The Morning Rundown: Dems unhappy ahead of Mueller report's release

Attorney General William Barr, who the Dems accuse of waging a campaign on behalf of Trump, will hold a press conference before the report is released.

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By Alexander Smith

Good morning, NBC News readers.

I'm Alexander Smith, filling in for Petra Cahill who is away this week. All eyes are on the release of the Mueller report this morning, as well as developments from North Korea and fallout from the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

Here's all that and everything else we're watching:


It's Mueller time

After almost two years, 1,000 witnesses and search warrants, 2,800 subpoenas, and 19 lawyers and 40 investigators who reached out to 13 foreign governments — the Mueller report is set for release today.

Well, a redacted version anyway.

This is special counsel Robert Mueller's report into the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Here's everything you need to know about what should be a landmark event in the saga.

Democratic lawmakers are not happy with the timing, however. Attorney General William Barr, who the Dems accuse of waging a campaign on behalf of President Donald Trump, will hold a press conference before the report is released to Congress and the public.

Robert Mueller began his investigation in May 2017. NBC News / AP / Getty Images

Bench Pompeo and give us someone more 'mature,' North Korea demands

It feels like a long time since 2017, when North Korea was testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, while Kim Jong Un traded apocalyptic threats with Trump. Although things have simmered down to a calmer impasse since then, this morning brought two potentially significant developments.

North Korea claimed it had test-fired a new type of "tactical guided weapon." NBC News could not independently verify the claim by the North's state-run media, but it's unlikely to be a banned ballistic missile, which could scupper what's left of deadlocked negotiations with the U.S.

And about those negotiations. A senior foreign ministry official, Kwon Jong Gun, says he wants Secretary of State Mike Pompeo removed from the talks in favor of someone "more careful and mature in communicating."

Trump's summit with Kim last year produced an agreement so vague many analysts dismissed it as meaningless. The leaders' second meeting broke down.


Manhunt ends for Columbine-obsessed teen

When Sol Pais flew from Miami to Colorado, bought a pump-action shotgun and disappeared, it prompted a manhunt for the teen who had an "infatuation" with the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, officials said.

On Wednesday, she was found dead.

Pais, 18, wrote an online journal about suicide, guns, and "plans" she was making, officials said. "There is no longer a threat to the community," the FBI in Denver tweeted.


Visualizing the damage at a French landmark

Notre Dame Cathedral is such a complex piece of Gothic architecture that it's hard to get a handle on what exactly the fire destroyed and what firefighters were able to save.

To help us understand what happened, my NBC News colleagues have created this fantastic graphics-driven explainer, showing exactly which parts of the building survived and which were lost. Adding to the picture is this 360-degree aerial drone footage.

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Back on the ground, the cathedral's in-house beekeeper is still waiting to see if his 18,000 insects survived the fire.

And 4,800 miles away in Louisiana, the blaze has spurred more than $1.8 million in donations to rebuild three historically black churches burned in suspected hate crimes.

Firefighters tackled the Notre Dame blaze for nine hours.NBC News

Left to die in a prison yard

On New Years Eve in 2017, an inmate at South Carolina's Turbeville prison was stabbed by fellow prisoners, dragged outside by guards, and over the next 30 minutes left to die in the yard as multiple personnel walked past him.

The death of Allen "AJ" Capers, 32, was caught on video that has been exclusively obtained by NBC News.

A year-and-a-half later, no one has been charged — something critics say is a symptom of a state prison system plagued by violence and corruption.


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THINK about it

The Mueller report won't exonerate Trump; it will reveal how legal much of his unethical behavior was, John Neffinger, a former Democratic National Committee communications director, writes in an opinion piece.


Science + Tech = MACH

As if there weren't enough things to worry about in 2019, how about zombie pigs rising from the dead after radical scientific experiments that throw into question what it means to be alive?

In truth, we're some way off franken-swine's monster.

But scientists have announced that they managed to restore brain circulation and some cell activity in pigs' brains hours after the animals died in a slaughterhouse.

The results challenge the long-held view that, after death, brain cells undergo sudden and irreversible damage.


Quote of the day

"His basic story was that he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue, that his car had run out of gas. We took a look at the vehicle. It was not out of gas."

— NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller, on the suspect carrying two gas cans and lighters who tried to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on Wednesday.


One fun thing

Scroll through eBay today and among the old couches and sports memorabilia you might find something truly antique. Archaeologist and fossil hunter Alan Detrich has listed the bones of a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex — yours for just under $3 million.

A fossil of a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex that Alan Detrich listed on eBay just under $3 million.Alan Detrich

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

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

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Thanks, Alexander Smith