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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  February 15, 2017 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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us. thank you for joining us. as a reminder, lester holt is next. tonight, a critical trump nominee knocked out. a multimillionaire behind a burger empire withdraws under fire. was he finally brought down by a bombshell tape from the oprah show? the blame game. president trump lashes out. what he says is the real story behind the sacking of his national security adviser. also, a high-stakes meeting. the president's controversial comments out peace in the middle east. kids in the crossfire. two children shot and killed. one clinging to life. new heartbreak tonight in chicago. when will it end? early autism alert a promising new development tonight. doctors say it could be detected as early as 6 months old. and "inspiring america." a young man who will give you something to cheer about. "nightly news" begins right now.
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>> announcer: from nbc news world headquarters in new york, this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt. good evening to our viewers in the west. late today, the trump white house was delivered a blow in its struggle to seat a full cabinet when the president's choice for labor secretary andrew puzder abruptly withdrew his name. puzder's confirmation was placed in doubt after some republicans became uneasy about his personal history. but in the end, his fate may have been sealed by a 27-year-old clip from the oprah winfrey show. nbc's peter alexander has details. >> reporter: president trump's pick for labor secretary andy puzder no longer up for the job. in a statement announcing his withdrawal writing he had hoped to put u.s. workers on a path to sustainable prosperity.
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his abrupt move coming on the eve of the long delayed confirmation hearing. the fast food mogul and trump donor dropping out amid growing resistance, including evaporating support from republicans. >> i believe the hearing tomorrow would have been extremely difficult for him. >> reporter: democrats tonight claiming victory. >> there is some good news today for workers and women and families in america. >> reporter: for puzder, the last draw may have been footage provided to senators by oprah winfrey's company of a 1990 episode obtained by politico where puzder's ex-wife appeared in disguise describing allegations of domestic abuse. >> he vowed revenge. he said, "i will see you in the gutter. this will never be over. you will pay for this." >> reporter: puzder always denied the allegations that came from a heated divorce and his ex-wife has since recanted. his controversial nomination had already spawned protests from california to florida, with the multimillionaire facing scrutiny for his minimum wage laws, past employment of an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper and racy commercials for
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his restaurant chain that critics blasted as sexist. tonight puzder's allies are saying he could have created jobs, even if he couldn't secure his own. andy puzder wasn't the first cabinet pick to face fierce opposition but he's the first to fall short. tonight, two more nominees may be at risk with one prominent republican saying he won't support the president's choice for budget director and another saying she won't support his pick for the epa. lester? >> peter alexander tonight at the white house, thanks, peter. after forcing out his national security adviser yesterday, citing eroding trust over misleading statements, president trump today publicly praised michael flynn and blamed the media for his ouster, leaving the question whether the president would have fired him had flynn's false statements about his dealings with a russian official not gone public. it's part of a widening russian shadow hanging over the white house tonight. nbc white house correspondent kristen welker has details. >> reporter: in a stunning act of
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defiance, president trump today blamed the media after he fired his own national security adviser, michael flynn. >> general flynn is a wonderful man. i think he's been treated very, very unfairly by the media. as i call it, the fake media, in many cases. >> reporter: it's the first time the president has weighed in on flynn's departure which came after revelations flynn misled the president, vice president and other top officials about discussing sanctions with russian's ambassador before the inauguration. today, the president also pointed a finger at the intelligence community, who he's sparred with in the past. >> from intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked. it's criminal action, a criminal act, and it's been going on for a long time. >> reporter: left unanswered, why it took the president nearly three weeks after the justice department warned him about flynn to ask for flynn's resignation and why the vice president was kept in the dark for a full 15 days after the president found out.
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a source inside the white house acknowledges the episode has been a major distraction and now there are attempts to turn the page. >> it could not only jeopardize his legislative agenda. i think it has the makings of unraveling his entire presidency. >> reporter: still tonight, growing speculation over the administration's ties to russia. law enforcement sources confirmed yesterday the fbi interviewed flynn as part of its broader probe of russia meddling into the u.s. election. now nbc news is learning more about that investigation. a senior u.s. official says investigators have determined some trump campaign aides and trump business associates were in contact with russians during the presidential campaign. but current and former u.s. officials say there is no indication those russians were a part of russian intelligence and so far officials say nothing has been found to indicate any collusion between trump aides and the russians to meddle in the election. one report named ousted trump campaign manager paul manafort of having connections with russian officials. today he denied that to nbc news, saying, i
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had no contact knowingly with russian officials. today, the president dodging questions about the matter. as lawmakers prepare to investigate, the defense intelligence agency has suspended flynn's security clearance as it conducts a review of its own. lester? >> kristen welker also as the white house today, thanks. a very busy day in washington. that includes a high-stakes meeting at the white house. president trump with israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu discussing middle east peace and the president making some controversial comments that break with past presidents of both parties. here is our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell with more. >> reporter: president trump rolled out the red carpet for israel's prime minister benjamin netanyahu. the pomp and circumstance of a state visit, plus, melania's debut at a white house arrival ceremony. a mood change but also a major policy shift. the new president backing away from four decades of bipartisan u.s. support for a palestinian state. side by side with
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israel, known as the two-state solution. >> i'm looking at two state and one state and i like the one that both parties like. >> reporter: the personal animosity between israel's prime minister and president obama gone. >> our alliance has been remarkably strong. but under your leadership, i am confident it will get even stronger. >> reporter: but mr. trump surprising netanyahu with this unscripted request. >> as far as settlements, i'd like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. >> reporter: president obama and the u.n. have called those settlements an obstacle to a deal. but tonight, donald trump sounding confident he can negotiate something that has eluded eight u.s. presidents, middle east peace. >> it's the art of the deal. >> reporter: all of this happening while key cabinet secretaries are out of the country. >> you don't have the secretary of state there, you don't have the secretary of defense there, you don't have a national security adviser. it appears that steve bannon is now the principal foreign
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policy adviser in the white house. >> reporter: with israel, the president relying chiefly on his son-in-law jared kushner who has long ties to netanyahu. >> can i reveal, jared, how long i have known you? >> reporter: when an israeli reporter asked about the rise of anti-semitism since the campaign, the president didn't condemn the incidents, instead pointing to his daughter who has converted to judeaism. >> we are going to do everything within our power to stop long-simmering racism as far as people -- jewish people, so many friends, a daughter who happens to be here right now, a son-in-law and three beautiful grandchildren. >> and as for that bombshell that the president dropped on netanyahu about holding back on settlements, tonight netanyahu gave no commitments when asked while meeting with republican leads on capitol hill. >> thanks, andrea. we're getting reaction from the west bank after including from netanyahu's own
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brother-in-law, a founder of one of the settlements that's become a flashpoint for both sides. he spoke with our chief foreign affairs correspondent richard engel who is in the west bank tonight. >> reporter: at the jewish settlement in the west bank, there's a feeling tonight that their time has come. >> no one expected it. >> reporter: one of the settlements' founders went so far as to tell me president donald trump is nothing less than a gift from god. >> i feel that this is a miracle. a miracle. >> reporter: he is also prime minister netanyahu's brother-in-law sees israel's borders expanding under president trump. >> reporter: what about a two-state solution, the basis of the peace process for many years? >> the two-state solution is absolutely crazy. >> reporter: batel is near the palestinian city of ramallah and it's considered illegal under international law because it's built on land where
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palestinians hope their state will be. yet, president trump's administration has direct and personal ties here. the president's pick for u.s. ambassador to israel, david friedman, helped raise millions for batel. >> there was no president who appointed an ambassador to israel with a real supporter of the settlements, never. >> reporter: among the half billion of israelis living in the west bank settlements, there was praise for prime minister netanyahu's insistence today that israel maintain security control over all territory west of the jordan river, which would mean palestinians who now live in the west bank would be in a wider israel but without the rights of israeli citizens. >> i don't believe they can undermine the two-state solution. i don't think in the 21st century they will get away with it. it's impossible. >> reporter: but the
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peace process seems to have new rules under president trump. richard engel, nbc news, on the west bank. tonight, president trump is facing a series of early tests from a country led by a leader he has repeatedly praised. there have been several provocative actions by russia involving the u.s. in the air and at sea, including a ship getting awfully close to our coastline tonight. our pentagon correspondent hans nichols has details. >> reporter: russia testing the new administration, sending a spy ship spotted approximately 30 miles off the coast from a u.s. submarine base in groton, connecticut. the u.s. had been tracking the ship since it left russia months ago. it has made this trip before. in the black sea, russian planes flying fast and low over a u.s. destroyer. russian aggression, a key concern today at the nato summit in brussels. u.s. defense secretary james mattis also delivering an ultimatum to allies. pay up or america will, quote, moderate its commitment to nato. mattis saying some of his colleagues agree. >> it's a fair demand
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that all who benefit from the best defense in the world carry their proportionate share. >> reporter: britain's defense minister telling nbc news mattis' message hit home. >> this is a very timely warning. the threats are real from outside nato. >> reporter: mattis' warning an echo from president trump's campaign taunt to let europe fend for itself. hans nichols, nbc news, brussels. back home, we received word just a short time ago that a third child has died after another horrific round of violence in chicago. kids caught in the crossfire again and many there asking, when does this end? we want to warn you, some of the audio you're about to hear in this story may be disturbing. here's nbc's ron mott. >> reporter: lavontay white was just two years old, riding in the backseat when a hail of bullets ended his life. his pregnant aunt ran from the scene,
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wounded, she survived. the 26-year-old man, the suspected target, did not. lavontay, one of three chicago children shot and killed in the last five days. kanari gentry bowers, 12, struck while playing with friends. >> we're sitting up here losing our kids for no apparent reason. >> takiya holmes gunned down while sitting in a parked car. today, 19-year-old antwan jones was charged in her homicide. >> i was right there and i couldn't protect her. how am i going to cope without my backbone, without my strength, because that's what she was. >> reporter: so far this year, 400 people have been shot in chicago. that's up from 2016 despite a significant jump in gun-related arrests. a frustrated police superintendent demanded action from lawmakers and others. >> it's not just about cpd. it's about cpd, it's about our federal partners, it's about prosecution, it's about the community. >> reporter: mayor rahm emanuel says he welcomes help from washington and not just law enforcement. >> send in the resources that also
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include funding ex-offender programs, after-school programs, job programs. >> she loved everyone. >> reporter: tonight, at takiya's family copes with her sudden loss, they plan to donate her organs. >> this is what she would have wanted, that even though she didn't live, somebody else would have a chance. >> reporter: young lives lost and shattered among unending bloodshed. ron mott, chicago. there's an update tonight on the shocking assassination at the airport in malaysia. north korean leader kim jong-un's estranged half-brother and one-time rival poisoned by a pair of women as he waited for a flight. a woman with a vietnamese passport has been arrested after reportedly being identified on security footage. the other woman is still on the run. still ahead tonight, predicting autism. what researchers are calling a major advance that can detect autism in babies before they are even a year old so parents can get them the assistance they need so much earlier in life. also, rumor has it. the competitor with an
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adele-inspired name crowned top dog at westminster.
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now to a major development in the fight against autism. a new study out today suggests it could be possible to detect the disorder in some children much earlier than ever before, even before their first birthday. and that would enable them to get the support they need much sooner. it's new hope for them and their families. nbc's gabe gutierrez explains. >> reporter: when he
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was two years old, carrie keller's son liam was diagnosed with autism. >> it was heartbreaking for sure. >> reporter: she now has three more boys, each at higher risk for the disorder. >> you're watching every move they make and then you see other kids their age and you think, maybe this child is also delayed and maybe this child does have autism. so it was a tough go for the first couple years of their lives. >> reporter: a new study out today in the journal of nature finds it's possible to predict autism within the first year of a child's life. usually that diagnosis doesn't come until much later, between the ages of 2 and 4. researchers, like this doctor of washington university in st. louis, performed mri brain scans on sleeping babies who had older siblings with autism. in some, they noticed bigger brains and they were able to predict 80% of the infants who would later be diagnosed with autism. >> if we're able to detect it based on early brain development, we can begin intervention
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earlier, such as speech therapy, physical therapy, behavioral therapy to improve the long-term outcome of these children. >> reporter: and the brain scans can also predict which high-risk babies will not develop autism. but experts stress more studies are needed. >> this is still early in that you wouldn't look to use this to provide answers to families right now, but this does indicate there is something on the horizon for them. >> reporter: carrie keller's youngest son had no signs of autism in his brain. >> i think it gives a lot of hope. >> reporter: she says the research could be a life changer for other parents like her. gabe gutierrez, nbc news, st. louis. we're back in a moment with a historic change for a hugely popular line of dolls.
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when you're out and about tomorrow, you might find some of your favorite businesses closed. the reason, a national day-long strike dubbed a day without immigrants, urging immigrants to not
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work, shop or send their children to school in protest of president trump's immigration policies. the protest has been organized mainly through social media. toy giant mattel is making a change to a beloved long of dolls. meet logan everett, the first boy introduced in the 31-history of the american girl collection. it's the latest move in the company's efforts to diversify the iconic doll line and comes after revenues fell flat last year. and rumor has it it was a big night at westminster. rumor, the german shepherd, was crowned the nation's top dog a year after coming so close and then coming out of retirement to claim victory before a packed crowd at madison square gardens. she's just the second german shepherd to win since 1877. beautiful dog. when we come back, how a teenaged high school mascot is defying expectations and inspiring america. "nbc nightly news" is brought to you by
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weathertech, the ultimate america made vehicle protection. next at 6: an emergenc high
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above san francisco.===jess/liv 're trackinwhat's goinon prompted evacuions and shutdown plus ... cloudy now ... butet ... y r heavyain and wind strong enough to bring down tre. finally tonight, they live and breathe school spirit, firing up the crowd, cheering teams to victory and just maybe they can
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summon a bit of luck when the chips are down. we're talking about team mascots and there's one at a high school in maine with a story unlike any other. nbc's kevin tibbles has our "inspiring america" report. >> reporter: on the court, the bulldogs are reigning state champs. but it's from the sidelines where they find inspiration. their sixth man is busy whipping fans into a noisy frenzy. thing is, the kid in the costume can't hear any of it. >> being a mascot is kind of a cool job to do for the school and i kind of love doing that. >> reporter: 15-year-old cameron king is the can-do freshman at portland maine high. deaf from birth, he has mastered sign language and how to lip read and speak. >> i try to let the crowd know that i'm supporting them. >> reporter: he's
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loving the spotlight while pushing the bulldogs to rack up the points. his family affectionately calls him cam the ham. >> he comes home every day with a big grim on his face. >> reporter: and that must put one on yours, too? >> oh, yeah, it does. >> reporter: his father was nervous because cam's ear problems often leave him off balance. >> good lord, he's going to put this thing on and be out in front of 100 people and trip and fall and the head is going to come off. >> reporter: quite the opposite happened when cam decided it would be fun to put on the costume. >> he brings out all of the spirit and makes everyone happy. >> reporter: from behind the mask, he's also a role model. >> he's sending a great example for other students who are deaf and hard of hearing and who may be reluctant to try new things. >> how are you doing in there? >> good. very hot. >> reporter: taking on life's challenges and setting a positive example for this young man is a slam dunk. kevin tibbles, nbc news, portland, maine. that's going to do it for us on wednesday
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night. i'm lester holt. for all of us here at nbc news, thank you for watching and good night. we're following baking news ins .. right now at 6:00 we're following breaking news in san francisco. a live look from our helicopter, major problems atop this san francisco high rise. it prompted evacuations and caused gridlock on the street. the news at 6:00 starts right now. good evening and thanks for being with us. >> danger from above and an urgent situation unfolding during the evening commute high atop a construction site. san francisco firefighters took no chances. this is what it looked like from
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sky ranger above. what you can see is the concrete section at the top listing, between level 35 and 36 at the top of the building. the building is at 41 tamus street. firefighters came out moments ago and told us the middle section, that's the part that's been in question, is not in danger of falling, there's no immediate danger to buildings below, but they're taking no chances. an engineer from washington state is being brought out to further evaluate that structure. >> nearby buildings have been evacuated and there's a lot of gridlock on the surface streets. we've been on this story since our 5:00 newscast. we have a team of reporters on this story. let's begin with scott bud man


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