Impeachment trial begins, Iran praises strikes and is that Awkwafina's voice?: The Morning Rundown

Iran's supreme leader said the recent missile attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq dealt a “blow to America’s image” in a rare appearance on Friday.
Image: President Pro Tempore of the Senate Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa., swears in Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, swears in Chief Justice John Roberts as the presiding officer for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the Senate at the Capitol on Thursday. Senate Television / AP

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By Petra Cahill

Good morning, NBC News readers.

The Trump impeachment trial gets underway, Iran's supreme leader celebrates missile attacks, and is that Awkwafina's voice cheering up the New York City subway?

Here's what we're watching this Friday morning.


Senators 'cramming' to get ready as Trump's impeachment trial gets underway

Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in as the presiding judge for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, and senators promised to deliver “impartial justice” in the proceedings, as the Senate began only its third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history on Thursday.

With the trial expected to kick off in earnest on Tuesday, senators have only a few days left to prepare for one of the most consequential moments of their career.

Many senators tell NBC News they are reading, studying and praying.

"For any of us who haven’t been preparing, they're cramming right now," said Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind.

One thing that may weigh on their minds is the announcement by the U.S. Government Accountability Office Thursday that the Trump administration violated the law by withholding military aid to Ukraine.

"Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law," the non-partisan watchdog said.


U.S. troops injured in Iran strikes after Soleimani killing, Pentagon updates

Several U.S. service members were treated for concussions after Iran launched ballistic missiles earlier this month in Iraq in retaliation for the U.S. killing of a top Iranian commander, the Pentagon said Thursday.

"While no U.S. service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack ... several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed," a spokesman for U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

The new information was an update from previous statements by the administration.

Trump said in a White House address the day after the attack that "no Americans were harmed."

Meantime, Iran's supreme leader praised the strikes on U.S. bases in Iraq in a rare address on Friday.

The recent missile attack on U.S. troops in Iraq dealt a "blow to America’s image," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told huge crowds in Tehran on Friday, according to state-owned Press TV.

Iranians flooded the streets outside of Tehran's Mosalla Mosque to hear Khamenei, 80, address Friday prayers for the first time since 2012.

Crowds chant slogans under portraits of Gen. Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, one of the leaders of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units who was killed in an U.S. strike along with the Iranian commander.Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader / AFP - Getty Images

Beto back at work, on the front lines of Democrats' effort to flip Texas blue

For the first time in two decades, Democrats believe they have a shot at taking control of the Texas House in November and, in the process, potentially reshaping the state's politics for years.

With his presidential hopes dashed, Beto O'Rourke is lending a hand in the effort to turn the reliable Republican stronghold blue by going door to door on behalf of Democratic candidates.

"I can't think of a better use of my time," O'Rourke said in an interview this month.

Meantime, some voters are casting the first in-person ballots in the Democratic presidential primary season today. Here's where.

Beto O'Rourke out on the campaign trail in Richmond, Texas, on behalf of Dr. Eliz Markowitz, a candidate for Texas State Representative in an upcoming special election. Annie Mulligan / for NBC News

Armed guards, secret location: Inside an illegal marijuana bazaar publicized on Instagram

Public health officials in the United States are grappling with an epidemic of severe lung illnesses linked to vape pens, the majority involving bootleg THC oils. At least 60 people have died and nearly 2,700 others have been hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But NBC News found that countless purveyors of the counterfeit products are hawking their wares in plain sight on social media pages, especially Instagram and Facebook.

These illegal operators appear to be doing so with impunity, using the ease and anonymity of Instagram to reach a massive audience of young people who vape.

“They are facilitating a public health crisis,” said one professor who has done extensive research on how social media platforms are used to sell illicit products.

An NBC News producer gained access to an underground operation in Los Angeles where dealers were selling bulk amounts of bootleg THC vape cartridges.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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Plus

This image shows Rep. Ayanna Pressley in a video posted on Thursday, announcing that she has gone bald due to alopecia.Courtesy of The Root / G/O Media via AP

THINK about it

Is 'OK, boomer' ageist? Maybe, but a Supreme Court case won't fix generational shaming, Megan Gerhardt writes in an opinion piece.


Live BETTER

Trying to go meatless? Here are eight vegetarian main courses packed with protein and fiber.


Shopping

People with darker skin tones face a unique set of skincare needs. Here are the 17 best skincare products to try, according to dermatologists.


The Week in Pictures

From a dramatic volcanic eruption to Serena William's Australia victory, here are some of the most compelling photos from the last week.

Lightning strikes over Batangas as the Taal volcano erupts in the Philippines, on Sunday. Domcar C. Lagto / Sipa USA via AP

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