Thursday morning news: July 18, 2019

House votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt of Congress » Democrats in the House voted on Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress. 

AUDIO: On this vote the yeas are 230. The nays are 198. The resolution is adopted. 

The party line vote follows complaints by Democrats that the Trump administration is undermining the authority of Congress. Barr and Ross did not comply with House subpoenas related to the effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. 

The contempt resolution is largely symbolic, as the Justice Department is highly unlikely to prosecute either official.  

House Republicans held Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt in 2012 without consequence. 

Secretary Ross, earlier in the day shrugged off the vote as “political theater.” He also dismissed a media report that his job might be in jeopardy. He noted that he just returned from a multi-city trip with President Trump. 

ROSS: I was at the cabinet meeting of course yesterday, and here I am on TV today. I think you ought to go by facts, not by rumors on some other network. 

Just before the contempt vote, House lawmakers swept aside Texas Congressman Al Green’s third push to impeach the president. Democratic leaders say it’s still too soon for that. 

Puerto Rican protesters call for governor’s resignation » Protesters are taking to the streets in San Juan, Puerto Rico this week amid a growing scandal involving leaked private messages from top officials. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg has more.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published the messages over the weekend. They include almost 900 pages of profanity-laced and inappropriate comments from Governor Ricardo Rosselló and nine other major officials. 

Among other things, Rosello used derogatory terms to refer to female politicians. He also demeaned a homosexual Puerto Rican star with vulgar language. 

This controversy combined with the recent arrest of two former Rosselló officials on corruption charges, has led to more calls for Rosselló to resign. Four others involved in the chat sessions have already resigned or been fired.

Rosselló said Tuesday—quote—“I have not committed an illegal act, and I have not committed an act of corruption.” He added that he has committed what he called “improper acts,” but he said he’s asked for forgiveness and will not resign. 

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg. 

El Chapo’ sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison » A federal judge in Brooklyn on Wednesday sentenced Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to life in prison plus 30 years. 

MELENDEZ: It’s done. The book on El Chapo Guzman is closed today with this life sentence. 

Angel Melendez with ICE Homeland Security Investigations.

The 62-year-old Guzman led an army of gangsters and an elaborate corruption operation in Mexico. The evidence showed that under Guzman’s orders, the Sinaloa cartel smuggled close to 200 tons of cocaine and other drugs into the United States. Its members kidnapped, tortured, and murdered anyone who got in the way.

At his sentencing hearing, Guzman and his lawyer complained that he did not receive a fair trial.

But Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said justice was served. 

BENCZKOWSKI: The long road that led Chapo Guzman from the mountains of Sinaloa to the courthouse behind us today was paved with death, drugs and destruction. But it ended today with justice. 

Guzman escaped twice from Mexican prisons, but that’s unlikely to happen here. Experts say he’ll probably end up at the federal government’s “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado. It’s known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.” 

Sudan military, opposition sign power-sharing agreement » In Sudan the ruling military council has struck a deal with the opposition to share power until elections can take place. They signed the power-sharing agreement on Wednesday.

Under the deal, both sides agreed to form a joint sovereign council to rule for at least three years. Each side will have five seats on the council with an additional seat for a civilian with a military background. 

A military leader will head the council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader after that. The two sides are expected to continue talks to adopt a constitutional agreement.

WHO declares international health emergency amid Ebola outbreak » The deadly Ebola outbreak in Congo is now an international health emergency. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has details. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The World Health Organization declared the health emergency on Wednesday after the virus spread this week to a city of two million people.

More than 1,600 people have died since August of last year. That makes it the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.  

Officials this week confirmed the first Ebola case in Goma. That’s a major regional crossroads in northeastern Congo on the Rwandan border. And it has an international airport. Health experts have feared this scenario for months.

This is the fifth such declaration in history. The WHO defines a health emergency as an “extraordinary event” that poses a risk to other countries. It’s essentially a call to action for the global community.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Attorney General William Barr, right, accompanied by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, speaks about the 2020 census in the Rose Garden of the White House, Thursday, July 11, 2019, 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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