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Trump envoy Grenell tried to secretly negotiate Maduro's exit in Venezuela

WASHINGTON — An influential Trump administration official secretly met with a representative of Nicolas Maduro's regime in Mexico City in September to try to negotiate the Venezuelan leader's peaceful exit from power.

Richard Grenell, the former Acting U.S. director of National Intelligence and ambassador to Germany, and Jorge Rodriguez, a Venezuelan politician who is close to Maduro, met in the Mexican capital, according to four people familiar with the matter. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and the rest of the State Department weren't told about the trip beforehand, according to two of the people.

Grenell sought to discuss Maduro's departure, two of the people said, but it isn't clear if Rodriguez and Maduro were open to the possibility. In any event, the talks weren't successful, the people said.

President Donald Trump has tried to achieve a number of foreign policy accomplishments before the Nov. 3 election, including Middle East peace agreements, troop withdrawals from several countries and the release of U.S. hostages believed to be held in Syria.

U.S. officials gave conflicting accounts on whether Grenell's trip to meet Rodriguez was authorized, although two people familiar with the matter said Trump's national security advisor, Robert O'Brien, signed off on it with the president's blessing. But Pompeo and the State Department's envoy for Venezuela, didn't know about the trip until after it was over.

 

Rodriguez declined to comment, as did spokespeople for the White House National Security Council and the State Department.

_Bloomberg News

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