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Senate delays holiday recess and Prince Harry's phone hacked: Morning Rundown

Plus, a new study shows that the flu can lead to long-lasting symptoms.
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Some GOP voters say the cost of speaking out against Trump is too high. The Senate delays holiday recess to hammer out an immigration deal. And the U.S. urges Israel to limit its war in Gaza. 

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Trump’s secret weapon: Fear

Donald Trump politics political politician
Former President Donald Trump greets the crowd at a campaign rally, in Claremont, N.H., on Nov. 11, 2023.Reba Saldanha / AP file

Anti-Donald Trump Republicans know they are in the middle of a critical moment to stop the former president’s political comeback. But for some, the steep cost of voicing resistance to Trump often renders them silent.

“If you go against Trump, like — you’re over,” said Kyle Clare, 20, a member of the University of Iowa’s College Republicans. “I don’t talk about Donald Trump a lot because I’m afraid of the backlash,” said Jody Sears, 66, a registered Republican from Grimes, Iowa.

NBC News first spoke with Clare on the night of the first GOP presidential debate. “I’m just so scared of doing this right now,” Clare said, fighting back tears. “I want to be able to have my opinions on our politicians, and I want to be able to speak freely about them and have people still understand I’m a conservative.” 

NBC News spoke to more than a half-dozen Iowa voters turned off by Trump, but some were anxious about talking on the record out of fear of being shunned by friends or family. The fear silencing these voters adds up to signs going unplaced in front lawns, conversations with friends and family about other candidates avoided — and fewer opportunities for opposition to Trump to take hold in different Republican communities.

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Senate delays holiday recess to work on immigration deal 

As the House adjourned for holiday recess with plans to return in the new year, the Senate will delay its break and return next week to sort out a deal on immigration and aid to Ukraine and Israel. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate hopes to “act as soon as we are ready to move forward.” Some Democrats hope the chamber can pass a deal next week, but that would be a steep uphill climb as negotiators have yet to even agree on a framework.

Sen. Chris Murphy, the chief Democratic negotiator, said: “We’re gonna obviously work through the weekend and hope to keep capitalizing on progress.” Republicans say an immigration deal is crucial to unlocking their votes for passage of U.S. aid to Ukraine and Israel.

U.S. urges Israel to move to a new phase of its war against Hamas

israel israeli hamas palestinian conflict rubble debris aftermath
Civil defense teams and Palestinians conduct search and rescue operations among the rubble of buildings destroyed by Israeli attacks in Rafah, Gaza on Dec. 14, 2023.Ali Jadallah / Anadolu via Getty Images

The Biden administration has told the Israeli government that it wants the country to end its large-scale ground campaign in Gaza and move to a more targeted phase of its war against Hamas, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the discussions. Officials said that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan did not specify a timetable for this new phase during his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The push comes as the death toll rises in the Gaza Strip to nearly 20,000, with two-thirds of those being women and children, local health officials said. Sullivan’s discussion with Israeli officials emphasized civilian protection. Israeli military has previously warned Palestinians to leave neighborhoods ahead of bombardments, but Palestinians have said there’s no safe place to go. Follow live updates here. 

The flu can also lead to long-lasting symptoms, study finds

Covid isn’t the only viral illness that can lead to persistent symptoms, according to new research. It finds that the flu virus may also have a long-lasting effect on health. In the study, groups that had either Covid or the flu were both at increased risk of death, hospital readmission and problems with the heart, kidneys and brain in the 18 months after infection. Flu patients were more likely to have lasting symptoms related specifically to the lungs, including coughs and shortness of breath. 

Judge rules that a British tabloid hacked Prince Harry's phone

Prince Harry won a partial victory in his latest court case against British newspapers after a judge ruled that there had been “extensive” phone hacking by the Mirror Group. The High Court in London said that Harry’s personal cellphone was probably hacked “to a modest extent,” and the judge, Justice Timothy Fancourt, ruled that 15 out of the 33 news articles Harry submitted as part of the trial were the product of accessing his mobile voicemail.  

The partial victory means the Duke of Sussex, who is no longer a working royal following his acrimonious move to California with his wife, Meghan, will be awarded approximately $180,000.

Today’s Talker: A bull on a train track… 

A bull stands on the tracks at Newark Penn Station
A bull stands on the tracks at Newark Penn Station in Newark, N.J., on Dec. 14, 2023.New Jersey Transit via AP

...caused major delays across New Jersey’s transit lines. Videos and photos of the bull went viral as it ran through Newark Penn Station. Passengers captured the moment while facing 45 minute delays commutes. “We’re bullish on keeping you moving, but this situation was bull!” the PATH train wrote in a post on X, alongside a picture of the animal. The bull was captured and is now safe at a local animal sanctuary. 

Politics in Brief

Florida GOP: Christian Ziegler, the Florida GOP chair, is under investigation related to sexual battery, including rape. Sources told NBC News that Ziegler has floated the idea of the state party offering him a “soft landing,” as part of a resignation deal. 

John Fetterman: Despite being branded as a socialist by Republicans in 2022, Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., continues to call on Democrats to engage in tougher immigration policies and is outspoken on his support for Israel. In an interview with NBC News the first-term Pennsylvania senator said his critics shouldn’t be surprised that he’s not a progressive.  

Ethics investigation: Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., filed a complaint alleging judicial misconduct by a federal judge who has overseen various Jan. 6-related cases, arguing the judge engaged in “highly inappropriate political speech.” 

George Santos’ replacement: New York Republicans have selected former IDF soldier and Nassau County legislator Mazi Melesea Pilip as their nominee to replace the ousted congressman. 

Military funds: Senators passed a bill to grant back pay to service members who were affected by Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s monthslong hold on military promotions. 

Staff Pick: Safety of Tesla’s Cybertruck questioned 

The Tesla Cybertruck in Moss Landing, Calif.
The Tesla Cybertruck.Nic Coury / Bloomberg via Getty Images

When Cybertruck was first announced in November 2019, it was something of a novelty. Now, with the vehicles finally starting to reach consumers, it’s competing with many other electric trucks — almost all of which are heavier and faster than their predecessors. That’s a risk for pedestrians, who are already dying at elevated rates. — Jason Abbruzzese, Assistant managing editor, tech and science

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