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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  February 28, 2018 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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morning, heavy, heavy rain coming our way and i'll have a look at 6:19 and 7:48 tonight. >> lester holt and "nightly news" is next. > tonight, the bombshell resignation at the white house. hope hicks, president trump's longest serving aide, stepping down just a day after she admitted to congress that she tells white lies for the president. taking a stand on guns. one of the nation's largest sports retailers will no longer sell assault-style weapons. and it's not stopping there. while president trump calls for a comprehensive guns bill. and accuses senators of being afraid of the nra. parkland students return to school for the first time since the massacre. under heavy police presence. haunted by memories, but standing strong together. a warning for travelers if you think some of those vacation deals on popular discount websites like groupon are too good to be true, you may be right.
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and "inspiring america." >> if i can give back half of what this community has given me, i'm complete. >> he went from refugee to mayor, and made history along the way. >> announcer: this is nbc "nightly news" with lester holt. >> good evening, everyone. welcome to our viewers in the west. we start with late word of a bombshell change at the white house. communications director hope hicks one of president trump's closest aides and confidants is resigning. the announcement coming just one day after hicks testified under oath before the house committee looking into russian election influence where she reportedly admitted having told white lies on behalf of the president. chief white house correspondent hallie jackson now with late details. >> where is hope? where is hope? hope, get up here, hope. >> reporter: tonight, another dramatic departure in the west wing. this time to someone who might as well be family to donald trump. hope hicks, his communications director and longtime aide resigning.
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>> hope hicks is a tremendously talented person. >> reporter: nbc news has learned hicks told the president personally earlier today according to a white house source and said her good-byes to staff in an emotional meeting late this afternoon. the president saying, "hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years. she is as smart and thoughtful as they come, a truly great person." adding he totally understood when she said she would leave. often seen, but rarely heard in interviews or on camera, hicks played a pivotal part behind the scenes, a fierce defender of her boss, by his side for nearly every critical campaign moment. >> merry christmas, everyone, and thank you, donald trump. >> reporter: and with no prior political experience, rocketing to a top job in the white house. word of her departure comes less than 24 hours after she appeared on capitol hill to testify about the russia investigation. apparently acknowledging she's occasionally told white lies as part of her job.
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>> the whole talk about a white lie is such a bad rap and so unfair to hope hicks. she was asked did donald trump ever ask you to lie? and her answer was that she never told an untruth on anything of substance. >> reporter: white house officials insist testimony timing has nothing to do with hicks' resignation nor does the rob porter scandal they say. the former staff secretary who resigned amid accusations he abused his ex-wives and had been reportedly romantically linked to hicks. with her departure, the white house will search for its fifth communications director. more turnover in a west wing. both congressional committees looking into the russia investigation. and while she may be as close as a daughter to president trump, i'm told she's looking forward to spending more time with her family back home. her official departure date sometime the next few weeks. lester? >> hallie jackson at the white house tonight, thank you. and two weeks after the mass
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shooting at a florida high school, the president stood up to the national rifle association today. at least on some points. as he met with members of congress from both parties, mr. trump appeared to embrace new gun restrictions as he told them to come up with legislation aimed at preventing more school shootings. nbc's kristen welker now with that story. >> these horrible mass shootings -- >> reporter: under pressure after parkland, president trump taking on his own party and the national rifle association today. >> i'm a fan of the nra, but that doesn't mean we have to agree on everything. >> reporter: mr. trump at a free wheeling hour-long meeting with a group of bipartisan lawmakers trying to get something, anything done, appeared to embrace nearly everything he heard in the meeting from confiscating guns from those deemed dangerous, a move opposed by many conservatives. >> take the guns first. go through a due process second. >> reporter: and embracing long-held democratic ideas like universal background checks, and increasing the minimum age to 21 to buy some weapons. even taking on red-state democrat joe manchin and
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republican pat toomey for not including an age limit increase in their background check bill. >> didn't address it, mr. president -- >> you know why? because you're afraid of the nra. >> no, no. >> reporter: at times, wheeling and dealing in realtime. >> if you can add domestic violence paragraphs, pages, into this bill, i'm all for it, but can you add what amy and what ann -- can we add them in? i know you can add what -- >> reporter: even pushing back against fellow republican steve scalise, shot and nearly killed during a baseball practice last summer, when scalise suggested adding a measure involving a concealed weapons permit to a bill aimed at strengthening background checks. >> you look at the concealed carry population. >> we're talking about a whole new ball game. you'll never get this passed if you add concealed carry to this, you'll never get it passed. >> reporter: an executive order banning bump stocks, those devices that turn weapons into assault-style firearms. his message to lawmakers, the time to act is now.
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>> i see some folks that don't say nice things about me and that's okay, because if you turn that into this energy, i'll love you. >> reporter: we reached out to the nra, but so far, no response. tonight, one white house official acknowledges despite all of the bargaining, any new gun legislation still faces very steep odds. gun reform has been nearly impossible in this country for decades, including after the sandy hook massacre which claimed the lives of 20 children. lester? >> all right, kristen welker outside the west wing tonight. thank you. in what could be a tipping point in a growing corporate response to the florida school shooting, one of the country's biggest sporting goods retailers announced today it will stop selling assault-style rifles along with the sale of any guns to those under 21. dick's sporting goods essentially adopting self-imposed gun restrictions. our kate snow has more. >> reporter: after the horror in parkland, florida, dick's sporting goods ceo ed stack says
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they found out the alleged gunman bought a shotgun last november at one of their stores. though not a weapon used in the killings that day, enough was enough. >> we don't want to be part of the story any longer. >> reporter: the company is no longer selling assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines. and will not sell any firearms to anyone under 21. it's a big decision to make as a corporation. why? >> when we looked at those kids, and we saw what -- the grief that they were going through and how these kids organized to really have their voices heard, we talked amongst ourselves and said, if these kids can be brave enough to do this, then we should be brave enough to make a stand, ourself. >> reporter: assault-style weapons have been used in many mass shootings from newtown, to san bernardino, to las vegas. and stack says once again, congress is paralyzed. >> they really have no intent, in my opinion, i don't believe they have any intent to solve the problem. >> been a rough couple of weeks. >> reporter: fred guttenberg lost his daughter, jaime, in the shooting two weeks ago.
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>> i am told actually, 14 days out, i think, happier than i've been in 14 days because of what dick's sporting goods announced this morning. that, to me, says what happened will make a difference. >> reporter: at dick's sporting goods stores today, decision welcomed by some gun owners. >> what's an ar-15 for? to kill people. we've had enough of that. >> reporter: and dismissed by others. >> bad guys are going to get guns whether dick's sells them to them or not. >> reporter: no direct response today from the nra, but after more than a dozen companies recently ended special deals for nra members, the organization called it a shameful display of political and civic cowardice. georgia's lieutenant governor said he would kill any tax legislation that benefits delta air lines unless the company changes its position. are you worried that there could be backlash from the nra? >> we expect there will be. >> lester, as we've been on the air, a new statement out from walmart just now, walmart saying "in light of recent events we've taken an opportunity to review
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our policy on firearms sales going forward. we are raising the age restriction for purchase of firearms and ammunition to 21 years of age. we will update our processes as quickly as possible to implement this change." they're following dick's on limiting age. >> this move continuing to get traction. kate snow, thank you. it was an emotional day at marjory stoneman douglas high school in parkland today under a heavy police presence. student survivors returned to school for the first time since the shooting massacre that left 17 dead two weeks ago. nbc's kerry sanders now with that story. >> reporter: today the safest school in america was in parkland, florida, hundreds of armed police officers escorting students back to campus. officials wanting to give these survivors a sense of security. >> i almost feel like i'm on an army base with all the cops. >> reporter: these students refusing to let suspect nikolas cruz steal it away from them. this morning, 16-year-old lizzie eaton did something she rarely does before school, eating
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breakfast with her family. >> i love you. >> love you. >> have a good day, okay? >> okay. >> reporter: instead of commuting in her own car -- >> look at this traffic. >> wow, i've never seen it like this before. >> reporter: her dad driving lizzie through the maze of police. parents say since the shooting they're obsessed with one question, will my child get home safely tonight? >> i have a lot more faith now seeing, you know, all the activity that's going on in the schools, there's a lot of police presence. >> reporter: students started the day with fourth period. reuniting with classmates and teachers who were with them when the massacre began. the principal tweeting, "there is no need for backpacks. come ready to start the healing process." but for many, it's hard to move on. >> because it's, like, the first day back, and, like, i just keep thinking of, like, the day it happened. >> words cannot, you know, describe how painful it is to see, you know, an empty seat. >> reporter: and when the half day at school was over -- >> made me a little sad, but i was glad to be with me friends again. >> reporter: an emotional day,
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too, for tarrant who lost two friends. >> they're no longer in this world, they're no longer with us. it's just something that i don't think any human will ever be able to fathom. >> reporter: the focus today not just those on who survived but on the 17 faces that were missing like 14-year-old alaina petty. her dad, ryan, standing outside the school's gates. >> there's a hole in our family. alaina's gone. she's not coming back. >> reporter: school officials say 95% of the 3,000-plus students who go to school here showed up today. 15 students have told the school principal they don't think they can ever come back to this school. meantime, the grand jury will begin hearing testimony in this case next week. lester? >> all right, kerry sanders, thank you. tonight, millions are under a severe weather threat with flood watches across much of the south, while a major winter blast is taking aim at the northeast. al roker joining us to track it all. al, good evening. >> good evening, lester.
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and we've been seeing all this rain. that's why we still have 19 million folks at risk from texas all the way to tennessee. more heavy rain coming in tonight and tomorrow. rainfall amounts through tomorrow, anywhere from 2 to 3 inches, locally could be up to 5 inches. now this nor'easter. we're watching this storm push to the east. it will bring snow through the great lakes tomorrow. heavy rain into the mid-atlantic by tomorrow evening. friday, a coastal storm will develop. that's the nor'easter. it will cause strong winds and heavy rain along the coast. heavy snow back to the west. so we have winter storm watches back to the west for heavy snow inland, difficult travel and a coastal flood risk with rain, urban and river flooding, and probably a lot of beach erosion, lester. >> all right, al, good to have you here, thank you. now to a warning about a growing danger on the roads. a new report revealing 2017 was the second year in a row that pedestrian fatalities remained at a 25-year high. while distracted driving remains a serious problem, it turns out too many pedestrians are distracted as well with lethal consequences.
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here's nbc's tom costello. >> reporter: watch closely as a distracted pedestrian in toronto walks right into a responding fire engine. he hit the fire engine, not the other way around. the internet is full of videos of distracted pedestrians walking into poles and falling downstairs. we found seemingly distracted pedestrians today in washington and chicago. >> text messages, e-mails, music. >> reporter: now, new research finds that for the second year in a row, nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2017. many of them distracted. >> it's a really deadly combination when we see there are more people in cities walking and being active and yet they're more distracted. >> reporter: in los angeles, alone, pedestrian deaths up 80% in 2 years. in honolulu, it's now illegal to text while crossing a street. fines range from $15 to $99. aside from the obvious risk of distraction, researchers at stony brook university found another danger.
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60% of texters can't walk in a straight line. and it turns out legalized marijuana could also play a role. in the seven states plus d.c. that legalized pot, the governors report pedestrian fatalities increased 16% in the first six months of last year. as distraction and impairment on both sides of the bumper prove deadly. tom costello, nbc news, washington. a solemn day in the u.s. capitol rotunda today as the body of the reverend billy graham laid in honor. politicians and other well wishers paid their respects to graham who died last week at age 99. at a memorial service, president trump praised graham for helping to lift the spirit of america. graham's funeral will be held on friday in north carolina. there's more to tell you about this evening, still ahead, on those discount websites, are you really getting the best travel deals? do the pictures match reality? what we found may surprise you. also the remarkable journey of a man who found his home and his calling in a most unlikely
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place. we're going to tell you how he is now "inspiring america."
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we're back now with a travel alert. right now, millions of americans are booking vacation deals on popular discount websites like groupon, but how good are those deals? and when you arrive at the resort, will it look like the photos advertised online? nbc news national investigative correspondent jeff rossen shows us how to protect ourselves in tonight's "rossen reports." >> reporter: they're called groupon getaways. check out this all-inclusive three-night beach vacation in the dominican republic for just $417. the rooms look immaculate. the property, stunning. this resort even making groupon's best of 2017 list. all right. check in. but inside the room, we find big problems. i almost tripped and hurt myself when i first walked in because of this pooling water on the
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bathroom floor. there's a leak under the sink. a leak, and we just checked in. but it gets worse, folks. come up here. look at this. yeah, that is what appears to be mold all along the trim. look at this, this is actually dangerous. see these lines along the glass? yeah, the glass is shattered. big tips here. make sure you check multiple travel sites and look for customer-submitted photos. next stop, cancun. i find a great deal. this deluxe ocean-view room. when i arrive -- checking in. rossen. -- i get the groupon rate of $357 for a 3-night stay. thank you very much. but watch what happens when my producer, connor, arrives. >> hi. checking in. >> reporter: he booked directly with the hotel. his rate, $279. that's $78 less than me. groupon telling nbc news, "the photos featured on our site, tripadvisor, expedia,
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travelosity, orbitz, kayak, hotwire and others, are provided by the hotels, themselves. in addition to photos, we provide our customers with a wealth of other information including hundreds of thousands of reviews to make an informed decision about their purchase." groupon saying customers can contact them or the property for help with a bad experience. but there are gems, look at this one in orlando for just $81 a night. the room just as advertised. modern and clean. just in time to book your spring break. jeff rossen, nbc news. in a moment, the remarkable outcome after an explosion and crash on a racetrack. and honoring a victim of the florida school shooting, an nba superstar does his part.
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at at&t, we believe in access. the opportunity for everyone to explore a digital world. connecting with the things that matter most. and because nothing keeps us more connected than the internet, we've created access from at&t. california households with at least one resident who receives snap or ssi benefits may qualify for home internet at a discounted rate of $10 a month. no commitment, deposit, or installation fee. visit to learn more. caught on camera, a terrifying moment on a drag race track in arizona. watch as one of the car's
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engines suddenly explodes. the force knocking off the protective cover sending the driver crashing into the other car. amazingly, both drivers avoided serious injury. it was a royal moment in london today as not one, but two, royal couples made their first joint appearance. prince harry and his fiancee meghan markle joined prince william and duchess kate at a charity event. markle made mention of the me too and time's up movements saying there's no better time to continue to shine a light on women feeling empowered. and an nba superstar paying tribute to a victim of the florida school shooting. the miami heat's dwyane wade took the court last night with joaquin oliver's name written on his shoes. oliver was a huge fan of wade's and was laid to rest in one of wade's jerseys days after the rampage. with oliver on his mind and in his heart, wade hit the game-winning basket against the philadelphia 76ers. when we come back, we'll meet a new mayor in montana
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whose inspiring story begins thousands of miles away. storm cd
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jeff )s got the details that )s right. i have a list of microclimate alerts for tonight and i )ll show you how this heay storm plays-out the next couple days. finally tonight, when a man named wilmot collins won a stunning victory in november, he made history by becoming the first african-american mayor in montana. but that was far from his first challenge in a journey that began far away in a country at war. ron allen tonight on how he's "inspiring america." >> vote, people, vote. >> reporter: helena mayor wilmot collins on his weekly night out with the public. >> i have two years to listen. >> reporter: an unlikely leader in the state where only half a percent of the population looks like him. do you ever feel just amazed to be in montana? >> yes.
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before coming to montana, i had never seen snow. >> reporter: 24 years ago collins fled liberia's civil war escaping with wife, maddie, and thousands of desperate refugees. >> we were dying of starvation. i'm sorry. one time we found toothpaste and that's what we ate. >> reporter: toothpaste. >> toothpaste for lunch. >> reporter: eventually they got to america, settled in montana where maddie had been a high school exchange student. early on, vandals painted "go back to africa" on their home. his neighbors washed it away. >> not in this town, they said. the community, that's what kept me going. >> reporter: collins, 55, father of two, works as a state child protection specialist and serves in the navy reserve. he defeated a popular 16-year incumbent by less than 350 votes. >> you need to give back. if i can give back half of what this community has given me, i'm complete. >> reporter: the new mayor, very much at home in montana. ron allen, nbc news, helena.
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>> the american dream alive and well in montana tonight. we appreciate you spending part of your evening with us. that is "nightly news" for this wednesday night. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, thanks for watching and good night. heavy rain and strong win. a live look in san rafael and san jose. right now at 6:00, here it comes. heavy rain and strong winds. a live look right now at san rafael and san jose. the entire region bracing for this storm. the news at 6:00 starts right now. good evening, i'm raj mathai. >> i'm jessica aguirre. we're going to get to our weather in just a moment. first, not backing down. oakland's mayor libby schaaf gave the community a heads up about an impending i.c.e. raid,
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a controversial move pitting local government against the feds. jodi hernandez has more. jodi, those raids are not over yet. >> reporter: that's right, jessica. the north bay rapid response network says they got more than a hundred phone calls about possible i.c.e. sightings until the north bay alone today. the mayor says, however, she is not backing down. >> what she did is no better than, you know, a gang lookout yelling "police." when a police cruiser comes in the neighborhood. except she did it to the entire community. >> reporter: that's the acting director of i.c.e. on "fox and friends" this morning. >> i've been doing this for 34 years. this is a whole new low, to intentionally warn criminals that law enforcement is coming. >> my job is to make my city safer. >> reporter: mayor schaaf held


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