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RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel resigns and ‘Star Trek’ actor Kenneth Mitchell dies at 49: Morning Rundown

RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel resigns and ‘Star Trek’ actor Kenneth Mitchell dies at 49: Morning Rundown

Russia’s 2024 election interference has already begun. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel is stepping down from her position. And everything you need to know about this year’s solar eclipse. 

Here’s what to know today.

Russia’s 2024 election interference has already begun 

Alexander Kazakov / AFP – Getty Images file

Russia is spreading disinformation ahead of the 2024 election, using fake online accounts to damage President Joe Biden and Democrats, according to former U.S. officials and cyber experts. The dissemination of these attacks is part of a continuing effort by Moscow to undercut American military aid to Ukraine and U.S. support for and solidarity with NATO, experts said.

A similar effort is underway in Europe. France, Germany and Poland said this month that Russia has launched a barrage of propaganda to try to influence European parliamentary elections in June.

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U.S. officials are concerned that Russia could try to further interfere in the 2024 presidential election through “deepfake” audio or video using artificial intelligence tools, or through a “hack and leak,” as it did with the theft of internal Democratic Party emails by Russian military intelligence operatives in 2016. Pro-Russia online propaganda campaigns that thrived on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook in 2016 are now routine on social media, though it’s rare for individual accounts to go viral as they once did. 

Former U.S. officials say that former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen provides fertile ground to sow confusion.

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Ronna McDaniel resigns as chairwoman of the RNC 

Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images

Ronna McDaniel said Monday that she’ll be stepping down next month as chairwoman of the Republican National Committee following former President Donald Trump’s endorsement of a new slate of leaders to direct the party. McDaniel’s leadership at the RNC was scrutinized among party activists after the midterm elections in 2022, when Republicans lost several critical Senate and governors’ races. McDaniel was handpicked by Trump after the 2016 election to serve as RNC chair, and was re-elected to a fourth term in January 2023. She is the second woman to lead the RNC.

Her decision came less than two weeks after Trump endorsed North Carolina GOP chairman Michael Whatley to be the next chairman of the RNC, his daughter-in-law Lara Trump to be co-chair and top campaign aide Chris LaCivita to be the party’s chief operating officer.

Here’s why Michigan’s presidential primary isn’t the same for Democrats and Republicans

The Michigan GOP is in a bizarre and unending leadership dispute. Two people — Kristina Karamo and former Rep. Pete Hoekstra — claim to be chairing the state party. They have scheduled dueling conventions. And while the Republican National Committee has said Karamo was properly removed from the post and has proclaimed Hoekstra the rightful chair, there isn’t 100% clarity on whose convention will count. Karamo, who refuses to relinquish control of state party property, including email addresses and financial records, plans to go forward with her convention in Detroit. Speaking with NBC News last week, she argued that Hoekstra has no legal standing to call a convention.

Republicans have quite the puzzle to solve, and will try to by using a hybrid nominating process that includes a weekend convention to allocate most of its delegates after tomorrow’s primary. 

Friends remember Nex Benedict as ‘fiery kid’ at Oklahoma vigil 

Friends and community members gather at a vigil in Redbud Festival Park in Owasso, Oklahoma, to pay tribute to a teenager who died the day after a fight at his high school. Jo Yurcaba / NBC News

Nex Benedict was involved in a fight in an Oklahoma school bathroom Feb. 7 and died the next day. His mother, Sue Benedict, has said that Nex, who used he/him and they/them pronouns, was bullied due to his gender identity. The Owasso Police Department said in a statement that preliminary information from an autopsy report shows Nex’s death was not the result of trauma. A toxicology exam is still pending, and an official autopsy will be released later. 

The department released a series of videos that offer a glimpse into the day before the teen’s death, including body camera footage from a police officer’s interview with Nex, in which he described how three students “jumped” him after he threw water on them because they were bullying him and his friend. 

Ahead of a local vigil, friends shared stories about the 16-year-old. “It was one of those things where you meet them and you automatically feel like you’ve known them for years kind of thing,” said his friend Ally, who they met at the start of the school year. “They were such an adventurous little thing. It was never really a dull moment with them.”

Netanyahu presented with civilian evacuation plan, Palestinian PM submits resignation of his entire government

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh submitted the resignation of his entire government today, saying it was because of “aggression against our people in Gaza” and “the unprecedented escalation in the West Bank.” Meanwhile, Israel’s military has presented an evacuation and operational plan for areas of fighting in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said today. Netanyahu had asked for a plan for the evacuation of Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah ahead of a planned assault on the area.

An active-duty Air Force service member has been hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., yesterday. The man appeared to have filmed the protest, and yelled ‘’Free Palestine’’ before collapsing to the ground. The Air Force confirmed he was an active-duty airman, and the embassy said no other workers were hurt. Follow live updates.

Supreme Court to decide how First Amendment applies to social media 

The Supreme Court will consider whether to uphold GOP-backed laws in Florida and Texas that seek to impose restrictions on the ability of social media companies to moderate content based on the claim that they disfavor conservative speech. The laws were enacted in 2021 after Twitter, Facebook and others banned Trump after his effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election ended in his supporters storming the U.S. Capitol.

Facebook and Twitter say that both laws infringe on free speech rights of companies under the Constitution’s First Amendment by restricting their ability to choose what content to publish on their platforms. Other tech companies that routinely moderate user content oppose the laws, including Reddit, Discord and Yelp. The Republican-led states seek to equate social media companies with the telecommunications industry, which transmits speech but has no editorial input. These so-called “common carriers” are heavily regulated by the government.

Everything you need to know about this year’s solar eclipse

A total solar eclipse will cross North America in April, offering millions of sky-watchers a rare opportunity to see afternoon skies temporarily darken and a “ring of fire” become illuminated overhead.

The eclipse will be visible April 8, and weather permitting, sky-watchers in 15 states will have the chance to see the moon almost completely cover the sun, casting its shadow and creating an effect of a fiery ring in the sky. In all other states in the continental U.S., people will be able to witness a partial solar eclipse, with the moon appearing to take a “bite” out of the sun and covering only part of it in the sky. 

Here’s everything you need to know about how to see it. 

Politics in Brief

Government shutdown: A high-stakes meeting will take place tomorrow to negotiate with Biden and four top congressional leaders to avert a potential partial government shutdown at the end of this week. 

Nikki Haley’s campaign: The political network financed largely by billionaire Charles Koch announced that it will no longer spend funds to support Nikki Haley’s presidential bid. The announcement came a day after Haley lost to Trump in her home state of South Carolina. 

Fake Biden robocall: Steve Kramer, a veteran political consultant, acknowledged that he created the fake Biden robocall at the center of a multistate investigation after NBC News reported about his involvement.

Trump’s pivot: Top advisers to Trump are urging him to focus less on personal grievances and more on attacks toward Biden, according to nine top Trump aides and allies who spoke to NBC News. 

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Staff Pick: This baseball MVP throws strikes … not the kind you think

Mat Hayward / Getty Images for Mookie Betts 5050 Foundation

Mookie Betts is one of the best all-around baseball players in the game. But most people probably don’t know that the Los Angeles Dodgers star’s athletic talent goes beyond the diamond.

NBC News correspondent Morgan Chesky recently sat down with Betts at an L.A. bowling alley, where the MVP described learning to bowl before ever picking up a baseball. And who turned him to the sport? His mom, Diana, who was a competitive bowler and was knocking down pins on the night she gave birth to Mookie. “Bowling is in my blood,” Betts told Chesky. — Tim Perone, managing editor for news

In Case You Missed It

Kenneth Mitchell as Aurellio in Star Trek: Discovery.Michael Gibson / CBS

Select: Online Shopping, Simplified

When was the last time you cleaned your mattress? It may seem as a lower priority, but regularly cleaning your mattress increases its lifespan. Select lists the best products and ingredients for thorough mattress cleaning to use for all different types.

Sign up to The Selection newsletter for exclusive reviews and shopping content from NBC Select.

Thanks for reading today’s Morning Rundown. Today’s newsletter was curated for you by Elizabeth Both. If you’re a fan, please send a link to your family and friends. They can sign-up here.

Elizabeth Both

Elizabeth Both is an associate platforms editor for NBC News, based in New York. 

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