Thursday morning news: October 24, 2019

President Trump lifts Turkey sanctions » President Trump said Wednesday that he is lifting sanctions on Turkey after the country agreed to what it called a “permanent” ceasefire with Kurdish fighters in Syria. 

TRUMP: Should Turkey fail to honor its obligations including the protection of religious and ethnic minorities, which I truly believe they will do, we reserve the right to reimpose crippling sanctions.

But many on Capitol Hill point out that Turkey has already proven it will not protect religious and ethnic minorities. And lawmakers again voiced worries that the withdrawal of American troops will fuel an ISIS resurgence. 

The president shook off that criticism. He said “we’ve done a good job” and “We’ve saved a lot of lives.” And he declared once more, “We’re getting out.” 

TRUMP: Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand. 

But the president confirmed that some U.S. troops will remain in the region a little longer. He said a “small number” of troops will guard key oil fields in Syria to ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands. 

Republicans stage protest walk-in during impeachment inquiry deposition » Republican lawmakers on Wednesday made quite a scene and briefly brought the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry to a halt. 

About two dozen GOP House members stormed into a closed-door session where Democrats were questioning a Defense Department official. The interruption forced Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to stop the deposition. 

Republicans said the spectacle was meant to draw attention to the secretive nature of the impeachment process. Speaking to reporters, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise asked, “What is Adam Schiff trying to hide?” 

SCALISE: Through those hidden, closed doors over there, Adam Schiff is trying to impeach a president of the United States, behind closed doors. 

But Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings said there’s nothing unusual about a closed-door committee hearing. 

DEMINGS: I know the Republicans are under a lot of stress. But this investigation is being conducted by the Intelligence Committee, and the members of the Republican side are there if they choose to be. 

Democrats said the move compromised national security because some of the Republicans brought electronic devices into a secure room.

GOP Congressman Andy Biggs said they had planned to stage the walk-in protest last week but postponed it due to the death of Congressman Elijah Cummings.

Court ruling religious exemptions » A federal court this week struck down a Trump administration rule that exempted religious employers from the Obamacare birth control mandate. WORLD Radio’s Leigh Jones reports. 

LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the exemption violated the intent of the Affordable Care Act.

Religious groups led by Little Sisters of the Poor challenged the mandate at the Supreme Court in 20-16. The high court sent the case back to lower courts to work out a compromise. 

The 9th Circuit said the opt-out process the government created for employers did not burden their religious liberty rights … and that makes the exemption unnecessary.

Judge Andrew Kleinfeld penned the lone dissent. He said the state-led challenge to the exemption had more to do with saving money than with women’s healthcare.

The Trump administration announced the birth control exemption rule in 2017 and finalized it last year. Under the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration required employers to provide birth control coverage with no co-payment.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Leigh Jones.

Migrant bodies found in the U.K. » Police in Essex, England made a grim discovery on Wednesday—a refrigerated truck with bodies of 39 migrants in the back. 

Authorities said the migrants appear to have frozen to death in the back of the truck. Police arrested the driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, on suspicion of murder. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the deaths an “unimaginable tragedy.” 

JOHNSON: I know that the thoughts and prayers of all members are with those who lost their lives and their loved ones. 

Police believe the vehicle came from Bulgaria, which shares a border with Turkey. Since a border fence went up between the two countries, many migrants are paying traffickers to smuggle them into Europe. 

Hong Kong formally withdraws extradition bill » Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday formally withdrew a controversial extradition bill that sparked months of protests. WORLD East Asia report June Cheng has more. 

JUNE CHENG, REPORTER:Hong Kong Secretary for Security John Lee announced that the government has now formally suspended the bill because it had resulted in—quote—”conflicts in society.”

But there are no signs that his announcement will dampen protests, which have snowballed into a political crisis. Protesters are demanding government reforms and investigations into police abuses.  

And the bill’s withdrawal was overshadowed by another announcement.

Hong Kong authorities released murder suspect Chan Tong-kai from prison. He’s wanted for murder in Taiwan and it is his case that led to the controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong.   

Chan completed a separate sentence for money laundering. After his release he told reporters that he wants to turn himself in to authorities in Taiwan. 

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m June Cheng.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) President Donald Trump speaks about Turkey as he arrives at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 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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