In our news wrap Wednesday, China’s President Xi Jinping told President Trump he’s willing to collaborate in order to peacefully stop North Korea’s nuclear program. Also, The Washington Post reported that a special court on intelligence matters granted the FBI a court order to monitor former Trump aide Carter Page after it found there was reason to believe he was acting as a Russian agent.
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In the day's other news: China's leader, Xi Jinping, told President Trump that he's willing to work with the U.S. to stop North Korea's nuclear program peacefully. The two men spoke in a late-night phone call, after Mr. Trump's Twitter warning yesterday that the U.S. might act alone.
In Beijing today, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the call was a positive sign.
LU KANG, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman (through interpreter):
On the nuclear issue, President Xi stated China's stance that we abide by the objective of de-nuclearization on the peninsula, continue to maintain the peace and stability on the peninsula and continue to resolve the issue peacefully via dialogue and negotiation. The U.S. clearly understands this stance.
The phone call came just days after the two leaders met in Florida, and after the president seemed to tie trade issues to cooperation on North Korea. In fact, the president said he will not officially label China a currency manipulator. He said that today, as he had promised during the campaign.
Mr. Trump tweeted today that the call with President Xi was a very good conversation.
And in an interview that aired today on FOX Business News, he also said the North Korea situation is — quote — "not as simple as people would think."
There's word that the FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor communications of Carter Page. He was advising the Trump campaign at the time. The Washington Post reports that a special court on intelligence matters found there was reason to believe Page was acting as a Russian agent.
Today on CNN, Page said — quote — "It's just such a joke that it's beyond words."
Meanwhile, President Trump's former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, now says he is registering with the U.S. as a foreign agent. The Associated Press confirmed today that his lobbying firm did receive more than $1 million from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. That was in 2007 and 2009.
Manafort previously said that any records of such payments were fabricated.
In South Africa, tens of thousands turned out against President Jacob Zuma today on his 75th birthday. It was the latest in a string of protests calling for his resignation over allegations of widespread corruption. Demonstrators flooded the main square today in the capital, Pretoria, chanting and carrying a mock coffin. Meanwhile, Zuma attended a birthday celebration outside Johannesburg.
Back in this country, Republicans managed onto hold a U.S. House seat in Kansas in Tuesday's special congressional election. Ron Estes won by just seven points in a district that went Republican in November by 31 points. Democrat James Thompson conceded defeat last night, but he said it's a warning to Republicans everywhere.
JAMES THOMPSON (D), Kansas Congressional Candidate: We have shown that this district is not just competitive, but that we can win it. We have already shocked this country. We have sent a message that no Republican district in this country is safe.
The Kansas seat had been held by Mike Pompeo. He's now President Trump director of the CIA. Republicans face three more special elections to hold onto seats in Georgia, Montana and South Carolina. Their occupants also joined the Trump administration.
The White House lifted a hiring freeze on the federal work force today. President Trump had imposed it on his first day in office. Now the administration is asking agencies to identify cuts that they can make in their staffs.
In economic news, the president told The Wall Street Journal that he is concerned that the U.S. dollar is getting too strong and he said he had not decided whether to reappoint Janet Yellen as chairman of the Federal Reserve when her term ends in 2018.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 59 points to close at 20591. The Nasdaq fell 30, and the S&P 500 slipped eight.