Friday morning news: May 3, 2019

Democrats take aim after Barr skips House hearing » House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler glared at an empty chair on Thursday where Attorney General William Barr was to be seated.

NADLER: Ordinarily at this point, I would introduce the witness, but instead we will conclude this proceeding.

Barr backed out of the hearing over objections to a plan for the committee’s lawyers to grill him after he testified to lawmakers. The Justice Department said Barr would answer only to lawmakers directly.

After 15 minutes, Nadler slammed the gavel on the lectern, adjourning the hearing over the objection of Republicans.

NADLER: The hearing is adjourned [gavel slam] — And we’ll do so with trampling minority rights. 

Democrats on the House panel are now threatening to hold Barr in contempt of Congress. Others, meanwhile, like House Democratic Conference Chair Hakeem Jeffries publicly blasted Barr.

JEFFRIES: The so-called attorney general is abrasive, evasive, and unpersuasive. He is a disgrace to the office that he currently holds. 

Barr had already informed the committee a day earlier that he would not attend. And GOP members called the empty-chair hearing a political sideshow. Republican Doug Collins who serves on the committee noted that Barr spent six hours testifying to a Senate panel on Wednesday.

COLLINS: Even on the second round he was taken up by Democrats who wanted to ask more questions, and you can agree, did he do good, did he do bad. It doesn’t matter, but we’re not getting that opportunity today, because the stunt and circus continues over here. 

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi escalated tensions on Thursday, accusing Barr of a committing a crime. She said Barr lied during prior testimony about his summary of the Mueller report by saying—quote—“I don’t know if Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.”

PELOSI: The attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime. 

He did not disclose a letter Mueller sent before that testimony reportedly voicing frustration with lack of context in Barr’s summary of the report. The Justice Department said Mueller did not object to Barr’s conclusions.

President announces new rule to protect conscience rights of healthcare workers » President Trump announced a rule Thursday to protect the conscience rights of healthcare workers who have religious objections to participating in abortions or assisted suicides.

The new rule will help protect workers from discrimination claims when they assert their First Amendment rights. It also prevents healthcare providers from being forced to refer patients for abortions.

President Trump announced the rule in the Rose Garden while marking the National Day of Prayer.

TRUMP: Together we are building a culture that cherishes the dignity and worth of human life. Every child, born and unborn, is a sacred gift from God.

Roger Severino is director of the Office for Civil Rights with Health and Human Services. He noted the rule does not create new rights for healthcare workers but merely helps enforce existing protections for rights of conscience.

The new rule will take effect 60 days after it’s published to the federal register.

Sen. Bennet announces presidential campaign » Another Democrat will battle for the party’s presidential nod.

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet announced his White House bid on Thursday. He is the 21st Democrat to join the race—a field that also includes Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

While many Democratic contenders are pushing hard left, Bennet is staking out a center-left position on issues like healthcare.

BENNET: Affordable high quality health insurance with a public option that will guarantee competition to every county in America and lower drug prices. And that’s not Medicare-for-all, because I don’t think 180-million Americans want to give up the insurance they already have through their work or their union. 

Bennet won election to the U.S. Senate in 2008. Before that he served as superintendent of Denver Public Schools.

He held off on announcing his campaign while undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. But Bennet said doctors have given him a clean bill of health.

Assange vows to fight extradition to U.S. » A defiant Julian Assange told a London court Thursday he will fight extradition to the United States. The U.S. wants Assange to face charges of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer.

Assange said Thursday—quote—”I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many awards and protected many people.”

And his lawyer Jennifer Robinson told reporters they don’t trust Assange will get a fair shake in U.S. courts.  

ROBINSON: We are concerned that if he is returned to the U.S. that they may try to add additional charges. The U.S. has done so in the past, and there’s widespread speculation in the U.S. about it in relation to Julian’s case. 

That began what’s expected to be a long legal battle over whether he will stand trial in the United States.

A British judge this week sentenced Assange to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail in 2012 and holing up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. At the time, he faced extradition to Sweden over rape and sexual assault allegations made by two women. Swedish officials say they may revive the rape investigation now that Assange is no longer out of reach.

Terror threat cancels Sunday services again in Sri Lanka » Catholic officials in Sri Lanka’s capital are cancelling church services for a second weekend amid an ongoing terror threat. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg reports.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Officials with the Colombo diocese cancelled Sunday services after receiving “specific information of two possible attacks against churches.”

Since the deadly Easter Sunday bombings, the Sri Lankan government has encouraged Muslims not to attend Friday prayers and Catholics watched a televised Mass last Sunday.

Police on Wednesday published the names and photos of all nine terrorists behind the Easter attacks. But officers continue to hunt for more terror suspects still on the loose.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

Cyclone Fani slams India coastline » Officials in India moved more than a million people out of harm’s way as the country braced for Cyclone Fani. It slammed the country’s eastern coast this morning.

AUDIO: [Sound of storm]

Forecasters warned it could be the strongest storm to hit India in 20 years with winds up to 124 miles per hour.

The government warned that some 10,000 villages stood in the storm’s path and that many will no longer be standing after today.

Evacuees have packed out more than 800 shelters as tourists departed the beach town of Puri by train.

Strong storms usually hit India between April and November.

Forecasters said the cyclone also would likely impact the Bangladeshi port city of Cox’s Bazar. More than one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar reside in camps there.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to the media at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 2, 2019. 

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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