Trump to attend immunity hearing and investigators home in on Boeing hardware: Morning Rundown

Hardware becomes the focus of the investigation into the near-disaster Alaska Airlines flight. Donald Trump is expected in court to hear arguments in a key immunity case. And a Texas rapper is accused of holding a homeless woman captive for years.

Here’s what to know today.

NTSB points to possible weak points on Alaska Airlines plane when door blew off

The National Transportation Safety Board is homing in on the hardware on the near-disaster Alaska Airlines flight last week, officials with the agency said. At a news conference last night, officials said that the plane showed signs of fractured guides and missing bolts — the parts that were designed to keep the door that blew out in place.

All this may point to crucial weak points that allowed for the explosive decompression event, but why any hardware may have failed or even gone missing was still a matter of investigation.

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Earlier in the day, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, which both use Boeing 373 Max 9 aircraft, reported loose bolts around the plug doors. Inspectors have been taking a closer look at the aircraft since the Federal Aviation Administration grounded 171 of the Boeing 737 Max 9 planes over the weekend. 

The NTSB also said that it would look into the 737 Max 9’s pressurization system and alerts. Alaska Airlines, the agency said, had previously restricted this particular plane from long flights over water.

Plus, Bob Sauer, a Portland high school teacher, describes finding the flight’s sought-after door plug in his backyard.

Trump to attend presidential immunity hearing

Former President Donald Trump is expected to attend oral arguments this morning in a hearing to determine whether he should be immune from prosecution for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. A ruling could come quickly, as the federal appeals court is moving on an expedited schedule, but no matter what happens, the ruling will likely be appealed.

Trump has a packed schedule this week. He’ll be in Iowa tomorrow for a town hall, and then is expected to attend closing arguments for his New York civil fraud trial on Thursday. Even though his GOP rivals will be solely focused on their final pleas ahead of next week’s Iowa caucus, Trump’s team argues that being in the courtroom, instead of on the campaign tail, is the better move for him.

More Trump investigations news

U.S. national arrested in Russia on drugs trafficking charges

Robert Romanov Woodland, an American citizen who has been detained outside Moscow, Russia on drug charges, according to police on Jan. 9, 2023.
Robert Romanov Woodland.@roman_askhatovich / Instagram

A U.S. national has been arrested and detained on drugs charges in Russia, authorities said Tuesday, making him the latest American to be held pending a criminal trial in the country. The Ostankino District Court of Moscow said in a statement dated Jan. 6 but released Tuesday that Robert Romanov Woodland would be detained for two months as part of a “pre-trial restriction.”

He is accused of the “illegal acquisition, storage, transportation, production, processing of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances or their analogues,” the statement said. Russia’s Criminal Code states that anyone found guilty of this crime can be jailed for eight to 20 years and face an unlimited fine.

‘Some type of gas leak’ suspected in Texas hotel explosion

An explosion at a hotel in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, yesterday afternoon left 21 people injured, including one person in critical condition and four seriously injured, officials said. The rest of the injuries were considered minor.

Aerial footage showed what appeared to be sections of wall and parts of window frames blown out of the first and second floors for the Sandman Signature Fort Worth Downtown Hotel. The smell of gas lingered in the area after the explosion, a spokesperson for the Fort Worth Fire Department said. The mayhem appeared to have been caused by “some type of gas leak,” the spokesperson said, but that was not confirmed. Here’s what we know. 

Blinken to talk ‘way forward’ in Gaza

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to meet with Israeli officials as the U.S. pushes its ally to scale back its deadly assault on the Gaza Strip, and seeks to avert a wider war. It follows days of talks with Middle East leaders, who warned that anti-U.S. opinion is growing in the region, multiple sources told NBC News.

The Israeli military has indicated it is shifting to a less intense phase in the north, but said it was expanding ground operations in the key southern city of Khan Younis. Fears of broader escalation were stoked by an Israeli strike in Lebanon that killed an elite commander in the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group. Follow live updates. 

Michigan caps undefeated season with college football title

michigan celebration wolverines vs Washington huskies
Head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates with the trophy after Michigan’s win against Washington for the college football championship in Houston.Eric Gay / AP

Michgan’s punishing running game and swarming defense resulted in a 34-13 victory over Washington in the College Football Playoff final in Houston. The Wolverines pressured Washington’s Heisman Trophy finalist, quarterback Michael Penix Jr., and forced two interceptions. Here’s how the game unfolded.

Politics in Brief

White House crash: A driver was taken into custody after crashing a vehicle into an exterior gate of the White House complex, a Secret Service spokesperson said. 

Florida politics: The Republican Party of Florida removed Christian Ziegler as its chairman as he faces allegations of rape and video voyeurism. 

Capitol riot: Rep. Elise Stefanik and Donald Trump have referred to the people incarcerated in connection with the Jan. 6 attack as “hostages.” Some relatives of hostages taken during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel say they’re offended by the comparison.

Immigration negotiations: A deal on new immigration policies that would also unlock aid for foreign allies is not expected to happen this week, top negotiators said, despite recent progress.

Staff Pick: Calls to boycott Lululemon over founder’s comments

Chip Wilson, founder of popular clothing brand Lululemon, touched off a firestorm last week when he bashed the company’s “whole diversity and inclusion thing.” Some say the comment is enough to boycott the company over its “regressive values,” while Lululemon has tried to distance itself from Wilson. Reporter Curtis Bunn explains the anger left in the wake Wilson’s comment.  — Elizabeth Robinson, newsletter editor

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