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By Alexander Smith

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Happy Presidents Day. Today we look at how the White House incumbent might use the national emergency to build his border wall. We also travel to Ukraine for a dispatch from the front of its simmering war with Russian-backed separatists.

Here's what else we're watching.


How could Trump use the national emergency to build his border wall?

By simply uttering the words "national emergency," President Donald Trump immediately unleashed dozens of statutory powers otherwise unavailable to him.

NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos examines how the courts might look at what Trump said — and didn't say — during Friday's remarks at the White House.

Any challenge might rest on his statement, "I didn't need to do this, but I'd rather do it much faster." Trump also missed the opportunity to insert words into the record that might have bolstered his emergency powers.


Inside Ukraine's frozen war with Russia

Trench warfare, sniper fire and a grinding standoff between Russia and the West.

The five-year conflict in eastern Ukraine may have slipped from the headlines but the bloodshed continues. Some 13,000 people have been killed since Moscow-backed separatists attempted to declare independence in 2014.

NBC News traveled to the front lines and spent time with Ukrainian soldiers fighting this deadlocked war.

Ukrainian officer Dmitri Kebtz watches for separatist snipers.Bill O'Reilly / for NBC News

Washington and Lincoln weren't always loved

Today is the holiday widely known as Presidents Day, when Americans celebrate the legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Great men who have always been universally revered, right? Not quite...

A closer look at history shows no president has managed to leave the position without alienating a large segment of the country. Partisan bickering has been an American tradition since the flag had 13 stars.

"We look back without rancor at these guys, but Washington was bitterly denounced during his presidency and the language used against Lincoln makes what’s said against Trump very mild," said Eric Foner, professor emeritus at Columbia University.


Don't let Facebook be a 'digital gangster'

Social media companies such as Facebook should not be able to operate like "digital gangsters" — considering themselves above the law.

That's the verdict of British lawmakers on a parliamentary committee, which today issued its final, 108-page report into the tech giant's problems concerning disinformation and fake news.

The conclusion of the U.K.'s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is that social media companies pose unique problems that require a new type of regulation.


Smollett investigation takes a fresh twist

Jussie Smollett.Victoria Will / Invision/AP file

A police source familiar with the investigation into an alleged attack on Jussie Smollett has told NBC News the probe has shifted into whether the actor paid two men to stage an assault.

The case involving the "Empire" star is complex and features competing claims. Here's everything we know.


Plus

  • A Florida sixth grader was arrested after his refusal to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance escalated into a confrontation with police.

THINK about it

Trump's national emergency at the border is fake, argues Romper senior editor Danielle Campoamor in an opinion piece. Here are some very real emergencies Campoamor says the president should be addressing instead.


Live BETTER

Homeownership traditionally comes with some great tax breaks, but lots of things are different this year due to new rules. Here are four things that could put a wrinkle in your tax return this filing season if you’re a homeowner.


Quote of the day

"It is certainly not as easy as they think in America."

— German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas responds to Trump's call for Europe to take back its citizens who left to fight or live under Islamic State in Syria.


One fun thing

Eat your heart out, Elon Musk. Norway has announced a $40-billion infrastructure project that could become the world's first floating tunnel.

The proposed "floating tunnel" would be the first of its kind.Vianova / Baezeni

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

My name's Alexander Smith, senior reporter with NBC News Digital in London. I'll be taking helm of the good ship Morning Rundown all this week while Petra Cahill enjoys a well-earned break.

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown. If you have any comments — likes, dislikes — drop me an email at: alexander.smith@nbcuni.com.

If you would like to receive the Morning Rundown in your inbox Monday to Friday, please sign-up here.

Thanks, Alexander Smith