Friday morning news, January 17, 2020

Senate passes USMCA » The new trade agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada sailed over its final legislative hurdle in the Senate on Thursday.

AUDIO: The ayes are 89, the nays are 10. The bill is passed.

The pact known as the USMCA will replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement—or NAFTA. Although lawmakers had concerns over some provisions, it eventually won wide bipartisan support.

President Trump is expected to sign the agreement into law soon. Mexico’s lawmakers already approved the deal, and the Canadian parliament is expected to take it up now that U.S. lawmakers have given their blessing.

Senate opens impeachment trial » The bipartisanship on display for the USMCA vote quickly faded as the Senate formally opened President Trump’s impeachment trial.

AUDIO: [Sound of clicking]

Four senior lawmakers escorted Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts into the Senate chambers. He walked to the staccato rhythm of camera shutters documenting the historic moment.

ROBERTS: Senators, I attend the Senate in conformity with your notice for the purpose of joining with you for the trial of the President of the United States. I am now prepared to take the oath.

Thursday’s proceedings began when the House of Representatives’ seven impeachment managers formally delivered the articles of impeachment.

After the initial pomp and ceremony, the Senate adjourned the trial until next week. Opening arguments will begin Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office issued a report that could play a role in the trial. It said the White House broke the law by holding up aid to Ukraine for policy reasons, rather than budgetary constraints.

Ukraine begins investigation into Yovanovich surveillance » Ukrainian police are investigating claims that someone used electronic surveillance to monitor the former U.S. ambassador in Kyiv. 

Thursday’s announcement came two days after Democrats released documents provided by a former associate of President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Text messages suggested one of the president’s supporters had access to former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s location and cellphone use.

Denis Lenets is a deputy director in Ukraine’s Interior Ministry. He said such surveillance is illegal in Ukraine and violates the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.

LENETS: Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal fact on its territory.

Ukranian officials said they have asked the FBI to hand over material relevant to the investigation. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov also suggested the United States should participate in the investigation.

The State Department has yet to comment.

Judge blocks Trump refugee order » A federal judge this week halted President Trump’s executive order—giving state and local officials the ability to turn away refugees. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte in Maryland ruled that the president’s order “flies in the face of clear congressional intent” in the 1980 Refugee Act. 

He issued a preliminary injunction, which means—at least for now—refugee resettlement agencies can decide where a person would best thrive.

President Trump issued the order in September and it was set to take effect in June. It required agencies to get written consent from state and local officials before resettling refugees in their jurisdictions. 

That drew heavy criticism from refugee advocates. But the president said he acted to respect communities that believe they do not have the jobs or resources needed to take in refugees.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Trump announces new religious liberty rules » President Trump marked National Religious Freedom Day on Thursday by announcing new regulations to protect faith groups in public schools.

TRUMP: In a sacred principle of our republic, the government must never stand between the people and God. Yet in public schools around the country, authorities are stopping students and teachers from praying, sharing their faith or following their religious beliefs. … And we are doing something to stop that.

The new guidance requires states to verify that school districts have no policies limiting constitutionally protected prayer. States must refer any violators to the Education Department.

The president also ordered nine Cabinet departments to end the requirement that religious groups participating in federal programs must refer people to alternative providers upon request.

Third manager falls in MLB scandal » A third Major League Baseball team has sacked its manager this week in a growing sign-stealing scandal. 

On Thursday the New York Mets parted ways with Carlos Beltran before he even managed his first game. That’s because he was a player on the 2017 Houston Astros team the league has punished for stealing opposing pitchers’ signs. 

Houston promptly fired its manager and general manager after the league’s initial report became public on Monday. The Boston Red Sox then fired manager Alex Cora, who was a bench coach on the 2017 Astros team. 

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said the investigation continues. 

MANFRED: We are talking to people all over the industry: former employees, competitors, whatever. To the extent that we find other leads, we are going to follow these leads.

On Thursday former Mets manager Carlos Beltran accepted responsibility for his involvement. In a statement he said—quote—“As a veteran player on the team, I should’ve recognized the severity of the issue and truly regret the actions that were taken… I’m very sorry.”

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File) In this Dec. 10, 2019, file photo, New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran listens to a question during the Major League Baseball winter meetings in San Diego. 

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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