t think I’m free to disregard my constituents’ wishes, far from it,” he said.” I don’t feel excused from keeping pledges I made. Nor do I wish to harm my party’s prospects. But I do feel a pressing responsibility to give Americans my best judgment.”

He decried the “decline in civility and cooperation, and increased obstructionism” he has witnessed in Congress and politically fractious Washington. He said there are government officials and lawmakers who are “committed to meeting the challenges of the hour. They might not be the most colorful politicians in town, but they’re usually the ones who get the most done.”

“Before I leave I’d like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations,” he wrote. “I would like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different.”

“We are citizens of a republic made of shared ideals forged in a new world to replace the tribal enmities that tormented the old one,” McCain said. “Even in times of political turmoil such as these, we share that awesome heritage and the responsibility to embrace it.”

The outspoken McCain has had a contentious relationship with the Republican Trump. During Trump’s long run to the presidency, he belittled McCain’s 5 1/2 years in captivity in North Vietnam after the naval fighter pilot was shot down in a bombing run over Hanoi.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Last year, McCain defied Trump and cast the deciding vote against the Republican plan supported by the president to repeal national health care policies that had been championed by Trump’s Democratic predecessor, former President Barack Obama.

Since December, McCain has undergone treatment in Arizona, occasionally offering his commentary on national and international issues, but staying away from Washington.

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Trump Assails Russia Probe as Investigators’ Questions Leaked

U.S. President Donald Trump fired new broadsides Tuesday at the criminal investigation into his 2016 election campaign’s links to Russia and his White House actions.

The U.S. leader derided special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, said it was “disgraceful” that more than four dozen questions investigators want to ask Trump were leaked in a The New York Times story and contended that it would be “very hard” to obstruct the probe if, as he says, there was no collusion with Russia to help him win the election.

The Times report said Mueller’s team wants to probe Trump’s thinking about issues that occurred during the campaign, in the nearly three months between the election and his assuming power in January 2017 and during his 15 months in office.

The questions include ones about Trump’s motivation behind some of his most incendiary comments on Twitter, where he often attacks the investigation and political opponents, but most more broadly focus on allegations Trump has obstructed justice by trying to thwart Mueller’s probe.

Firing of James Comey

The investigators want to explore Trump’s thinking in firing former FBI director James Comey a year ago while he was leading the Russia probe. Mueller’s team also has questions about Comey’s claim that Trump asked him to end his probe of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom Trump had also ousted and has since pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller’s investigators about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to Washington.

The questions show that Mueller also wants to know when Trump knew about a middle-of-the-campaign meeting at his Trump Tower headquarters in New York arranged by his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., with a Russian lawyer on the pretense that she would offer the campaign incriminating material on Trump’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton. The younger Trump says the attorney had no such political dirt on Clinton. But news accounts charge when news of the meeting surfaced months later, President Trump played a role in writing a misleading characterization of the June 2016 meeting.

Business affairs

In addition, Mueller has questions about Trump’s business affairs, especially possible deals linked to Russia, and what happened on Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant he owned at the time. A former British intelligence official, Christopher Steele, compiled a dossier on the trip, with uncorroborated, anonymous allegations Trump cavorted with prostitutes in a hotel room, which Trump has denied.

Whether Mueller and his team will actually get to ask Trump any questions is an open question. The president at various times has said he wants to answer Mueller’s inquiries, but some of his defense lawyers have advised against it, fearing that Trump, who is often prone to exaggerations or outright falsehoods, could get trapped by the questioning.

Trump’s attorneys have discussed the possibility of an interview with the prosecutors, but no agreement has been reached.

In one of his Tuesday tweets, Trump said, “So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were “leaked” to the media. No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see… you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!”

Later, he contended, “It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!”

 

 

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