Julian Assange plea deal and Midwest flooding threatens Minnesota dam: Morning Rundown

Julian Assange strikes a plea deal with the Justice Department. Floods leave a Minnesota dam in “imminent failure condition.” And a defending Olympic gold medalist misses her shot at Paris after tripping during a critical race.  

Here’s what to know today.

Biden prepares to bring out ‘the true Trump’ at Atlanta debate

Trump and Biden split in front of red and blue gradients. (NBC News; Getty Images file)
Trump and Biden split in front of red and blue gradients. (NBC News; Getty Images file)

President Joe Biden is ready for whichever version of former President Donald Trump shows up for Thursday’s debate in Atlanta, whether it’s the more bombastic and “unhinged” man known for his grievance-filled rallies or a fairly disciplined politician who sticks to policy. If it’s the latter, Biden’s goal will be to elicit what his aides see as “the true Trump,” according to three people familiar with the president’s debate prep — or “rally Trump,” a fourth person said.

One way Biden may attempt to “trigger” his opponent is by pointing out that Trump lost the 2020 election. The goal is to give the former president the impression he is being called a “loser” and possibly cause him to lash out.

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Still, the Biden team recognizes there is a “fine line to walk” as it attempts to leave viewers with the impression that Biden is the “adult in the room.” It’ll involve more than personal jabs and call on the president to draw contrast on big issues such as reproductive rights, the economy and more. Read more about Biden’s debate prep here.

Trump, meanwhile, is trying to raise voters’ expectations of Biden, so he’s changing how he talks about his opponent ahead of the debate. The goal is to avoid the mistake he made earlier this year before the State of the Union speech. Read more about Trump’s debate prep here.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will go free as part of plea deal

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is traveling to a remote Pacific island, where he is scheduled to appear in the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands this evening — tomorrow morning local time — to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge more than a decade after one of the largest publications of classified information in American history. According to court documents, Assange will plead guilty to conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information. The deal with the Justice Department will allow Assange to go free after having spent five years in a high-security British prison.

The 2009 leak, in which Assange conspired with Chelsea Manning, included thousands of documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, State Department cables and briefs about detainees at the U.S. detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Minnesota dam is in ‘imminent failure condition’

Officials in Minnesota are keeping a close eye on Rapidan Dam, located about 85 miles southwest of Minneapolis, after recent flooding left the structure in a a precarious state. Officials said the Blue Earth River has cut around the sides of the dam while debris accumulates. “We do not know if it will totally fail or if it will remain in place,” the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office said. So far, residents downstream have not been ordered to evacuate. More on the dam’s condition here.

The recent rains in Minnesota are part of a deluge that has recently hit the Midwest. In Iowa, the city of Spencer was cut off from the rest of the state by floodwaters over the weekend. And in South Dakota, a railroad bridge connecting Iowa to South Dakota collapsed and fell into the Big Sioux River. At least one person in Iowa and one person in South Dakota have died.

Fall keeps defending 800-meter gold medalist from Paris

Defending 800-meter gold medalist Athing Mu will miss Paris after fall in Olympic trials (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)
Defending 800-meter gold medalist Athing Mu will miss Paris after fall in Olympic trials (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Athing Mu, the defending Olympic gold medalist in the 800-meter race, tripped and fell during trials yesterday, ending her bid to make the U.S. team headed to the 2024 Paris Olympics. The mishap took place just a few moments into the race. Nia Atkins, Allie Wilson and Juliette Whittaker finished 1-2-3 and are headed to their first Olympic Games.

Yesterday’s U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials also saw 16-year-old Quincy Wilson fall short of making the cut in the 400-meter race by just fractions of a second. Though he failed to make the team as an individual runner — and become the youngest male to do so — he still has a chance to go to Paris.

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox men must serve in the military, top court rules in blow to Netanyahu

Israeli supreme court says ultra-Orthodox must serve in military, throwing Netanyahu govt into turmoil (Jack Guez / AFP - Getty Images)
Israeli supreme court says ultra-Orthodox must serve in military, throwing Netanyahu govt into turmoil (Jack Guez / AFP - Getty Images)

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled this morning that ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students must be drafted into the military, a fresh blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that could lead to the collapse of his increasingly fragile governing coalition.

“At the height of a difficult war, the burden of inequality is more than ever acute,” the court said in a unanimous ruling that will send shock waves through the country in the midst of Israel’s monthslong offensive in the Gaza Strip following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks.

Most Israelis are by law expected to serve in the military. But for decades, exemptions have existed for the ultra-Orthodox, who make up about 13% of Israeli society, to allow them to study full-time in religious seminaries. Netanyahu’s governing coalition partly relies on two ultra-Orthodox parties that have called for those exemptions to remain in place.

The Covid summer wave is here

Covid cases are on the rise nationally, with increases in 39 states, according to the CDC. California, in particular, appears to be experiencing a notable rise in infections. While the CDC no longer tracks Covid cases, it still estimates transmission based on emergency department visits. Both Covid deaths and ER visits have risen in the last week, according to data. Hospitalizations also rose in the last week of May, the most recent data available. Medical experts said the uptick in infections coincides with new variants that are developing: KP.2, KP.3 and LB.1 — all descendants of JN.1, the strain that took over the winter months. Here’s what else to know.

Politics in Brief

Today’s primaries: Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York is fighting for political survival in a fierce House primary exposing Democratic divisions. Meanwhile, Rep. Lauren Boebert seeks to replace GOP Rep. Ken Buck in Colorado. Here are other key races to watch in New York, Colorado, Utah and South Carolina.

‘I don’t appreciate your tone’: The judge presiding over Trump’s classified documents case reprimanded a prosecutor at a hearing yesterday on a proposed gag order for the former president.

Student loan debt: A judge halted the cancellation of federal student loans under a key component of Biden’s student debt relief plan after several states sued over the program.

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Staff Pick: Chasing storms and finding news — while on vacation

NBC News senior meteorologist Kathryn Prociv takes a “chasecation” each year, chasing tornadoes across the heartland in her free time. Last month, in her 14th season of chasing storms, she watched from a distance as a tornado developed near Greenfield, Iowa, and leveled part of the town. She soon learned that fellow chasers had performed a dangerous scientific feat by placing a “pod” of measurement devices in the twister’s path and recording it from close range in their radar truck. “It’s extremely difficult to have this type of intercept,” Prociv said. “Basically, they nailed the needle in the haystack.”

The team briefly calculated winds within the tornado at more than 300 mph just above ground level, some of the highest in history. Its data could ultimately help answer critical questions about how tornadoes are formed and how we can be more prepared for them.

Evan Bush, science reporter

NBC Select: Online Shopping, Simplified

The safest way to clean your ears doesn’t involve cotton swabs. Here’s what to use instead. And though loofahs are common bath products, dermatologists say to avoid using them and consider these alternatives.

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