Democrats' 2020 split risks handing Trump election, wildfires ravage Australia and David Stern's NBA legacy: The Morning Rundown

Pro-Iranian protesters have withdrawn from the area around the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Image: NBA Commissioner David Stern presents Los Angeles Lakers player Magic Johnson with his 1987 NBA Championship ring in California.
Tributes to David Stern poured in from the NBA community overnight. Magic Johnson praised the former commissioner's humanity, writing in a tweet that after he announced he was HIV-positive in 1991, Stern let him play in the 1992 All Star Game and on the Olympic Dream Team — changing attitudes toward the virus. "We were able to change the world," Johnson wrote. Andrew D. Bernstein / NBAE via Getty Images file

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By Petra Cahill

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Happy New Year! Hope you had a fun, restful holiday.

We're back to business today, looking at the Democrats' 2020 prospects, former NBA commissioner David Stern's legacy and a lucky beneficiary of the "2020 Tip Challenge."

Analysis: Democrats' 2020 split risks handing Trump a big advantage

Democrats have been obsessed with the year 2020 — for its promise of redemption, revenge and a return of power — ever since Donald Trump won the presidency in November 2016. Now the election year has finally arrived.

But Democrats are in danger of wasting valuable time as they struggle to pick a captain and a course, NBC News’ Jon Allen writes in a news analysis.

Meantime, Trump said he's looking forward to his upcoming Senate impeachment trial, adding on his way into a New Year's Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago resort: "We did nothing wrong."

And his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said he'd not only be willing to testify at the Senate trial, he would "love to try the case."

David Stern, former commissioner who oversaw global expansion of NBA, dies

David Stern, the longest-serving commissioner of the NBA, died Wednesday following a brain hemorrhage last month.

Stern, who headed the league for 30 years until retiring in 2014, is widely credited with making the NBA into the organization it is today: A multibillion-dollar league with games televised in more than 200 countries.

"Because of David, the NBA is truly a global brand — making him not only one of the greatest sports commissioners of all time but also one of the most influential business leaders of his generation," Adam Silver, who succeeded him as commissioner, said in a statement.

"Every member of the NBA family is the beneficiary of David's vision, generosity and inspiration," Silver added.

We apologize, this video has expired.

Pro-Iranian protesters pull out from perimeter of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

Thousands of protesters dispersed after two days of volatile demonstrations outside the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad.

U.S. security forces had fired tear gas into the crowd of protesters demonstrating against deadly airstrikes last weekend that killed at least 25.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced that the United States was sending about 750 soldiers to the Middle East in the wake of the embassy's storming. More personnel were on standby to deploy if needed, he said.

Australia on emergency footing over rampant wildfires

A weeklong state of emergency has been called in the Australian state of New South Wales as deadly wildfires continue to ravage communities, forcing thousands from their homes.

At least eight people have been killed by the fires in the eastern states of New South Wales and Victoria since Monday, including volunteer firefighters, officials have said. Another 18 people are still missing.

"We’re taking every single precaution to be prepared for what could be a horrible day on Saturday," the state governor said.

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  • New year, new laws: From gender-neutral "X" licenses to a ban on discriminating against employees because of their hair, here are some of the new laws on the books in 2020.
  • Most former felons in California are now eligible for a new role: Juror.
  • Don Larsen, the Yankees pitcher who threw the only perfect World Series game, died Wednesday. He was 90.

THINK about it

How our phones became our whole lives in just 10 years, from a woman who resuscitates them.


Want to be happier this year? Mental health experts share their resolutions for a less-divisive, healthier 2020. And how to keep them.

One fun thing

A Michigan restaurant server closed out 2019 with an unexpected gift — a couple left her a $2,020 tip.

The generous gift came on Sunday with a $23.33 bill at Thunder Bay River Restaurant in Alpena, in Northeast Michigan, along with a handwritten message that read "Happy New Year. 2020 Tip Challenge."

The server, Danielle Franzoni, a single mother and recovering addict who was homeless a year ago, said that at first she thought the tip was a joke.

"This couple has no idea what they have done for my family," Franzoni said after her manager assured her that the tip was real.

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Thanks, Petra