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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  January 7, 2019 5:30pm-5:59pm PST

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account with the caption not the worst way to spend sunday. >> she looks lovely. fits right in. >> that was fun. thanks for joining us. tonight, an nbc news exclusive as president trump doubles down, planning a primetime address. nbc news has learned only six people in the national terror database were stopped at the southern border in early 2018. the white house has repeatedly claimed 4,000 known or suspected terrorists were stopped last year. also, the deepening impact of the shutdown on american families. their paychecks cut off and the ripple effect on the airport security line. major storms bearing down. mudslides in the west. a big snowmaker rolling into the east. al roker is here. ruth bader ginsburg missing supreme court arguments for the first time in 25 years. pete williams has late details. a surprise victory for a woman who's been in prison for nearly half her life with no chance of parole for 50 years.
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>> so i hugged her and whispered in her ear, you're going to get out. >> why she's now getting an unexpected second chance. kevin spacey in court pleading not guilty to sexual assault and revealing a potentially big clue to his defense. they're calling him the miracle man. taken off life support. his family gathered to say good-bye. >> i was almost dead. and they didn't think i would survive at all. >> then something amazing happened. this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt. good evening. with negotiations to reopen the government going nowhere, president trump is going directly to the american people to build support for that border wall. a primetime speech planned for tomorrow followed by a border visit all aimed at awakening americans to what he says is a major crisis. government data, however, reviewed by nbc news tonight
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appears to undercut a big part of that argument as the shutdown widens its toll. our hallie jackson starts our coverage. >> reporter: at the white house, a shutdown sales job as the president makes a pr pitch aimed not at lawmakers but you, with that speech and border trip to highlight what his administration describes as a humanitarian and security crisis. vice president pence says no decision has been made yet about declaring a national emergency. >> declaring an emergency on our border, an emergency that doesn't exist, is probably the worst public policy idea i've heard in about ten years. >> reporter: while the white house cites the growing threat of terrorism at the southern border, numbers provided to congress in may, first reported by nbc news, show in the first half of the 2018 fiscal year, agents encountered only six immigrants listed on a terrorist screening database. >> this completely contradicts what we've heard from the white house officials as they've built their case for a border wall and for shutting down the government in order to get that wall. >> reporter: in a letter to democrats, the white house is loosening its
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definition of "border wall." steel, not concrete. >> i do think his moving towards steel slats rather than concrete wall, if it holds, is important. >> reporter: a big pain point happens this week when many federal workers are set to miss a paycheck. >> i can't relate and i'm sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustment. they always do. >> reporter: paul scheerhan's union represents 80,000 federal employees. >> months this shutdown could last, the president says. are your workers prepared for months? >> no, absolutely not. that's totally unacceptable. >> reporter: pressure building with negotiations still stuck. hallie jackson, nbc news, the white house. this is tom costello in ogden, utah, the bickering me sters cafe nearly today. the 4,000 federal employees working across the street are furloughed. >> they matter to me because they are my regular customers. they're the biggest population in downtown ogden as far as the lunch and breakfast
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crowd. >> reporter: nationwide, 800,000 federal workers are affected, most impacted, washington, d.c., maryland, virginia, california, and texas. in colorado, forest service workers are furloughed. no paycheck. >> the feeling of uncertainty is hard. because you have to be strong for your kids. it's tough to wake up and have your wife reassure you -- that everything's going to be all right. >> reporter: if the government remains shut down, 51,000 tsa employees will not get paid on friday. already some have called out sick in protest. but brian turner is still showing up for work. >> it shouldn't be allowed to happen because we work for our money just like everybody else. we should get paid for our services. >> reporter: tonight many federal workers, including tsa officers, are asking, how soon should they look for another job? if officers walk off the job, the lines could get very long.
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lester? >> tom costello, thank you. president trump's national security adviser is overseas tonight doing damage control with some allies worried about the president's plan to pull u.s. troops out of syria, announcing those troops might not leave as soon as expected. here's andrea mitchell. >> reporter: the president now saying he never intended to get out of syria right away. >> we're going to be removing our troops. i never said we're doing it that quickly. >> reporter: but three weeks ago he shocked u.s. allies, prompting a dramatic resignation from defense secretary jim mattis, by saying isis was defeated and he was pulling american troops out in a month. >> we've beaten them t land. and now it's time for our troops to come back home. >> reporter: in iraq ovhrpresident agreed to give the military four months. but now national security adviser john bolton on damage control, telling israel there is no timetable for withdrawal and demanding that turkey not target u.s. allies, the kurds,
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before the u.s. leaves. >> i applaud the president for re-evaluating what he's doing. >> reporter: another complication, u.s. officials say there are still thousands of isis fighters in syria. only today the kurds saying they captured two americans among them. >> this has caused a big problem for u.s. allies, whether it's europeans who are part of the counter-isis campaign, or allies in the region such as israel. >> u.s. officials are also scrambling on what to do with hundreds of isis prisoners in syria who could go free if the u.s. leaves. appealing to other countries to take them, even thinking about sending them to guantanamo. lester? >> andrea mitchell tonight in washington, thanks. from cancer surgery has missed her first supreme court arguments in 25 years. our pete williams is in washington. pete, what do we know about her recovery? >> it's the first time she's missed courtroom argument for health reasons, despite two earlier cancer surgeries. on december 21st, doctors removed part of her lung after finding three cancerous lumps. she was released from the hospital four days later and has been
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recuperating from home. she's 85, and doctors say it usually takes about a month to recover from this kind of surgery. but she will not miss any work on the court. she'll continue to participate by reading the legal briefs and the oral argument transcripts. no word on when she'll be back on the bench, lester. >> pete williams, thank you. kevin spacey made his first appearance today in a massachusetts courtroom, the actor pleading not guilty to a felony count of indecent assault and battery. new clues potentially revealing a key part of his defense. let's get more on this now from nbc's kate snow. >> reporter: swarmed by the media, kevin spacey spent less than 15 minutes in a nantucket courtroom today. he never spoke but mouthed "thank you" to the judge after filing his plea of not guilty. that ce >> my son was completely starstruck. >> reporter: heather unruh says her son was 18 at the time but told spacey he was older and spacey bought him drink after drink.
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>> it wasn't until kevin spacey put his hand inside his pants that he really knew he was in trouble. >> you say he didn't consent to that? >> absolutely not. >> reporter: she says her son told her and his sister that night but didn't report it until more than a year later. >> he was afraid. i mean, who's going to believe an 18-year-old kid? >> reporter: in a new court filing today, spacey's defense attorneys say unruh's son did not object to the alleged touching, he did not ask mr. fowler, spacey's legal name, to stop, and no witnesses from the crowded bar have come forward. the alleged victim sent a snapchat video to his girlfriend from the bar that night. >> all i'm asking for data so it doesn't get destroyed. >> reporter: today the judge ordered prosecutors to preserve their messages. the defense team asserting the alleged victim exchanged numerous text messages and snapchats with his then-girlfriend and never mentioned the alleged sexual assault. the next hearing, march 4th. the judge said spacey does not need to
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appear. kate snow, nbc news. in houston, two men are in custody after the fatal shooting of a 7-year-old girl. in a stunning twist, investigators believe it may have been a case of mistaken identity. nbc's gabe gutierrez is there. >> what would you say to the family? >> reporter: eric black jr. charged with capital murder in the death of 7-year-old jazmine barnes. >> the evidence is pointing to eric black as the driver of the getaway vehicle. >> reporter: prosecutors say black admitted to driving a dark-colored suv when his passenger opened fire on the car jazmine was in, thinking it belonged to someone else. the alleged shooter has not been charged in the case, but jazmine's family attorney and nbc affiliate kprc citing law enforcement sources identify him as larry woodruff, who was arrested on an unrelated drug charge. >> she did not deserve this at all. >> reporter: jazmine's mother, who was shot in the arm, had believed the shooting was racially motivated. the sheriff here now says it wasn't.
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>> this was likely a case of mistaken identity. >> rtethe n in this composite sketch. instead, after a $100,000 reward wa offered, a tip came in to an activist working the case. >> i feel some relief in this. because now my baby's got justice. >> reporter: jazmine will be laid to rest tomorrow. gabe gutierrez, nbc news, houston. to the extraordinary second chance for a woman in tennessee. cyntoia brown was convicted of murder when she was 16, sentenced to life in prison. but today everything changed for her when the governor granted her clemency. brown's legal team spoke exclusively to ron allen in part of our new series, "justice for all," a look at our criminal stice system and stories of the accused. >> i can't fix it, and i'm sorry. >> reporter: at a parole hearing last year, cyntoia brown was begging for mercy. today, after learning she won't have to spend the rest of her life in prison, speaking on a call
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with supporters. >> thank you, governor haslam. for being a man of god and for showing mercy. >> reporter: a stunni >> i just grabbed the gun and i shot him. >> reporter: brown admitted killing johnny allen when she was 16, claiming she was forced into prostitution and shot him in self-defense. prosecutors called her a cold-blooded killer and thief. they say her claim of being a victim of human trafficking was a lie. >> guilty. >> reporter: the sentence, life in prison, no chance for parole, for some 50 years. today, governor bill haslam called her punishment too harsh and granted full clemency, citing her extraordinary steps at rehabilitation, earning a college brown's attorney spoke exclusively with nbc news. >> i hugged her and whispered in her ear, you're going to get out ug >> when you whispered that in her ear, what did she say? >> she did a little dance. >> i think she is going to be able to help hundreds if not
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thousands of young people. >> i think this also gives a tremendous amount of hope to people who are still in prison. >> reporter: on social media, thanks from a-listers who called for brown's freedom. outpouring of gratitude from a young woman soon to be set free. ron allen, nbc news, nashville. >> i'll sit down with one of the first prisoners released under the new criminal justice reform law tomorrow on "nightly news." big storms causing trouble from coast to coast triggering dangerous mudslides in california and a big snowmaker is rolling into the east. al roker joins us. what are you looking at here tonight? >> reporter: right now we start out west. you can see another line of storms out there, just lined up, parading into the northwest. the late-week storm all the way back out into the pacific, that's going to bring in heavy rain, mountain snows, coastal rain and snow for the higher elevations and strong winds. as we move to the east, we've got a potent snowmaker making its way across the great lakes. in fact, we've got
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light flurries here in central park. we are looking at anywhere from 1 to 15 inches of snow making its way from western new york all the way up into northern new england. and we're also keeping an eye on a big potential storm toward the end of the weekend. still too early to tell but we're going to be watching it. >> i know you will, al roker, thank you. let's turn to the horror on the highway. a family of five killed in a head-on crash by a driver going the wrong way. nbc's ron mott now on this tragedy. >> reporter: 42-year-old attorney isam abbas, his wife dr. rima abbas, and their three children, were headed home from a holiday trip to florida when tragedy struck. the entire family killed in this fiery head-on h right lane and he was flying. absolutely flying. >> reporter: officials tried to get to the say the wrong-way driver, a 41-year-old kentucky man suspected of driving drunk, also died. the federal highway administration says wrong-way crashes are generally more deadly. as many as 400 people killed each year on average. last summer a father
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and his four daughters were struck and killed in delaware. >> this is very painful. the fact that this is a tragedy that could have been avoided. >> reporter: tonight a michigan muslim community in disbelief, a beloved family gone. ron mott, nbc news. tonight the second-largest school district in the nation is on the verge of a massive teacher strike that would affect well over 500,000 children and their parents. nbc's miguel almaguer has details from los angeles. >> rachel? >> 16 squared. >> right. >> reporter: at more than 900 schools across los angeles, the writing appears to be on the wall. a strike seems imminent as 25,000 teachers get ready to walk away from the second-largest school district in the nation thursday. >> i'm happy that they're striking. i think they need to. >> reporter: teachers are asking for more money, smaller classes, more nurses, counselors, and librarians, and better regulation of charter schools. which the union accuses of siphoning taxpayer money away from traditional
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schools. >> the rainy day is now. and our kids deserve this investment. >> reporter: with 640,000 students enrolled in k-12, the looming strike could thrust the district into chaos and leave parents scrambling. the school district, which says it's negotiating today in good faith, appears to have hundreds of substitute teachers ready to cross the picket lines. and thousands of school board employees ready to report to the classroom. tonight, after nearly two years of negotiations, l.a. teachers are just three days away from a strike. miguel almaguer, nbc news, los angeles. also ahead, the teen fearing for her life barricaded in a hotel, reaching out to social media for help. then the moment that brought the golden globes to its feet. miracle man. coming back from the brink of death.
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next tonight, the saudi teen making headlines around the world with an appeal on social media to avoid being sent back home where she fears for her life. our richard engel has more. >> reporter: the dramatic plea to the u.n. from 18-year-old rahaf mohammad al qunun of saudi arabia. >> i'm not leaving my room until i see unhcr. i want asylum. >> reporter: begging for help, facing deportation, she barricaded herself behind this mattress in a bangkok airport hotel. she said she was abused by her saudi family, escaped, but was stopped in thailand on her way to australia. her passport seized. al qunun said she feared her family would kill her because she'd renounced islam. she filmed as people came to the hotel door. she wouldn't open it. >> i want asylum! >> reporter: with tens of thousands following her on twitter, late today thailand agreed to let her in the country, returning her passport.
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>> because of the determination to stand up for herself, to fight for her rights, she was able to buy the time that she needed to get unhcr in to see her. >> tonight, al qunun is out of the airport and being considered for asylum. the saudis say they didn't take her passport and that she was stopped for violating thai laws. no comment from her family. lester? >> richard engel tonight, thank you. next, the golden globe winner's powerful message for women.
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an amazing rescue in texas. good samaritans helping police flip a burning car and rescue a man trapped inside. police say it was hit by a wrong-way driver. on a night full of
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surprises, glenn close's win for best actress in a drama at the golden globes might be the most memorable because of the message the hollywood legend delivered. here's kristin dalgren. >> glenn close, "the wife." >> reporter: at the golden globes, it was this performance that brought down the house. glenn close accepting her prize for a very personal project. >> it was called "the wife." i think that's why it took 14 years to get made. >> reporter: the movie about a woman overshadowed by her husband who never chases her own dreams. >> everyone needs approval, joe. >> i'm thinking of my mom. who really sublimated herself to my father her whole life. in her 80s she said to me, i feel i haven't accomplished anything. and it was so not right. >> reporter: striking a chord with women in the audience. >> i feel we have to find personal fulfillment. we have to follow our
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dreams. we have to say, i can do that, and i should be allowed to do that. >> reporter: earning more than an award, a stanng ovation and a moment of solidarity that won't soon be forgotten. kristin dalgren, nbc news. we'll take a short break. up next, his family said good-bye. but then a miracle surprise. shutdown won )t affec?
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think again. the impact on your taxes - if it doesn )t end soon. president trump versus california. a legal war waging right now in a local courtroom - and it all boils down to one question. next. right now at 6: his family says it's a miracle and you may agree. a man's life support removed but then the incredible surprise. here's kevin tibbles. >> reporter: they call scott mauer the miracle man. >> i was almost dead.
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ring in the new year. mauer was in a coma. doctors believed.s coletely unresponsive, and he was intubated. >> reporter: the 61-year-old's breathing tube was removed, funeral plans about to get under way. >> i'll never hear him say "hey, son," to me again. he always said that on the phone. >> reporter: the feisty father of four wasn't quite ready for the pearly gates. as his kids were saying their final good-byes -- >> i walked in and said, "hi, dad." and he cracked a smile at me with his eyes still closed. and i didn't know what to do. >> i grabbed his hand. and he kind of mumbled to me like, "hey, sweetheart." >> reporter: turns out, it wasn't a stroke but a rare condion affecting brain function, that can be reversed. >> encephalopathy. wrong, right? encephalopathy. >> there you go. >> that's what i had. >> reporter: doctors say the brain swelling receded and after
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weeks of therapy, he's back home, hoping to use his gift of extra time to help others. what would you call what happened to you? >> a miracle. period, end of story. >> reporter: a story that now has an extra chapter. kevin tibbles, nbc news, omaha. >> talk about your second chances. that's nbc "nightly news." i'm lester holt. from all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching and good night. what happens to your tax? the white house responds right now at 6:00, what happens to your tax refund? the white house is responding to concerns this government shutdown could impact this tax season. a new storm tomorrow and a total of three this week. update in a downed eucalyptus k man on the uc berkeley. the news at 6:00 starts
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right now, thanks for joining us. i am jessica aguirre. >> and i am raj mathai. >> the trees are a fire hazard but now being blamed for this deadly accident after yesterday's rainstorm. this happened on the cal campus. you see it there killing the driver. now with more rain on the way this week, there is concern about the trees and the saturated ground. nbc bay area melissa colorado joins us with new details. >> reporter: as you can see this massive tree is still out here just outside the greek theater. crews literally had to chop away from this trunk. this gives you an image, an idea of how powerful this tree was when it came crashing down. >> i feel so sorry for this young man and for his family, what an awful thing. >> reporter: retired professor
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richard jackson of berkeley remembers hearing the thrash of

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