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During his Senate confirmation hearing, Donald Trump’s pick as secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said it is a “fair assumption” that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind US election hacks.

The former CEO of Exxon Mobil told the hearing committee the intelligence report on Russian tampering “clearly is troubling”.

Rex Tillerson’s comments came after Senator Marco Rubio pressed him to admit Vladimir Putin’s role in the cyber-breach.

His reported good ties with Vladimir Putin have alarmed some in the United States.

Rex Tillerson, 64, faced tough questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 11.

In a heated exchange, Marco Rubio grilled him on whether intelligence reports about Russia’s involvement in hacks on the US election were accurate and if Vladimir Putin had directed the attacks.

Rex Tillerson said he had no inside information on the detailed intelligence about Russia’s hacking, but he had read the declassified US report released last week on the issue.

The Florida senator suggested that Vladimir Putin was responsible for war crimes because of Moscow’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and bombing of Aleppo.

However, the Texan multimillionaire told Marco Rubio he would not describe Vladimir Putin as a war criminal.

Image source Flickr

Rex Tillerson said: “I would not use that term.”

“Those are very, very serious charges to make and I’d want to have much more information before reaching that conclusion,” he added.

Marco Rubio – who was one of Donald Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination – said he had “serious concerns” about Rex Tillerson as America’s top diplomat.

While Rex Tillerson was grilled by senators in Washington DC, up in New York Donald Trump was rejecting claims that Russian intelligence agencies have compromising information about the president-elect.

In his first news conference in nearly six months on January 11, at Trump Tower, Donald Trump dismissed the allegations against him as “fake news” and “phony stuff” crafted by “sick people”.

Russia has called the allegations “pulp fiction” and a “clear attempt to damage relations”.

In his Senate statement, Rex Tillerson warned that Americans should be “clear-eyed about our relationship with Russia”.

“Russia today poses a danger, but it is not unpredictable in advancing its own interests. It has invaded Ukraine, including the taking of Crimea, and supported Syrian forces that brutally violate the laws of war,” he said.

“Our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia,” he added.

It is Rex Tillerson’s connections to Russia that have drawn the most flak in recent months.

Rex Tillerson has forged multi-billion-dollar deals with Russia’s state oil company, Rosneft, spoken out against international sanctions imposed on Moscow and in 2013 was awarded an Order of Friendship by the Kremlin.

In a TV debate held in Miami, Republican Marco Rubio has attacked rival Donald Trump for saying that Islam hates America.

Marco Rubio, who faces a do-or-die contest in Florida on March 15, said Islam had a problem with radicalization but said that many Muslims were proud Americans.

“Presidents can’t just say whatever they want. It has consequences,” he said, to cheers from the audience.

The four Republicans heeded pleas from party leaders to have a civil debate.

Unlike in the last TV event, which was littered with personal insults, this one was more substantive with a focus on policy.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

“So far, I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here,” Donald Trump observed at one point.

However, on the issue of Islam, there was clear distance between Donald Trump and the others. The billionaire stood by comments he made earlier in the day when he said “Islam hates us, there’s a tremendous hatred”, and railed against political correctness.

Marco Rubio said: “I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m interested in being correct.”

All three of Donald Trump’s rivals distanced themselves from Trump’s statement in December that in the fight against terrorist “you have to take out their families”.

“We’ve never targeted innocent civilians and we’re not going to start now” Ted Cruz said.

When Donald Trump was challenged on the legality of targeting civilians, he said that America had to be able to fight on “an equal footing”.

“We have to obey the laws, but we have to expand those laws,” he said.

On March 15, five large states will vote for presidential candidate in each party, with Ohio Governor John Kasich and Marco Rubio, a Florida senator, under pressure to win their home states.

Donald Trump picked up a key endorsement of Ben Carson, who last week dropped out of the race before the debate.

The candidates also clashed over President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba next week.

Marco Rubio, whose parents were Cuban immigrants, said he was opposed to efforts to restore relations until Cuba improved its human rights record.

However, Donald Trump said he was not opposed to a US-Cuba deal, but it should be on better terms for the US.

The other Cuban-American candidate on the stage, Ted Cruz, accused Donald Trump of supporting the Obama-Clinton policy on Cuba.

Republican Donald Trump has called for a “one-on-one” battle with Ted Cruz, urging other rivals to quit the nomination race.

Ted Cruz also suggested it was time for other hopefuls, like Marco Rubio and John Kasich, to step aside.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz won two states each in March 5 voting.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

In the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders took two states – but Hillary Clinton maintained her front-runner status after a big victory in Louisiana.

Speaking after wins in the Republican Kentucky caucuses and Louisiana primary election, Donald Trump told a news conference: “I would love to take on Ted Cruz one on one.”

“Marco Rubio had a very very bad night and personally I call for him to drop out of the race. I think it’s time now that he dropped out of the race. I really think so.”

Meanwhile, Texas Senator Ted Cruz – who won Republican caucuses in Kansas and Maine – said he believed that “as long as the field remains divided, it gives Donald an advantage”.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich have so far made no public comments on the issue.

Ted Cruz now appears to be the only candidate who can stop Donald Trump, analysts say, after a week in which the Republican establishment did everything it could to attack the New York billionaire.

Observers also point out that Ted Cruz and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders – who beat Hillary Clinton in Kansas and Nebraska – both won in states holding caucuses but lost in the Louisiana primary elections, involving far more voters.

They say that the Louisiana race also appears to have exposed Bernie Sanders’ lack of support among African-American voters.

Hillary Clinton said she was thrilled to add to her delegate count.

The former secretary of state said: “No matter who wins this Democratic nomination, I have not the slightest doubt that on our worst day we will be infinitely better than the Republicans on their best day.”

Donald Trump has come under fire again at the latest Republican debate, after a day in which the GOP’s veteran politicians urged voters to desert him.

The front-runner in the Republican race was on the defensive in Detroit as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz piled in.

Donald Trump admitted he had changed his stance on issues but said flexibility was a strength.

Senior Republicans say Donald Trump is a liability who would lose the election.

The debate hosted by Fox News began with Donald Trump being asked about an attack earlier in the day by Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee, who accused the businessman of bullying, greed and misogyny.

Donald Trump dismissed Mitt Romney as a “failed candidate”, but he immediately found himself on the defensive from Marco Rubio.Donald Trump Republican debate March3

The Florida senator said he was “not going to turn over the conservative movement to someone who thinks the nuclear triad is a rock band from the 1980s”.

In one of the most bizarre moments, Donald Trump defended the size of his hands and then quipped about another part of his anatomy.

There were plenty of personal insults from Donald Trump, who labeled the Florida senator “little Rubio” and the senator from Texas as “liar Ted”.

Donald Trump was forced to explain a civil lawsuit involving the collapse of Trump University.

He said he would win the case but Marco Rubio said he was trying to “con people into giving him their vote, just like he conned people into giving him their money”.

Donald Trump was also challenged by the Fox News panel for changing his stance on Syrian refugees, the war in Afghanistan and President George W. Bush.

He replied: “I have a very strong core. But I’ve never seen a successful person who wasn’t flexible, who didn’t have a certain degree of flexibility.”

Hours earlier, Mitt Romney led growing calls by leading Republicans against a Donald Trump nomination.

Calling him a “phony” and a “fraud”, the former Republican presidential candidate said Donald Trump’s policies – like the deportation of undocumented migrants and banning Muslims from entering the US – would make the world less safe.

Others like Paul Ryan, John McCain and a host of national security committee members have also attacked Donald Trump since he cemented his front-runner status earlier in the week on Super Tuesday.

Republicans in four states – Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Maine – go to the polls on March 5 and Donald Trump is hoping to get a step closer to earning his party’s nomination.

Donald Trump, a billionaire with no experience of political office, has won 10 of the 15 states that have voted so far, with his promise to “make America great again”.

His supporters value his perceived authenticity and business acumen, and say he is the strong leader the country needs.

With the effective departure of Ben Carson this week, the field of Republican candidates – once 17-strong – has now been narrowed to four.

The debate, sponsored by Fox News, was the first time Donald Trump had faced his rivals since winning seven states on Super Tuesday.

It also brought him face to face with presenter Megyn Kelly, whom he dismissed as a “bimbo” after they clashed in the first primary debate.

This time Donald Trump was all smiles and he complimented her looks when he took her first question.

In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton has 10 states, five more than rival Bernie Sanders.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will take to the debate stage in Flint, Michigan, on March 6.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have unleashed a barrage of attacks on front-runner Donald Trump in the last Republican debate before Super Tuesday.

They sought to blunt Donald Trump’s momentum after he won three of the first four contests.

Immigration, healthcare and outreach to Latino voters dominated the debate.

Like previous occasions, the debate quickly disintegrated into long periods of shouting and personal insults.GOP debate February 25

Donald Trump has been extremely popular despite his controversial comments about deporting millions of undocumented workers and banning Muslims from travelling to the US.

On March 1, known as Super Tuesday, millions of voters in 11 states will cast ballots.

A quarter of the total numbers of delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination will be up for grabs.

Donald Trump is currently leading in 10 out of 11 states holding contests on Super Tuesday.

He has 82 Republican delegates, Ted Cruz has 17 and Marco Rubio has 16. To become the GOP’s nominee, a candidate has to have 1,237 total state delegates.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will compete for 1,004 delegates on Super Tuesday. So far, Hillary Clinton has 505 delegates and Bernie Sanders has 71.

Each party formally announces its presidential candidate at conventions in July, four months before the presidential election.

Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio was attacked by several GOP rivals for the party’s nomination to run for the White House, in a fractious ABC debate.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie described Marco Rubio, a rising force in the polls, as inexperienced and scripted.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, also assailed by Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, fought back by attacking President Barack Obama.

The New Hampshire debate comes four days before the state picks its presidential nominee in each party.

Several of the seven Republicans on stage have staked much on this state, and the pressure seemed to provoke several points of conflict.

One of the testiest moments at the debate in Manchester was when Chris Christie lambasted Marco Rubio.

“You have not been involved in a consequential decision, where you had to be held accountable, you just simply haven’t,” said Chris Christie.Marco Rubio GOP debate New Hampshire

The New Jersey governor accused Marco Rubio of “truancy” by missing Senate votes and said his eloquent speeches were ineffective in improving the lives of a single American.

However, Marco Rubio, who was a strong third in the Iowa vote on February 1, attacked him for not immediately returning to New Jersey from the campaign trail during the recent snowstorm.

The night got off to a bizarre start when Ben Carson missed his entrance to the debate and was left standing in the wings by debate hosts ABC News.

When it eventually got under way, the candidates sharpened their differences on issues like national security, immigration and abortion.

New Hampshire polls suggest Donald Trump, who has no political experience but finished second in the Iowa vote on February 1, is out in front.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who like Donald Trump is running on an anti-establishment platform, was the victor in Iowa.

However, a strong third by Marco Rubio has made him a target from the others.

One of Marco Rubio’s counter-attacks under pressure in the debate, that President Barack Obama is knowingly changing the nature of the US, was strongly rejected by Donald Trump.

“I think he [Barack Obama] has no idea what he’s doing. And our country is going to hell. So, I just want to say, we disagree on that.”

Jeb Bush also put the boot into his former Florida protégé, saying he was gifted but in a way that reminded him of Barack Obama.

After New Hampshire on February 9, the rest of the 50 states will have their turn over the coming weeks and months.

Each party formally announces their presidential candidate at conventions in July, four months before the presidential election.

Donald Trump’s plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants from the US has been attacked by his party rivals in the fourth Republican debate on Fox Business.

The Republican frontrunner’s hard-line proposal was attacked as impractical and divisive by John Kasich and Jeb Bush, who are also running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Donald Trump, a billionaire New Yorker who has been leading in the polls, was booed as he tried to counter-attack.

Another source of friction at the debate in Milwaukee was foreign policy.

The eight candidates were divided on whether the US should do more to intervene in the Middle East, especially in the fight against ISIS.

Photo Fox Business

Photo Fox Business

However, immigration sparked the biggest confrontation, when Donald Trump said a wall should be built at the US-Mexico border and all migrants living illegally in the US must be deported.

This was met with disdain by John Kasich, the governor of Ohio.

“Come on, folks, we all know you can’t pick them up and ship them back across the border. It’s a silly argument. It’s not an adult argument.”

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said it would tear families apart and played into the hands of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

The fourth Republican debate, hosted by Fox Business, began by talking about raising the minimum wage, which several candidates opposed.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said vocational education was instead a better way to unlock American potential.

“Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”

At one point, Marco Rubio and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul tangled over the issue of military spending, with Rand Paul saying his rival’s plan to increase military spending went against conservative principles.

“We can’t even have an economy if we’re not safe,” responded Marco Rubio.

The primary elections begin in February in Iowa.

Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush has apologized to France for referencing their working week to insult rival Marco Rubio.

Jeb Bush said he had done a “disservice to the French” by using them to mock Marco Rubio’s senate voting record.

“I made the mistake of saying that the Congress operates on a French work week,” he was reported as saying.

Jeb Bush said he had since learned that the French work longer hours than the Germans do.Jeb Bush French work week

“So, my God, I totally insulted an entire country – our first ally – that helped us become free as a nation!” Jeb Bush said, according to Time magazine.

The former Florida governor made the original comments during a Republican presidential debate last week.

Jeb Bush asked Marco Rubio whether the Senate ran on French time and if lawmakers only had to show up for three days weekly.

His campaign spokesman Tim Miller said he had been inundated with emails from French journalists following the debate.

Even Gerard Araud, the French ambassador, responded on Twitter to correct Jeb Bush.

The French officially work a 35-hour week though many employees put in far longer hours.

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are trailing behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.


Cuba has welcomed US decision to remove it from the state department’s terror list, saying it should never have been on the list in the first place.

The move comes amid a normalization of ties between the US and Cuba.

Cuba’s presence on the list alongside Syria, Iran and Sudan was a sticking point for Cuba during talks to reopen embassies.

A US trade embargo against Cuba remains and can only be ended by Congress.

Barack Obama met Cuban President Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama last week, four months after he announced a historic thaw in ties with the communist island nation.

He said on April 14 that the government of Cuba had “not provided any support for international terrorism” over the past six months.

Barack Obama added that it had “provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future”.Barack Obama Raul Castro Cuban thaw

A statement from Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s top diplomat responsible for dealing with the US, said: “The Cuban government recognized the fair decision made by the president of the United States to eliminate Cuba from a list that it never should have been included on, especially considering our country has been the victim of hundreds of acts of terrorism that have cost 3,478 lives and maimed 2,099 citizens.”

In Havana, ordinary Cubans welcomed the move.

Cuba was first placed on the state department list in 1982, for what the US called efforts “to promote armed revolution by organizations that used terrorism”.

The US believes Cuba had long provided a safe haven for members of the Basque separatist group ETA and Colombia’s FARC guerrilla group, according to its 2013 Report on Terrorism.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the US still had differences with Cuban policies and actions, but they were not “relevant” to the terror list.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a candidate for the US presidency, condemned the White House decision, saying Cuba remained a state sponsor of terrorism.

Marco Rubio has announced he will run for the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential election.

The 43-year-old Florida senator said on a conference call he was “uniquely qualified” to bring the party into the future.

Marco Rubio is the third Republican to officially announce a candidacy after Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

He is expected to make a formal announcement at a political rally in Miami on April 13.

It comes a day after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she would stand for the Democratic nomination.

Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American, has been a harsh critic of President Barack Obama’s policies, especially on immigration and the diplomatic thaw with Cuba.

“The Republican Party, for the first time in a long time, has a chance in this election to be the party of the future,” Marco Rubio said on the call, according to the Associated Press.Marco Rubio White House 2016

“Just yesterday, we heard from a leader from yesterday who wants to take us back to yesterday, but I feel that this country has always been about tomorrow,” Marco Rubio added, referring to Hillary Clinton.

Marco Rubio, who was first elected in 2010, holds conservative positions on government and military spending, abortion and negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

He was previously criticized by some Republicans for initially supporting a bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill.

Marco Rubio has since said that border security must be strengthened before any change, criticizing President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

He is due to speak to supporters at the Freedom Tower in Miami at 18:00 local time.

Marco Rubio would be the first Hispanic president if he won, as would Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

The field for the Republican nomination is likely to be crowded, with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker also expected to run.

Hillary Clinton, the first major candidate on the Democratic side to declare, is travelling to Iowa and other states, seeking to meet voters before a more formal rally in May.

Congressmen who are against President Barack Obama’s new Cuba policy have threatened to block his efforts to restore diplomatic relations after 50 years of hostility.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio promised on CNN to block the nomination of any US ambassador to Cuba.

Other anti-Castro legislators suggested Congress would removing funding for any normalized ties with the country.

US-Cuban ties have been frozen since the early 1960s – a policy of isolation Barack Obama condemned as a failure.

On December 17, President Barack Obama said it was time for a new approach.

As part of the deal, US contractor Alan Gross, 65, and an unnamed intelligence officer loyal to the US were released from Cuban prison in return for three Cubans held in the US.

The US will now seek to set up an embassy in Cuba, expand US visitors to Cuba, open up banking and increase caps on how much cash Cubans can post to relatives on to the island.

Only Congress has the power to end the full trade embargo, and with many Republicans deeply opposed to such a change, correspondents say it is unlikely to happen soon.

Among those opposed to restoring diplomatic relations was Democratic Senator Robert Menendez who said he was “deeply disappointed”.

“It’s a fallacy to believe that Cuba will reform because an American president opens his hands and the Castro brothers will suddenly unclench their fists.”Cuba policy in the US

Fellow Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, said he would be among those trying to pass legislation to undercut funding for policy changes, including setting up an embassy.

“Normalizing relations with Cuba is a bad idea at a bad time,” tweeted Lindsey Graham, who will become chairman of a committee that determines state department funding in January.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio slammed the deal as “inexplicable”.

“Appeasing the Castro brothers will only cause other tyrants from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang to see that they can take advantage of President Obama’s naiveté during his final two years in office,” Marci Rubio said in a statement.

Marco Rubio told CNN on Wednesday he reserved the right “to do everything within the rules of the Senate to prevent that sort of individual from ever even coming up for a vote,” referring to the confirmation process for ambassadors in relation to Cuba.

Their objections mirror the concerns of some dissident Cubans living in the US.

“It is a betrayal. The talks are only going to benefit Cuba,” Carlos Munoz Fontanil said at a protest in Miami’s Calle Ocho.

Meanwhile, other world leaders have welcomed the move.

Leading the praise, Pope Francis sent “warm congratulations” to Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro for overcoming “the difficulties which have marked their recent history”.

The announcement followed more than a year of secret talks in Canada and at the Vatican, directly involving the pontiff.

The EU, which is in the process of normalizing ties with Cuba, described the move as a “historical turning point”, while leaders meeting at a Latin America summit in Argentina broke into applause at the news.

Canadian PM Stephen Harper, whose country never broke off ties with Cuba, welcomed what he called the “overdue development”.

Officials said that Barack Obama and Raul Castro spoke by telephone on December 16 for nearly an hour – the first presidential-level talks between the two nations since Cuba’s 1959 revolution.

In exchange for Alan Gross, who was in poor health, and the unnamed intelligence officer, Washington released three members of the so-called “Cuban Five” who were serving lengthy sentences for espionage.

Alan Gross’s five-year imprisonment had undermined previous attempts to thaw diplomatic relations between the two countries.

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