Nancy Pelosi says White House is ‘crying out for impeachment’

  • House speaker urges family to intervene over Trump’s wellbeing
  • Pelosi: ‘Maybe he wants a leave of absence’

The Democratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said the White House was “crying out for impeachment” and called on Thursday for Donald Trump’s family to intervene in the president’s wellbeing “for the good of the country” after an extraordinary 24 hours in Washington.

The dramatic statements came one day after Trump stormed out of a meeting in the Oval Office with Pelosi and the Democratic Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, about infrastructure legislation, after three minutes, and then held a hastily called press conference to say he wouldn’t work with Democrats until they stop investigating him.

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Women’s Health Protection Act Would Stop State Attacks on Abortion Access

Standing outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning, congressional lawmakers announced the introduction of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which pushes back against the flood of abortion restrictions and outright bans on access that have been moving at a record pace through state legislatures.

The bill “enshrines” in federal law “a woman’s right to receive abortion services and a provider’s right to perform abortion,” said Rep. Judy Chu, a lead sponsor of the bill. “Our bill finally puts a stop to the state-based attacks that anti-abortion advocates have been trying to use to undermine or even reverse Roe.”

The bill, which has been introduced before, would block states from placing any medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion care — from medically-inaccurate informed consent requirements to gestational bans. “It prohibits any non-medical restrictions on our bodies — that means no heartbeat bills, no requirements that clinic doors be a certain width, no waiting periods or unnecessary ultrasounds. It means no abortion bans,” Chu said. And it affirms “our rights to our bodies, our rights to make our own medical decisions, and our rights to choose what is best for us and our families.”

Reintroduction of the bill, which already has 169 sponsors in the House, comes at a critical moment as state lawmakers have shifted their strategy around abortion. They’re seemingly abandoning the longtime tactic of chipping away at the right to end a pregnancy — by enacting needless restrictions that make access difficult, if not impossible — and instead pushing for an all-out ban on access.

According to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, 378 abortion restrictions have been filed so far across the country in 2019. The number itself isn’t exactly shocking — to date, more than 1,200 abortion restrictions have been passed, one-third of those in the last eight years alone. What stands out this year is that 40 percent of these restrictions would essentially ban the procedure altogether. “Twenty-nineteen has become the year when antiabortion politicians make clear that their ultimate agenda is banning abortion outright, at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason,” Elizabeth Nash, Guttmacher’s senior state issues manager, said in a statement.

While the right to abortion expressed in the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision — and reaffirmed repeatedly over the last 40-plus years — guarantees access up to the point of viability, generally considered to begin around 23 weeks into gestation, the current crop of state bills arbitrarily ban the procedure far before that: from the Alabama ban that would, practically speaking, prohibit the procedure beginning at conception to six-week bans passed in states like Georgia, to Missouri’s recent addition, which bans the procedure at eight weeks.

So far a total of 17 such bans have been passed in 10 states and, regardless of the various points at which they constrict access to care, they share a common goal: Press the issue through the courts in an effort to offer the new conservative Supreme Court majority the opportunity to strike down Roe.

The bill stands a good chance of getting out of the House — which has a solid pro-choice majority, Rep. Diana DeGette, co-chair of the congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, noted during the press conference — and it shores up women’s health care rights as a major battle zone for the 2020 election. Indeed, according to a recent poll, 62 percent of Americans called health care the first or second most important issue in the coming election; in a 2018 poll, 71 percent affirmed support for Roe v. Wade — including 52 percent of Republicans. “Trump has made abortion and, more broadly, women’s health care and women’s rights … an issue in 2020,” Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen told HuffPost. “He’s the one who has made this a campaign issue. And we say: Bring it on.”

Standing outside the Capitol on Wednesday morning with Chu, a host of other lawmakers, and advocates from the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the measure’s lead Senate sponsor, noted that he had worked across the street, at the Supreme Court, in 1974, the year after the court penned its decision in Roe v. Wade. As a clerk for then-Justice Harry Blackmun, who authored the court’s majority opinion in the case, “we thought then that this issue was settled,” he said. “That women’s reproductive rights as a guarantee were enshrined in our law. And the fact is, this battle is continuing, and the danger is even more dire today than it was then. We need to sound the alarm — in fact, we face a five-alarm fire in the danger to women’s reproductive rights, and we need to command the urgency and immediacy that all our lives are at risk.”

The post Women’s Health Protection Act Would Stop State Attacks on Abortion Access appeared first on The Intercept.

Outrage as Trump delays putting Harriet Tubman on $20 bill until 2026

As a candidate Trump called planned replacement of Andrew Jackson with anti-slavery activist ‘pure political correctness’

Donald Trump’s administration is facing criticism for delaying a move to put the anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.

At a congressional hearing on Wednesday, the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said the planned redesign of the $20, adding Tubman’s face to the bill, will be postponed until after Trump leaves office. Tubman would be the first woman to feature on US banknotes for more than 150 years.

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Connecticut’s Democratic Governor Is Stonewalling a Bill That Would Make Phone Calls From Prison Free

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat who grew his personal fortune through the telecommunications industry, is stonewalling a bill that would establish Connecticut as the first state in the nation to make phone calls from prison free for incarcerated people and their families.

Securus Technologies, the national prison telecommunications corporation that Connecticut has contracted with since 2012, has been quietly lobbying against the legislation for weeks, though it reversed course on Wednesday. Under pressure from Platinum Equity LLC — the private equity firm that owns the company — Securus announced in a letter that it was formally withdrawing its opposition to the bill.

“Thanks to their seven weeks of lobbying, we now have just two weeks to undo all the damage.”

But Securus’s reversal leaves the bill’s supporters with little time: With just two weeks left in the legislative session, they see Friday as the last day to advance the bill out of the House if it is to stand a shot of passing the Senate before the summer recess. Lamont, meanwhile, has yet to express support for the bill — which would require his signature — with his office citing vague objections over potential cost. Without his blessing, the bill’s backers say, it stands little shot of moving forward.

The legislation, which would protect in-person visiting rights, make phone calls and video conferencing free, and bar the state from taking any commission from those calls, advanced out the Connecticut House Judiciary Committee in early April. Around the same time, Securus hired two lobbyists on a $40,000 retainer to lobby Lamont’s office and the state Department of Correction between April 1 and September 30, according to a state ethics disclosure. The first hearing for the bill was on March 25.

Platinum Equity, which acquired Securus in 2017, has been under pressure for months from activists who say that it should end its relationship with Securus and other companies that profit from incarceration and detention. In February, Randi Weingarten, president of the nation’s second-largest teachers union, urged pension leaders to avoid private equity firms that benefit from mass incarceration.

In March, Platinum Equity told some of its investors that it would review the business practices of Securus and work to reform the company.

Bianca Tylek, the executive director of Worth Rises, a national nonprofit focused on ending the influence of commercial interests in the criminal justice system, drafted the Connecticut bill. She reached out to the private equity firm after learning of Securus’s lobbying last week to voice her concern. “I wanted to see if they would actually act in accordance with their claims that they are trying to get this company to act better,” she told The Intercept.

On Wednesday, Robert E. Pickens, the CEO of Securus, sent a letter to state Rep. Josh Elliott, the bill’s sponsor, saying that while they “previously opposed HB 6714, out of concern that it did not clearly indicate who would cover the cost of services once charges to consumers were waived,” they are now standing down “in the interest of good faith discussions with state officials regarding these issues.”

Securus also pledged to work with the state to ensure a “seamless and orderly transition” if the legislation were to pass, and acknowledged that its experience in New York City should allay concerns about a similar transition in Connecticut. (New York City, which also contracts with Securus, recently became the first city to make prison calls free, meaning that the city will assume the costs of paying for the phone services and will cede the $5 million it had annually collected in commission fees.) In its letter, Securus also said it was committed to working with Connecticut to “provide the most affordable services possible” and “downwardly adjusting call rates” in the event that the state eliminates its commission structure.

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According to a 2019 report by the Prison Policy Initiative, Connecticut charges more for in-prison phone calls than any other state in the nation except for Arkansas. Advocates say the high rates are a function of state policymakers poorly negotiating telecommunications contract with Securus.

As a result of the proposed legislation, Securus and Connecticut officials recently met to discuss alternative ways to lower the costs of prison phone calls. The state’s current contract with Securus will continue through 2021, but the company said it would be willing to review and lower its rates before then. A 15-minute call from a Connecticut prison costs $3.65, nearly five times more than calls from prisons in neighboring states.

Mark Barnhill, a partner at Platinum Equity, told The Intercept that his firm asked Securus management to reach out to Elliot, the bill’s sponsor, and “clarify” that it is neither opposed to his bill nor concerned that it would cause any disruption in service. “We think it’s important for Securus to be neutral in the legislative discussion over who should pay for inmate telecommunications,” he said. “The company is able to fully support provision of services in either a customer-paid or state-paid model.”

Barnhill said Platinum Equity intervened because “we feel it’s important to help management transform the company and operate it as a responsible market leader.” He said they had not received pressure or questions from individual investors on this matter, though “in general, our investors are aware of the Securus investors and are relying on us to manage it properly.”

Tylek of Worth Rises told The Intercept that while she is glad that Securus pulled out its lobbyists and made its position on the bill neutral, she said, “They in no way deserve applause for this.” She added, “Thanks to their seven weeks of lobbying, we now have just two weeks to undo all the damage.”

Joanna Acocella, the vice president of corporate affairs for Securus, told The Intercept that “it is not accurate” to say that Securus has been lobbying against the bill for seven weeks, even while acknowledging that the company had been opposed to it. “Securus has been engaging in conversations with state officials about the impact of the legislation,” she said. “We have worked with a local firm to facilitate those conversations, requiring them to file lobbying registration under state law. Once we determined that calls could still be administered safely and effectively under the proposed legislation, we withdrew any previous opposition to the bill.”

Despite getting Securus to drop its formal opposition, Lamont has not yet endorsed the bill, with deputies citing vague objections over potential costs.

“With two weeks remaining until the end of the legislative session, offsetting the $13 million cost is an incredible challenge,” Maribel La Luz, a spokesperson for the governor, told The Intercept.

La Luz pointed to the state’s recent meeting with Securus in which they discussed renegotiating its contract. “With the combination of ongoing contract negotiations with the prison telephone services vendor, a rollout of tablets for people in prison over the next year, and longer-term budget planning [in] our legislature we’re working to reduce the cost of communication between people in prison and their families,” she said in an email.

Connecticut relies on revenue extracted from incarcerated people and their families.

State data shows that Connecticut residents currently pay about $15 million every year for prison phone calls, with $7.7 million given back to the state through commission fees. Some state officials have expressed concerns about losing those kickbacks, warning that they may have to cut vital positions and services — revealing how Connecticut relies on revenue extracted from incarcerated people and their families.

To ameliorate concerns over costs, Elliott refiled the legislation this week so that the two components of the bill that would have a fiscal impact would not take effect until October 1, 2021. “Yes, there’s a cost to the bill, but the cost is deferred,” said Tylek. “Pass the bill, and then you have two years to figure out how to pay for it.”

The estimated $13 million in cost, she added, represents just 1 percent of the $1.2 billion annual budget for the three impacted state agencies: the Department of Correction, the Department of Administrative Services, and the Judicial Department. Tylek predicts the total cost could be closer to $11.7 million if Connecticut adopts a similar pay structure to New York City.

A representative from the Connecticut Office of Fiscal Analysis confirmed that the amended bill would have “no cost or revenue loss” for the biennium period, according to an email sent on Monday to Elliott and reviewed by The Intercept.

A spokesperson for the Department of Correction, which is under Lamont’s control, told The Intercept that while the department is supportive of efforts to increase communication between incarcerated people and their loved ones, “these measures, however, do have budgetary implications which must be considered.”

State Rep. Steve Stafstrom, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, told The Intercept, “We are working with the proponents of the bill and the Department of Correction to refine the language in order to move the bill forward.”

Elliott said he worries that Securus’s lobbying, which he also didn’t learn of until last week, has already caused insurmountable damage.

“I kept hearing concerns from the DOC about what some of these costs would be and threats that Securus would pull its service if the legislation were to pass and the arguments just seemed totally bogus,” he told The Intercept. “I didn’t understand how the DOC could make those claims and now it makes sense. Securus was just poisoning the well and trying to get the governor’s staff to essentially kill the bill.”

Elliott said he will continue to fight for the legislation this session and reintroduce it again next year if he has to.

“It doesn’t take much to kill an idea — all you have to do is put a little seed of fear in people’s minds,” he said. “Then if there is any concern over a bill, that usually dwarfs all the tangible benefits, and that’s really unfortunate.”

The post Connecticut’s Democratic Governor Is Stonewalling a Bill That Would Make Phone Calls From Prison Free appeared first on The Intercept.

Buttigieg accuses Trump of faking disability to avoid Vietnam draft

Veteran and 2020 candidate said Trump, who received a deferment for bone spurs, used ‘his privileged status to fake a disability’

Pete Buttigieg, a military veteran and Democratic candidate for US president, has accused Donald Trump of faking disability to avoid serving in the Vietnam war.

The US president received five deferments from the draft, four for university and one for the medical reason of bone spurs in his heels. Last year the New York Times reported claims that a doctor made the diagnosis as a favour to Trump’s father.

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It’s not a robocall: Elizabeth Warren calls supporters to talk issues

Massachusetts senator has been calling donors to her campaign out of the blue this week

Elizabeth Warren supporters who notice a strange phone call coming in from a 617 area code may want to pick up the phone for a change, as the Massachusetts senator has been calling donors to her campaign out of the blue this week.

For most candidates, “call time” means calling wealthy donors and asking for money. Not me. I’m spending “call time” thanking small-dollar, grassroots donors who give what they can. Chip in what you can, and you might get a call from me to say thank you. Link in bio.

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