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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  February 9, 2019 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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tracking snow levels lowering overnight. good enough for another winter weather advisory. >> ski tan. >> ski diablo. see you at 6:00. tonight, new defiance by virginia governor. ralph northam will stay on and promote what he calls racial equity and the lieutenant governor faces calls for him to step down over accusations of sexual assault. a state of emergency in seattle and beyond as a major snowstorm hits a region that rarely gets snow. he stole hundreds of thousands from his clients and now this disbarred lawyer is wanted for the murder of his own mother. was this man's killing by an fbi agent a tragic mistake or negligence. the latest case generating calls for greater transparency in the fbi. and the big announcement from buckingham palace today as one member of the royal family reaches a milestone.
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>> announcer: this is nbc "nightly news" with jose diaz-balart. >> good evening. tonight the governor of virginia has decided he will not resign despite a week-long onslaught of demands that he do just that. both democrats and republicans said the racist yearbook photo and the admission that he wore blackface should disqualify him but today in an interview with the washington post ralph northam said he is committed to staying in office and will focus the rest of his term on what he called racial equity. all of this as the state's lieutenant governor is barely hanging on to his job after a second accusation of sexual assault. geoff bennett has the latest on this unfolding drama. >> reporter: embattled governor ralph northam tonight telling "the washington post" he plans to spend the rest of his term pursuing racial equity. saying of the scandal, "we're ready to learn from our mistakes." the governor today seen in public for the first time since he denied appearing in
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the racist med school yearbook photo. virginians divided on his future. >> the governor needs to resign. >> he should be given a chance. >> reporter: but the pressure is mounting on lieutenant governor justin fairfax as he confronts another sexual assault allegation. meredith watson said fairfax raped her when they were both students at duke university in 2000. in a statement, watson described the attack as premeditated and aggressive. that charge comes after doctor vanessa tyson accused fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004. fairfax fighting back saying, "it is demonstrably false. i have never forced myself on anyone, ever." fairfax defiant hours before watson's allegation became known. >> do you support investigation into the allegation against you, sir? >> we will have our say and i am confident in the truth. >> reporter: prominent democrats now lining up to insist he step down. as a virginia state delegate piles on. >> on monday i intend
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to introduce articles of impeachment on lieutenant governor justin fairfax. >> reporter: still hanging on, virginia attorney general mark herring who, like northam, admitted to wearing blackface in the 1980s, but has won some support for his admission and apology. virginia's top three elected officials swept up by separate scandals yet still on the job for now. geoff bennett, nbc news. in the state of washington tonight, a different kind of emergency. as seattle and the rest of the region deal with the rare major snowstorm. almost 50,000 people are without power tonight. nbc's morgan chesky is following the northwest whiteout. >> reporter: tonight a winter blast socking the west with a one-two punch. from california to washington, storms dumping feet of snow hiding icy roads, causing dozens of accidents. >> even with chains on we're doing 10 miles per hour. >> reporter: in seattle seven inches of snow in two days. not much to some but more snow than the city usual gets in an entire year. the iconic space
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needle spectacular in the snow but back on the ground, everything ground to a halt. at sea-tac, de-icing barely made a dent as storms delayed more than 300 flights, canceling 40 others. >> we sat on the tarmac for two hours. >> reporter: travel so treacherous former first lady obama rescheduling her book tour, tweeting, my biggest priority is making sure everyone stays safe. tense moments this week as the storm gripped the sierras too. crews rescued staff from king's cannon park after snow cut off access to local roads. back at the pike place market the fish tossers trading salmon for snow balls as locals took advantage of streets turned runs. >> it feels like powdered sugar. >> reporter: a city making the
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most of a historic snowfall. morgan chesky, nbc news. a manhunt for a man accused of murdering his other mother. the suspect, a disbarred lawyer who admitted stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his clients. we get the latest from nbc's tammy leitner. >> reporter: richard merritt once ran his own law firm, a business he showcased in this tv testimonial. >> the response i've gotten has been great so far. >> reporter: tonight he's the subject of a nationwide manhunt, suspected of murdering his own mother at her georgia home. >> my biggest concern is he could hurt someone else. >> reporter: last month he was disbarred and pled guilty to theft, forgery and elderly exploitation. accusing him of taking more than $420,000 from 17 different clients. a judge sentenced merritt to 15 years in prison but approved his request tor time to get his affairs in order. instead of turning himself in last week, authorities believe merritt cut off his ankle monitor in cobb county and drove
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to dekalb county where he allegedly murdered his mother shirley merritt and stole her 2009 silver lexus. >> the whole family is concerned -- >> reporter: robert merritt has no idea why his brother would kill their 77-year-old mother. >> had they taken him into custody immediately, she would be alive today and he wouldn't be a fugitive. >> reporter: in a statement, richard merritt's attorney tells nbc news, "mr. merritt sounded upbeat and optimistic about his chances of parole after serving just five years. i simply cannot believe this is happened." more questions than answers tonight as the hunt for an alleged killer intensifies. tammy leitner, nbc news. president trump announced new details of his second meeting with kim jong-un of north korea at the end of this month in vietnam. he said it will be held in hanoi, the capital. though some u.s. officials wanted it held in the coastal resort city of da nang where mr. trump attended an economic conference two years ago. and this was a big day for
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some of those who think they can become the next president. leading democrats making appearances around the country today. as another officially enters the race. white house correspondent kelly o'donnell has more. good evening. >> reporter: good evening, jose. add another top tier democrat to the 2020 mix. the ballooning field of candidates who hope to win their party nomination and then battle their way here to the white house now formally includes elizabeth warren. the two-term massachusetts senator defined her candidacy as a systemwide fight for economic opportunity, racial and gender equality. warren's crowd of supporters weathered below freezing temperatures in the mill town of lawrence today to hear the former harvard law professor make it official. >> this is why i stand here today to declare that i am a candidate for president of the united states of america. >> reporter: there was a bitter windchill from the president's
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re-election campaign hitting warren in a statement that accused her of fraud over claims of her native american heritage and argued voters would reject her socialist ideas. tomorrow it is amy klobuchar's turn. the minnesota democrat and former prosecutor is expected to jump in the race at a rally in minneapolis sunday afternoon. her advice to supporters, bundle up. jose. >> kelly o'donnell at the white house. thank you. in syria tonight, u.s.-backed forces have launched what is being called the last battle against isis in that country. the spokesperson for the syrian democratic forces said they have started to move on two villages in northeast syria still under isis control. president trump has said he plans to full u.s. forces out of syria but some military officials say they worry about a resurgence by the militants. and now to the political and humanitarian crisis in venezuela where the embattled president is making new accusations against the united states and still refuses to let large shipments of u.s. aid into the
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country from nearby neighboring colombia. we have two reports beginning with kerry sanders in caracas. >> reporter: nicholas maduro claims an assassination attempt with drones last summer was backed by the united states. his government showing taped confessions from alleged conspirators saying the u.s. tried to kill him again last weekend. meanwhile, the u.s. said maduro must leave peacefully. >> venezuela has had it's socialist revolution for 20 years now, why do you believe that now president trump and the united states wants you gone, especially when oil is so cheap? >> reporter: maduro said i don't care how much oil costs, it is ours and no one is going to take it from us. not donald trump, not a thousand donald trumps. twice during yesterday's press conference --
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maduro's palace lost power. his power over the country's military may also be tenuous. u.s. officials believe he's protected by cuba secret service. cuba is venezuela's strongest ally. >> venezuela intelligence services are so corrupt and so incompetent and so disloyal that maduro cannot count on his own personal safety on his bed at night on his own people. >> that is a fair assessment as i understand, senator. >> reporter: many venezuelans now emboldened by interim president juan guaido, defiant. >> it is simple. maduro is a killer. [ chanting ] >> reporter: but the defiance amid the political power struggles is tempered by desperation as so many wait for life-saving food and medicine that is now out of reach just across the border. kerry sanders, nbc news, caracas. this is gabe gutierrez on the colombian side of the venezuela border where
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truckloads of humanitarian aid are sitting unused in this warehouse. the u.s. is urging venezuela to let it through. >> what you see here is the first shipment of what we hope will be a great flood of humanitarian relief. >> reporter: over the last three years theis has given $140 million to several south american countries struggling with the influx of refugees and migrants, many ending up here in neighboring colombia. >> this soup kitchen hands out thousands of meals every day and many wait here for hours for milk and bread. >> reporter: this couple worries about another daughter still in venezuela. >> i don't know if she's having a meal today, her mother said. >> reporter: this doctor told us he has treated patients in somali and afghanistan and syria. >> this is one of the most serious humanitarian crisis i have seen in the past 20 years. >> reporter: anna is caring for her sick four-month-old daughter and left when she was pregnant because she couldn't find enough
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food. it is a terrible situation she said. like so many others here, she doesn't know when she'll be able to go back home. gabe gutierrez, nbc news, colombia. and now to a disturbing case in texas we first told you about one year ago when a kidnapping victim was killed during a rescue attempt by the fbi. authorities now say an fbi agent may have lied about what happened raising new questions about whether or not the nation's top law enforcement agency is holding itself accountable. nbc's ken dilanian has the story. >> reporter: it seemed like a tragic mistake. a young father in houston held for ransom was shot to death last january. not by his kidnappers, but by an fbi agent trying to save him. his 13-year-old son now on orphan being raised by his half sister. >> his heart is hurting. >> reporter: authorities called the death a simple accident. the fbi agent told houston
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police he uses m-4 rifle to break a window at this house where valadares was held captive. he said somebody started to pull on the rifle from inside. >> when he felt he was starting to lose control, he intentionally discharged his rifle. >> reporter: but now new questions about whether valadares died because of a fbi agent negligence. 10 months after the shooting, the houston police chief took the step of announcing the fbi initial story doesn't add up. >> our investigative findings do not support the description of how this incident occurred provided by the shooting agent. >> reporter: the family is suing the fbi alleging wrongful death. the fbi declined to comment on the case to nbc news, but it is one of several incidents under which the agency has come under scrutiny over the use of a gun. last year a fbi agent was accused of lying about firing his weapon against right wing extremist in oregon and he was found not guilty and in colorado an agent lost control
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of his gun and shot a bystander while doing this at a nightclub. each time a agent fired a gun the fbi investigates. new data obtained by nbc news shows that since 2011 there have been 228 fbi shooting incidents and five cases where the actions of agents were found to be unjustified. the fbi defends its process as thorough and fair. critics say the issue is that the bureau won't discuss the details. >> because they are investigating themselves, there is some question about the independence and transparency involved in those reviews. >> i would like an honest account of what happened. you're not really reassured that the person was given additional training or out there with a gun. >> reporter: a family shattered, awaiting answers from an fbi reluctant to provide them. ken dilanian, nbc news, houston. still tonight, outgunned. the army's effort to develop guns that could shoot as far as russian guns.
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and also remembering an air force trail blazer. lester holt on a woman who rose to the top, breaking through barriers.
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we are back now with a look at how the u.s. army will fight the wars to come. potentially with russia. one of the challenges, developing a new generation of artillery systems that could make this country more competitive with russia's fire power. >> we want to make sure we could outgun them and our soldiers man-to-man are more
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capable than their soldiers. >> hans nichols got a look at some of the newest weapons in the works. >> reporter: when it comes to big guns, it is all about range. >> the oldest challenge for the artillery is shooting farther. >> reporter: this doubles the current range from 20 to 45 miles. a barrel ten feet longer means the army could pack in more propellant. the physics are basic and more propellant and more bang and that means a longer shot. the army's aim is now shifting. after years of flighting in close quarters with insurgents in the middle east, they must play catch-up with old rivals. >> the russian systems are ranging out to almost 40 miles which is concerning. >> but right now the russians can shoot farther than the u.s.? >> i think they can in long-range missiles -- >> reporter: the yuma proving grounds is where we test our big guns. dozens of sensors measure the experimental rounds first and final moments.
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>> they could see the round coming out of the tube super slow motion like 20,000 frames per second. >> reporter: this show an xm 1113 doubling range. and airborne for more than two minutes the winged excaliber round to its target 30 miles out. the direct hit is good news for engineer michael george who works side-by-side with the army developing long-range capabilities. >> we're pretty happy with the test results today. >> does it give you pause when you think of the human devastation it could do on the ground? >> sure. all of this is sobering. if we're successful in army future's command with fielding the next army, then the wars we fight will be short and decisive because we'll have an unbelievable edge. >> reporter: a demonstration designed to make the enemy think twice about trying to outgun america. hans nichols, yuma, arizona. >> and back in a moment with an announcement from buckingham palace. it is about a change
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for one of the royals.
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it is a decision most older people will face at some point. when to put down the keys to the car for the last time. for britain's prince philip that time was today.
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the decision comes after a recent accident and questions about his ability behind the wheel. nbc's sarah harman has more from london. >> reporter: the duke of edinburgh no longer in the driver's seat. buckingham palace confirming the 97-year-old decided to voluntarily surrender his license. this just weeks after prince philip crashed his land rover into another car. inside, two women and a baby. the prince not injured but one of the women broke her wrist. he later apologized, but days later prince philip was back behind the wheel without a seat belt. in tonight's decision, some see the delicate fingerprints of the queen. >> sure, she has said to her husband, look, is this really necessary anymore? you've had a bad smash. let's not tempt fate. >> reporter: two years after he officially retired from royal duties, the fiercely independent prince now taking the backseat.
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sarah harman, nbc news, london. when we come back, lester holt pays tribute to a woman who led the way in the u.s. military.
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finally tonight, at arlington national cemetery they said farewell this week to a pioneering officer in the u.s. air force. in her long career, marcelite harris broke through race and gender and leaves a legacy of achievement
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and inspiration. lester holt has her story. >> reporter: major general marcelite harris didn't envision making history, just wanted to be the best, serving in the air force and repairing planes in vietnam. she told an audience at the b.e.t. 2010 award show she was determined to break barriers. >> it was wonderful. they said a woman can't do this job. being told that i couldn't do a job just because i'm a woman, that is probably the silliest thing you ever heard. >> reporter: she quickly moved up the ranks, becoming the first female aircraft maintenance officer and one of the first two women commanding at the air force academy. by 1995, she was the first black woman to earn the rank of major general. harris retired in 1997 as the highest-ranking female officer in the air force and the highest ranking black woman in the department of defense. she worked in the white house under four presidents.
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her daughter tenecia remembers. >> when doors were closed because of the fact that she was a woman or a black woman, it rattled something in her because she just saw herself as a military officer doing a job that was in front of her. >> reporter: harris died in september at the age of 75. on thursday, this american hero who achieved her goal of being the best was buried in arlington national cemetery with full honors. >> she earned it. she did that. she made that happen. and holy cow, that is my mom. thanks to lester holt for sharing major general harris' story and you could read about other incredible african-american women shaping their communities on a special section of our website thrives. and that is nbc "nightly news" for this saturday. i'm jose diaz-balart reporting from new york. thank you for the privilege of your time and good
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night. now. good evening and thanks for joining us. i )m terry mcsweeney. and i )m anoushah rasta right now. thank you for joining us. >> we continue to follow breaking news. a small plane crashed into mount diablo and one person is dead. >> the plane went down last night, the wreckage wasn't
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discovered until late this afternoon. they said the pilot was on the way from hayward to lincoln. we're joined with an update. roz? >> reporter: we are in a remote area of mount diablo. the california park rangers are here. they are in charge of this investigation right now. we're told the coroner's van just arrived. it was a single engine mooney, crashed about two miles southwest of the peak. the pilot was flying to lincoln, california, just outside sacramen sacramento. earlier today the family member reported the pilot had not landed and the plane was missing. here's why


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