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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

8:42 p.m. ET
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Former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong has agreed to pay the federal government $5 million to settle fraud allegations, which could have ended up costing him $100 million.

The U.S. Postal Service once sponsored Armstrong's team, and argued that he defrauded taxpayers by accepting money while using performance-enhancing drugs, NPR reports. In a statement, the disgraced cyclist said he was ready to "move forward with my life." Chad Reader, acting attorney general for the Justice Department's civil division, said the settlement "demonstrates that those who cheat the government will be held accountable."

Armstrong admitted in 2013 that he did use performance-enhancing drugs, and he was stripped of his Tour de France wins and banned from competition for life. His former teammate, Floyd Landis, sued Armstrong in 2010 under the False Claims Act, and federal prosecutors joined his suit in 2013 on behalf of the USPS. As part of the settlement, Landis, who also admitted to doping, will receive about $1.1 million. Catherine Garcia

7:48 p.m. ET
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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency could announce as early as Friday that Wells Fargo is being fined $1 billion for, among other things, charging customers for car insurance they didn't need, a person familiar with the penalty told CNN Money.

Last year, the company apologized for forcing as many as 570,000 customers into purchasing unnecessary car insurance, and said after conducting an internal review, it was discovered that 20,000 or so of those clients may have defaulted on their car loans and had their vehicles repossessed because of the insurance cost. Wells Fargo also announced in October that some mortgage borrowers were charged after missing a deadline to lock in interest rates, even though the delay was caused by the company and not customers. Catherine Garcia

6:59 p.m. ET
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Queen Elizabeth II made it official on Thursday, publicly announcing for the first time that it is her "sincere wish" that "one day," Prince Charles lead the Commonwealth.

Being head of the Commonwealth is not hereditary, and upon the Queen's death, the role would not automatically go to the Prince of Wales. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is underway in London, and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said he believes it's likely the leaders will confirm Prince Charles on Friday. They will also discuss ocean conservation, trade, and cyber security during the two-day summit.

The Queen told the 53 leaders gathered at Buckingham Palace on Thursday it was a "pleasure" to welcome them to her home, and it is her "sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations, and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949." Catherine Garcia

5:23 p.m. ET
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Rudy Giuliani, the former federal prosecutor and mayor of New York City, has joined President Trump's legal team. He will specifically join the corps of lawyers representing Trump in the ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Giuliani is a high-profile new addition to a team that has "struggled to recruit new members to its ranks," The Washington Post wrote. Giuliani confirmed his new position in a Thursday interview with the Post, saying, "I'm doing it because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country, and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller."

Trump is currently represented in Mueller's investigation by attorneys Jay Sekulow and Ty Cobb. Giuliani told the Post that he spoke to both men earlier this week about signing on. John Dowd, Trump's personal attorney in the Russia probe, stepped down last month, reportedly after concluding that Trump was ignoring his counsel.

Trump considered appointing Giuliani to be attorney general before ultimately selecting Jeff Sessions. In a statement released by his attorneys, Trump celebrated the hire, saying: "Rudy is great. He has been my friend for a long time and wants to get this matter quickly resolved for the good of the country."

Read more about Giuliani's new gig at The Washington Post. Kimberly Alters

4:57 p.m. ET
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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told President Trump he isn't a target in the Russia probe, two sources "familiar with the matter" told Bloomberg.

Rosenstein's assurance reportedly came last Thursday, after Trump spent weeks tweeting his displeasure with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling. Rosenstein appointed Mueller to lead the investigation in March 2017.

Rosenstein's disclosure reportedly led the president to slow down his attacks on Mueller's probe. Trump told one source that he doesn't even want to fire either Rosenstein or Mueller now, Bloomberg reports, because a dismissal could stretch out the investigation.

But Rosenstein may have told Trump something that's not quite true, Bloomberg reports. Just because Mueller isn't going after Trump now doesn't mean he won't eventually, a U.S. official "with knowledge of the unfolding investigation" noted. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:22 p.m. ET

CIA Director Mike Pompeo is vying to become the next secretary of state, and on Thursday his efforts got a significant boost.

Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) announced her support for Pompeo in a statement Thursday, becoming the first Democratic senator to indicate she would vote to confirm Pompeo as America's chief diplomat. Heitkamp said Pompeo is "committed to empowering the diplomats at the State Department so they can do their jobs in advancing American interests."

That vote could put Pompeo across the finish line, per CBS News — even if one Republican isn't his favor. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul hasn't backtracked on his intention to vote down or even filibuster the nomination, but Heitkamp's vote would make up for it. Still, Arizona's Republican senators may complicate things, as Jeff Flake is still up in the air and John McCain is away from the Capitol undergoing cancer treatment. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:36 p.m. ET

America's favorite space telescope celebrated its 28th year among the stars by delivering a remarkable new find.

The Hubble Space Telescope captured two pictures of the faraway Lagoon Nebula. One taken in visible light reveals a rainbow of space gas and dust, while the other taken in infrared reveals countless cosmos and the bright star at the center of the nebula.

The Lagoon Nebula is known as a "stellar nursery," as its outermost gas and dust clouds are constantly contracting to form new stars. You can hop onboard the Hubble for a colorful journey through the Lagoon Nebula in this video. Kathryn Krawczyk

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