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US allies question Trump’s ‘legitimacy’ after new Russia bombshells: former senior diplomat

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Former United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told MSNBC on Monday that the United States was in a “dangerous moment” that has America’s allies worried about President Donald Trump’s legitimacy, after the Washington Post’s bombshell report that Trump went to “extraordinary lengths” to hide, and possibly destroy, the notes from his private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

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“I think we’re in an extraordinarily dangerous moment,” Sherman said. “When people listen to this around the world, they wonder what the authority of the president of the United States is, whether he has legitimate leadership standing here in this country.”

The picture that U.S. allies see, as related by Sherman, was a country in chaos.

“They see a government that is paralyzed at the moment in the shutdown, and they see a government where the president of the United States can talk with another leader without anyone present and no one knows what the results of that are,” she said. “That gives impunity to other leaders around the world and puts us in a very insecure position, because the senior leaders in our government don’t know what’s going on.”

Sherman said the president may be saying his meeting with Putin was successful, but the facts on the ground belie his claims.

“When the president says it was a successful meeting, I have no idea what he’s talking about,” she said. “We are in a very difficult situation with Russia. Clearly the Syria policy, which is all over the place at the moment, with [National Security Advisor John] Bolton and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo heading in one direction, the president heading in another, it’s very difficult to know what the national security objectives are of the Trump Administration.”

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Elections 2016

Vietnamese women strive to clear war-era mines

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Inching across a field littered with Vietnam war-era bombs, Ngoc leads an all-women demining team clearing unexploded ordnance that has killed tens of thousands of people -- including her uncle.

"He died in an explosion. I was haunted by memories of him," Le Thi Bich Ngoc tells AFP as she oversees the controlled detonation of a cluster bomb found in a sealed-off site in central Quang Tri province.

More than 6.1 million hectares of land in Vietnam remain blanketed by unexploded munitions -- mainly dropped by US bombers -- decades after the war ended in 1975.

At least 40,000 Vietnamese have since died in related accidents. Victims are often farmers who accidentally trigger explosions, people salvaging scrap metal, or children who mistake bomblets for toys.

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Elections 2016

Chief Justice John Roberts issues New Year’s Eve warning to stand up for democracy

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In a progressive welcoming move, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his New Year's Eve annual report urging his fellow federal judges to stand up for democracy.

"In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public's need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital," he wrote. "We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability."

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Trump’s next 100 days will dictate whether he can be re-elected or not — here’s why

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According to CNN pollster-in-residence Harry Enten, Donald Trump's next 100 days -- which could include an impeachment trial in the Senate -- will hold the key to whether he will remain president in 2020.

As Eten explains in a column for CNN, "His [Trump's] approval rating has been consistently low during his first term. Yet his supporters could always point out that approval ratings before an election year have not historically been correlated with reelection success. But by mid-March of an election year, approval ratings, though, become more predictive. Presidents with low approval ratings in mid-March of an election year tend to lose, while those with strong approval ratings tend to win in blowouts and those with middling approval ratings usually win by small margins."

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