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December 7, 2017

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

10:58 p.m.

Colin Kroll, the co-founder of Vine and HQ Trivia, was found dead Sunday inside his New York City apartment. He was 34.

Kroll was discovered by police officers after his girlfriend called and asked for a wellness check, CNN reports. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

HQ Trivia, a trivia game app, was launched in 2017. Kroll became CEO of HQ Trivia's parent company, Intermedia Labs, earlier this year after his business partner Rus Yusupov was forced out, Recode reports. Recently, Kroll was accused by an HQ Trivia employee of "inappropriate and unprofessional behavior;" the matter was investigated and "yielded no concerns," the company told Recode. Catherine Garcia

10:26 p.m.

A new report prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee, the first to study millions of posts from the 2016 presidential campaign provided by Facebook, Twitter, and Google, says that Russians working at the Internet Research Agency posted on every major social media platform photos, videos, and messages to help get President Trump elected, and continued the effort to support him once in office, The Washington Post reports.

The Post obtained a draft of the report, compiled by Oxford University's Computational Propaganda Project. Researchers found that at certain points, like during presidential debates, disinformation campaigns ramped up, with different groups receiving targeted messages: for example, conservatives saw posts about gun rights, while black voters saw false information about how to vote.

"What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump," the report says. "Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged those groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract, and ultimately discourage members from voting."

The tech companies were all extremely slow to realize what was going on, the report says, even though the Russians slipped up several times, like paying for ads with rubles. Social media, the report states, went from a "natural infrastructure for sharing collective grievances and coordinating civic engagement to being a computational tool for social control, manipulated by canny political consultants and available to politicians in democracies and dictatorships alike." Read more about the report at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

9:07 p.m.

More than 40 people, including several children, were injured on Sunday evening when an explosion destroyed a restaurant in Sapporo, Japan.

The blast caused a fire to break out in the restaurant, and shattered the windows in a nearby apartment building. Debris also fell on several cars parked on the street.

Police said the cause of the explosion, which took place in the Hiragishi district, is under investigation. One witness told NHK he smelled gas after hearing the explosion. Catherine Garcia

12:59 p.m.

Friday's federal court ruling that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as ObamaCare, is unconstitutional will be upheld by the Supreme Court, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller forecast on Face the Nation on Sunday.

Miller conceded there would be no immediate change in ACA administration nationwide, but he answered CBS host Margaret Brennan in the affirmative when she summarized his comments as "predicting that this goes to the Supreme Court and that the Supreme Court ultimately strikes down" the ACA.

"I believe that's the likeliest outcome, because ObamaCare has always been unconstitutional," Miller said, pointing to the individual mandate provision, which is core to Friday's decision.

It's that very focus on the mandate which has led most legal experts — including conservatives and libertarians who oppose the ACA as a policy matter — to conclude the Friday ruling probably will not hold up under appeal. Read about their reasoning here at The Week. Bonnie Kristian

12:46 p.m.

President Trump does not have the votes in either house of Congress to get the border wall funding he wants, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Meet the Press on Sunday, arguing congressional Republicans should force Trump to accept this fact to avert government shutdown.

"Republicans just have to have the guts to tell President Trump he's off on the deep end here, and all he's going to get with his temper tantrum is a shutdown. He will not get a wall," Schumer told host Chuck Todd.

"If the president wants to debate the wall next year, he can," he continued. "I don't think he'll get it, but I don't think he should use innocent worker as hostages for his temper tantrum to sort of throw a bone to his base." Watch an excerpt of Schumer's comments below. Bonnie Kristian

12:38 p.m.

President Trump will not grant an interview to Special Counsel Robert Mueller if Rudy Giuliani has anything to say about it.

"There are reports now that the special counsel is interested again in interviewing the president," said Fox News host Chris Wallace when Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, joined his show for an interview Sunday. "Has his office reached out to you about sitting down for an in-person interview with the president?"

"Yes, there are several unpaid parking tickets back in 1986 [or] '87 that haven't been explained," Giuliani quipped. Pressed by Wallace for a more serious answer, Giuliani declared the Mueller investigation "a joke" and said Trump would grant the interview "over my dead body — but, you know, I could be dead."

Watch Giuliani's full interview below, and read more here at The Week on why an attorney would be wary of letting his client speak to federal investigators. Bonnie Kristian

11:56 a.m.

President Trump revisited familiar complaints on Twitter on Sunday, reiterating his animosity toward a variety of people on a variety of topics.

He began with a gripe about the media, particularly Saturday Night Live, which opened the night before with Alec Baldwin reprising his role as the president in a sketch parodying the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life.

Alas for Trump, satire is indeed legal.

He soon moved on to the subject of former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page. While Trump claimed in tweets Saturday night and Sunday morning that "19,000 Texts between [the two] were just reported as being wiped clean," the reality is Politico reported Thursday that about 19,000 previously missing texts were recovered by the Department of Justice investigation into Strzok and Page.

Trump next made a convoluted non sequitur about the FBI's warranted search of an office belonging to his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen:

On immigration, Trump at once condemned the Obama administration for separating some migrant families while boasting of his own separation policy. And finally, the president said he would review the case of Matt Golsteyn, a former Green Beret who has been charged by the Army with premeditated murder for his admitted role in killing an Afghan man he claimed was a Taliban bomb maker. Bonnie Kristian

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