tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC February 8, 2019 7:00pm-7:31pm EST
breaking news tonight. federal prosecutors now investigatinafter that bombshell from the richest man in the world. amazon's jeff zos accusing "the national enquirer" of blackmail.'s is the tabloidublisher, close ally of president trump, in lal jeopardy? fireworks as the acting attorney general gets grilled about mueller. >> have you ever been asked to approve any request orn to be taken by the special counsel? >> mr. chairman, i see that your five minutes is up.> eaking news tonight, a second woman accuses virginia's lieutenant governor of sexual assault. a capitol plunging deeper into chaos. a frantic rescue operation. a plane goes down off the coast of miami.co the lot pulled alive from the water.
the tax code changes leaving a growing number of taxpayers asking, what happened to my tax refund?ll and that's notyou might actually owe money. good evening. abe man who turned amazon into a household name it to learn whether the best defense really is a good offense. there is plenty of reaction today after jeff bezos delivered a preemptive strike against the pare company of "the nationa enquirer," calling them out for what he describes as a blackmail attempt. bezos offering e-mails purportedly from ami that el threaten these of embarrassing photos of the io billnaire. bezos looking to deweaponize those photos even as he hunts down theource. our stephanie gosk is here now with the latest. stephanie, good evening. >> good evening, lester. the richest man in the world, and ceo of amazon, jeff bezos, is not going down without a fight. the tech giant says "the national enquirer" andwner david pecker are trying to blackmail him. now he's turning t tables on the tabloid.
jeff bezos says he won't roll " over fore national enquirer" writing in a bombshell blog, ifn y position i can't stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can? it standard with this article in "the enquirer" exposing bezos' i reship with former tv anchor lauren sanchez, complete with private texts and photos. the tabloid claimed it ended bezos' 25-year marriage. wanting to know how "the enquirer" got the messages the s amazonsays he opened his own private investigation. that's when the "enquirer" and its parent company, ami, threatened to publish more intimate photos unless that investigation was dropped. according to bezos who shared what he says are their e-mails. one message described ten compromising images including one below the belt selfie of bezos. nbc news has not independently reviewed the e-mails. the ceo writing, of course i don't want personal photos published, but i also won't
participate in their well-knowne pracf blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption. i prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out. bezos says ami wanted him to pu icly state that "the enquirer's" article about his personal life was not politicallmotivated. his blog suggests it was.ec noting davidr's loyalty to president trump. >> for a very long time, david pecker was a friend of trump because he caught and killed stories. because he kept stories that reflected negatively on trump out of the public view. >> reporter: president trump ofn attacks bezos publicly going after amazon and "the washington post," which the ceo also owns. >> "the washington post," which i call a lobbying tool for amazon -- >> reporter: bezos alludes in the blog to an unspecified connection between pecker an saudi arabia, writing, mr.
cker is apoplectic about our investigation, adding, for reasons still to be better understood, the saudi an seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve. "washington post" has aggressively investigated the murder of its reporter and saudi dissident jamal khashoggi. bezos noting the coverage is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles. today ami says it had been in good-faith negotiations with bezos, and believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story. the board has convened and determined thait should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. meanwhile, the bezos bombshell is triggering even more claims. nan farrell writes that he fielded similar "stop digging or we'll ruin you" blackmail efforts when he was writing an ticle about "the inquirer's" relationship with trump. poe editor of "the daily beast" says one of its ers was threatened with a lawsuit just days ago. >> they threatened one of our
reporters with a $5 million lawsuit if he didn't lay off. it's an outrageous tactic. reporter: ami has not responded to the latest accusation. the company that's used to exposing others, others are ng tro expose. stephanie gosk, nbc news, new york.>> > this is peter alexander. tonight that jaw-dropping blog from jeff bezos may have plunged ami back into hot water. with federal prosecutors now reviewing an agreement the avcompany made last fall td prosecution. "the national enquirer's" publisher at the time admitted coorditing with the trump campaign to keep potentially damaging stories about then-candidate trump out of the headlines. by paying for the rights to stories with no plans to publish them what's known as catch and kill. investigators say ami used that practice to bury the story of former playboy model karen mcdougal who says she had a hexual affair with mr. trump, an allegation he's ntly denied. >> they wanted to squash the story. >> you're saying they wantedo protect donald trump? >> i'm assuming so, yeah.
>> reporter: former trump lawyer, michael cohen, pleaded guilty to a campaign finance violation for arranging that hush money payment. and ami agreed to cooperate with prosecutors rather than face their own charges. but that agreement may now be in jeopardy because it required ami not to commit any additional crimes. and legal experts say the company may have done just that. >> ami's behavior here was , reckless at bed possibly criminal. and they risk having this agreement ripped up. >> reporter: ami insists it acted lawfully. now federal prosecutors must decide whether they agree. peter alexander, nbc news, new york. now to the fireworks on t capitol hillay. the acting attorney general, matthew whitaker, facing a barrage from democrats over his role overseeing robert mueller and what, if anything, he's told the president about the investigation. we get all of it from orr justice copondent pete williams. >> reporter: the house judiciary hearing was unusual. part confirmation hearing matt whitaker never had for a job he's about to leave. w re all trying to figure
out, who are you? where did you come from? and how the heck did you become the head of the department of justice? >> reporter: for democrats, topic "a" was his role in overseeing the mueller investigation. whitaker said he's bee informed about it but insists he has done nothing to throttle it back. >> there has been no event, no decision, that has required me to take any action, and i have not interfered in any way with the special counsel's investigation. sk nn reporter: a repeatedly if he's ever back-chaeled information about it to the white house, he said no. >> i have not talked to the t presid the united states about the special counsel's investigations. >> russia witch hunt -- >> reporter: whitaker declined to disavow president trump'sof descriptiohe investigation, something other justice department and fbi officials have been willing to do. io would you say the special counsel's investigis a witch hunt? >> congressman, it would be inappropriate for me to talk about an ongoing investigation. >> reporter: later he said he has full confidence in mueller's integrity but refused to counter
president trump's description of mueller. >> you believe he's honest, you don't believco he's licted. can you say right now, mr. president, bob mueller is honest and not conflicted >> congressman, i'm not a puppet to repeat what you're saying. >> reporter: whitaker disclosed in 2017 he met with a white house staffmember to talk about taking the counsel job ultimately went to washington lawyer ty cobb. but he said the subject of the russia investigation never came up in that job interview because the white house wanted an outsider. >> that's why they wanted to bring in someone that had been unrelated to the investigation -- >> hold on, sir, i'm controlling the time. as>> reporter: the hearing unusually confrontational, and ma one point whitaker even tried to shut down chajerry nadler. >> have you ever been asked to approve any request or act be taken by the special counsel? >> mr. chairman, i see that your five minutes is up. >> reporter: whitaker eventually answered "no." the senate votes on the confirmation of william barr next week, then he will take is over, supeg the mueller investigation including the
ouitical decision about how to make the specialel's report public. lester? >> pete williams in our washington newsroom, thank you. there is breaking news in the scandals rocking virginia's capitol. the latesthoe to drop, a second woman has come forward to accuse lieutenant governor justin fairfax of sexual assault. nbc's geoff bennett is in richmond tonight. geoff, what do we know about this? >> reporter: that second woman now accusing virginia lieunant governor justin fairfax is meredith watson. in a statement from her lawyer, watson alleges that fairfax raped here when they w both students at duke university in 2000. she said the attack was premeditated and aggressive and described fairfax as a friend whom she had never dated.wa on says she can corroborate her story. she says she shared her account in a series of e-mails facebook messages with friends. in a statementonight, the lieutenant governor called the second allegation demonstrably false and says he will not resign. former democratic governor terry mcauliffe calling on fairfax to immediatsign.
lester? >> geoff bennett in richmond, thank you. tonight new details about president trump's properties and their employment of undocumented workers even as the president has railed against illegal immigration. with more here's our kristen welker. >> reporter: as president trump hardens his line -- >> tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate, it is actually very cruel. >> reporter: a sweeping new report from "the washington post" shows that one of the president's favorite retreats in bedminster, new jersey, the magnitude of undocumented hires, like mariano quesada. the "post" said it spoke with 16 men and women from costa rica d other latin american countries who all say they were employed at bedminster, working for mr. trump without lel status, and they say their managers knew it. these kinds of hires were so pervasive it created what the
paper calls a pipeline. c >> we found ta rica an entire town basically built on the labor of undocumente immigrants working for donald trump. >> reporter: after reports first surfaced last year about undocumented workers at multiple trump properties, the trump za organition fired some of those without legal status. ivictorina morales said tssue was an open secret. she decided not to return to work after going public. he >> translator:nly thing they told us was if of us talked, it was possible they would get rid of us. reporter: annabel morre represents morales and 20 others he says were fired for false paperwork. y' >> t been relying on undocumented immigrants for anmany, many years and hom security must investigate as soon as possible. >> reporter: in a statement late llnight, eric trump said, i must say for me persothis whole thing is truly heartbreaking. it demonstrates our immigration system is severely broken and needs to be fixed immediately. lester? >> kristen welker at the white house, thank you.
>>there has been another shooting in an american school, this time in baltimore where police say a man visiting the school opened fire on a hall monitor near the entrance. police say they believe the suspected gunman was trying to confront someone at a meeting ha ening at the school. officials say that injured employee is in stable condition> e're going to turn from that to the crisis in venezuela whh we're watching closely today. the two men claiming to be president appealed to the public for support as one of themdu nicolas ro, still refuses u.s. aid for the sick and hury. our kerry sanders remains inside venezuela tonight. r >>eporter: today supplies of food and medicine clearly marked "us aid" stuck on the wrong side of the venezuelan border. today maduro taking reporters' questions. >> why won't you let the gift of medicine and food from the united states in? the people of venezuela need it, don't they? >> reporter: maduro replies "it's a rotten gift, the package is pretty on the outside but on the inside it brings the poison of humiliation."
nbc's gabe gutierrez on the border. >> these meal kits and hygiene supplies a only enough for several thousand venezuelans for ten days, but it's all sitting here in this warehouse right by the venezuelan border. >> reporter: today juan guai, recognized by the u.s. as his country's interim president, held a rally. one college student saying, he's our barack obama, he gives us hope. tonight reports the u. actively encouraging members of the military leadership here to defect to the other side. lester? >> kerry sanders in venezuela, thanks. overseas, isis is making its last territorial stand in syria. where th-led effort has pushed the terror group into a very narrow corner tonight.ge our richard who has reported extensively from the front lines of the conflict, has more. >> reporter: the ground against isis is almost over p night. the terrorist grat in 2014 ruled an area twice the size ofs new yote now holds a
pocket in syria the size of new york city's centl park. and even that is falling quickly. presidt trump, who's declared victory prematurely over isis several times, said earlier this week, now it's in sight. >> it should be formally announced sometime probably next week that we will have 100% of the caliphate. >> reporter: president obama launched the war over four years ago. since then, isis has self-declared islamic state, its liphate, has been under ferocious and relentless assault. more than 32,000 u.s. and coalition air strikes in syria and iraq.00 over 7isis fighters killed. 16 u.s. troops killed in action. the cost? many, many billions. the u.s. military had to rebuild the iraqi army, which collapsed rather than stand up to isis in the city of mosul.2, 0 u.s. special forces
deployed to syria to partner with kurdish-led allies. allies who now say they're being abandoned as u.s. troops prepare to leave. and while down, u.s. military commanders warn isis is not out. >> we do have to keep pressure on this netwk. although they are dispersed an disaggregated, they have the capability of cong back gether if we don't. >> now, lester, there is also the danger that isis could try to avenge the loss of its caliphate. the group's base has been almost eliminated, but it doesn't need a base to carry out a terrorist attack. >> not the end but an important ileston >> certainly an important milestone. >>d richard, g see you. thank you for being here. back home, president trump ordered flags at half staff in honor of john dingell, the longest-serving member of congress who died lastight. public funeral services will be held on tuesday in the rbdemocrat's hometown of dn, michigan. a separate service will also be held in washington. dingell was 92. just ahead, why you and millions of other americans may not get a tax rend this year or even get a surprise bill. >>
the dramatic rescue at sea after a plane came crashing down. the nce legends with a big reason to celebrate tonight. be right back. with moderate to severe crohn's disease, i was there, just not always where i needed to be. is she alright? i hope so. so i talked to my doctor about humira. i learned humira is for people who still have symptoms of crohn's disease after trying other medications. and the majority of people on humira saw significant symptom relief and many achieved remission in as little as 4 weeks. humira can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis. serious, sometimes fatal infections and cancers, including lymphoma, have happened; as have blood, liver, and nervous system problems, serious allergic reactions, and new or worsening heart failure. before treatment, get tested for tb. tell your doctor if you've been to areas where certain fungal infections are common, and if you've had tb, hepatitis b, are prone to infections, or have flu-like symptoms or sores. don't start humira if you have an infection.
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surprise if you're hoping for a back now with what could be an lcome surprise if you're hoping for a big refund this tax season. many early tax filers are ng already learhey're not getting the refunds they got in 2018 after the new tax law went into effect.e as wllow the money tonight, tom costello offers this reality check. >> reporter: tax season 2019. tonight some early returns suggest many americans won't be getting the refunds they expect and could even owe money to the irs. already somearly filers have lashed out at president trump on twitter. i just did my taxes and made the same as last year. i owe $4,000 more. i voted for trump buwill not be next election. worst tax return i had in a decade. and, i won't vote for you agains cially after i started on my 2018 return. >> we passed a massiveax cut
for working families -- >> reporter: the new tax law doubled the standard deduction for most midass americans, giving workers a modest paychec bump fropure withholdings that may have gone unnoticed. as a result the irs tells nbc news some workers may receive a smaller refund or even idtentially owe tax. especially if theyot check and adjust their withholding in 2018. 30 million americans a expected to owe the irs.pr >> if you're sed by your bill this year, the most important thing that you can do is update ur withholding. go to your employer, change your withholdin-- >> reporter: the average refund last year, $2,541. this year expected to be 1,861. y st americans put their refund into savings or paf bills. this year there may be less money for either one. coming up, the frantic search after disaster over the sea. liberty mutual customizes your car insurance
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acclaimed british actor albert finney, oscar nominated five times, famous roles including daddy warbucks in "annie" and be julia s' boss in "erin brockovich."hi family says he died after a short illness at the age of 82. now to a crash off the coast of miami. aargo plane went down in the water, and amazingly rescuers were able to pull someonout alive. here's miguel almaguer. >> we had an aircraft go down in the ocean 20 miles east of miami -- >> rorter: the dramatic resc unfolded minutes after the plane plunged into the atlantic. among the pieces of scatred debris, rescue teams spotted a survivor. >> one person in a raft -- 15 miles out -- >> reporter: the coast guard scooping up first officer roland silva. injured, silva was life flighted to a miami hospital. the captain is still missing. >> that search area continues to expand with every passing hour. >> reporter: conquest air, who owns the cargo plane seen here, was nearly an hour into flight
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in our "spotlight" tonight, the legendary dance company celebrating 60 years of performances with a powerful message. here's rehema ellis. ♪ >> reporter: it's an american treasure founded by alvin ailey athe height of the civil rights movement so african-american dancers could soar. >> it was important for him to e be understood as a creat person who happened to be black.
>> reporter: judith jammison, an early star in the alvin ailey american dance theaterme the artistic director after ailey died. >> he wanted to express our voices. and he did it so beautifully in "revelations," which is ork classic by using negro spirituals. and those spirituals were about iumph and trial and tribulation and victory. and hope. ♪ >> reporter: through ailey's dances, audiences around the world were ae to see and better understand the black experience. >> is that need to be seen as compelling today? >> i would argue that ven more so compelling. because young people still haveh quintessential need to see what is possible for them. who am i in this chaos? oh, i can be that.ep >>ter: that's the purpose of the ailey school. >> he created this place so everyone could dance no matter
what their race is, the. ♪ >> reporter: bringing people together through dance. one man's legacy that's still thriving 60 years later. rehema ellis, nbc news, new york. >> beautiful way to end our week. that's "nightly news" for this friday.st i'm le holt. for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching and good night.