Chicago's historic night, GOP border showdown & DOJ warns the Oscars: The Morning Rundown

Mayor elect Lori Lightfoot will be the first openly gay person and first black woman to lead Chicago.
Image: Supporters celebrate mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot's early election results at her election night celebration during a runoff election with challenger Toni Preckwinkle in Chicago
Supporters celebrate Lori Lightfoot's election as Chicago's next mayor. Joshua Lott / Reuters

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By Petra Cahill

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Chicago had a night of firsts, the GOP is headed for another border showdown, and the Department of Justice sent a warning shot to the Oscars.

Here's what we're watching today.


Donors to the Trump inaugural committee got ambassador nominations. But are they qualified?

President Donald Trump has followed the time-honored tradition of offering plum ambassadorial posts to wealthy donors.

What's different is that the Trump administration has nominated a greater number of political appointees to top-level slots, and is seeing a larger share stall in the Republican-controlled Senate.

An NBC News review found at least 14 nominees were big donors to Trump's presidential inaugural committee, which is now under federal investigation. They donated an average of slightly over $350,000 apiece.

Why the lag in confirmations?

"Trump's picks are less qualified than prior presidents," said a Marquette University law professor who has looked at the qualifications of nearly 2,000 nominees.


Meet Chicago's new mayor

Former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot was elected Chicago's new mayor in a runoff Tuesday.

Despite having never held elected office before, she handily defeated her opponent Toni Preckwinkle, an experienced politician.

Lightfoot will be the first openly gay person and first black woman to lead the city.

"Today, you did more than make history," she told supporters in a victory speech. "You created a movement for change."


GOP poised for another border clash

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he is "100 percent" prepared to shut the U.S. border with Mexico to block an influx of migrants.

At almost the same time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that might be a financial disaster for Americans.

"Closing down the border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that sort of thing," McConnell said.

Experts have sounded similar alarms, warning that the auto industry could be brought to a halt.

Goods worth more than $1.5 billion cross the border daily.

But Trump said he is unconcerned.

"Security is more important to me than trade," he said.


'That's for Nipsey'

A suspect has been arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of rapper Nipsey Hussle.

Police say that Hussle and the suspect knew each other and that the two men were embroiled in a personal dispute.

Meantime, tributes to the late musician who has been hailed as a community hero continue to pour in — particularly from the NBA.

Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook notched a rare 20-20-20 triple-double in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday and dedicated his performance to Hussle.


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THINK about it

Attorney General William Barr's letter says special counsel Robert Mueller couldn't prove obstruction — but that doesn't make Trump innocent, writes Suzanne Garment, author of "Scandal: The Culture of Mistrust in American Politics."


Science + Tech = MACH

India just blew up one of its satellites in space, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine isn't happy about all the space debris.


One fun thing

Two-year-old Cillian Jackson was born with a genetic condition that makes getting around difficult.

So his dad, Tyler, shopped an idea to Farmington, Minnesota's high school robotics team. They took a Power Wheels toy and started tinkering.

Cillian is now on the go in his own custom-made wheelchair.

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

If you have any comments — likes, dislikes — drop me an email at petra@nbcuni.com

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Thanks, Petra