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New chapter in U.S.- Saudi relations, California's grim Covid toll and Gov. Cuomo accused of harassment

The U.S. is set to release an intelligence report that directly blames the Saudi crown prince for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Image: Donald Trump, Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was welcomed to the White House by former President Donald Trump in March 2018. In contrast, the White House announced that when Biden makes his first official call to Saudi Arabia as president, it will be to King Salman - not his son.Evan Vucci / AP file

Good morning, NBC News readers.

The Biden administration set to make a bold move to show there is a new sheriff in town when it comes to U.S.-Saudi relations.

Here's the latest on that and everything else we're watching this Thursday morning.


U.S. to release intel report that points finger squarely at Saudi crown prince for Khashoggi killing

The Biden administration will release an intelligence report Thursday that concludes that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, three U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News' Andrea Mitchell and Ken Dilanian.

The intelligence assessment, based largely on work by the CIA, is not new. But its public release will mark a significant new chapter in U.S.-Saudi Arabia relations and a clear break by President Joe Biden with former President Donald Trump's policy of equivocating about the Saudi state's role in the brutal murder.

Khashoggi, 59, was a Saudi citizen working as a Washington Post columnist when he was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, and killed by a team of intelligence operatives with close ties to the crown prince. His body was dismembered in part with a bone saw, American officials have said, and the remains have never been found.

During the 2020 election campaign, Biden promised to make the Saudis "pay the price" for human rights abuses.

So far, Biden has ended American support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, but he has not moved to cut off military aid to the important Middle East ally and counterterrorism partner.

"The president's intention, as is the intention of this government, is to recalibrate our engagement with Saudi Arabia," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday.


Thursday's top stories

Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images

California is first state to pass 50,000 Covid deaths

The most populous state in the nation is the first to reach the bleak milestone, surpassing New York and Texas. By Phil Helsel and Colin Sheeley | Read more


'Partisan by design': Proposal for 9/11-style commission to probe Capitol attack mired in politics

Republicans object to the makeup and scope of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's proposed commission, while Democrats say they are open to changes. By Leigh Ann Caldwell |Read more


Former Cuomo adviser says governor 'kissed me on the lips'

A former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he subjected her to "pervasive harassment" and inappropriate comments when she worked for him. By Dareh Gregorian | Read more


OPINION: How to fight the far-right and Covid at the same time

The best chance for our democracy lies not with the vain hope that Republican leaders will grow spines, but with Democrats' ability to show Americans that they do not have to settle. By Sen. Sherrod Brown | Read more


BETTER: 3 morning stretches that release tension and boost energy

Jumping right out of bed and into the chaos of your life can be jarring. Ease into the day with these simple movements. By Stephanie Mansour | Read more


Also in the news ...


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One fun thing

Doorbell camera videos usually go viral for showing packages being stolen or critters running amok.

But a front porch video from Florida last week has been widely shared for capturing the heartwarming moment when a good Samaritan returned a lost wallet.

The owner of the wallet, Debra Crosby, was incredibly touched that a complete stranger would go out of his way to help her.

"I have three sons of my own, and I would hope that they do the exact same thing," she said.


SHOPPING

Here are the best snow boots to consider this winter, including highly-rated snow shoes and winter boots boasting some fashion sense.


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