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September 29, 2017

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz ripped acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke over Duke's suggestion earlier this week that the federal response to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico is a "good news story."

"Maybe from where [Duke] is standing it's a good news story," an emotional Cruz told CNN's Alisyn Camerota on New Day. "When you are drinking from a creek, it's not a good news story. When you don't have food for a baby, it's not a good story. When you have to pull people — I'm sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me."

Cruz added: "This is — this is not a good news story. This is a people-are-dying story."

Many Puerto Ricans have criticized the Trump administration for being too slow to respond to the unfolding crisis. Nine days after Hurricane Maria, 3.4 million people are still without power and drinking water is running dangerously low. Trump has defended his administration's response: "Wish press would treat fairly!" he tweeted Thursday.

But "when you have people out there dying, literally dying, literally scraping for food, where is the good news?" Cruz asked. Watch below. Jeva Lange

1:04 p.m.

CNN's Dana Bash interviewed Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, on Sunday's edition of State of the Union, pressing the congressman about whether he'd accept Special Counsel Robert Mueller's findings if they did not uncover any wrongdoing by President Trump.

Schiff was vague at first, stating that while his committee "will certainly be very interested to learn what" Mueller finds, "there may be, for example, evidence of collusion or conspiracy that is clear and convincing, but not proof beyond a reasonable doubt," as is needed for a criminal conviction.

When Bash restated the question, however, Schiff was more a little more direct, arguing that if he was sure that Mueller's investigation was not subject to tampering, he would, indeed, accept the findings.

"I have great confidence in the special counsel," he said. "And if the special counsel represents that he has investigated, and not been interfered with, then I will believe that he is operating in good faith."

The discussion begins slightly after the 5-minute mark in the video below. Read the full interview transcript here. Tim O'Donnell

12:53 p.m.

Enough senators are unhappy with President Trump's Trump's Friday declaration of a national emergency to obtain funding for border wall construction, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said on ABC's This Week Sunday, that the Senate could pass a resolution to block Trump's plan.

"Now, whether we have enough for an override of veto, that's a different story," Duckworth said. "But frankly, I think there's enough people in the Senate who are concerned that what he's doing is robbing from the military and the [Defense Department] to go build his wall, that it's really not the best way to fight the crisis that he's talking about at the border."

Per an accounting from The Bulwark, a conservative commentary site, 14 GOP senators have criticized the emergency declaration, albeit with differing rationales. The Senate currently seats 45 Democrats plus two independents who caucus with the Democrats. If all 47 plus those 14 Republicans voted to block Trump's declaration, their combined 61 votes would fall short of the 67 needed to override a presidential veto.

And a veto should be expected, said White House senior adviser Stephen Miller on Fox News Sunday. "Obviously the president is going to protect his national emergency declaration," Miller told host Chris Wallace. This would be the first veto of Trump's presidency.

Watch Miller's comments below. Bonnie Kristian

12:12 p.m.

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller appeared on Fox News Sunday to defend President Trump's Friday declaration of a national emergency to obtain funding for border wall construction — and host Chris Wallace did not let him off lightly.

"The president talks about an 'invasion' — he used that word multiple times on Friday — an 'invasion' on the southern border," Wallace said. "But let's look at the facts," he continued, citing statistics to show illegal border crossings have fallen dramatically in the last two decades; that the vast majority of heroin and fentanyl seizures at the border take place at official entry points, not unfenced areas; and that visa overstays now account for twice as many illegal entries to the United States as illicit border crossings.

"Again," Wallace concluded, "where's the national emergency to build a wall?"

After promising to address every fact Wallace raised, Miller responded by arguing that would-be illegal immigrants are now sneakier and more difficult to deport than they were two decades ago and that more drugs are not captured in unfenced areas of the border because there is not enough manpower there to capture them.

Wallace didn't seem convinced, but turned the conversation to constitutional questions concerning the national emergency, repeatedly pressing Miller on whether he can "name one case where a president has asked Congress for money, Congress has refused, and the president has then evoked national policy to get the money anyway?"

Miller refused to give Wallace the yes or no answer he sought, instead arguing the National Emergencies Act is Congress "saying the president could have this authority," so any time the president declares an emergency he automatically has congressional approval to spend money on the situation as he pleases.

Watch the full interview below, or read the transcript here. Bonnie Kristian

11:03 a.m.

Heather Nauert, Trump's pick to replace Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, withdrew her name from consideration Saturday.

The State Department spokeswoman and former Fox News anchor said that it was in the best interest of her family that she remove her name from the process. "I am grateful to to President Trump and Secretary [Mike] Pompeo for the trust they placed in me," Nauert said in a statement. "However, the past two months have been grueling for my family and therefore it is in the best interest of my family that I withdraw my name from consideration."

Pompeo addressed Nauert's decision, praising her job performance at the State Department and wishing her "nothing but the best."

The Washington Post reported Nauert's nomination faced complications and that her security investigation was delayed because 10 years ago she hired a foreign-born nanny who did not have a proper work visa. Additionally, the report says Nauert did not pay her taxes on the hire at the proper time.

The State Department said Trump will select a new nominee soon. Tim O'Donnell

10:55 a.m.

Police in Chicago on Saturday said their investigation of the alleged assault against Empire actor Jussie Smollett has changed focus following the interview of two brothers linked to the case.

"We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation," said a police statement. "We've reached out to the Empire cast member's attorney to request a follow-up interview."

An unnamed police source told NBC the new information suggests Smollett hired two men to stage the attack. Smollett's lawyers vehemently denied that report, saying, "Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying."

Smollett has likewise expressed indignation at accusations that his account is not accurate. "It's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth," he said Thursday. "You don't even want to see the truth."

Like his Empire character, Smollett is gay. He alleged two people yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him, beat him, poured a substance that may have been bleach on his body, and put a noose around his neck as he left a Chicago restaurant. The two brothers who spoke with police were arrested and at first considered suspects, but they have since been released without charges and are no longer suspected. One of the brothers is Smollett's personal trainer, his attorneys said. Bonnie Kristian

8:40 a.m.

The man who fatally shot five people and wounded six more in Aurora, Illinois, on Friday was armed with a handgun he should not have been able to purchase, local authorities have revealed.

The shooter, identified as Gary Martin, had been arrested in Aurora six times for "traffic and domestic battery-related issues," said Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman, and he was convicted of aggravated assault in Mississippi in 1995. That felony conviction should have been detected by the background check Martin underwent to purchase his gun. It was not.

Though a second background check for Martin's concealed carry permit application did alert to his record, he already had the weapon in his possession by that point.

Martin was killed Friday in an exchange of gunfire with police. He was going to be fired from his workplace, the manufacturing plant where he made his attack, though Zimon said Saturday police are not sure whether he knew he would be let go when he brought his handgun to his job Friday morning. "[W]e can surmise that he was speculative about what was going to happen as evidenced by him arming himself with a firearm," she said.

The identities of the five people Martin killed have been released; all were fellow workers at the plant. Of the six police officers wounded, three remain hospitalized, but all are in stable condition. Bonnie Kristian

8:40 a.m.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Saturday he has yet to choose which military projects may have funding reallocated to pay for border wall construction following President Trump's national emergency declaration.

The Trump administration reportedly identified $3.6 billion from the military construction budget and $2.5 billion from a Defense Department drug interdiction fund, but Shanahan has ultimate approval on how much can be taken from which programs. "Very deliberately, we have not made any decisions," Shanahan said.

One military official told Reuters Shanahan is likely to approve the targeted amount from the construction budget. But Shanahan said that one area that will not be touched is military housing, which has come under scrutiny lately for poor standards.

The Pentagon is also still reviewing whether the wall is necessary to support the use of armed forces. Tim O'Donnell

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