Michele Kelemen

U.S. presidents have a long history of rewarding wealthy political donors with ambassadorships. Many appointees ably take on the work of diplomacy. Some others cause controversy.

The Trump administration on Monday labeled four more Chinese news organizations as "foreign missions," expanding its restrictions on what it calls Chinese propaganda outlets in a move that's likely to anger Beijing.

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The State Department's ousted inspector general has told congressional Democrats he was given "no valid reason" for his removal and that one of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's aides tried to bully him.

Democrats are investigating whether Steve Linick was removed in retaliation for carrying out his duties. In an interview with Democratic leaders of the House and Senate last week, Linick confirmed he was looking into the alleged misuse of State Department resources by Pompeo and his wife.

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Updated at 5:36 p.m. ET

President Trump is ousting State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, extending a string of administration firings of government watchdogs.

The president sent notice of Linick's removal, effective in 30 days, to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday. A State Department spokesperson offered no reason for the change but issued a statement confirming that Linick will be replaced by Ambassador Stephen Akard, who currently directs the department's Office of Foreign Missions.

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As countries close borders and flights are canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic, the State Department says as many as 50,000 Americans are seeking help to return home.

Peru has been particularly complicated, according to Ian Brownlee, who runs the State Department's repatriation task force. "There were some [COVID-19] infections in the civil aviation authority and on the civilian side of the airport, and they're trying to run it on a bit of a shoestring from the military side of the airport," he said.

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Just before President Trump hosted Russia's foreign minister at the White House today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a warning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

When the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was abruptly removed from her post this year, some Democratic lawmakers called it "a political hit job." Now the congressman in charge of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump is making the case that Marie Yovanovitch's ouster is part of the story of a president abusing his power in relations with Ukraine.

Yovanovitch will be the sole witness Friday, the second day of the inquiry's public hearings over whether Trump used military aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine into investigations that would benefit him politically.

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Updated at 7:10 p.m. ET

Longtime U.S. diplomat William Taylor told lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Tuesday that President Trump orchestrated a parallel foreign policy for Ukraine that made U.S. aid to the country contingent on investigations to help himself politically.

In a written statement to three House committees tasked with Democrats' impeachment inquiry, Taylor said he "became increasingly concerned" as "irregular, informal channels" of policymaking diverged from official U.S. goals — led by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

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On paper, Kurt Volker's job in the Trump administration was to support Ukraine and help end a war started by Russia in the east of the former Soviet Republic. Volker is now caught up in a political battle at home over President Trump's efforts to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Volker will be deposed Thursday behind closed doors as part of the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

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Kelly Craft is expected to take up her job as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. on Thursday. She's a Republican donor and is married to a billionaire coal executive. Craft is likely to take a much lower profile than her predecessor, Nikki Haley.

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All right. Let's put that same question - how will the U.S. respond? - to two of the many NPR reporters working this story today. Our diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen is with us. Hey, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi there, Mary Louise.

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