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Trump White House launches crackdown on staffers amid leaks

Trump White House launches  crackdown on staffers amid leaks
The phones of White House staffers have been checked under a crackdown after the leakage of information to the press about Trump Administration's private conversations and meetings, according to a media report.

Quoting sources, Politico reported that the incident comes a week after President Donald Trump criticised the media for using unnamed sources in stories and expressed growing frustration with the unauthorised sharing of information by individuals in his administration.

Last week, after US Press Secretary Sean Spicer became aware that information had leaked out of a planning meeting with about a dozen of his communications staffers, he reconvened the group in his office to express his frustration over the number of private conversations and meetings that were showing up in unflattering news stories, the report quoted sources as saying.

Staffers were also asked to dump their phones on a table for a "phone check", to prove they had nothing to hide.

Spicer, who consulted with White House counsel Don McGahn before calling the meeting, was accompanied by White House lawyers in the room, the report said.

There, he explicitly warned staffers that using texting apps that automatically deletes texts after they are sent are a violation of the Presidential Records Act, it said.

The phone checks included whatever electronics staffers were carrying when they were summoned to the unexpected follow-up meeting, including government-issued and personal cellphones.

Spicer also warned the group of "more problems" if news of the phone checks and the meeting about leaks was given to the media, the report said.

It's not the first time that warnings about leaks have promptly leaked. The State Department's legal office issued a four-page memo warning of the dangers of leaks, and that memo was immediately posted by The Washington Post.

Later on Friday, Spicer blocked certain media, including CNN, The New York Times, BuzzFeed and POLITICO, from attending an off-camera press briefing in his office.

China's top diplomat on first official US visit in Trump era

China's top diplomat will be in the US this week on the first official visit from the country since President Donald Trump took office, amid signs of strain in ties over trade relations and growing tension in east Asia.

State Councillor Yang Jiechi will be in Washington for two days beginning on Monday. He will exchange views with senior Trump administration officials on bilateral ties and issues of common concern, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang.

Yang, the top diplomat in Chinese political hierarchy who has served as ambassador to Washington, is the first senior official from China to visit the US since Trump took office on January 20.

His visit coincides with the 45th anniversary of US President Richard Nixon's ice-breaking visit to China in 1972, which paved the way for establishing diplomatic ties in 1979.

And it comes after Trump agreed to "honour" the 'One China' policy, which considers Taiwan part of China, during a telephonic conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on February 10, retracting from his previous public stance that he would negotiate the policy.

The future of US-China ties remain uncertain after Trump accused the world's second-largest economy of cheating at trade and repeatedly called it a "currency manipulator".

Trump has also slammed China over its assertive moves in the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing has built islands that can potentially be used for military purposes.

Before Trump assumed office, he had called up Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen ruffling feathers in Beijing. The call was thought to be the first between the leader from the island and a US president since bilateral ties were severed in 1979. Trump has often suggested he might use Taiwan as leverage in negotiations with China to rein in communist North Korea.

Ahead of Yang's visit, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his US counterpart Rex Tillerson informally met last week on the sidelines of a G20 Foreign Ministers meeting in Bonn, Germany.
Agencies

Agencies

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