— Bulletin wire reports

State Department: Nauert out as pick — The State Department said Heather Nauert, picked by President Donald Trump to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and never officially nominated, has withdrawn. Nauert, State Departmentspokesperson, said “the past two months have been grueling for my family and therefore it is in the best interest of my family that I withdraw my name from consideration.” She was a Fox News Channel reporter with little foreign policy experience when she joined the State Department as spokesperson less than two years ago. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he respected Nauert’s decision and she performed her duties as a senior member of his team “with unequalled excellence.” The State Department said Trump would announce a nominee for the position “soon.”

Asylum policies wear down many at border — Pushed beyond their limits by prolonged waits in dangerous and squalid conditions in parts of Northern Mexico, thousands of caravan members who had been waiting to seek asylum in the United States appear to have given up. About 6,000 asylum seekers who had traveled en masse, many of them in defiance of President Donald Trump’s demands that they turn around, arrived in late November as part of a caravan that originated in Honduras. Since then, more than 1,000 have accepted an offer to be returned home by the Mexican government, Mexican officials said. Another 1,000 have decided to stay in Mexico, accepting work permits.

Taliban attack kills 32 at remote Afghan post — Afghan border security troops were asleep inside their remote post in southern Afghanistan on Friday when a Taliban infiltrator climbed a guard tower. He killed a sentry, officials in Kandahar province said. Then, Taliban fighters rammed a stolen police Humvee packed with explosives through the entrance of the base. Once inside, the attackers shot and killed security troops who had survived the initial explosion. All 32 men posted at the base died, said Khalid Pashtun, a member of parliament from Kandahar. Officials said the insurgents escaped after looting the base, in Spinboldak district, across the border from the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban leadership is based.

Merkel defends Iran nuclear deal — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany delivered a strong rejoinder Saturday to American demands that European allies pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and gave a spirited defense of multilateral institutions in a world increasingly marked by great-power rivalry. Merkel said the nuclear deal was the best way of influencing Iranian behavior on a range of non-nuclear issues, from missile development to terrorism. Without mentioning President Donald Trump or the United States by name in what may be her last speech to the annual Munich Security Conference, Merkel criticized other unilateral moves, such as Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

Smollett assault case has ‘shifted’ — Chicago police say “the trajectory of the investigation” into the reported attack on Jussie Smollett has shifted and they want to conduct another interview with the “Empire” actor. Chicago police late Friday released without charges two Nigerian brothers they had detained for questioning earlier in the week. On Saturday, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said: “We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation. We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”

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