5 things to know for February 21: Mueller, Jussie Smollett, Vatican, terror arrest

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The flood threat continues across the Southeast as the next winter storm begins to take shape out of the West. CNN Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest on these late winter storms.

Posted: Feb. 21, 2019 5:30 PM
Updated: Feb. 21, 2019 5:30 PM

A species of giant tortoise not seen in more than 100 years -- and thought to be extinct -- has been found in the Galapagos Islands.

Here's what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and Out the Door. (You can also get "5 Things You Need to Know Today" delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)

1. Russia investigation

The end is apparently near for the Russia investigation. Attorney General Bill Barr is set to announce the completion of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, perhaps as soon as next week, people familiar with the plans say. A summary of Mueller's confidential report would then be given to Congress, though at this point it's not clear when lawmakers would get it or what its scope would be.

Mueller's investigation has consumed President Trump's presidency, and America's political life, for almost two years. The President rages against it, denouncing it as a hoax and a witch hunt, while some of Trump's political adversaries hope it will lead to the end of his presidency. But the upcoming report may not provide the kind of closure many think. CNN's Chris Cillizza thinks people are so dug in with their opinions that whatever ultimately comes out won't change many minds.

2. Jussie Smollett

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett is under arrest and facing a felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report, Chicago police said. A bail hearing is set for this afternoon. Smollett, who is black and gay, set off a firestorm three weeks ago when he told police two men assaulted him in a racist and homophobic attack, complete with slurs, MAGA hats, the pouring of a chemical substance on him and a noose around his neck. Now, police think Smollett paid two brothers to orchestrate the assault on him, a pair of law enforcement sources told CNN. Smollett denies playing any role in his attack.

3. Vatican summit

A historic summit to deal with the Catholic Church's clergy abuse scandal starts today in Rome. Pope Francis called for the four-day summit, which for the first time in Catholic history brings together nearly 200 church leaders to address the crisis. "We must look this monster in the face without fear if we really want to conquer it," a Vatican spokesman said. The summit comes as the Catholic Church is confronting scandals on several fronts, from the sexual abuse of nuns by clergy to a salacious new book to be published today that calls the Vatican "one of the biggest gay communities in the world."

4. Coast Guard arrest

A Coast Guard officer is accused of wanting to conduct a mass killing. Christopher Paul Hasson was arrested last week on gun and drug charges. Authorities say Hasson, of Maryland, is a white supremacist who kept a hit list that named prominent Democrats and members of the media, including CNN anchors. A search of his home found 15 weapons and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Prosecutors consider Hasson to be a domestic terrorist and say he relied on the manifesto of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian man who killed 77 people in a pair of terror attacks in 2011.

5. Teachers' strikes

As one teachers' strike ends, another begins on the other side of the country. West Virginia teachers stopped their strike after just two days after they successfully stopped legislation that would have created new charter schools and allowed public money to be used for private school tuition. They'll be back in classrooms today -- when teachers in Oakland, California, will walk off the job. And their strike promises to be different from all the others. Oakland teachers live in one of the priciest places in America -- thanks to the tech boom -- so yeah, they want better pay. They're asking for a 12% increase over three years, but the school district says it's so strapped for cash that it can only offer 5% raises over three years. So, this one might go on for a while.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Thank you, next ...

Ariana Grande has a lot to be thankful for: She's the first artist since the Beatles to simultaneously hold the top three spots on Billboard's hit songs chart.

One and done?

Have we seen the last of Zion Williamson in a Duke jersey? The phenom freshman had to leave the game against rival North Carolina with a knee injury after his foot tore through his shoe.

Making 'Momoas'

Want to sell more Girl Scout cookies? Slap pics of Jason Momoa onto the boxes of Samoas. It worked like a charm for this Colorado girl.

Out of this world

Samsung rolled out its new Galaxy S10 smartphones, with the first device that can run on 5G networks and a foldable phone that's either a gimmick or a game changer.

Hulkamania

Thor's gonna be the Hulk? No, not that Hulk. "Avengers" superhero Chris Hemsworth will reportedly play Hulk Hogan in an upcoming Netflix biopic.

TODAY'S NUMBER

more than 1,400

The number of cases involving a Houston police officer that prosecutors are reviewing. Officer Gerald Goines is under criminal investigation after police said he lied to get a search warrant for a drug raid in January in which two people were killed and five officers were hurt.

TODAY'S WEATHER

AND FINALLY

The autocat

Autotune works for rappers and pop stars, so why not for our pets? A man created this mashup of his cat's altered morning meows. (Click to view.)

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