Trump's immunity claim and singer Cat Janice dies: Morning Rundown

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The Supreme Court will consider Donald Trump’s presidential immunity argument. The singer who dedicated a song to her son in the final weeks of her cancer fight has died. And the race to choose Mitch McConnell’s Senate leadership successor begins.

Here’s what to know today.

Trump’s Jan. 6 trial timeline thrown into doubt by Supreme Court hearing

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear arguments about whether former President Donald Trump can claim presidential immunity over criminal election interference charges threw a new wrench in the trial proceedings.

It leaves open a startling possibility — that a former president charged with conspiring to obstruct Congress and disenfranchise millions of Americans in an effort to stay in the Oval Office may not have to face a trial before he is given a chance to return to the White House.

Before the Supreme Court’s announcement yesterday, a trial could have been underway as soon as early May, with a verdict potentially handed down months before Election Day.

Now, there are significant doubts that the case will even go to trial before voters go to the polls in the general election.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments the week of April 22. Justices will consider “whether and if so to what extent does a former president enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office,” according to an order.

It could take months for justices to decide on the appeal. If the court rules against Trump in June, the timeline is very tight to get the trial started before Election Day. And it’s exceedingly unlikely that there would be a verdict before the Republican National Convention in mid-July, when Trump will be formally named the party’s nominee.

Politics reporters Ryan J. Reilly and Lawrence Hurley explain more. Read the full story here. 

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More Trump news:

  • NBC News’ Garrett Haake discusses why Trump’s team will see this as a win.

  • An Illinois judge ruled Trump should be taken off the state’s Republican primary ballot, the third state to rule him ineligible over the Jan. 6 riot.

  • A New York appeals court judge denied Trump’s request to post a $100 million bond instead of an “impossible” $464 penalty in the former president’s civil fraud case.

Texas wildfires turn deadly and keep growing

Wildfires in the Texas Panhandle turned deadly, as officials in the city of Borger confirmed one death yesterday afternoon. The Smokehouse Creek Fire, the largest of the fires tearing through the region, grew from about 800 square miles to more than 1,300 square miles Wednesday, the Texas A&M Forest Service said. Overall, more than 1 million acres are ablaze as of this morning and the fires have spread into Oklahoma. Flames are spreading so fast that it could burn the length of a football field a minute, the forest service said. And firefighters are struggling to keep up. Follow our live blog for more.

It’s not yet clear how the fires started. What scientists do know is that abnormally warm temperatures, dry grasses and a sudden windy cold front combined to create the conditions for the destructive fires — and according to a state climatologist, they struck at the “worst possible” time.

A deal to avert government shutdown, for now

Congress announced yesterday that it reached an agreement to avert a partial government shutdown, but it’s not a done deal just yet. The stopgap measure still needs to pass the House and the Senate by the end of tomorrow. If Congress passes the bill, the new funding deadlines will be pushed back to March 8 and March 22.

What prompted another round of temporary funding? House Speaker Mike Johnson had promised to give House members 72 hours before voting on a funding deal so that they could review a longer-term funding deal. Because the House returned from recess yesterday, there would have been insufficient time to avoid a partial government shutdown. Here’s what else to know.

Israel-Hamas war

More than 30,000 people have now been killed in Gaza since the Israel-Hamas war began, the Palestinian enclave's Health Ministry said this morning. The swelling death toll has already drawn condemnation internationally, isolated Israel and prompted dismay from its traditional friends and allies. And though the United States says a cease-fire may be near, the military campaign looks far from over.

An attack on a crowd of people waiting for humanitarian aid in the northern Gaza City this morning killed dozens of people, local officials said — an incident that comes after food aid entered northern Gaza yesterday for the first time in weeks. The United Nations and aid agencies have warned of mass starvation as aid deliveries over land prove increasingly difficult. Follow live updates.

Even occasional marijuana use increases heart attack risk, study finds

Using marijuana as little as once a month is associated with a higher risk of both heart attack and stroke, according to a new study that analyzed data on almost 435,000 patients. Compared with people who had never used marijuana, daily cannabis users had a 35% higher likelihood of a heart attack and 42% higher risk of stroke, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. And people who used marijuana once a week had a 3% increased likelihood of a heart attack and 5% higher risk of a stroke during the study’s time frame, from 2016 to 2020.

What isn’t made clear, however, is whether marijuana use is directly causing heart attacks or strokes. But one expert is worried nonetheless, he said, because it feels like “we’re repeating history.”

Cat Janice, viral musician who dedicated her last song to her son, dies

Cat Janice, whose song “Dance You Outta My Head” went viral on TikTok in the last weeks of her life, has died of sarcoma, her family announced yesterday. She was 31. Janice, who began sharing her cancer journey in 2022, teased “Dance You Outta My Head” on TikTok last month and asked viewers to pre-save what would be her final song. All proceeds would go to her 7-year-old son, she said.

Singer Cat Janice, who went viral on TikTok for dedicating her last song to her son. (Instagram/Cat Janice)
Singer Cat Janice, who went viral on TikTok for dedicating her last song to her son. (Instagram/Cat Janice)

Weeks later, the song has been used in almost 200,000 videos on TikTok, reaching the top of the TikTok Billboard Top 50 and streamed millions of times on Spotify — success that Janice said in interviews and in a final TikTok video that she was lucky to witness.

Politics in Brief

Congress: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will step down from the helm of the Republican Conference this year, ending his time as the longest-serving leader in Senate history. The race for his successor is expected to begin immediately with the “three Johns.”

Immigration and the border: President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Brownsville, Texas, and former President Donald Trump will visit Eagle Pass, both along the southern border, as the 2024 presidential campaign ramps up. In Brownsville, locals say there’s more to the city than border politics.

IVF debate: Republican-proposed bills intended to protect in vitro fertilization in Alabama cleared their first hurdle in the state Legislature, but lawmakers from both parties are already expressing concerns. Meanwhile in Congress, a Republican senator from Mississippi blocked passage of legislation that would protect access to in vitro fertilization.

Election integrity: Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro will announce a new election security task force with the goal of keeping the battleground state free from interference and misinformation.

Biden’s health: Biden is “fit for duty,” a White House doctor said yesterday after the president’s annual routine physical.

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Staff Pick: The actors keeping America’s history alive

Darius Wallace gets ready for his performance in his dressing room on Feb. 17, 2024 in Easton, Md. (André Chung for NBC News)
Darius Wallace gets ready for his performance in his dressing room on Feb. 17, 2024 in Easton, Md. (André Chung for NBC News)

I think it takes a lot of bravery to be historical interpreters. Not only do they have to physically embody the persons they are trying to portray, but they then also have to fully commit to their characters and tell compelling tales of the persons they’re portraying. Can you imagine doing all that for a group of discerning middle schoolers? With the increasing attempts to tamp down entire chapters of America’s story, we speak with actors who spend their days in costume, bringing history directly to tourists, students and even the descendants of Frederick Douglass. — Michelle Garcia, NBC BLK editorial director

News. Culture. The stories we’re talking about across our communities. Sign up for our newsletter from NBC BLK.

Select: Online Shopping, Simplified

Black History Month may be ending, but you don’t need a specific month to enjoy the best that Black-owned fashion brands have to offer. Here’s what to shop from 50 great brands.

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