Good morning, NBC News readers.
Christmas came early for some of President Donald Trump's friends and associates as he issued a second wave of pardons and commutations late Wednesday.
Here is what we're watching this Christmas Eve.
Trump pardons Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Charles Kushner
President Donald Trump on Wednesday pardoned more than two dozen people, including longtime confidant Roger Stone, former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law.
Stone was convicted last year of making false statements, obstruction and witness tampering as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The Justice Department initially recommended a seven-to-nine-year sentence, but backpedaled on that after Attorney General William Barr became involved — a move that led to the abrupt resignation of all four prosecutors on Stone's case.
Trump previously commuted Stone’s sentence in Julyof this year but on Wednesday offered him a full pardon.
Manafort, who was sentenced to 47 months last year on fraud and tax charges, was also offered a full pardon.
Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, pleaded guilty to 18 counts of tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign donations in 2005 and completed his sentence in 2006 after 14 months in prison.
In a 2019 interview, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who oversaw Kushner's prosecution, called the case "one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes that I prosecuted ... and I was the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey."
In all, Trump pardoned 26 people and commuted part or all of the sentences of three others on Wednesday.
Back in April Stone said he was "praying for a pardon." And Manafort told his longtime associate Rick Gates in 20018 not to plead guilty to federal charges because the president's personal lawyer had assured him they'd "be taken care of," according to special counsel Robert Mueller's report.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R- Neb., slammed Trump's pardons for "another tranche of felons" on Wednesday as "rotten to the core."
Trump's decision to pardon four Blackwater private security contractors convicted of a massacre in Baghdad enraged the victims' families in Iraq.
Trump threw a wrench into Covid relief. Now what?
President Donald Trump on Tuesday threw a wrench into the massive year-end spending and coronavirus relief bill, leaving the country on edge as the threat of a government shutdown and expiring Covid-19 protections loom over the holiday season.
Trump's comments sent Washington spiraling into chaos after lawmakers spent months hashing out a deal on the largest piece of legislation in 2020 and left many frustrated that Trump waited so long to voice his concerns after largely sitting out the negotiation process.
So now what's going to happen? No one is quite sure how things will play out, but NBC News' Lauren Egan offers a few different scenarios for what could come next.
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- Trump vetoed the military spending bill, setting up a standoff with GOP lawmakers.
- A court in Pakistan ordered the release of the man charged in the killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
- "Swept under the rug": Health care workers have died from Covid-19. Just exactly how many is unclear.
- Stella Tennant, the British aristocrat turned supermodel, has died at the age of 50.
THINK about it
Netflix's George Clooney "Midnight Sky" is uncomfortable — but not in a good way, cultural critic Noah Berlatsky writes in an opinion piece.
In our latest Into America podcast, host Trymaine Lee talks to Yla Eason, the creator of one of the first Black superhero toys in America, and his own 8-year-old daughter, Nola, about why its important for kids to have toys that reflect how beautiful and special they are.
Go ahead, indulge. A new study finds that wine and cheese may help keep your mind sharp.
Quote of the day
"They prefer animals over humans, and then they talk about human rights, justice and humanity."
— Hussein Saheb Nasser, an Iraqi man whose younger brother was killed in 2007 by Blackwater contractors who were pardoned by President Trump on Tuesday.
One merry thing
When members of the Alaska Chamber Singers realized they weren’t going to have an in-person Christmas concert this year, they turned their homes and closets into recording studios to create a festive virtual caroling experience instead.
Thank you to our many loyal readers for sticking with the Morning Rundown for your daily news fix during this tragic, chaotic, roller coaster ride of a year.
Wishing you peace, happiness and time with loved ones during this challenging holiday season.
I'll be off next week, but back for hopefully better days in 2021. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Petra
PS If you have any comments, as always, please send me an email at: email@example.com