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Trump pleads not guilty and phony Wells Fargo accounts confound consumers: Morning Rundown

While Wells Fargo has been embroiled in similar activity before, what happened to at least one consumer appears to be a case of synthetic identity fraud.
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Donald Trump's indictments motivate throngs of small-dollar donors. Dozens of people report bank accounts in their name at Wells Fargo even though they're not customers. And scientists think they've identified the heaviest animal to ever live.

Here’s what to know today.

Trump pleads ‘not guilty’ to illegally trying to overturn 2020 election

In a Washington, D.C., courtroom on Thursday afternoon, special counsel Jack Smith sat in the front row, about 10 feet away from Donald Trump, in the former president’s sightline. Trump appeared to avoid looking at Smith, a person he’s labeled a “deranged prosecutor.” 

When asked for his plea, Trump stood and said “not guilty” to charges that he engaged in criminal conspiracies aimed at subverting the 2020 presidential election results and keeping himself in power. 

Yesterday’s hearing was Trump’s third arraignment this year, but nonetheless a remarkable and unprecedented moment in American history and one of the most consequential tests of the U.S. Constitution and the criminal justice system.  

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After the hearing, Trump headed to the airport and spoke briefly to reporters. “This is a persecution of a political opponent,” he said. “This was never supposed to happen in America.”

Next up in the case: an Aug. 28 hearing, at which time the judge overseeing the case, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, expects to set a trial date. Here’s what else was discussed during Trump’s arraignment. 

More coverage of Trump's indictment:

  • In photos taken yesterday of Trump and President Joe Biden, both men are seen waving. But while one person was headed to court, the other was on a bike ride. It’s a split-screen contrast that’s persisted all week.
  • Evidence suggests that allies knew Trump’s “fake electors” scheme wouldn’t keep him in the White House. So what was the point of the scheme and why was it unlawful? Senior legal correspondent Laura Jarrett explains.
  • Trump’s political operation may be bleeding money as it tries to cover millions of dollars in legal fees, but he has an important asset that none of his rivals appear to possess.

Phony bank accounts reported at Wells Fargo

Arkansas resident Jay Patterson received a bank statement from Wells Fargo in June 2022 that showed $12 in a checking account in his name. Immediately he was confused. He had never been a Wells Fargo customer, and he said he has never given the bank access to his personal data. It turns out he wasn’t the only one in this situation. More than 40 consumers say Wells Fargo accounts were opened in their name without their knowledge. 

While the bank has been embroiled in similar activity before, what happened to Patterson appears to be a case of synthetic identity fraud. Senior financial reporter Gretchen Morgenson has more on the mystery accounts and explains what exactly synthetic identity fraud is.

Russian warship appears damaged after Ukrainian sea drone attack

A Russian warship appeared to have suffered serious damage Friday after Ukraine attacked one of its key naval bases using sea drones. The defense ministry claimed to have thwarted the overnight attack on the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, but the fate of one of its warships is in doubt.

NBC News obtained video of a ship resembling Russia’s “Olenegorsky Gornyak” warship listing to one side and being towed back to port. Using satellite imagery and marine ship tracking data, NBC News was able to confirm that the video was filmed in Novorossiysk and showed the same class of warship as the “Olenegorsky Gornyak.”

More coverage of the war in Ukraine:

Tennessee state representatives win back their seats

Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson are state representatives again, winning the general elections for their old seats, The Associated Press projected. The wins cap a monthslong fight to become state lawmakers again after they were expelled by Republicans in April for protesting on the chamber floor for gun safety, an ordeal that drew national attention.

Shortly after his projected victory was announced, Jones signaled he would continue pushing for gun legislation during this month’s special session.

Records reveal Oregon kidnapping suspect’s violent threats to ex-wife and 2 kids

The man who officials say kidnapped and held a woman captive in his garage before she escaped also made threats to his ex-wife and their two children, according to a protective order she sought against him in 2020. “He physically attacks me,” the woman wrote in her order against Negasi Zuberi, “he hits me, he brakes (sic) and throws things, he screams at the kids and me.” Zuberi also took her phone to keep her from calling police and took money from her, the order claimed.

Meanwhile, a neighbor of the couple in Klamath Falls, Oregon, said she witnessed concerning behavior between the two and on one occasion heard Zuberi making “degrading” comments about his wife.

Today’s Talker

A rule that would limit kids’ screen time…

… is being considered in China. This week, the country’s powerful internet regulator proposed rules that would limit screen time for people under the age of 18 and manage the type of content they are allowed to view. The goal is to prevent teens “from getting addicted to the internet.” But whose responsibility is it to protect kids? Parents disagree on the answer.

Politics in Brief

Immigration: In a major win for the Biden administration, an appeals court allowed a rule restricting asylum at the border to stay in place while court battles surrounding its legality play out. 

Key Biden witness: A business associate of Hunter Biden, who has told lawmakers that Hunter has used the Biden “brand” to protect Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, testified that he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing by Joe Biden.

Virginia politics: Billionaire Republican megadonor Thomas Peterffy wired his second $1 million donation to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s “Spirit of Virginia” PAC ahead of a push to win full control of the state legislature.

Staff Pick: The heaviest animal ever?

Meet the Perucetus colossus, a giant whale that lived almost 40 million years ago and is now believed to be the heaviest animal that has ever lived, according to a new study. These behemoths were so big that they may have been twice as big as the largest blue whales, the study’s lead author said. Maybe you’re drawn to this story, like I was, for the illustration of a big whale with tiny fins, but the journey scientists took to identify this previously unknown creature is equally fascinating. — Elizabeth Robinson, newsletter editor

In Case You Missed It

An 87-year-old Maine woman fought off a teenager attacker in her home and then fed him because he said he was “awfully hungry.”

Bryan Kohberger went for a drive alone the night and morning before four University of Idaho students’ bodies were found, his defense attorneys wrote in court documents.

Three women were injured, including one flown by helicopter to a hospital, after an otter attacked them as they floated on a Montana river.

Texas A&M will pay a $1 million settlement to a Black professor who the university hired to revive its journalism program but then reneged amid right-wing backlash.

Florida’s Department of Education has effectively banned AP Psychology classes in the state due to the course’s content on sexual orientation and gender identity.

No charges will be filed against Cardi B after the rapper threw her microphone into a crowd during her performance in Las Vegas after someone threw a drink onstage.

A CDC advisory committee voted to recommend an injectable RSV drug for two groups of infants ahead of an anticipated fall spread.

Select: Online Shopping, Simplified

 Your phone is dead. Your luggage was sent to the wrong airport. These sound like nightmares, but they can become reality when you’re traveling. Luckily, there are products that can help reduce the stress of travel. Our Select team consulted travel experts and tested a few products themselves to find the best Amazon tech gadgets you need before your next trip. 

Sign up to The Selection newsletter for exclusive reviews and shopping content from NBC Select.

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