Friday morning news: May 17, 2019

White House defends precautions amid Iranian threat » The White House continues to warn of a gathering threat from Iran. On Thursday, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders defended this week’s pullout of diplomats from Iraq.

SANDERS: We are continuing to stay focused primarily on the safety and security of the American people. We have taken steps to move some of the diplomatic core as we see the threat level go up.  

The Trump administration has also moved military assets into the region.

Top Congressional leaders reportedly received a classified briefing on Thursday. But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he wants an open hearing with top defense officials.

He said if the U.S. is edging closer to potential armed conflict with Iran, the public should know about it.

SCHUMER: The hearings that are done in secret do not inform the American people of what’s going on, and they are entitled to know.

Senior Trump administration officials have stressed that recent moves are precautionary and the U.S. is not ramping up for war.

Border wall funding faces court test » President Trump’s plan to pay for a border wall through declaring a national emergency and other executive maneuvers will face its first test in court today.

The plaintiffs suing to stop the wall’s construction include 20 Democrat-led states and groups like the ACLU and the Sierra Club. They’ll ask a U.S. district judge in California to find the president’s funding maneuvers unconstitutional.

Meantime, the Trump administration has already begun to award construction contracts from a pool of $2.5 billion in Pentagon funds.  

The administration will draw another $600 million from the Treasury Department’s Forfeiture Fund.

Missouri governor awaits pro-life bill » One day after Alabama passed a law protecting the unborn, Missouri’s Republican governor said his state is close to passing new protections as well.

State senators passed a bill Thursday that would ban abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy. Governor Mike Parson said he’s confident the GOP-led House will send it to his desk.

PARSON: It’s important for this legislation to get done right now. I really believe the legislation will get done, because I believe it is the will of the people, and the people’s voices will be heard. 

The Missouri proposal includes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest. Abortionists would face five to 15 years in prison for violating the law. But women who seek abortions after eight weeks would not be prosecuted.

Democratic presidential field continues to grow » Two more Democrats announced presidential bids this week, joining a field that now includes two dozen candidates!

On Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio launched his campaign. He promised to “take on” the wealthy and “the big corporations.”

DE BLASIO: There is plenty of money in this world. There’s plenty of money in this country. It’s just in the wrong hands. 

De Blasio was elected mayor of New York in 2013 and re-elected 2017.

And one day earlier, a red state Democrat jumped in.

BULLOCK: I’m Steve Bullock and I’m running for president. With your help, we will take our democracy back. 

The 53-year-old two-term governor of Montana is running as a centrist Democrat. But he stresses that he shares the party’s core values. He’s used executive orders to extend LGBT rights, and he’s vetoed pro-life legislation in his state.

U.S. suspends flights to and from Venezuela » The U.S. government has suspended all commercial passenger and cargo flights to and from Venezuela. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin reports.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The Department of Homeland Security said this week that conditions in Venezuela “threaten the safety and security of passengers, aircraft, and crew.”

Many international airlines had already suspended flights to the country. But some domestic Venezuelan airlines had continued operations to Miami.

Venezuela remains embroiled in a political stalemate. Disputed President Nicolás Maduro refuses to step down as the country continues to face power outages, and shortages of food and clean water.

Venezuelan officials late on Wednesday said representatives from Maduro’s government and from the opposition traveled to Norway for negotiations to end the unrest.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle) Democratic presidential candidate New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during the official dedication ceremony of the Statue of Liberty Museum on Liberty Island Thursday, May 16, 2019, in New York. 

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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