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Dems fight back, Smollett's tale unravels, and a big bee: The Morning Rundown

The Morning Rundown: Today's top headlines from NBC News.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks on border security during a Rose Garden event at the White House Feb. 15, 2019 in Washington.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Democrats in Congress are trying to stop Trump's national emergency, Jussie Smollett's alleged scheme unravels in detail, and researchers discover a really, really big bee.

Here's everything we're watching today.

Democrats aim to ax Trump's wall emergency

President Donald Trump's emergency declaration to fund his border wall drew bipartisan criticism, with some fearing it set dangerous precedent expanding presidential power.

House Democrats plan to push ahead with a measure Friday that seeks to terminate the declaration. Given the Dems' majority, it will likely pass the House. Republicans won't be able to block it from reaching the Senate floor, and just four defections may be enough to pass it there too.

In the end it may all be symbolic: Administration aides say Trump will veto any effort to interfere with his declaration.

That's not all Dems are up in arms about. Lawmakers have accused Trump of keeping Congress in the dark about denuclearization talks with North Korea. The president is prepping for a second summit with Kim Jong Un next week.

Prosecutors build the case against an alleged white supremacist 'terrorist' plotter

A Coast Guard lieutenant described as a white nationalist "domestic terrorist" has been denied bail for at least two weeks. Christopher Paul Hasson is accused of plotting to kill prominent journalists and Democratic politicians.

He was arrested on drug and gun charges but prosecutors say that's "just the tip of the iceberg." They've since filed court papers claiming Hasson intended "to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country."

'It pissed everybody off'

Detectives never fully bought Jussie Smollett's story that he was the victim of a hate crime.

That's according to Chicago police, who gave a detailed account Thursday of how they picked apart the actor's tale that's landed him with a felony charge.

Officials allege Smollett paid two brothers to stage an attack in which they yelled homophobic and racist slurs, beat him and looped a noose around his neck.

How did cops crack the case? "Old fashioned police work," Superintendent Eddie Johnson said. "When we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off."

The "Empire" actor leaves Cook County jail.Kamil Krzaczynski / AP

Judge rules Epstein plea deal involving Trump labor secretary is illegal

In 2008, financier Jeffrey Epstein signed a plea agreement to halt a sex-abuse investigation involving more than 30 teenage girls. Instead of a possible lifetime sentence, he served 13 months and paid settlements to victims.

A judge ruled Thursday that this was illegal because the prosecutors — led by Alex Acosta, now Trump's secretary of labor — did not tell the victims first.

Gag order seeks to silence Roger Stone

Former Trump adviser Roger Stone is banned from speaking publicly about his legal case after posting an Instagram image of a crosshair near the head of the judge overseeing it.

Stone faces seven charges arising from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. "Publicity cannot subside if it's the defendant that's fanning the flames," U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said.

The Week in Pictures

Malkohi, Nigeria, hosts a camp for internal displaced who fled their homes as Boko Haram insurgents advanced across their country.Luis Tato / AFP - Getty Images

See more of the most compelling images from past week.


  • An IRS investigator leaked financial transaction details of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti, officials say.

THINK about it

Music purists will sneer at the implication that any modern artist could rival The Beatles. But Ariana Grande commanding the top three spots on this week's Hot 100 singles chart matches a record set by The Fab Four in 1964. In an opinion piece, writer and editor Maura Johnston says this shows how music consumption has changed since the days of Beatlemania, with the crowd screams of the '60s now echoed in the tweets of 2019.

Science + Tech = MACH

Say hello to Hippocamp, a celestial pipsqueak that's making big waves at the edge of our solar system. With help from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have confirmed the existence of this tiny moon orbiting Neptune.


Someone who doles out relationship advice on the daily surely has it all figured out, right? Not quite. A handful of these love gurus got candid with us about their own romantic partnerships and how they tackle pitfalls.

Quote of the day

"I don't know, uh, which report you're talking about. We have many reports."

— Trump is asked about his administration's push to decriminalize homosexuality around the world.

One fun thing

Who wants to see a bee the size of a small house? Of course you do. Just look at it. Even more amazing, scientists thought Megachile pluto, or "Wallace's giant bee," was extinct because they hadn't seen it since 1981. "I simply couldn’t believe it," wrote one researcher after spotting the beast earlier this year on an Indonesian island.

Expert Eli Wyman poses with the bee.Clay Bolt / Global Wildlife Conservation via AFP - Getty Images

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

I'm Alexander Smith, senior reporter with NBC News Digital, and I've been tasked with keeping the Morning Rundown well fed and hydrated this week while Petra Cahill is on vacation. It's been a pleasure — thanks for reading and emailing. Petra is back in the chair on Monday.

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Thanks, Alexander Smith