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Kathie Lee Gifford leaving the 'Today' show

Kathie Lee Gifford announced Tuesday that she plans to leave the “Today” show next year after 11 years on the morning talk show.

>> Read more trending news

She called her departure “bittersweet” during the “Today” show on Tuesday.

"It's an exciting time for me and I’m thrilled about all the projects that are coming up but it's also hard because ... I love everybody here so much,” she said. “I've been in this business 120 years and never worked with a more beautiful group of people who just give, give, give everyday.”

In a memo to staff, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim said Lee Gifford will be with the show until April 7, 2019, according to The New York Times and Deadline Hollywood.

"We will have much more to share before then about our plans for that hour, which will, of course, continue to include (co-host Hoda Kotb)," he said.

Lee Gifford joined the "Today" show in 2008 with plans to spend only one year as part of the program. She said Tuesday that she decided to stay longer after she "fell in love with a beautiful, talented, extraordinary Egyptian goddess named Hoda."

'She's not the kind that runs off': Search continues for Colorado woman

While police continue to search for a Colorado woman who has been missing since Thanksgiving Day, her mother said the disappearance of Kelsey Marie Berreth was out of character.

>> Read more trending news 

“She’s not the kind that runs off. This is completely out of character,” Cheryl Berreth said at a news conference Monday. “Kelsey loves her God. She loves her family and friends and she loves her job. She’s reliable, considerate and honest.”

Kelsey Berreth, 29, a pilot instructor and mother of a 1-year-old girl, has not been heard from in more than two weeks, the Denver Post reported.

>> Search intensifies for missing Colorado woman

Police said Berreth was last seen publicly on surveillance cameras shopping at the Safeway in Woodland Park with her daughter on Thanksgiving, KDVR reported. Officers said she later exchanged her daughter with her fiance, Patrick Frasee. But Berreth was not reported missing until Dec. 2, the television station reported.

Berreth texted her employer, Doss Aviation, on Nov. 25 to say she would not be at work the following week, the Post reported. She also texted Frasee that day. He told police he had not seen Berreth since Thanksgiving, when they exchanged custody of their 1-year-old daughter, Woodland Park police Chief Miles De Young said. 

According to investigators, Berreth’s cellphone was pinged at 5:13 p.m. Nov. 25 near Gooding, Idaho, KDVR reported. According to a Facebook page set up to track the search, Berreth has family in Idaho and Washington.

Investigators have searched Berreth’s home and work and have not identified anyone as a suspect, De Young told the Post. All of her belongings were still inside her home, except for her purse. 

There was no indication Berreth had used a Doss Aviation aircraft or any record that she and her fiancé were having relationship issues, De Young told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Berreth’s family continues to seek her whereabouts.

“Kelsey, we just want you home. Call us if you can. Someone knows where she’s at,” Cheryl Berreth said at Monday’s news conference.

Nashville Airport travelers stop to sing national anthem to children of fallen military members

Travelers at the Nashville International Airport came to a standstill Saturday and sang the national anthem to a group of children whose parents had died in combat.

>> Read more trending news 

Jen Tringale, who was passing through the airport that day, posted a video to Facebook of the moving scene. A man can be heard singing as each person in the terminal is stopped with a hand on their heart. Members of the military can be seen saluting.

"@americanairlines was flying a plane full of children who had lost a parent in combat to Disneyworld on an all expenses paid trip and they threw a party for them at the gate❤️" Tringale wrote. "But when they announced them over the loud speaker and they lined up to board the plane the whole airport literally stopped and sang the national anthem with military present in salute."

Many passersby teared up at the song, Tringale said.

As of Tuesday morning, the video had more than 452,000 views and 8,000 shares.

Former senators write letter urging current senators to ‘defend democracy’

Forty-four former U.S. senators are calling on their colleagues to be “zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest.”

The letter published in The Washington Post warned members of the Senate that the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election could come “when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability,” and that “the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.” 

The letter was signed by the following 32 Democrats, 10 Republicans and two Independents: 

Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Richard Bryan(D-Nev.), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Max Cleland (D-Ga.), William Cohen (R-Maine), Kent Conrad(D-N.D.), Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.), John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), David Durenberger (R-Minn.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.), Bob Graham (D-Fla.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Gary Hart (D-Colo.), Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ben Nelson(D-Neb.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), David Pryor (D-Ark.), Don Riegle (D-Mich.), Chuck Robb(D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John W. Warner (R-Va.), Lowell Weicker (I-Conn.), Tim Wirth (D-Colo.)

Click here to read the letter.

KKK costumes worn during high school play anger parents

A high school play in which three students wore Ku Klux Klan costumes has angered parents, KNXV reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The play “The Foreigner” was performed Friday during an assembly at the Arizona State University Preparatory Academy’s Phoenix campus, the television station reported. Parents told KNXV that the school never notified them or students not in the drama department that the controversial costumes would be part of the production.

"Three students dressed as the KKK walked down the middle of the assembly as part of a play," one parent, who asked for anonymity at his daughter's request, told the television station. "They were in hooded robes."

“The Foreigner” is a comedy that includes the Klansmen in its script. However, the parent said the characters could have been portrayed without a full KKK outfit, KNXV reported.

The Klansmen are part of the scripted, comedy play, but this parent said there was a better way to portray it.

"We can talk about racial prejudice, we can talk about the insensitivity, but to have our children put on the robes and assume the characters, it's wrong,” he told the television station. “There is no justification for it."

A school spokesman said in a statement that the play “portrays an image of members of Klansmen in a brief scene toward the end in which they are made fun of and driven away.”

“We apologize if anyone was caught by surprise with the appearance of these characters,” the spokesman said. “We are confident that a fair reading of the text of the play, and a fair interpretation of the intentions of students who performed it, reveals no endorsement of bigotry.”

North Dakota man pleads guilty to using stolen forklift in Trump assassination attempt

A North Dakota man has pleaded guilty to plotting to assassinate President Donald Trump, in part, by using a forklift to flip the presidential limousine while Trump was inside, federal court documents show. 

Gregory Lee Leingang, 42, of Bismarck, pleaded guilty last month to a federal charge of attempting to enter or remain in a restricted building and on grounds while using a dangerous weapon, according to the documents. In exchange for the plea, a second charge -- attempt to damage government property, i.e. the presidential limo -- has been dropped. 

Leingang admitted in the court filings that on Sept. 6, 2017, he attempted to remain in a restricted area, the Andeavor Mandan Refinery in Mandan, after it had been cordoned off for a visit by Trump. 

“During and in relation to the offense, (he) did use a deadly and dangerous weapon, that is, a forklift,” the plea agreement said. 

See Leingang’s plea agreement below.

U.S. Assistant State’s Attorney Brandi Sasse Russell told the Bismarck Tribune that Leingang was aware Trump was coming to give a speech at the refinery. He stole a forklift in Mandan and used it to enter the motorcade route, the prosecutor said. 

“The intent was to basically try to get to the limo, flip the limo and get to the president and he wanted to kill the president,” Sasse Russell told the newspaper

The forklift got stuck in a gated area, however, and Leingang jumped out and fled, Sasse Russell said. He was soon caught by Mandan police officers. 

Leingang later confessed his plan to detectives and a Secret Service agent, the Tribune reported

Mandan Deputy Police Chief Lori Flaten told The Washington Post that, although reports said the forklift got stuck in a gated area of the refinery, Leingang actually never made it that far. Instead, he dumped the machine in a ditch and ran, with officers catching up to him soon after.

“We had that whole area blocked off because of the president’s visit, so there was limited access,” Flaten told the Post. “It wasn’t until later, during interviews of him, that we found out that (killing the president) was his intention, not that he was stealing a forklift for transportation.”

>> Read more trending news

Leingang’s attorney told the court her client suffers from serious mental illness. 

“He was suffering a serious psychiatric crisis during this incident,” attorney Michelle Monteiro said, according to the Tribune

Leingang told the judge during a Nov. 30 court hearing that he suffers from bipolar disorder and ADHD and has been on and off medications since he was a child. Monteiro told the court that Leingang is getting help in prison and is doing well, mentally.

Leingang is currently in the North Dakota State Penitentiary, serving time for two fires he set the morning of Trump’s visit, at the Bismarck Municipal Ballpark’s maintenance shop and at the state parole and probation office. According to the Tribune, he was sentenced to 10 years in state prison for the fires. 

He also received five years in state prison for the theft of the forklift, as well as another five years in a separate burglary case. His estimated release date is in 2038, prison records show.

The Tribune reported that Sasse Russell is considering making Leingang’s federal prison time concurrent, or to be served at the same time, as his sentence in the state cases. 

His federal sentencing hearing is set for Feb. 15. According to his plea agreement, he faces 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years on supervised release once he completes his prison time. 

Mueller investigation: Paul Manafort hearing set for Tuesday

The legal team for President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, will appear in court Tuesday after prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team accused him of lying to authorities.

>> Read more trending news

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson set a scheduling conference for 3 p.m. Tuesday in Manafort’s case. He is not expected to attend.

Manafort agreed to cooperate with authorities in September, while pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice through witness tampering.

>> Paul Manafort pleads guilty as part of deal with special counsel Robert Mueller

However, Mueller’s team said in a court filing Friday that Manafort told “multiple discernible lies” about his contact with Trump administration officials and with a Russian associate. Manafort’s attorneys have denied any wrongdoing.

Florida woman put puppies in backpack, swung them around bar, police say

A South Florida woman is accused of putting a Chihuahua and its four 4-week-old puppies into a backpack and swinging it around a bar, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Teresa Gardner, 27, was arrested at 3:12 a.m. Sunday by Broward County sheriff’s deputies after the incident at the Briny Irish Pub in Pompano Beach, the newspaper reported. She was charged on multiple counts, including tormenting animals and resisting arrest, WTVJ reported.

According to an arrest report, witnesses saw Gardner swinging the backpack and slamming it on tables and benches at the bar, the television station reported. When Gardner was stopped, deputies found the dogs trembling in the bag, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

“It's hard to understand why she would have animals in a bag like this. They could've died, I don't know why anyone would take puppies to a bar at all, it's a very bizarre situation," Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Gina Carter told WTVJ.

At a Monday morning hearing in court, Gardner denied the accusations, tearfully telling the judge “I didn’t do that,” the Sun-Sentinel reported.

The dogs were taken to an animal shelter, WSVN reported.

Jamal Khashoggi and ‘The Guardians’ named Time Person of the Year 2018

Slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and other journalists, dubbed “The Guardians and the War on Truth,” are Time’s Person of the Year for 2018, the magazine announced Tuesday.

>> Read more trending news 

The magazine hailed Khashoggi, who was critical of the Saudi regime and is believed to have been killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, for daring “to disagree with his country’s government.”

>> PHOTOS: Time’s Person of the Year since 1998

“His death laid bare the true nature of a smiling prince, the utter absence of morality in the Saudi-U.S. alliance and — in the cascade of news feeds and alerts, posts and shares and links — the centrality of the question Khashoggi was killed over: Whom do you trust to tell the story?” Karl Vick wrote in Time’s cover story.

>> See the magazine covers here

Time also honored other journalists, including the following:

  • Maria Ressa, a Filipina journalist known for criticizing Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte;
  • Reuters’ Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were jailed in Myanmar while covering the slayings of 10 Rohingya Muslims;
  • The staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, where a gunman killed five employees in June.

President Donald Trump took the No. 2 spot, while special counsel Robert Mueller came in third, the magazine said.

Here are the other finalists who made the shortlist:

  • Families separated at the border
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler
  • Christine Blasey Ford, who testified against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh
  • March For Our Lives activists led by students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida
  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in
  • Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex

Read more here.

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