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December inflation data and ESPN show boots Aaron Rodgers: Morning Rundown

Plus, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley clash during the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses, hours after Chris Christie dropped out the race. Donald Trump held a separate town hall.
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Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley clash during the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses. Donald Trump is expected to be back in court for the closing arguments of his civil fraud trial. And past “quality issues” with the maker of the door plug that detached during an Alaska Airlines flight come to light.

Here’s what to know today.

GOP debate takeaways: DeSantis and Haley clash but largely avoid Trump

The Republican presidential debate in Iowa was a crucial moment for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the only two participants on last night’s stage. Hours earlier, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped out of the race. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy failed to make the cut. And former President Donald Trump refused to participate in the debate, as he has the others, and opted to hold a town hall instead.

Both candidates largely called each other out on past policies and quotes. Haley portrayed DeSantis as an unserious, lying loser and made a main character in her attacks. DeSantis hammered Haley as a squishy moderate globalist who won’t stand up for conservative values.

Senior politics Sahil Kapur notes the debate was a big opportunity for DeSantis and Haley to cut into Trump’s lead. There were some moments when the candidates attacked the former president. For example, Haley called Jan. 6, 2021 a “terrible day,” in contrast to Trump’s declaration that it was “a beautiful day.” DeSantis hit Trump on tweeting about “law and order” during the 2020 “riots” but failing to do anything to ensure it. 

But most of their energy was spent attacking each other and letting Trump skate. 

Read the full story for more takeaways from the debate.

More GOP debate coverage

  • Watch highlights from the debate in less than three minutes.
  • During Trump’s Fox News town hall, he hinted that he has made up his mind about his vice presidential running mate should he win the GOP nomination.
  • Christie’s departure serves as an undeniable gift for Haley.
  • But whether Christie believes Haley can outlast her opponents is not as clear. Last night, he was caught on a hot mic appearing to say that Haley was going to get “smoked” in the presidential race. The Trump campaign reveled in the moment.
  • NBC News’ Plan You Vote tool has officially launched. Find out everything you need to know about voting rules where you live, as well as election dates and key races.

Closing arguments in Trump civil fraud trial set to begin

Donald Trump is expected to attend the closing arguments in the New York civil fraud case against himself and his company. At risk is up to $370 million in fines, and Trump could be barred from the New York real estate industry. Judge Arthur Engoron told Trump yesterday that he won’t be able to deliver some of his team’s closing arguments, as he’d requested, because Trump refused to say he would stick to the facts of the case and not engage in any attacks.

New York Attorney General Letitia James alleges Trump and his company engaged in fraud by overstating the value of his assets and properties in financial documents. Follow updates throughout the day here.

Manufacturer of Boeing door plug has had quality issues, court documents show

As scrutiny mounts over last week’s mishap aboard an Alaska Airlines flight, court documents reveal that the manufacturer of the door plug that detached midair had past issues with the quality of its products. Last May, manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems was part of a federal class action lawsuit filed by its investors, alleging a history of “constant” quality failures — even after two tragic 737 Max crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 that killed everyone on board. Court documents revealed despairing emails from employees and specific quality failures. 

Spirit AeroSystems said yesterday that it is supporting the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into last week’s flight.

Israel’s genocide case begins at the U.N.’s highest court

The United Nations’ top court has begun hearings into South Africa’s accusation that Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip amounts to genocide against Palestinians, a claim that Israel strongly denies and has dismissed as “atrocious and preposterous.” South Africa is initially asking the International Court of Justice to order an immediate halt of Israel’s offensive, though a decision will likely take weeks.

Ahead of two days of opening arguments, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his first public rebuke of comments by senior members of his government that have drawn criticism from the U.S. and others. “Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its civilian population,” Netanyahu said in a video statement in English. Follow live updates here. 

Arctic blast to bring ‘dangerously cold’ weather as winter storms continue

An Arctic blast of cold air is set to bring “dangerously cold” sub-zero temperatures to central regions this weekend, while the eastern half of the country will continue to be battered by rain and snow from relentless winter storms. The National Weather Service said that in the wake of this week’s storms a “much colder Arctic airmass” will arrive across the Midwest and last well beyond the end of this week. The South should more extreme weather this weekend, with a repeated chance of high winds and tornadoes, and more rainfall is expected along the East Coast from Friday, bringing the chance of more flooding.

In California, one person died and another was injured in an avalanche yesterday morning at the Palisade Tahoe ski resort, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said. Two others were caught in the snow slide but one person was “extracted” by her partner, and the other was “assisted” by other guests,” said Michael Gross, the vice president of mountain operations at the resort. Here’s what else we know.

Inflation expected to remain steady

The Bureau of Labor Statistics will announce the latest inflation data this morning. Economists don't think the inflation rate for December will change much from November, which measured at 3.1%. For consumers, that might not feel like a big improvement, but it would continue a meaningful slowdown in inflation since it hit a high of 9% in 2022. Prices of food and energy have come down since their peaks, but everyday products like white bread, ground beef and milk still cost more than pre-pandemic levels. However, there are signs that consumers are adjusting to a new normal.

Today’s Talker: Aaron Rodgers ‘is done’ being on on…

…“The Pat McAfee Show,” at least for the rest of this NFL season, after the New York Jets quarterback’s recent comments suggesting comedian Jimmy Kimmel was linked to Jeffrey Epstein triggered blowback. “There are going to be a lot of people that are happy with that, myself included to be honest,” said ESPN host McAfee, adding that Rodgers had become too much of a distraction and gave “ammo” to critics of the show.

Politics in Brief

Funding fight: House GOP hardliners revolted against the bipartisan spending deal that would avert a shutdown by tanking a procedural vote on an unrelated bill. It was an attempt to signal their displeasure with the pact reached between Speaker Mike Johnson and Democrats in the Senate. 

Hunter Biden: Two congressional committees voted to formally recommend the full House hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena in the impeachment inquiry into his father. 

Menendez charges: Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey filed a motion to dismiss an indictment charging him with bribery and acting as a foreign agent. 

LGBTQ rights: Ohio’s Republican-led House voted to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a bill that would restrict both transition-related medical care for minors and transgender athletes’ participation on school sports teams.

Staff Pick: The ‘tampon tax,’ mapped

For years, states across the U.S. have been eliminating sales tax on tampons, pads and other menstrual care products. Texas was the latest to do so in September, and two competing bills were introduced in Kentucky last week. Curious about whether you have to pay in your state? We mapped out which states still impose these taxes, and which don’t. — Dana Varinsky, health news editor

In Case You Missed It

Select: Online Shopping, Simplified

This month has seen the release of new Amazon Echo smart glasses; wash pods for cleaning water bottles, travel mugs and coffee pots; and hair gloss that not only boosts shine but protects against heat tools. See more of our Select reporters’ favorite new products.

Sign up to The Selection newsletter for exclusive reviews and shopping content from NBC Select.

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