Tuesday morning news: July 24, 2018

VA secretary vote » The U.S. Senate has approved Robert Wilkie to head the Veteran’s Affairs Department.

AUDIO: On this vote the yeas are 86, the nays are 9. The nomination is confirmed.

Wilkie took over as acting VA secretary after David Shulkin’s ouster back in May over ethics concerns.

Wilkie enjoys broad bipartisan support. Montana Senator Jon Tester is the top-ranking Democrat on the Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

TESTER: I rise today to announce that I think Robert Wilkie is the right man for the job. 

He said the VA has become overly politicized, and called on Wilkie to fix the problem. But Wilkie has no shortage of problems to fix.

The VA’s inspector general said at that start of this month almost 700,000 veterans have waited more than a month for medical appointments. And more than 70,000 vets have waited at least six months. The main reason for that may be the more than 2,000 clinical vacancies within the VA.

GOP Senator John Boozman of Arkansas said Wilkie will be tasked with implementing several reforms passed by Congress.

BOOZMAN: Update its medical records system, expand support for our women veterans, and reduce the disability claims backlog. 

But Boozman said he believes Wilkie is up to the task.  

Robert Wilkie is the son of a combat veteran and is the first active duty service member to take the reins at the VA. He holds the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve.  

White House may move to strip security clearances of intel officials » Press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president wants to revoke security clearances held by former Obama administration officials. Sanders said the president is “looking into the mechanisms” to strip clearances from former CIA directors Michael Hayden and John Brennan as well as former FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe—both fired during the Trump administration. Also on the list, former National Intelligence Director James Clapper and President Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

Sanders said those officials have politicized and in some cases profited off their security clearances.  

SANDERS: Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia   or being influence by Russia against the president are inappropriate, and the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence. 

The move comes hours after Kentucky Senator Rand Paul raised the issue. On Monday he tweeted—quote—“Is John Brennan making millions of dollars divulging secrets to the mainstream media with his attacks on” President Trump?

He added that he would meet with the president and ask him to revoke Brennan’s security clearance.

Trump returns Iranian threat » President Trump has issued a strong warning to Iran in response to an earlier statement by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

An Iranian newspaper quoted Rouhani telling Trump to stop “playing with the lion’s tail” and cautioned that a war with Iran could result in “the mother of all wars.” The Trump administration increased sanctions against the country after pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year.

President Trump responded to Rouhani in all caps on Twitter, warning him never to threaten the United States, or—his words—“YOU WILL SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also took on Iran this week accusing its leaders of acting like gangsters and supporting terrorism around the world.

POMPEO:  This tells you everything you need to know about the regime. At the same time they’re trying to convince Europe to stay in the nuclear deal, they’re covertly plotting terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe. 

That audio courtesy of the Reagan Foundation. Pompeo added that Iran’s corrupt regime steals from its people and “resembles the mafia more than a government.”

Iranian Christians stuck in Austria » The Austrian government has granted asylum to four Christian refugees from Iran but more than a hundred remain stranded. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen reports.

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: The group fled persecution in Iran more than a year ago. The U.S. initially offered the refugees asylum only to later reject their applications without explanation.

The mass denial left the group in limbo until a member of the Austrian parliament began lobbying on their behalf earlier this year. All 100 have applied for asylum in Austria, but many still hope to join family members in the U.S.

A federal judge ruled earlier this month that the U.S. cannot reject the refugees’ applications without providing a reason. The court ordered the government to reconsider the cases by the end of the day today.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen.  

Toronto mass shooting » Authorities in Toronto have identified the suspect in Sunday night’s mass shooting as 29-year-old Faisal Hussain. He died in an exchange of gunfire with police.

Hussain’s parents issued a statement Monday saying their son had severe mental health challenges and had struggled with psychosis and depression.

Police Chief Mark Saunders earlier said he would not speculate on a motive but did not rule out terrorism. He added that investigators are studying this incident to help prevent future attacks.

SAUNDERS: There is a newness to this in Toronto’s environment. Other large cities throughout the world go through this tremendously more than we have. We have to figure out what we can do collectively. It’s going to take time.

A 10-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman died in Sunday’s shooting as the gunman fired a handgun into restaurants and cafes in Toronto’s Greektown district.

Saunders said the 13 surviving victims ranged in age from 10 to 59. Some were seriously wounded. Others suffered only minor injuries.

I’m Kent Covington. Coming up: A look at restorative justice and school safety. Plus, Sarah Schweinsberg reports on how administrators at Christian schools are securing their campuses. This is The World and Everything in It.

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) In a Wednesday, June 27, 2018 file photo, Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee Robert Wilkie is sworn in at the start of a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee nominations hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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