Thursday morning news: September 26, 2019

House Democrats set to press national intelligence chief on Trump call to Ukrainian president » Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire will testify this morning on Capitol Hill. 

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee want answers about a whistleblower complaint. It is reportedly centered on President Trump’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine. Maguire so far has not authorized the release of that complaint to Congress. 

But the White House released a rough transcript summarizing the call on Wednesday. 

President Trump said the document confirmed that he said nothing wrong and that the call was far from the smoking gun Democrats hoped for.  

TRUMP: It turned out to be a nothing call, other than a lot of people said I never knew you could be so nice. 

But House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said the document reflects “a classic Mafia-like shakedown of a foreign leader.” 

SCHIFF: What we have learned, what has been admitted, and now what we see in writing is about as damning as you can imagine. 

The notes show Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelensky to do him a “favor” and cooperate with an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. Trump repeatedly asked Zelensky to work with Attorney General William Bar and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Trump also asked Zelensky to look into actions by Joe Biden. While vice president, Biden pressured Ukraine to dismiss the country’s prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, for corruption. Biden denied he acted to shield his son, who sat on the board of a company Shokin was investigating.

According to the rough transcript, Trump never made any threats, nor did he offer anything in return for cooperating. 

Zelensky was in New York on Wednesday for UN meetings and met with President Trump. He told reporters he never felt pressured. 

ZELENSKY: I think and you read it that nobody pushed me. Yes.
TRUMP: In other words, no pressure. 

Many Democrats say even if there was no threat or any quid pro quo, pressing a foreign leader to investigate a political rival is impeachable conduct. 

Pompeo announces sanctions against ‘Chinese entities’ for violating Iran sanctions » Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced sanctions against some “Chinese entities for knowingly transporting oil from Iran contrary to United States sanctions.” 

President Trump ordered new sanctions against Iran last week following a drone attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. 

Pompeo spoke Wednesday at an event in New York for the group United Against Nuclear Iran. 

He said Iranian President Hasan “Rouhani is desperate to deceive because the world is awakening to the truth.” 

POMPEO: The truth is that Iran responds to strength, not to supplication.  President Trump knows that. More and more nations are beginning to stand up to Iran’s thuggish behavior in disengaging economically. We will ensure that all of them do. 

His remarks came one day after President Trump urged world leaders at the UN to stand up to Iran and just hours before Rouhani addressed the General Assembly.

The Iranian president, heard here through a translator, lashed out over U.S. sanctions.  

ROUHANI: I hail from a country that has resisted the most merciless economic terrorism. 

He told the General Assembly that the U.S. government has misused the global banking system and “resorted to international piracy.”

E-cigarette maker shakes up company amide vaping backlash » The nation’s biggest maker of e-cigarettes is shaking up its business amid growing backlash against vaping. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: JUUL Labs has announced that its CEO, Kevin Burns, is stepping down. That as the company faces investigations from Congress, several federal agencies, and state attorneys general.  

JUUL will also stop promoting its e-cigarettes in print, digital, and TV ads. And the company says it won’t fight a sweeping ban on flavored e-cigarettes. The Trump administration proposed that ban earlier this month.

Growing health concerns have triggered calls for tighter restrictions. On Tuesday, Massachusetts proposed banning all vaping products for four months.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Israeli president asks prime minister to form a government » Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has asked the country’s prime minister to try and form a governing coalition.   

Standing next to Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday Rivlin told him, “I have decided to give you, sir, the opportunity to assemble a government.”

AUDIO: [Rivlin in Hebrew]

Although Rivlin’s duties are mostly ceremonial, he is responsible for picking the candidate he believes has the best chance of forming a coalition government. That’s usually a straightforward task. 

But in last week’s election, neither Netanyahu’s Likud party nor rival Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White secured the majority in parliament needed to form a government.

Netanyahu will have just over 40 days to form a government. But breaking the post-election deadlock is no easy task. Netanyahu failed to cobble together a coalition after an April vote, leading to last week’s do-over election. If he fails to form a government this time, that opportunity will likely pass to Gantz. 

Protesters clash with police in Indonesia » Riot police in Indonesia fired rounds of tear gas into an angry crowd of thousands on Wednesday. 

AUDIO: [Sound of riot]

Many student protesters hurled rocks and bottles at police through plumes of smoke. WORLD Radio’s Paul Butler has that story. 

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: Protesters tried to breach a wall of police shields and waving batons to reach the parliament building in Jakarta.

The demonstrators were enraged over a new law they say cripples the country’s anti-corruption agency. 

Some protesters also demanded parliament delay votes on a new measure that would criminalize or increase penalties on some sexual activities—as well as other bills on mining, land, and labor.

Student groups have vowed to continue returning to the streets until the government revokes the new law.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Paul Butler.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire takes his seat before testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 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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