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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  October 19, 2017 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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firefighters get containment. >> definitely. >> thanks, jeff. thanks for judge joining us. be back at 6:00. >> see you then. bye-bye. tonight, emotional defense. white house chief of staff john kelly holding back tears speaking about the death of his son. and pushing back on criticism of president trump's condolence call to the widow of a fallen u.s. soldier. plus, inside the ambush. new details about what happened when u.s. forces came under attack in niger. bush's warning. a stunning rebuke of the current president from the last republican president without mentioning his name. campus state of emergency. protests and a massive brigade in the streets as police try to prevent another charlottesville. inside nuclear-armed north korea. our team is there with rare access amid threats of war. teaming up. big brands joining
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forces looking to lure you in for the holidays. the story behind these powerful images of the postman who we want above and beyond to deliver. also tonight, we have got the surprising new forecast for winter. >> announcer: this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt. good evening to our crewers in the west. thank you for being here. we begin with the white house briefing room late today when chief of staff general john kelly a gold star father broke his public silence over the deaths of four american soldiers in niger. in deeply personal terms, came to the defense of president trump and his outreach efforts to the families of those fallen heroes. >> and the four cases we're talking about. niger, my son's case in afghanistan. when he died he was surrounded by the best men on this earth. his friends. that's what the president tried to say to a -- four families the other day. >> kelly also had strong words for the congresswoman who listened in on and
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reported on the president's phone call to a gold star widow while not disputing her account. let's begin tonight with our national correspondent, peter alexand alexander. >> reporter: president trump's top white house general tonight providing political cover, john kelly in deeply personal terms defending the president's call this week to sergeant la david johnson's widow. >> if you elect to call a family like this, it is about the most difficult thing you can imagine. there's no perfect way to make that phone call. >> reporter: kelly whose son robert was killed in afghanistan in 2010 saying he advised the president against making condolence calls. >> it's not the phone call that parents, family members are looking forward to. >> reporter: while fiercely denouncing criticism by democratic congresswoman frederica wilson, who accused president trump of disrespecting johnson. >> i was stunned when i came to work yesterday morning and broken hearted. it stuns me that a member of congress would have listened in on that conversation. absolutely stuns me. >> reporter: kelly so distraught wednesday, he says he left the
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white house for arlington national cemetery. >> the only thing i could do to collect my thoughts was to go and walk among the finest men and women on this earth. went over there for an hour and a half. walked among the stones, some of whom i put there, because they were doing what i told them to do when they were killed. >> reporter: the retired four star marine general opening remarks with a stirring account of the process that occurs when a service member dies. >> their buddies wrap them up in whatever passes as a shroud, puts them on a helicopter as a routi routine, and sends them home. >> reporter: it's a controversy president trump started on monday. >> if you look at president obama and other presidents most of them didn't make calls. >> kelly saying his family did not receive a call from president obama. >> that was not a criticism. that was to simply say i don't believe president obama called. >> reporter: who reached out to kelly? his best friend, joint
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chief chairman, joseph dunford. >> he said, kell, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. he knew what he was getting into, by joining that 1%. he knew what the possibilities were. because we were at war. >> he said well i guess you knew, something to the fact that, he knew what he was getting into when he signed up. >> reporter: words the president had said were fabricated. kelly punctuating his remarks with a poignant appeal. >> let's maybe not let this last thing held sacred in our society, a young man, young woman going out and giving his or her life for our country. let's try to somehow keep that, keep that sacred. >> reporter: it was a rare and emotional moment in the briefing room today. john kelly who's typically very private now for the second time in two weeks speaking publicly on behalf of his boss after a controversial debate sparked by the
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president's own words. lester? >> all right, peter alexander with emotional scene inside the white house briefing room today. peter, thank you. now about that deadly mission that claimed those four americans. still lots of questions. the pentagon says it launched a formal investigation into how a routine patrol turned into an ambush and what occurred afterward. our pentagon correspondent, hans nichols is learning new details about what happened. >> reporter: this is how pentagon officials say it happened. fewer than 10 special forces were at the village just miles from the mali border meeting with tribal elders. a smaller group stayed behind, guarding their vehicles. it was near dusk when an enemy force of nearly 50 concealed in brush attacked the u.s. green per rays firing machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. it took 30 minutes for french air support to arrive on scene. french helicopters evacuated the u.s. casualties in a u.s. contractor recovered the american dead. but sergeant la david johnson was separated from the group during the attack.
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aircraft flying overhead picked up a signal from a cell phone emergency beacon. but it grew faint as they were searching. more than 100 special forces from across the globe descended to join the search. roughly 48 hours later, johnson's body was recovered by nigerian forces. the pentagon challenging any suggestion that sergeant johnson was left behind. >> nothing could be further from the truth. that is an important myth that needs to be corrected now, i think. >> did i hear you correctly that american troops stayed on the battlefield the entire time until sergeant johnson's body was recovered? >> within the battle space. either american or nigerian or french in some cases all three at the same time were engaged in active searches. >> reporter: the details are still unclear and the investigation could take months. congress wants answers sooner. >> we are co-equal branches of government. we should be informed at all times. >> reporter: from the secretary of defense, blunt talk about the risks american forces are forced to confront in places like niger. >> there's a reason we
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have u.s. army soldiers there and not the peace corps. because we carry guns. >> reporter: lester, tonight there's a memorial service for 39-year-old jer memiah johnson, one of the four soldiers who died in niger. here at the pentagon, official are insistent they will fully cooperate with congress. lester? >> hans nichols reporting from the pentagon tonight. thank you. as president trump deals with that fallout, two of his predecessors were back in the spotlight today. barack obama back on the campaign trail for the first time since leaving office. and george w. bush who has largely stayed on the sidelines in a rare appearance delivering a powerful message. nbc news white house correspondent kristen welker has that story. [ applause ] >> thank you. >> reporter: tonight a pair of past presidents raising concerns about the direction of the country they once led. >> are you fired up! >> reporter: former president obama campaigning for new jersey's democratic candidate for governor. >> we are rejecting a politics of fear. that we are embracing
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a politics that says everybody counts. >> reporter: but the former republican president spoke with a sharper edge today. >> this is a unique moment. >> reporter: delivering clear condemnation of the current president without mentioning him by name. >> we've seen nationalism distorted into nativism. we've forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to america. >> reporter: and he warned -- >> bigotry seems emboldened. our politics seems vulnerable to conspiracy theories. >> reporter: in 2000, bush won the white house on a promise of compassionate conservatism. today taking a not so subtle swipe at the current climate. >> we have seen discourse degraded. by casual cruelty. >> reporter: in a bruising primary, president trump defeated former president bush's brother, former governor jeb bush. >> the world trade center came down during your brother's reign, remember that. >> reporter: today, mr. bush calling for an end to angry words. >> bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a
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national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry. >> reporter: two former leaders making their voices heard once again. kristen welker, nbc news, the white house. a state of emergency and a heavy police presence today at the university of florida as white nationalist richard spencer made a speaking appearance on campus. authorities taking no chances hoping to prevent a repeat of the violent clashes in charlottesville, virginia, back in august that left a woman dead. in the end, protesters greatly outnumbered supporters of spencer and drowned him out with chants during his remarks. overseas now to north korea leveling a new threat of war. the regime warning it will unleash a quote, unimaginable nuclear strike on the u.s. after american military forces including an aircraft carrier conducted joint drills with south korea. now nbc's keir simmons has just made it inside south korea and has access to an
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isolated country on the edge. >> reporter: tonight inside north korea's capital, patriotic posters and images of war. our journey begins in beijing. we met american aid workers, making the same trip, a group granted one of the few exceptions to the u.s. travel ban. do you feel safe traveling to north korea? >> this is like my 50-something trip. and we all have families at home. we all want to get back to our families. so yes. >> reporter: flying here is not without risk right now. furious over u.s. military exercises this week, north korea today, threatened an unimaginable strike. inside north korea, we drive off to the front line with the south. the dmz. in this nuclear nation, there appeared to be more bikes on the road than cars. perhaps one reason so much of this country's money is spent on the military. that is the border between north and south. this side socialism, there is where the
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capitalist world begins. and we're not allowed to stay here very long. a border guard gives us a tour. we ask about president trump who will visit it the south next month. what do you think of president trump? he is mentally ill, the lieutenant colonel claims. and if there is a war, he says, we will win. we stopped to talk to commuters about the growing tensions. everywhere, we are escorted by government minders. >> it is u.s. army first, and the war, we can fight against the u.s. army. >> reporter: you're ready to fight if you need to? tonight officials here not backing down from international condemnation of their nuclear program. north korea's vice foreign minister told us negotiation is only possible if u.s. nuclear weapons are also on the table. a nonstarter in washington. lester? >> all right. keir simmons inside north korea tonight. now to a reality check on the situation on the ground in puerto rico. president trump today
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in the oval office with puerto rico's governor was asked how he would grade the white house's response so far. >> i give ourselves a ten. we have provided so so much so fast. we were actually there before the storm hit. >> the president grading the response a ten. but tonight on the eve of one month since the hurricane hit, nbc's gabe gutierrez remains on the island shows us the daily struggle the majority of the island still faces. >> reporter: in old san juan, eddie ramirez runs a bed and breakfast. but after hurricane maria, he's become his neighborhood's power source. >> you feel helpless even though we're trying to do as much as we can. >> reporter: when he installed these solar panels years ago, he never dreamed they'd become his life line. now he's running extension cords to surrounding homes storing insulin, milk, and ice for his neighbors. >> we are trying so hard to be positive. it is so hard.
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>> reporter: almost 80% of puerto rico is still in the dark. but the governor claims that number will drop to 5% in less than two months. is it realistic to believe that the power generator will be up and running then? >> that's why i proposed it. >> reporter: at this aging power plant they rented two turbines from a florida company officials say will light up the city within two weeks. how do you fix this? >> its certainly a great challenge. >> reporter: rebuilding the grid from scratch falls on ricardo ramos. the recently appointed ceo of the power authority which went bankrupt after allegations of corruption and a long history of maintenance problems. >> this is extremely old technology, you have steam power plants with boilers. >> for eddie ramirez, skepticism is measured in mangled power poles. >> it is a guest town. it is dying little by little. >> reporter: the government hasn't lit up the neighborhood, so tonight it's up to him. gabe gutierrez, nbc news, san juan, puerto rico. the suspected gunman in a deadly
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two-state shooting rampage is in police custody this evening. but investigators are unsure of what may have motivated him to kill three coworkers and wound two others in maryland before driving to delaware where he allegedly shot and injured another victim there. federal agents captured the suspect last night following a day-long man hunt. the forecast is in for winter and the folks at noaa say for most of the country get ready for a warm one. not hot, of course. it is still winter. they say should be a mild season. not quite as the warm as the last two winters. they say la nina is to blame for warmer temps to come from california to maine. but it will be a colder than normal winter in the pacific northwest. still ahead tonight, walmart's new weapon in the shopping wars. how the retail giant plans to redefine the american mall as we know it. what it means for rival amazon and more importantly your wallet. also the shocking moment a food truck explodes. flames quickly spreading to other
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cars. what caused it?
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we're back now. with orders already rolling in for the holiday season, retailers are joining forces in unexpected ways to tray and capture your dollar. so what happens when low priced giant walmart teams up with a high end department store? the idea, a new kind of shopping mall experience. nbc news business correspondent jo ling kent explains. >> reporter: america's biggest retailer on
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the cusp of making a deal with america's oldest, all in an effort to bring in new customers. walmart is in talks with lord & taylor to sell the 190-year-old retailer's products online according to "the wall street journal." walmart's goal? start an online mall bringing in established brands to attract new shoppers to compete with amazon. are we entering a situation where the consumer is going to be better off or worse off? >> i think the consumer ultimately benefits here. more choices, more options, more pricing transparency. >> reporter: shoppers are divided. >> i've actually been shopping online more than i used to. >> i want to be able to see it for myself. i want to know exactly what it is. >> reporter: walmart has been on a tear acquiring new brands from to bonobos to modcloth with more on the horizon. amazon is beefing up too. now accepting returns at kohl's stores and sells kenmore from sears and nike products on their si site. this comes as 25% of
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traditional malls are expected to close by 2022. this year more than 5,000 stores have shut their doors. this is a fight for survival. >> right now retailers need to evolve. consumers behaviors, attitudes towards shopping and their technology they bring into the store has fundamentally changed how their expectation is of the retail experience. >> reporter: in the retail hunger games brands uniting to bag your business. jo ling kent, nbc news, new york. we'll take a short break. when we come back, something you hardly ever see happen. why this day is going to go down in sports history.
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♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ take a look at the fire ball caught on camera in portland, oregon. >> oh, my gosh. >> authorities say a pair of food trucks exploded while workers were filling up a generator. the fire spread to nearly a dozen cars in the lot. thankfully no one was seriously injured. important news for
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parents about our kids and mobile devices. the amount of time american children ages 8 and younger are spending in front of mobile screens has more than tripled in four years according to a new study. from 15 minutes a day in 2013 to 48 minutes a day now. experts say the increase isn't all that surprising but it does make it harder to monitor exactly what your child is looking at. sports fans, a busy night ahead of you. get the nachos cooking. there are games in the nfl, major league baseball, nba, and nhl. all four of them at once. it's the kind of thing you only see in the fall when seasons overlap. it only happened 17 other times in history. and there's a term coined for it. they call it the sports equinox. when we come back, the incredible story of american strength behind a striking image from fire-ravaged california. >> announcer: "nbc nightly news" is brought to you by
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pacific life. protecting generations of families for 150 years. that's the power of pacific. and bad for the north bay.
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the toxic problem it might create in the fire zone. plus, rape accusations involving students from 3 bay area campuses. the promises the schools are making to parents. next. finally tonight, something caught our attention recently in the our coverage of the devastating fires in california. you may recall it as well. i'm talking about that striking image of a
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lone mail truck still making its rounds through a once vibrant neighborhood turned to rubble and ashes. we asked our gadi schwartz to track down the story behind that image and what he found was a postman on an emotional mission. >> reporter: in devastation so vast, the smallest things stand out. a toy car. a purple bandanna. a mailbox still standing while everything else has burned. this desolate road of destruction is postman trevor smith's daily route. for eight years he's picked up mail from a senior community called the orchard. today he picks up their melted mailboxes. >> scorched, first-class. we will forward it on. >> reporter: his white mail carrier out of the place amid the ruins until you see homes still standing and this woman waiting by their doors. >> did you evacuate or stay in your house? >> i stayed. >> reporter: norah tells him she was by
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herself when the fire swept through. as he continues the thought of her alone haunts him. >> she was left there when the fire was burning. and she couldn't escape. >> reporter: in this community the mail is precious cargo. inside, social security checks, prescriptions, medications, and messages from a generation that still handwrites notes. >> i took a letter from a woman. then she's like, wait, can i have that back? i need to write more. >> reporter: she wrote that she was okay but their house was gone. >> i don't know what to do with the information. it's sad. communication is important. whether it's something you want to have to tell somebody or not. >> reporter: when the loss is overwhelming, his purpose is simple. deliver the mail. finish the route. gadi schwartz, nbc news, santa rosa, california. >> heroes wear all kinds of uniforms. we appreciate you spending part i don't have your thursday night with us. that is "nightly news" for this thursday night. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching and good night. you )r looking at the gathering
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clouds in the bay area.. rain is on the way. rounlt at 6:00 we take you outside another look at the gathering clouds in the bay area. and fog rolling in as well as rain. our satellite picture shows a storm rolling in right from the ocean. the news at 6:00 starts round. good evening and thanks for joining us. jessica aguirre. >> janelle west bank in for raj mathai. the the rain just about an hour away, from moving into parts of the bay area you're looking actually at san francisco where you can see some drops right now. chief meteorologist jeff ranieri has a preview of what's coming. jeff. >> yes things picking up from
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the north bay to san francisco. mainly light scattered activity in the form of drizzle for a lot of the bay. the more consistent rainfall is still 165 miles to the north. so a closer look shows multiple reports in marchen and napa and sonoma of the drizzle and also some light spotty rain. the future cast shows 7:00 tonight shows scattered in terms ofway we expect once we hit 10:00 this evening. it's more consistent with possibly a few heavier pockets. then eventually it moves to the south bay. we have the full time line of that coming up at 6:20. i want to let you know on the heels of the storm system right now the brand new winter outlook does show wetter than average for the pacific northwest, drier for southern california. the bay area has the chance as we head into winter of possibly average to above average rain and near average temperatures. again the full time line of the storm system coming in how much we pick up at


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