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Fresh blow for Clinton as strategist quits campaign

Mark Penn, the pollster and senior strategist for Hillary Clinton's presidential bid, quit her campaign team yesterday after it was disclosed that he met with representatives of the Colombian government to help promote a free trade agreement Mrs Clinton opposes.

"After the events of the past few days, Mark Penn has asked to give up his role as chief strategist of the Clinton campaign," campaign manager Maggie Williams said in a statement released yesterday. Mark, and Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates will continue to provide polling and advice to the campaign."

Communications director Howard Wolfson and pollster Geoff Garin will craft campaign strategies for the campaign in the future, Ms Williams said.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Mr Penn, who serves as chief executive of public relations giant Burson-Marsteller, met with Colombian officials on 31 March to help craft strategy to move the Colombian Free Trade agreement through Congress. Mr Penn later issued a statement apologising for the meeting, calling it an "error in judgment".

"Senator Clinton was disappointed that meetings with Colombians had occurred. She is a strong opponent of the trade deal," said a Clinton campaign official speaking on condition of anonymity. "Over the weekend he recognised he needed to step aside as chief strategist," he said.