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September 27, 2017

President Trump has grown increasingly frustrated with the Republican-controlled Senate, which once again failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this week. Trump's ire is particularly targeted toward Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who helped put the nail in the GOP health-care bill's coffin.

In addition to his public airing of grievances, Trump has reportedly taken to mocking McConnell and McCain in private, too. Trump physically mocks McConnell's "slumped shoulders" and "lethargic body language" and mimes McCain by "imitating the thumbs-down of his historic health-care vote," Axios reports. Trump also reportedly mocked McConnell as "weak" at a private dinner on Monday, Politico reports, adding that the president also "called McCain 'disgraceful' on health care and mocked his thumbs-down gesture on the Senate floor against a GOP proposal in July, complete with a facial expression, attendees said."

Trump has a long road ahead, though — including needing Senate Republicans on his side for a tax overhaul. "With his stoking of the culture war and bombastic style amid national and global turbulence, Trump continues to make every issue about himself — at the very time that he most needs friends," Axios concludes. Jeva Lange

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

8:08 a.m.

President Trump on Twitter late Saturday asked the United States' European allies to collect and contain hundreds of Islamic State fighters the United States has captured in Syria:

The fighters in question are Europeans who traveled to the Mideast to back the Islamic State. In some cases, "fighter" may not be a fair characterization; for example, a London teenager named Shamima Begum, now 19, recently gave birth after traveling to Syria in 2015 to marry an ISIS militant. She may never have personally acted as a combatant and now seeks to return to the United Kingdom.

While France will repatriate and, in some cases, prosecute French nationals among these captured hundreds of ISIS affiliates, other nations, most notably the United Kingdom, have been less willing to do so with ISIS recruits from their countries. The situation is coming to a head as the fight against ISIS in Syria winds down; U.S.-backed Syrian forces said Saturday the terrorist group today controls just 700 square meters of Syrian territory. Bonnie Kristian

7:53 a.m.

Saturday Night Live's President Trump (Alec Baldwin) held a press conference on the White House lawn to announce his national emergency declaration, revealing the decision was just part of a grand plan to escape the confines of the presidency.

"We need wall," Baldwin's Trump told the media. "You can all see why I gotta fake this national emergency, right? I have to because I want to."

He then laid out exactly what would happen after he signed the emergency papers. First, he'll immediately be sued and the case will go to the Supreme Court, which will prompt him to call his "buddy," Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and tell him "it's time to repay the Donny." But Kavanaugh would feign ignorance. Next, Trump will plead insanity after Special Counsel Robert Mueller releases his findings before spending "a few months in the puzzle factory" for his crimes. "And my personal hell of playing president will finally be over."

Trump then answered — or refused to answer — a few "softball questions" on tariffs and undocumented immigrants. Watch the full sketch, which the real President Trump made clear on Twitter Sunday morning he did not enjoy, below. Tim O'Donnell

February 16, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence and German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced differing opinions on how to approach the Iran nuclear deal when they both spoke at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

Pence criticized European leaders for remaining in the deal, which the U.S. backed out of last year after leading negotiations in 2015 under the Obama administration. "We have the regime in Iran that's breathing out murderous threats, with the same vile anti-Semitic hatred that animated the Nazis in Europe," Pence said, arguing "the Iranian regime openly advocates another Holocaust and it seeks the means to achieve it."

Merkel, on the other hand, defended the agreement, describing it as an "anchor" that should be used to pressure Iran in other areas. The chancellor expressed concern over Europe's split with the U.S. on the matter, which she said "depresses" her.

Pence also criticized the European response to Venezuela and urged his fellow leaders to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president.

Read more about the implications of the Trump administration's stance on the Iran deal here at The Week. Tim O'Donnell

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