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Trump fires Tillerson; UK puts Russia on deadline for spy attack response

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  • Tillerson replaced by CIA chief – President Donald J. Trump fired Rex Tillerson as U.S. Secretary of State and is replacing him with CIA director Mike Pompeo, (ReutersThe Washington Post, The New York Times). Gina Haspel, deputy director of the CIA, will replace Pompeo, becoming the first woman to run the agency. “Congratulations to all!” Trump said on Twitter, where he broke the news, also praising both Pompeo and Haspel in a statement (The Washington Post). The firing comes after a series of public rifts between Tillerson and Trump over policy on North Korea, Russia and Iran, Reuters reports.
    • Hours before the announcement, Tillerson said a nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in England “clearly came from Russia” (The Guardian), going further than official statements of the British prime minister. (See WikiTribune‘s full coverage of the attack on Skripal.)
    • Fire & Fury, the tell-all book by Michael Wolff, had this line about Tillerson: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s fate was sealed…by the revelation that he had called the president “a fucking moron.”

Donald J. Trump on Twitter

Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!

  • Russia on deadline to respond to spy attack claims – Russia has until midnight on Tuesday March 13 to respond to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s allegations, made in the House of Commons on Monday, that its government is responsible for the use of a rare nerve agent against former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. May said that chemical weapons experts had identified the nerve agent as novichok, a strand developed by the Russian state, making it “highly likely” the attack was orchestrated by the Kremlin, or it had lost control of the nerve agent. If Russia does not respond May will return to parliament tomorrow to set out the UK’s response to what it would assume is an “unlawful use of force” against the country.
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said accusations of Russian involvement in the poisoning were “rubbish.” In a press conference, he told reporters that Russia would not comply with May’s deadline, as it had been denied access to details of the UK’s investigation.
  • U.S. ICE spokesman resigns rather than perpetuate lies  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman James Schwab said he quit his job with the agency’s San Francisco office last week because he was feeling pressure to perpetuate distorted information in support of claims made by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (NPR). Schwab said Sessions and ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan exaggerated claims in February that more than 800 undocumented immigrants had escaped ICE capture because Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, California, had publicly warned of upcoming raids. “I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” Scwhab told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn’t agree with that. Then I took some time and I quit.” In a statement on Tuesday, ICE spokeswomen Liz Johnson said: “While we can’t put a number on how many targets avoided arrest due to the mayor’s warning, it clearly had an impact.” (NBC News).
  • Russian exile dies in London home Nikolai Glushkov, 68, a Russian exile and “close friends” with late oligarch Boris Berezovsky was found dead in his London home on Tuesday (The Guardian). The cause of death hasn’t yet been announced. Although British police said no evidence links Glushkov’s death to the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, counter-terrorism police are leading the investigation “because of associations that the man is believed to have had.” (Reuters) A former director of Russian state airline Aeroflot, Glushkov came to the UK in 2004 and was granted political asylum (The Guardian).
  • Trump blocks Broadcom’s bid for Qualcomm – President Donald J. Trump blocked the proposed takeover of U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm by Singapore-based Broadcom on the grounds of national security. The $140bn deal would have been the biggest technology deal on record. Trump said there was “credible evidence” to believe that the takeover might “impair the national security of the United States.” The BBC reported there were also concerns that the proposed buyout would have put China in the lead of the development of 5G wireless technology.
  • Turkey says it has encircled Kurdish enclave in northern Syrian – Turkey’s military and Syrian rebel allies have encircled the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, according to Turkish armed forces. Kurdish sources said all roads into the town were being targeted by shelling, but denied that it is encircled. Turkey’s operation to drive the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia – who gained control of large swathes of northern Syria when they helped to defeat Islamic State – out of Afrin began on January 20. (Read WikiTribune’s Q&A on the status of different Kurdish groups in the region, and our previous coverage of the fight around Afrin.)

Earlier

  • House Republicans close Russia inquiry – Republicans on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee say they have concluded there was “no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” in a report summary released without warning (CNN) to their Democratic colleagues. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the committee, called the closure of the inquiry “tragic” and a “capitulation” to pressure from the presidency.

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  • Eighty years after American aviator Amelia Earhart vanished trying to cross the South Pacific, forensic science is now convinced that her remains ended up in Fiji long after she and her navigator died on a deserted island. The latest evidence on Earhart meant quite a lot to veteran Pacific correspondent and WikiTribune member Michael Field since he speculated 20 years ago that her bones had indeed found their way to Fiji and that he may have handled them personally. Read Field’s report on the saga here.

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  • For a special edition on race National Geographic turned the spotlight on itself. The 129-year-old publication enlisted the help of an academic to delve into its archives and reveal how it has reported on people of color, both in the U.S and abroad. The results were less than favorable. Under the headline: “For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It,” National Geographic’s tenth editor, Susan Goldberg, strives to do just that.

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