Zelenskyy fights for aid and inflation seems to slow: Morning Rundown

Ukraine’s president meets with President Joe Biden and Congress to ask for more funding. A former student of the UNLV gunman recalls a disturbing comment. And a sci-fi author is accused of review-bombing fellow writers.

Here’s what to know today.

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Ukrainian President Zelenskyy visits Capitol Hill amid stalled funding talks

President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy are expected to meet today as Senate negotiations on a package that includes funding for his war against Russia threatens to spill into the next year.

Zelenskyy is also set to speak with U.S. lawmakers, but his pleas for funding will likely be met with resistance from Senate Republicans who are increasingly skeptical about funding Ukraine’s war against Russia and unwilling to debate a bill for foreign aid without immigration restrictions. 

“Quite frankly, we’re not going to help other countries and not look at actually what’s happening in the United States,” said Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who is leading the discussions for Republicans. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he would hear out Zelenskyy: “I don’t see what the purpose is, but obviously we’d be glad to listen to what he has to say.” Yesterday, Sen. JD Vance of Ohio suggested that Ukraine should give up some of its land to Russia to end the war. 

The Senate seems unlikely to reach a deal this week on Biden’s aid package, with Lankford saying “there’s no way to get it done this week” before the Senate adjourns for the holidays. Sources with knowledge of the negotiations say Democrats have been willing to make concessions on tightening asylum rules, but the talks have been stuck over GOP demands to curtail presidential powers to use “parole” to temporarily admit asylum-seekers. 

And while Zelenskyy pleads with reluctant senators in Washington to green-light military aid, Russia is raining ballistic missiles on Kyiv in the latest sign that the Kremlin appears to be intensifying its campaign. 

Read more about Zelenskyy’s visit here.

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More signs of inflation’s slowdown

A Bureau of Labor Statistics report set to be released this morning is expected to reflect a 0.3% increase in core prices over the last month, a category that excludes the cost of food and energy. Year over year, economists expect to see a 3% increase in the overall price index and a 4% increase in the core categories compared to November 2022.

What does this mean? While slower inflation means the prices of many goods are still going up, the slower rate increase makes it easier for consumers to adjust

And tomorrow, the Fed is expected to make its final interest rate call of the year.

Former Israeli hostage fears others in Hamas custody won’t live through the holidays

Yocheved Lifshitz took the world by surprise when, after she was freed, she shook hands with one of her Hamas captors and uttered “Shalom,” a Hebrew salutation meaning “peace.” In an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Richard Engel, Lifshitz spoke about how she believes peace can only be achieved once those who are still held captive are freed.

Lifshitz’s husband is among those who are still being held by Hamas, and she fears that he and others won’t make it past the holidays due to the lack of air in tunnels and a shortage of food and medicine. She also fears that global interest in the hostages’ plight might wane. Watch the full interview here.

The United States and Israel are being increasingly isolated internationally amid growing calls for a cease-fire in Gaza, and ahead of a U.N. vote today on an immediate humanitarian pause in violence. Two U.S. officials say there is limited hope in the Biden administration that the U.S. can secure another pause in fighting. Follow our live blog for updates. 

Texas Supreme Court rules against woman who sought abortion

The Texas Supreme Court ruled against a woman who, because of her fetus’ fatal condition, sought an abortion in the state. The ruling directed a state district court to vacate its ruling granting a request from Kate Cox, a mother of two, to have the procedure. Hours earlier, Cox’s lawyers said she intended to leave the state to get an abortion “due to the ongoing deterioration” of her health. 

Cox learned just after Thanksgiving that her fetus has trisomy 18, a fatal diagnosis. She sought to terminate her pregnancy to protect her health and future fertility. Read the full story here.

UNLV gunman resigned as professor after making sexual comment in class, former student says

Kristin Marshburn was sitting in the front row of Anthony Polito’s supply chain management course at East Carolina University in North Carolina in 2016, when the then-professor walked in and made a sexual comment about her appearance. 

Kristin Marshburn.
Kristin Marshburn.Courtesy Kristin Marshburn

“He said to me that if I wore a shirt that low cut for the rest of the semester, I’d be sure to get an A,” Marshburn said. She reported the incident to the business school’s dean that day. Months later, Polito resigned from his tenured position. 

Marshburn is now the second woman to come forward after Polito fatally shot three people at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to say he made them feel uncomfortable when they were students. Online ramblings also shed more light on Polito’s thoughts after his departure from ECU.

Today’s Talker: A sci-fi author accused of sabotaging other writers…

… was dropped by her publisher and her agent this week. Many in the book community have turned on Cait Corrain, author of the upcoming novel “Crown of Starlight,” after she allegedly created fake accounts on the book review platform Goodreads and left scathing one-star reviews on other authors’ books. It wasn’t long before people caught on and shared their suspicions on social media. Then, backlash ensued.

Politics in Brief

Trump’s Iowa lead: Recent high-profile endorsements for former president Donald Trump’s rivals from Republican politicians and organizations haven’t influenced GOP caucusgoers in next month’s contest, according to a NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll of the state.

Biden-Xi summit: U.S. defense officials have repeatedly tried to reach their Chinese counterparts but have not received any responses, according to three senior U.S. officials. President Biden announced nearly a month ago that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed to resume direct military communications. 

Biden impeachment efforts: House Republicans are eyeing a vote tomorrow to formalize the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Presidential immunity question: Special counsel Jack Smith asked the Supreme Court to immediately step in to decide whether former President Donald Trump has immunity from prosecution for his actions seeking to overturn the 2020 election.  

Motion to dismiss: Hunter Biden’s attorney is asking the special counsel David Weiss, the federal judge overseeing his gun case, to dismiss the criminal charges against the president’s son, arguing that an agreement with prosecutors in July gives him immunity.

Staff Pick: A difficult road to justice

On the night of July 18, 2020, as racial justice protests after the death of George Floyd roiled Portland, Oregon, Navy veteran Chris David confronted federal officers after he had seen them knock several people to the ground. He emerged from that confrontation with a broken hand. Three years later, he’s among several Portland protesters still seeking justice.

Read the latest in NBC News’ series The Untouchables, which looks at how federal law enforcement officials are able to harm people with little to no accountability. — Elizabeth Robinson, newsletter editor

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