Hong Kong national security ruling and Trump jury deliberates: Morning Rundown

Pressure is building for the U.S. to allow Ukraine to strike inside Russia with Western weapons. Denver launches a new program to support migrants. And Boeing says it’s ready to try launching the Starliner spacecraft again.

Here’s what to know today.

Pressure mounts for U.S. to let Ukraine strike inside Russia with Western weapons

Roman Pilipey / AFP – Getty Images

A growing number of Western leaders are calling for the United States to let Ukraine strike inside Russia using their weapons. The issue has gained urgency since Russia launched a new offensive in the Kharkiv region earlier this month, and Ukraine has warned that Russia could also be massing troops for another incursion in the region of Sumy. 

The Biden administration has remained unmoved amid the renewed urgency, likely because officials are worried about Russia’s response. However, one expert suggested that it might be only a matter of time before the U.S. removes its restrictions. And yesterday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared to signal that Washington is leaving the door open on the issue, saying Ukraine “has to make its own decisions about the best way to effectively defend itself.”

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French President Emmanuel Macron this week became the latest high-profile backer of the idea to let Ukraine use weapons supplied by Kyiv’s partners inside Russian territory. German leader Olaf Scholz agreed to the concept this week, under some conditions. And last week, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said not letting Ukraine hit targets inside Russia is a hindrance.

The long-standing fear among Ukraine’s partners is an escalation from the Kremlin that could turn the conflict into World War III. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also delivered a not-so-veiled threat of nuclear retaliation. 

Read the full story here.

Hong Kong court rules in territory’s largest national security case

A Hong Kong court has found 14 of 16 pro-democracy activists guilty of conspiring to subvert the state in the Chinese territory’s single largest case under a sweeping national security law, that was imposed after months of anti-government protests in 2019 captured global attention. The case is seen as a symbol of declining freedoms in Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

NBC News’ Asia digital editor, Jennifer Jett, breaks down the big moment in the landmark trial.

➡️ The background: The activists convicted today are among 47 politicians, academics and others who were charged in connection with their involvement in an unofficial primary election in 2020. Prosecutors said they hoped to win a legislative majority and use it to paralyze the Hong Kong government by repeatedly vetoing budgets. And 31 others have pleaded guilty, which could reduce their sentences.

Image: hong kong security law verdict Lee Yue-shun
Lee Yue-shun, one of two former district councilors who was acquitted, leaving court in Hong Kong on Thursday.Chan Long Hei / AP

➡️ Historic acquittals: The two activists who were acquitted, Lawrence Lau and Lee Yue-shun (pictured above), are the first national security defendants to be found not guilty after trial. Three judges handpicked by the Hong Kong government to hear the case said they were unsure whether Lau and Lee intended to subvert state power. Under a new legal rule, prosecutors can request that their bail conditions be extended pending a possible government appeal.

➡️ Coming up: Sentences for the 14 convicted activists and the 31 others who pleaded guilty are in store. Those who were convicted today face prison terms ranging from three years to life imprisonment.

Read more about the ruling here.

Jury to re-hear portions of Trump trial testimony

A 12-person jury will resume deliberations today in Donald Trump’s hush money trial after they rehear parts of the testimony, as well as instructions previously read to them by Judge Juan Merchan. Both requests came by way of notes from the jury yesterday afternoon — the only hint of the jurors’ thinking as they decide whether the former president will be found guilty in his first criminal trial.

More specifically, the jury wants to hear portions of testimony from former Trump attorney Michael Cohen and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. Some legal analysts saw the requests as a good sign for the prosecution, since their case rests heavily on the testimony of Cohen and Pecker. Others cautioned against trying to infer anything from jury notes.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all 34 counts of falsifying business records. Merchan told the jury that it must find Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Further, he explained, the crime of falsifying business records in the first degree must include the intent to commit a crime to aid or conceal the commission of another crime. However, prosecutors do not need to prove that the other crime was actually committed.

A verdict could come as soon as today, though deliberations could easily extend into next week and beyond. Read more takeaways from the first day of the jury deliberations.

More Trump trial news: 

  • If Trump is convicted of a felony, would he be able to vote? Experts say it would come down to whether he went to prison.

Denver debuts program for migrants in asylum application limbo

A new strategy to help migrants transition into more stable lives in the U.S. is underway in Denver, where officials are offering housing and other services to hundreds of people who are applying for asylum but are met with a six-month wait for work permits. Those enrolled in the Denver Asylum Seekers Program receive job training, language instruction, financial literacy instruction, legal assistance and the ability to get certifications to work in certain industries.

The program comes as cities such as Denver, New York and Chicago have struggled to accommodate growing migrant populations. Denver has fewer people in its shelter system than some other cities, officials say, but they’re hopeful their program will offer a model that other cities can replicate.

Boeing ready to try its Starliner launch again

Boeing's Starliner capsule atop an Atlas V rocket
Terry Renna / AP

Boeing is set to launch its Starliner spacecraft this weekend, a key test flight that comes after many delays and setbacks. Liftoff is expected Saturday afternoon from Florida. The goal is to show that the Starliner can safely carry astronauts to the International Space Station. After launching into space, NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Willmore and Sunita Williams will spend about a week at the space station. If the mission is successful, NASA can authorize Boeing to conduct routine trips to the outpost, which would give it a second option to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.

Science reporter Denise Chow explains what went wrong during an attempted launch earlier this month — and why mission managers say they’re prepared this time around.

More Boeing news

  • Today, Boeing is due to tell federal regulators how it plans to fix the safety and quality problems that have plagued its aircraft manufacturing work in recent years.

Politics in Brief 

Alito refuses recusal: Conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito declined to step aside from two pending cases relating to Trump and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol following recent reports about contentious flags flown at his private properties.

House investigation: The House Ethics Committee said it will open an investigation into Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat who was recently indicted in a federal bribery case.

Debate qualifications questioned: Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign said it filed a federal complaint against the Biden and Trump campaigns, as well as CNN, alleging they are violating the law in setting up next month’s presidential debate.

Want more politics news? Sign up for From the Politics Desk to get exclusive reporting and analysis delivered to your inbox every weekday evening. Subscribe here.

Staff Pick: A love for Legos on full display

Alyssa Evans, 23, in front of her massive Lego set collection.
Alyssa Evans, 23, in front of her massive Lego set collection.Courtesy Alyssa Evans

I couldn’t scroll through TikTok last week without seeing smiling Black women showing off their completed Lego sets. It’s my new favorite trend. I love seeing them finding joy in something as simple as building with Legos. I talked to a few of those women about why they love the classic toy so much and all the ways it encourages mindfulness and play. — Char Adams, NBC BLK reporter

In Case You Missed It

  • Only one item from a list of evidence in the case of Scott Peterson — convicted 20 years ago in the killing of his pregnant wife, Laci — can undergo new DNA testing, a California judge ruled.
  • All charges against pro golfer Scottie Scheffler were dropped after a Kentucky prosecutor said the arrest ahead of the PGA Championship was a “big misunderstanding.”
  • Olympics gymnastics all-around champion Gabby Douglas ended her bid for the 2024 Paris team and has withdrawn from this weekend’s U.S. Championships.
  • Three Black men sued American Airlines , claiming they were racially discriminated against when they were allegedly pulled off a plane over a body odor complaint.

NBC Select: Online Shopping, Simplified 

NBC Select editors tested easy-to-install filtered showerheads to save water and reduce impurities that can mess with hair and skin. Here were their favorites. Speaking of impurities, it turns out air quality can be worse indoors than outside — so we found the best air purifiers for any size space.

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