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December 7, 2017
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On Wednesday, the Veterans Affairs Department released an annual survey showing that the number of homeless veterans rose 1.5 percent in 2017 versus 2016, the first increase since 2010. Also on Wednesday, Politico reported that VA Secretary David Shulkin has decided to end a $460 million program to provide housing for homeless vets.

The VA had quietly announced the decision to end the program, administered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in September, but faced blowback when officials brought up the decision in a Dec. 1 phone call arranged by Shulkin's Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans. Veterans' advocates, state agencies, and even HUD officials attacked the decision, five people on the call tell Politico. VA officials briefed congressional staffers on Tuesday, and all 14 members of the Senate appropriations VA subcommittee asked Shulkin to reconsider the decision. One of the senators, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), called the move "a new low" for the Trump administration and "especially callous and perplexing" given the rising number of homeless vets.

In a statement Wednesday evening, Shulkin said "there will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs," and he "will solicit input from our local VA leaders and external stakeholders on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most." The VA decided to shift the funds from the program — in which HUD gives housing vouchers to veterans and VA connects vets with apartments and manages their cases — to local VA hospitals, who can use the money as they see fit, as long as they deal with homelessness.

The defunded program has served 138,000 vets since 2010 and roughly halved the number without housing, Politico says, citing HUD data. "The people in this program are the most vulnerable individuals," says Matt Leslie at Virginia's Department of Veterans Services. "If someone's going to die on the streets, they are the ones." Peter Weber

1:11 p.m. ET

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) on Sunday urged Congress and President Trump to take action on gun control in the wake of Wednesday's deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school.

"Of course the president can lead on this and should lead on this, and Mr. President, I ask you to do this," Kasich said on CNN's State of the Union. "You don't have to boil the ocean, but take some steps now," he continued. "I believe those who are Second Amendment advocates realize that common-sense, real reforms can happen in this country to answer the cries and the anguish of people all across this country who have lost loved ones."

Kasich specifically recommended more extensive background checks as well as "local law enforcement or the FBI" monitoring those believed to suffer from mental illness or emotional distress. Watch an excerpt of his CNN interview below. Bonnie Kristian

12:51 p.m. ET

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting on Wednesday, on Sunday announced "March for Our Lives," a demonstration for new gun control legislation scheduled for Saturday, March 24, in Washington, D.C., and cities around the country.

"People are saying that it's not time to talk about gun control. And we can respect that," said Cameron Kasky, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas junior who explained the event on ABC's This Week. "Here's a time: March 24 in every single city. We are going to be marching together as students begging for our lives," Kasky continued. "At this point, you're either with us or against us."

Kasky and four fellow Stoneman Douglas students — Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Alex Wind, and Jaclyn Corin — made a similar appearance on Fox News Sunday. Watch a clip of that interview below. Bonnie Kristian

12:12 p.m. ET

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Sunday offered a qualified defense of President Trump's claim that he has been vindicated by the evidence revealed in federal investigations of Russian election meddling.

Friday's indictment of Russian nationals and entities by Special Counsel Robert Mueller "proves there’s no collusion to this point," Christie said on ABC's This Week. "There's no collusion in terms of the Facebook ads, the other social media activity."

"Director Mueller made it very clear in the indictment that any participation by anybody — whether it was in the Trump campaign or the [Bernie] Sanders campaign, which they said was also being assisted by this effort by Russia — that all of that was done unwittingly," Christie continued. "No one participated in a knowing fashion. Now, we have to see where [Mueller] goes next, but certainly at this point, there is no allegation by Director Mueller and his team of collusion."

Watch a clip of Christie's comments below, or read his full interview here. Bonnie Kristian

11:50 a.m. ET

President Trump posted a pair of tweets Sunday morning aimed at Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), whom he dubbed "Liddle' [sic] Adam Schiff, the leakin' monster of no control." The president was pleased with Schiff's Friday statement that Russian meddling in U.S. politics should have been addressed sooner and more forcefully by the Obama administration. However, he also suggested Schiff's true motive was excusing Hillary Clinton's election loss.

Later Sunday, on CNN's State of the Union, Schiff hit back. Friday's indictment of Russian nationals "ought to put to rest for anyone, including the president who continues to call this a 'witch hunt,' that the evidence is now overwhelming and unequivocal and we need to move to protect ourselves from Russian interference in elections that are coming up," Schiff said.

Asked whether he concurs with Trump's frequent claim that his campaign has been proven innocent of collusion with Russian election meddling, Schiff disagreed. "No, of course not," he said. "This is a president who claims vindication anytime someone sneezes."

Watch an excerpt of the interview below. Bonnie Kristian

10:09 a.m. ET
Atta Kenare/Getty Images

An Iranian passenger plane heading to Tehran crashed Sunday morning in a mountainous rural region. All 66 people on board, 60 passengers and six crew members, are presumed, though not confirmed, to be dead. Retrieval efforts have been hindered by the crash site's remote location and bad weather.

Iran has a poor record on aviation safety because international sanctions intended to restrain its nuclear development make it difficult to obtain parts to keep planes in good condition. This plane, operated by Aseman Airlines, was 25 years old. The airline signed a contract with Boeing last year to purchase a new fleet of as many as 60 planes, but that agreement could be jeopardized if the Trump administration seeks to exit the Iran nuclear deal. Bonnie Kristian

10:01 a.m. ET
Lennart Preiss/The Associated Press

"Israel will not allow Iran's regime to put the noose of terror around our neck," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. "We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves. And we will act, if necessary, not only against Iranian proxies that are attacking us but against Iran itself."

Netanyahu alleged Iran is attempting to "colonize" Syria, which is located between the two countries, as part of a larger project "to establish this continuous empire surrounding the Middle East from the south in Yemen but also trying to create a land bridge from Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza." As he spoke, he waved a piece of an Iranian drone recently downed on Israeli land.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif labeled the remarks "a cartoonish circus which does not even deserve a response." He accused Israel of practicing "aggression as a policy against its neighbors," saying Netanyahu is angry because "the so-called invincibility [of Israel] has crumbled." Bonnie Kristian

8:48 a.m. ET

President Trump on Twitter Sunday denied questioning whether Russia attempted to meddle in the 2016 election:

The president was referring to comments he made in the first general election debate saying interference efforts "could be Russia. But it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?"

However, Trump also said in November of 2017 he is convinced by Russian President Vladimir Putin's denial of election interference. "Every time he sees me, he says, 'I didn't do that,'" Trump said of Putin, "and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it."

In other tweets Saturday and Sunday, Trump complained about press coverage of Friday's indictments from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. He also argued it was Moscow's goal "to create discord, disruption, and chaos within the U.S.," and he pushed back on National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster's Saturday remark that evidence of Russian meddling "is now incontrovertible."

One Sunday tweet on the subject ended on a plaintive note: "But," Trump asked, "wasn't I a great candidate?" Bonnie Kristian

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