Tuesday morning news: January 29, 2019

U.S. imposes sanctions on Venezuela oil » The United States continues to ratchet up pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down from power.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Monday announced the U.S. has hit the state-owned oil company of Venezuela with sanctions.

MNUCHIN: Effective immediately, any purchases of Venezuelan oil by U.S. entities, money will have to go into blocked accounts.

The measure further isolates Maduro, whose government will lose access to a critical source of revenue. National Security Advisor John Bolton told reporters:

BOLTON: We have continued to expose the corruption of Maduro and his cronies, and today’s action ensure they can no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people.

He said the sanctions total $7 billion in assets blocked immediately, “plus over $11 billion in lost exports proceeds over the next year.”

Maduro over the weekend rejected calls by world leaders to hold a new presidential election. Many believe last year’s election in Venezuela was rigged.

The U.S. and many other Western nations now officially recognize the opposition leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as interim president.

DOJ unseals criminal charges against Huawei, Wanzhou » The Justice Department has unsealed criminal charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei, two of its subsidiaries and a top executive. They stand accused of misleading banks and violating U.S. sanctions.

Officials announced Monday that the U.S. is seeking the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, currently detained in Canada.

U.S. Attorney Richard Donahue…

DONAHUE: Ms. Meng personally made statements to one of Huawei’s major banking partners about the company’s operations in Iran.

Those statements, he said, were false.

Prosecutors say Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of sanctions.

And Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said Huawei also faces charges for allegedly stealing information about a robot from T-Mobile.

WHITAKER: by secretly taking photos of the robot, measuring it, and even stealing it—stealing a piece of it. 

Monday’s announcement came as China and the U.S. are scheduled to resume trade talks this week.

State of the Union address rescheduled » House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has invited President Trump to deliver his State of the Union address in the House chamber one week from today.

It was originally slated for this week, but amid the partial government shutdown Pelosi refused to allow a vote on a resolution authorizing the president to use the chamber. But with the government now reopened, the president will address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

CBO says deficit on the rise » As lawmakers this week debate billions in new spending at the border and elsewhere, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Monday said the federal deficit is on track to swell to nearly $900 billion this year.

HALL: The federal deficit is already large, and budget deficits over the next decade and beyond are projected to keep pushing it up in relation to the size of the economy. Eventually, debt as a share of economic output would reach its highest level in our nation’s history. 

Hall also said the economy should recoup most of its losses from the partial government shutdown. The CBO estimates the shutdown’s lasting toll at about $3 billion. That’s a modest sum in a $20 trillion economy.

Former Starbucks CEO eyeing White House bid » Another candidate may be joining the growing list of presidential hopefuls. But this time, not a Democrat.

SCHULTZ: I am seriously thinking of running for president. I will run as a centrist independent, outside of the two party system. 

That is former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is making Democrats nervous. They say a third candidate in the general election may be all President Trump needs to win reelection. Numerous Democratic officials are urging him to run as a Democrat or not at all. And the most powerful super PAC in Democratic politics, Priorities USA, is vowing to target Schultz if he runs as an independent.  

US, Taliban agree to framework for peace plan » Negotiators for the U.S. and the Taliban have reached “agreements in principle” on key issues for a peace deal that could end 17 years of war in Afghanistan. WORLD Radio’s Leigh Jones reports.

LEIGH JONES, NEWS EDITOR: U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad announced the draft agreement Monday. That followed six days of talks last week with the Taliban in Qatar.

Among the U.S. conditions for a peace deal, Taliban guarantees that Afghan territory is not used as a “platform for international terrorist groups or individuals.”

And Khalilzad said the deal could lead to a full pullout of U.S. troops in return for a ceasefire and direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

He said, quote—“There is a lot more work to be done before we can say we have succeeded in our efforts, but I believe for the first time I can say that we have made significant progress.”

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Leigh Jones.

21 people dead in suicide bombing at Catholic cathedral » ISIS has claimed responsibility for a pair of suicide bombings at a Catholic cathedral in the Philippines that killed 21 people on Sunday.

Investigators say an offshoot of the ISIS affiliate Abu Sayyaf likely carried out the attack. Security camera footage shows several of the group’s known members outside the cathedral before the bombing.

The bombing occurred on the Muslim-majority island of Jolo. The area has been under martial law since 2017 when ISIS fighters seized the city of Marawi.

(AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File) In this Jan. 10, 2019, file photo, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro holds up a small copy of the constitution as he speaks during his swearing-in ceremony at the Supreme Court in Caracas, Venezuela. 

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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