Tuesday morning news: July 31, 2018

Trump meets with Italian PM » President Trump hosted Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in the Oval Office on Monday. It was Conte’s first trip to Washington since taking over his country’s new populist government.

The two leaders talked trade and the military. And during a joint news conference, the president also discussed immigration … praising Italy’s “firm stance” on the issue. He said other European countries should follow its lead.

As for immigration here at home, President Trump again stated his willingness to force a government shutdown if lawmakers don’t approve more funds for border security.

TRUMP: If we don’t get border security after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem with doing a shutdown.

And fielding a reporter’s question about Iran, the president said he’s willing to restart nuclear talks whenever Iranian leaders are ready. Iran has refused to negotiate with the U.S. since President Trump pulled the plug on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal earlier this year.

DOJ religious liberty summit » Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday announced the creation of a Religious Liberty Task Force.

Sessions said it’s designed to ensure the Department of Justice enforces the Trump administration’s approach to religious liberty: “that every American has a right to “exercise their faith in the public square.”

SESSIONS: The Constitution’s protections don’t end at the parish parking lot, nor can our freedoms be confined to our basements. 

Speaking at the DOJ’s Religious Liberty Summit in Washington, Sessions noted that soon after President Trump took office:

SESSIONS: The president directed the Dept. of Justice to issue explicit legal guidance for all executive agencies on how to apply the religious liberty protections in federal law. 

And the mission of the task force will be to ensure compliance with the 20 “fundamental principles” he issued last fall.

The attorney general also cited the department’s participation in religious liberty cases, including those involving the contraceptive and abortifacient mandate, and Christian-owned bakeries punished for not servicing same-sex weddings.

Sessions said “The federal government is not just reacting—we are actively seeking” to “accommodate people of faith.”

MN police release footage of fatal shooting of black man » Two Minneapolis police officers who shot and killed a black man were justified in using deadly force. That according to Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman in a news conference Monday.

Police bodycam footage showed the officers chasing 31-year-old Thurman Blevins, who ignored repeated commands to put his hands up. What enraged many within the community was that Blevins was running away, yelling please don’t shoot me.

AUDIO: Put your hands up — please don’t shoot me — put your hands up  … 

But Freeman said Monday that a closer look shows that while Blevins was running away from police, he had a gun in his hand and had turned toward the officers before he was shot.

But much of that explanation came in the form of a statement issued after the news conference. Blevins’ family and others in the room angered over the decision not to prosecute the officers did not allow Freeman to finish his remarks.

AUDIO: Law officers are required to react quickly in tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving situations – needed to be taken into account (shouting)  

Police began chasing Blevins after he allegedly fired a gun in a residential neighborhood. Officer Bob Kroll with the Minneapolis Police Union said the officers should be commended.

KROLL: So when he comes around with that gun in his hand, the whole time he’s looking back getting position on where the officers are at to acquire a target to shoot them. He’s armed with a gun. He’s already discharged that gun. 

But the investigation into the shooting continues, and the officers remain on administrative leave.

Duck boat lawsuit » The operators of a duck boat that sank in Missouri earlier this month are now facing a $100 million lawsuit.

Attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi filed the wrongful death suit this week on behalf of the family of two victims from the July 19th incident. Seventeen people drowned when the amphibious vehicle sank in a sudden storm.

Mongeluzzi said the company knew of the danger to its passengers.

MONGELUZZI: For 20 years we have known that duck boats are death traps … 

He noted the National Transportation Safety board warned that canopies on duck boats can ensnare passengers and advised operators to remove them.

MONGELUZZI: But the National Transportation Safety Board doesn’t have the force of law. They can only make recommendations. And the duck boat industry did nothing. 

The NTSB issued that recommendation after a duck boat sank in Arkansas in 1999, killing 13 people. The lawsuit says 42 deaths have been associated with duck boats since then.

Zimbabwe election » Officials continued to count ballots in Zimbabwe late into the night Monday, after millions of people went to the polls in a historic election. This was the first time in the nation’s nearly four-decade history that Robert Mugabe did not appear on the ballot.

The 94-year-old Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe from its independence in 1980 until his resignation last year under military pressure.

Accusations of vote rigging have marred past elections. And many voters remained skeptical about the credibility of this election. But the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission insisted this vote would be free and fair.

Thousands more forced to evacuate ahead of CA wildfires » Officials in Northern California have now ordered 15,000 people to flee two raging wildfires. That as flames rolled toward several small towns Monday.

Six people have died in the flames around Redding, California. That fire has now consumed about 100,000 acres, while burning down more than 700 homes. But Gabe Lauderdale with Cal Fire in Shasta County says they’re starting to make headway in containing the blaze.

LAUDERDALE: Firefighters are working at building containment lines and strengthening containment lines that are already in place. 

Two other firefighters died battling the Yosemite fire, including Brian Hughes, who was killed this week by a falling tree. Mariposa County Sheriff Doug Binnewies said the entire community mourns his loss.

BINNEWEIS: Our community just wants to convey their thanks and respect and the feeling of weight on their hearts as they recognize that these professionals are here helping their families. 

The fire has shut down Yosemite Valley to the public. That’s the heart of tourism in Yosemite Park. It will remain closed until at least Friday.

I’m Kent Covington. Up next, a court rules on the case involving the Queens sidewalk counselors. Mary Reichard has the details. This is The World and Everything in It.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) President Donald Trump meets with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, July 30, 2018, 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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