Fani Willis testimony and Alexei Navalny dies in prison: Morning Rundown

Fani Willis is set to take the stand again in a hearing over her relationship with a special prosecutor. The leader of Russia’s opposition movement dies in prison. And once-ignored science sleuths have the research community on its heels.

Here’s what to know today.

Fani Willis takes the stand again in contentious hearing

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is set to continue her bombshell testimony about a past relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade in a hearing that threatens to derail the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump.

Willis’ father is among at least three witnesses the district attorney’s office is expected to call to the stand today. The district attorney’s office is also seeking to quash a push for Willis’ airline records. At the center of the allegations against her are the trips Willis took with Wade, who is the lead prosecutor in the election case.

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During yesterday’s hearing, Robin Yeartie, a former friend of Willis, claimed Willis’ relationship with Wade began as early as November 2021, appearing to contradict claims the two made in an earlier affidavit. Wade testified next. And when he was finished, Willis “ran to the court,” she said, and took the stand, in a dramatic turn. The back and forth between Willis and attorneys representing Trump and his co-defendants was contentious as Willis described the timeline of her relationship with Wade and answered questions about the cash she keeps on hand and trips she took with Wade.

At one point, Willis grew frustrated and suggested the hearing was a sideshow. “These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020,” she said. “I’m not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.” Here’s what else happened at Thursday’s hearing. →

If Willis is removed from the election interference case, it would be a major upheaval and make it increasingly unlikely that a trial would take place before the November presidential election. Read the full story here. →

Reaction and analysis from yesterday’s hearing:

  • NBC News’ Danny Cevallos explains where Willis’ testimony might have fallen short. Watch here →

  • NBC News’ Blayne Alexander on the biggest takeaways from Wade’s testimony. Watch here →

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies in prison

Alexei Navalny has died (Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP via Getty Images file)Alexei Navalny has died (Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP via Getty Images file)

Alexei Navalny has died (Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP via Getty Images file)

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died in prison, the country’s state media reported, ending a yearslong fight against corruption and the Kremlin that saw him survive several poisoning attempts. He was 47. A prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, Navalny spent his final months behind bars as the Russian leader reshaped the country to rally behind his war in Ukraine.

His death leaves Russia’s opposition, hampered by years of harassment and prosecution, without a clear figurehead. All of Putin’s most high-profile critics are now either dead, jailed or in exile. 

Satellite images show extensive construction near Egypt’s border with Gaza

Satellite Images of Rafah Egypt (Maxar Technologies via AP)Satellite Images of Rafah Egypt (Maxar Technologies via AP)

Satellite Images of Rafah Egypt (Maxar Technologies via AP)

Satellite images show extensive construction in progress in Egypt along its border with Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah. Dozens of bulldozers and earth movers can be seen clearing the land in the Sinai Desert and construction equipment is also visible. Across the border, the shelters and tents can be seen in Rafah where more than 1 million people have sought refuge since Israel launched its ground invasion in the enclave. Egyptian officials have denied they are building an enclosure to house displaced Palestinians. Follow live updates.

Caitlin Clark becomes NCAA women’s all-time leading scorer 

Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark made history when she scored eight points early in a game last night against the Michigan Wolverines and became the NCAA women’s basketball scoring leader. The 6-foot guard went on to score a career-high 49 points to lead her team to a 106-89 victory.

“It’s pretty unreal, this crowd’s unreal,” she said after her history-making game. “I’m just really grateful, honestly, to be able to be here and make so many of my dreams come true.” Watch the triumphant moment.

FBI informant charged with lying about Hunter and Joe Biden

Hunter Biden and Abbe Lowell leave a hearing on Capitol Hill. (Jose Luis Magana / AP)Hunter Biden and Abbe Lowell leave a hearing on Capitol Hill. (Jose Luis Magana / AP)

Hunter Biden and Abbe Lowell leave a hearing on Capitol Hill. (Jose Luis Magana / AP)

An FBI informant has been indicted for allegedly telling the bureau false information about Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden during the 2020 presidential campaign. The indictment alleges that Alexander Smirnov has been a confidential source for the FBI since 2010 and “provided false derogatory information to the FBI” about both Bidens after the senior Biden became a candidate for president. Smirnov faces one count of making a false statement to a government agent and falsification of records in a federal investigation.

Smirnov allegedly told the FBI — falsely — that officials with Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that Hunter Biden worked for, had told him they hired the younger Biden because he would “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems.” His account was critical to Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden.

But according to the indictment, Smirnov’s claims to the FBI “were fabrications.” In truth, he only “had contact with executives from Burisma in 2017,” when Biden had left office as vice president and “had no ability” to influence U.S. policy.

Witnesses describe chaos of Kansas City shooting

When shots rang out during the Kansas City Chiefs rally, 32-year-old Emily Tavis said she and her family were about only 15 feet away. At first, she didn’t realize that she had been shot. Her husband, Jacob Gooch, and her 13-year-old stepson were also wounded. “It was just all so quick,” said Gooch, who, like many other witnesses, initially thought he heard fireworks.

Tavis and Gooch were among several witnesses who recounted their experiences during Wednesday’s shooting, in which one person was killed and 22 were injured. A man seen in a widely circulated video tackling a potential suspect called his split-second decision “just a reaction.”

Of those injured, more than half are children under the age of 16. That includes Tavis’ stepson.

The Kansas City Police Department said yesterday that two juveniles were detained in connection with the shooting and that “several” firearms have been recovered. The shooting “appeared to be a dispute between several people” that escalated with gunfire. Here’s what else we know.

CDC may recommend spring Covid booster for some

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will vote later this month to decide whether to recommend a Covid booster shot this week for people most at risk for severe complications of the illness, including people over age 65 and anyone with a weakened immune system. A spring booster would be the same vaccine approved last fall to target the XBB.1.5 subvariant. The vaccine is also effective against the JN.1 subvariant, which is causing almost all Covid infections in the U.S. right now.

Even if the CDC ends up recommending a spring booster, the possibility that Americans would opt for another dose is slim.

▼ Politics in Brief

Trump campaign: In speech after speech, between headline-driving one-liners, Trump is laying out an aggressive and ambitious policy agenda for a second term. Here’s what he has pledged to do.

Robert Hur report: Biden’s legal team was frustrated over the findings and tone of special counsel Robert Hur’s report about the president’s handling of classified documents, according to several leaked letters between Biden’s attorneys and top Justice Department officials.

Border and foreign aid: Centrist House Republicans said they will soon unveil their own bipartisan proposal that calls for new border policies, along with military aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Montana politics: Rep. Matt Rosendale ended his Montana Senate campaign less than a week after he launched it.

Whistleblower report: The chief medical officer for Customs and Border Protection pressured his staff to order fentanyl lollipops for him to take to a United Nations meeting in New York, according to a report sent to Congress.

▼ Staff Pick: Science sleuths upend the research community

After controversies over flawed scientific images involving leaders at Stanford University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, my editor and I had a key question: Why are these cases of alleged misconduct being uncovered now, decades after the work was published? I called scientists, journal editors, image experts, tech CEOs and science sleuths to understand what was behind the trend.

Most everyone agreed: New artificial intelligence scanners are finding previously overlooked mistakes. But the real difference is that the public started to pay closer attention.

— Evan Bush, science reporter

▼ In Case You Missed It

  • Despite a documented history of criminal activity and mental health struggles, the woman who opened fire at Houston’s Lakewood Church appeared to have no difficulties in one area: buying guns.

  • Greece voted to legalize same-sex marriage, the first Orthodox Christian country to do so.

  • After Beyoncé released two new singles during the Super Bowl, fans are hopeful her upcoming album will bring more visibility to Black country artists.

  • The woman formerly known as Rachel Dolezal, an ex-NAACP leader who was exposed for pretending to be Black, was fired from her teaching job over her OnlyFans account.

Rachel Dolezal appears on NBC's Rachel Dolezal appears on NBC's

Rachel Dolezal appears on NBC’s

▼ Select: Online Shopping, Simplified

Have you noticed your lips becoming dry after applying lip balm? Dermatologists explain why this happens and recommend five lip balms that won’t dry out your skin.

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