Friday morning news: July 12, 2019

Trump announces executive order to gather citizenship data » Standing in the Rose Garden Thursday, President Trump announced that he’s giving up on adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. But he’s not giving up on the end goal of gathering that citizenship data. 

TRUMP: I am hereby ordering every department and agency in the federal government to provide the Department of Commerce with all requested records regarding the number of citizens and noncitizens in our country. 

He said Thursday’s order erases long standing obstacles to data sharing with the goal of counting everyone.

The Supreme Court last month temporarily blocked the government from including the citizenship question. 

Attorney General William Barr joined the president at the news conference and explained why the administration abandoned the census effort. He said the high court did not object to adding a citizenship question. But it rejected the Commerce Department’s explanation for adding it. Barr said he had no doubt adding the question would “ultimately survive legal review.” 

BARR: The problem is that any new decision would be subject to immediate challenge as a new claim in the three ongoing district court cases. 

Barr said they’re simply out of time. But he applauded the president for recognizing—his words—“that including a question in the census is not the only way to obtain this vital information.” 

Former Puerto Rico officials arrested in corruption scandal » The FBI arrested two former Puerto Rican officials this week on corruption charges. WORLD Radio’s Leigh Jones has details. 

LEIGH JONES, NEWS EDITOR: The FBI on Wednesday arrested the island’s former education secretary Julia Keleher and the former head of the Health Insurance Administration Ángela Ávila-Marrero.

Prosecutors say they improperly gave lucrative contracts to people who were unqualified but politically connected. The FBI also arrested a business owner and two education contractors. The case involves about $15 million in federal funds. 

Governor Ricardo Rosselló is not directly implicated in the scandal. But Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva, who chairs the Natural Resources Committee that oversees Puerto Rico has called on the governor to resign. 

He said “The Puerto Rican people deserve a government that takes public service seriously, that’s transparent and accountable, and that doesn’t let this happen in the first place,”

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Leigh Jones. 

Acosta defends role in Epstein case » Labor Secretary Alex Acosta this week defended his handling of a sex trafficking case involving now-jailed billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. Democrats have called on him to resign in light of a 2008 plea bargain that let Epsein avoid federal prosecution. He received only 13 months in jail.

But Acosta, who was the U.S. attorney in south Florida at the time, said he and his team prevented local prosecutors from letting Epstein avoid any jail time at all.  

ACOSTA: The goal here was straightforward: Put Epstein behind bars, assure he registered as a sexual offender, provide victims with the means to seek restitution and protect the public by putting them on notice that a sexual predator was in their midst. 

The episode reignited this week when federal prosecutors in New York brought a new round of child sex trafficking charges against the wealthy hedge fund manager. 

But Barry Krischer, who was the Palm Beach County attorney during the case, disputed Acosta’s account of events. Krischer, a Democrat, claimed Acosta’s office drafted an indictment that could’ve sent Epstein to prison for life. But he said it was—quote—”abandoned after secret negotiations between Mr. Epstein’s lawyers and Mr. Acosta.”

U.K.: Iran confronted British commercial vessel in Persian Gulf » The British navy said Thursday it stopped three Iranian paramilitary boats from heading off a British oil tanker. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has that story. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The British Heritage oil tanker was traveling through the narrow Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday. The British warship HMS Montrose lagged a short distance behind, accompanying the ship.  

Suddenly, three Iranian boats closed in to block the tanker.

The British government said at that point the “Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings.” The Montrose also trained its guns ons the Iranian boats, at which point they retreated. 

The incident came one day after Iran’s president warned that Britain would face “repercussions” for last week’s seizure of an Iranian tanker suspected of violating sanctions.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Barry set to slam Louisiana coast » Forecasters say Tropical Storm Barry will be Hurricane Barry when it slams the Louisiana coast in a matter of hours. 

The National Hurricane Center expects winds of at least 74 miles an hour. That would make it a category 1 storm. But St. Bernard Parish Director of Homeland Security John Rahaim said Thursday that water is a greater concern. 

RAHAIM: Our biggest threat right now is the rain risk, which has probably between 10-15 inches between now and Sunday.

St. Bernard Parish neighbors New Orleans where some neighborhood streets have already been underwater for days following heavy rains. 

Governor John Bel Edwards said emergency officials are gearing up for a “major weather event.” 

EDWARDS: We are encouraging everyone to take this very, very seriously. And search and rescue teams, boats and high water teams have been prepositioned across the state. 

Officials have already ordered thousands to evacuate low-lying areas.

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) President Donald Trump speaks during an event about the census in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 11, 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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