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Mulvaney to defy subpoena, Bloomberg preps for 2020 bid, and what to watch this holiday season: The Morning Rundown

A top diplomat testified that Putin, Orban and Giuliani poisoned Trump's views on Ukraine.
Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire, is positioning himself to enter the Democratic presidential race. Paul Sancya / AP file

Good morning, NBC News readers.

A top State Department official described the White House actions on Ukraine as "injurious to the rule of law," another billionaire might jump into the 2020 presidential race, and 21 movies and TV shows to escape from it all over the holidays.

Here's what we're watching today.

Diplomat says Putin, Orban, Giuliani 'shaped the president’s view of Ukraine'

George Kent, a senior State Department official responsible for Europe, told House investigators that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani talked the president into a negative view of Ukraine and its new leader.

The transcript of Kent's testimony released Thursday feeds into longstanding concerns from national security experts that the president’s views on key foreign issues are being influenced by Putin and other autocratic leaders like the far-right leader of Hungary.

In his testimony, the deputy assistant secretary of state also took aim at Giuliani for his role in leading a smear campaign against Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Meantime, House Democrats subpoenaed Mick Mulvaney to testify Friday as part of the impeachment inquiry.

The acting White House chief of staff is expected to be a no-show, falling in line with several other officials who were ordered by the president not to cooperate with the investigation.

Anonymous author writes Trump's decision-making is eroding over time

The president's behavior can be so erratic that most top administration officials have pre-written resignation letters ready to submit, an anonymous author claiming to be a senior official in the Trump administration says in a book scheduled to be published this month.

To complicate matters, the president's decision-making abilities are getting worse with time, according to excerpts of "A Warning" that were obtained and read Thursday night on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."

In the book excerpts, the author describes the near-daily "five-alarm fire drill" that leads senior officials to cancel plans and race to the White House to intercept Trump before he can enact his latest "wacky or destructive idea."

The information is coming from an anonymous source, and NBC News does not know who the writer is nor whether they were in a position to have witnessed what they say transpired.

Mike Bloomberg prepares a possible 2020 presidential bid

The former three-term mayor of New York and billionaire businessman is positioning himself to enter the Democratic presidential primary, though he has not yet made a final decision.

In a sign that he is seriously considering a run, Bloomberg was collecting signatures in Alabama, in order to qualify for the primary there. Alabama has a 6 p.m. Friday deadline for candidates to formally enter the race.

Bloomberg is still contemplating jumping into the race because he believes that the current field of Democrats isn't strong enough to beat Trump, his spokesman Howard Wolfson said in a statement to NBC News.

We apologize, this video has expired.

‘Please don’t take my children’

After her baby fell off a chair, doctors incorrectly called it abuse. Weeks later, the state took custody of both of Melissa Bright’s children, as she pleaded with Child Protective Services not to remove them from her home.

The Bright family’s case is just one example of how doctors’ opinions can have an extraordinary influence over child welfare decisions.

Those conclusions sometimes trigger questionable family separations and criminal charges, an NBC News and Houston Chronicle investigation found.

The Week in Pictures

Patrick Semansky / AP

Trump hugs Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki during an event to honor the 2019 World Series champions at the White House on Monday. See more of the most compelling photos from the past week here.

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THINK about it

The Oscars disqualified "Lionheart" because Nigerians speak English in it — just like in Nigeria.


Thinking of lending money to a friend or family member? Read this first.

Quote of the day

"When we see these changes happening in animals, we can’t ignore them, because the impacts on people and the planet are not far behind."

Elizabeth VanWormer, lead author of a new study that links a deadly virus threatening sea lions, seals and otters to climate change.

One historic moment

Sometimes the course of history can change overnight.

In the archival video below from November 8, 1989, Tom Brokaw reports on the frantic efforts by East Berlin’s Communist leaders to cling to power.

The very next night, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down — a momentous event that lead to the end of the Cold War.

See more coverage of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on this weekend.

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Thanks, Petra