What to watch for during the Republican debate and a house explosion in Virginia: Morning Rundown


    A look ahead at the fourth Republican presidential primary debate. Senate Republicans stormed out of a meeting over funding for Israel and Ukraine. And the suspect presumed dead in a Virginia house explosion raised alarm bells before this week’s incident.

    Here’s what to know today.

    What to watch for in the fourth Republican presidential debate

    Donald Trump won’t be present, again, as four other Republican presidential hopefuls battle for the spotlight in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. But the former president’s presence and lead in the polls will loom large. Trump leads in excess of 20 points across the early primary states and nationally. Tonight, he’ll hold a private fundraiser. 

    So instead, tonight’s bout is set to feature Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Sen. Tim Scott suspended his presidential campaign shortly after last month’s primary debate. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who didn’t qualify for the last two debates, dropped out of the race this week. 

    This time around, keep an eye on Haley and DeSantis, both of whom are looking to cement their status as the clear No. 2 to Trump. Ramaswamy, meanwhile, said he plans to bring the same “candor” to the stage as he has in the past three debates. Even the moderators aren’t the typical mix, so it’ll be interesting to watch how the group dynamic plays out.

    Read the full story here.

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    Evidence suggests dozens of Israeli women were raped or mutilated by Hamas

    Over the last several weeks, NBC News has reviewed five interrogations of captured Hamas fighters, an Arabic-language document that instructed militants how to pronounce “Take off your pants” in Hebrew, six images of naked or partially naked deceased female bodies, seven eyewitness accounts of sexual violence, 11 testimonies of first responders, and two accounts from workers in morgues who handled the bodies of women after they were recovered from the massacre.

    In an exclusive report, senior producer Anna Schecter reviews evidence and speaks to investigators about reports of sexual violence against Israeli women during the Hamas terror attack.

    More on the Israel-Hamas war: 

    • Israeli troops and Hamas are engaged in fierce battles in southern Gaza’s main city. A humanitarian organization fears the fighting “will only intensify the catastrophic hunger crisis” among civilians. Follow our live blog.
    • Israel has combined its assault on southern Gaza with an online map dividing the enclave into hundreds of zones, which it says will direct residents to safe areas, but this grid-based map has been derided by international aid agencies and people in Gaza who say it’s confusing and not useful. 
    • A man was indicted on multiple hate crimes in connection with punching an Israeli tourist in Times Square in October after the suspect made antisemitic remarks.
    • A group of White House interns signed a letter demanding President Joe Biden call for a permanent cease-fire in the Middle East.

    Border debate derails Senate meeting Israel, Ukraine aid

    Republican senators stormed out of a meeting yesterday on Biden’s funding request, which includes aid to Israel and Ukraine, a day before the expected vote (and possible filibuster). Senators from both parties said the meeting — led by the secretaries of Defense and State, as well as other high-ranking officials, and where all 100 senators would be able to ask about the funding request — fell apart after Republicans began asking about the border. 

    Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer told reporters the meeting was “a waste of time.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pointed the finger at Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Schumer said “hijacked” the briefing. Other senators also offered their assessments of the heated meeting.

    Senate Republicans have vowed to filibuster today’s expected vote on the bill because of a lack of sufficient immigration restrictions.

    The meeting came a day after the White House warned Congress that the U.S. is “out of money” and must provide aid for Ukraine before the end of the year or risk increasing Russia’s likelihood of “military victories.” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff echoed that sentiment yesterday in a speech during his visit to Washington.

    What we know about the suspect in the Virginia house explosion

    The man who lived in a Virginia house that went up in flames Monday night is presumed dead, police said yesterday. The home in Arlington exploded when James Yoo allegedly shot a flare gun at the property as officers attempted to serve a search warrant. The cause of the explosion is still unknown.

    Yoo was known by law enforcement for making frequent allegations of being defrauded. His social media posts also raised alarm bells, with Yoo sharing several posts that accused his neighbors of being spies. Those neighbors described him as a “recluse,” and said that Yoo covered his windows with tinfoil and rarely left the house. In the hours leading up to the explosion, witnesses say they saw him throwing trash on his front lawn and tossing clothes out his windows. Yoo’s behavior, coupled with events in his personal life, tipped neighbors off that something was going on.

    The challenge of prosecuting federal law enforcement officials in lethal shootings

    Over the past three decades, a handful of local prosecutors have tried to convict federal agents or federal task force members of murder or manslaughter after fatal shootings. To date, no prosecutor has succeeded, according to a review of court cases. In fact, those cases typically get moved to federal court, where they are more likely to be dismissed. 

    One of the local leaders fighting to hold federal officials accountable is Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, who is prosecuting Donald Trump for trying to overturn the 2020 election. Since taking office in 2021, Willis continued the work her predecessor did to build a case against an officer serving on an FBI-led task force who killed a 21-year-old Black man. She has also charged two U.S. Marshals officers with murder in the death of a mentally ill 26-year-old. But a century-old law and decades of precedent are among the factors complicating her efforts — and similar ones across the U.S. — to hold federal law enforcement officials accountable after lethal shootings.

    Chuck Todd: How elected officials are gaslighting America

    This week, NBC News chief political analyst Chuck Todd would like to turn your attention to “one of the more unusual surveys I’ve seen in a long time.” It’s from UMass-Amherst, and it takes a stab at looking at the divide between what elected officials think and believe and what their voters believe. When it comes to Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, Donald Trump’s election fraud claims and the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, the survey shows that there are some discrepancies. 

    When elected leaders vote on behalf of their constituents, specifically in situations involving Trump, things get tricky, Todd argues in an analysis. “It’s obvious that members of Congress too often give in to the belief systems of their (sometimes overly whipped-up) constituents out of fear of losing their jobs,” Todd writes. “What’s less clear is exactly the price those self-preservation decisions cost us.” Read the full analysis here. (And stay until the end for Todd’s rant about Florida State’s College Football Playoff snub.)

    Politics in Brief

    Military blockade: The Senate confirmed more than 425 military nominees after Republican Sen. Tuberville announced he would drop the bulk of his holds. The nominations signaled the end of Tuberville’s monthslong campaign in protest of the Defense Department’s abortion travel policy.

    Jan. 6: House Republicans are blurring footage from the Capitol attack before releasing it publicly because they don’t want rioters to be “retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ,” Speaker Mike Johnson said.

    Trump cases: In a surprise reversal, Eric Trump, the former president’s second-oldest son, will no longer take the stand as a defense witness in the $250 million civil fraud trial against the Trump family and their company. Meanwhile, a nine-page filing from special counsel Jack Smith’s office details how he plans to use Trump’s own words against him in the upcoming federal election interference trial.

    Staff Pick: Decades of alleged abuse

    New York’s Adult Survivors Act has led to sexual assault accusations against high profile figures such as Sean “Diddy” Combs, Jamie Foxx and New York City Mayor Eric Adams. It also led to 479 lawsuits against New York City over alleged abuse against current or former prisoners at Rikers Island facilities. Reporter Char Adams spoke to those who say they’ve been abused and advocates who are hopeful the surge of litigation may give many victims a chance at justice. — Elizabeth Robinson, newsletter editor 

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