CONNECTING THE POLICY TO THE PERSONAL: In between the campaign events, town halls, television hits, and flights across America aimed at winning the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, there’s one person that Beto O’Rourke always makes time to catch up with: his 39-year-old sister, Erin, who was born with intellectual disabilities.
The former Texas congressman, who once served as his younger sister’s legal guardian, hops on the phone with Erin at the end of many of her workdays at a residential facility for adults and children three hours from El Paso, N.M., where she lives and works. Erin watched the Democratic debate last Tuesday in which her big brother became the first 2020 contender to discuss people with disabilities on the big stage.
That time, the siblings talked the next morning.
- “She said, ‘You did so great on the debate stage,’” O’Rourke, 47, recalled in an interview with Power Up, the first in which he has talked in detail about his sister. “And Erin is not shy and has no filter and will tell you exactly how it is — if I screw something up, she’ll be the first to let me know. But if I do well, and make her proud, there is no greater advocate I have in my life than my sister.”
- Read the full piece here.
The proposal: So when O’Rourke rolled out a portion of his disability proposal last week — a plan to expand health-care coverage of medical equipment, inspired after meeting a woman who has struggled to find a way to pay to fix her power wheelchair — it didn’t just grow out of the countless meetings he’s had with families, caretakers and individuals in the U.S. disability community. It was also because of Erin.
- The former Texas congressman's complete disability plan is expected to be rolled out by his campaign soon: It focuses on addressing what O’Rourke calls an “institutional bias that exists in federal funding and priorities right now” against those with disabilities.
- What it does: O’Rourke wants to ensure disabled individuals receive long-term home and community-based services and that the federal government provide states with additional funding for the disabled community.
- The proposal will also bolster existing protections designed to support the disabled — such as funding the federal enforcement of the Supreme Court’s Olmstead v. L.C. decision ruling that under the Americans With Disabilities Act, appropriate individuals with disabilities should be integrated into the community instead of being forced to live in nursing homes or institutions.
- O Rourke's proposal aims to “strengthen enforcement of existing civil rights laws, including the Americans With Disabilities Act,” according to his campaign.
Leading the 2020 Democrats: O’Rourke’s focus on increasing resources for the disabled is a bid to lay down a marker in the presidential race in which the issue has received scant attention as Democrats debate issues like health care, gun control, immigration and who is best fit to oust President Trump.
O’Rourke was the first of the Democratic candidates to specifically mention those with disabilities on the debate stage last week by recounting the story of meeting a woman named Gina who works four jobs and is raising a disabled child named Summer.
He has vowed that people with disabilities will serve in leadership positions in his campaign — and in a potential O’Rourke administration — to mirror the fact that 1 in 4 Americans live with a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
… especially as critics of the Trump administration say it has uniformly worked to roll back spending and programs for the disabled community:
- Rebecca Cokley, the director of the liberal Center For American Progress’s disability justice initiative, pointed to the Education Department rescinding 72 guidance documents outlining the rights of students with disabilities to the administration’s attempts to slash Obamacare and Social Security disability insurance and allow states to implement eligibility requirements on Medicaid recipients.
- Trump’s desire to dismantle the Affordable Care Act has sparked a particular urgency among disability-rights activists in Washington.
How far we've come: That O’Rourke is willing to share his personal connection to the issue highlights an important evolution in the role disabled individuals play in society — and signals they are a constituency to be reckoned with, according to Cokley.
Even if O'Rourke, doesn't win the 2020 nomination, he hopes Erin and the disabled community will feel they got a say in the process:
- “Erin loves that I’m running for president and she’s been involved in every campaign I’ve run — whether it’s taking the time to knock on doors with me or providing the moral support because we talk so often,” O’Rourke said. “No matter what my day was like, I’m able to talk to Erin, put things in perspective, and realize how lucky I am to be her brother.”
TAYLOR DRAWS THE LINE TO TRUMP: This was far more than just that July 25 phone call, Bill Taylor, acting ambassador to Ukraine, told lawmakers in explosive 10-hour testimony yesterday that seems like a big pivot point in the impeachment investigation.
A career civil servant, Taylor patiently recreated a timeline ripe with repeated actions by Trump's political allies and later the president himself to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his new administration to intervene in U.S. politics, our colleagues Greg Jaffe and Greg Miller report.
You can read Taylor's entire 15-page opening statement, first obtained by our colleagues, here.
- Within days of being on the job in Kyiv, Taylor “began to detect signs of an 'irregular, informal' diplomatic channel competing with his own, and a secret agenda seeping into U.S. policy. Upon arrival, he wrote, he faced 'a weird combination of encouraging, confusing, and ultimately alarming circumstances.'
- In Taylor's telling, “the squeeze on Ukraine, and Trump’s role in it, goes well beyond a single phone call July 25 between the U.S. president and Zelensky,” our colleague Dan Balz reports.
- “Trump’s long-standing characterization that there was no quid pro quo runs smack into evidence to the contrary,” Balz writes.
What you need to know:
- Taylor says Trump gave the order to halt U.S. aid to Ukraine: “I and others sat in astonishment-the Ukrainians were fighting the Russians and counted on not only the training and weapons, but also the assurance of U.S. support,” Taylor said in his opening statement, referring to another July call in which an Office of Management and Budget staffer notes that $391 million in U.S. aid was being withheld. “All that the OMB staff person said was that the directive had come from the President to the Chief of Staff to OMB.”
- Taylor testified Trump wanted Zelensky to make a public statement about political investigations: Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who has also testified in the impeachment probe, “said he had talked to President Trump as I had suggested a week earlier, but that [Trump] was adamant that [Zelensky], himself, had to 'clear things up and do it in public,'" Taylor says of a said."[Trump] said it was not a 'quid pro quo.'"
- But Taylor described a quid pro quo: “By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting [Zelensky] wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by [Trump personal attorney Rudy] Giuliani."
- A 'stalemate': “Ambassador Sondland said that he had talked to [Zelensky] and [Andre Yermak, a top Zelensky aide] and told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo, if [Zelensky] did not 'clear things up' in public, we would be at a we would be at a 'stalemate.' I understood a 'stalemate' to mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed military assistance.”
- The White House response: "[Trump] has done nothing wrong — this is a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution,” press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “There was no quid pro quo. Today was just more triple hearsay and selective leaks from the Democrats’ politically-motivated, closed door, secretive hearings.”
Meanwhile, Trump compared the impeachment probe to a lynching, sparking outrage: “In describing his impeachment as a 'lynching,' Trump managed to again prompt a political firestorm around race while frustrating members of his party and drawing condemnation from lawmakers who hold his political fate in their hands,” our colleagues Colby Itkowitz and Toluse Olorunnipa report. “It was the latest example of Trump’s erratic and impromptu impeachment response, which has unnerved and hamstrung Republicans tasked with trying to defend him.”
- Some lawmakers defended the inflammatory word, most notably Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.): “This is a lynching in every sense. This is un-American,” he told reporters, later clarifying that he was using the term in a political context rather than a “racial” one.
- Joe Biden blasted it: But the former vice president said during a 1998 CNN interview that if Republicans were not careful, the impeachment of Clinton could be viewed by history as a 'partisan lynching,'" CNN's Nathan McDermott and Andrew Kaczynski report. Biden apologized for those comments, but argued Trump's new statement was worse.
- The context: “Lynching, the extrajudicial murder of an untried suspect, usually by a mob and often by hanging, has a unique history in the United States because of its direct link to slavery and racism,” our colleagues Colby Itkowitz and Toluse write. “In the United States, more than 4,700 lynchings were recorded between 1882 and 1968, according to the NAACP.”
Mitch McConnell weighed in, denying that he told Trump the July call was perfect: “We have not had any conversations on that subject,” McConnell told CBS News's Nancy Cordes. When asked if Trump was lying, McConnell added “You’ll have to ask him, I don’t recall any conversations with the president about that phone call.”
By the end of the day, the White House had "signed off on regular conference calls between senior White House aides and select Republican lawmakers to coordinate messaging and legal strategies on the House impeachment probe, one of the few proactive measures undertaken so far by West Wing officials who have been unwilling to cooperate in the investigation," according to the Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender and Natalie Andrews.
"The push for the calls was initiated by conservative House Freedom Caucus members, unhappy they weren’t clued in to the White House thinking and concerned there wasn’t a strategy for how Republican lawmakers should approach depositions during the investigation, said a House Republican aide."
Trump's small impeachment crew: "Trump met at the White House on Tuesday with his legal team to discuss the 'state of play' regarding the impeachment inquiry, according to a person familiar with the matter. The brief meeting included Trump personal lawyers Jay Sekulow and Marty and Jane Raskin. Rudy Giuliani, another Trump lawyer whose interactions with Ukraine have put him in the sights of congressional investigators, wasn’t present, this person said."
Impeachment by the numbers, per CNN's Harry Enten: "Our latest CNN poll conducted by SSRS shows that 50% of Americans and 51% of voters want [Trump t]o be impeached and removed from office. This is the highest level of support for impeaching and removing Trump from office ever recorded by CNN. Only 43% of Americans and 44% of voters are against impeaching and removing him."
- "It’s also the first time that the percentage who want to impeach and remove Trump significantly outnumbers the percentage who don’t want him impeached removed."
- Some history: "More Americans want to impeach and remove Trump from office now than Americans did at this point of the impeachment sagas of Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon."
- Also from the poll: "Giuliani’s favorable rating is lower than ever, while Nancy Pelosi’s is the highest in over a decade."
THE LATEST IN SYRIA: "Russia and Turkey agreed on a plan to push Syrian Kurdish fighters from a wide swath of territory just south of Turkey’s border, cementing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s preeminent role in Syria as U.S. troops depart and America’s influence wanes," our colleagues Kareem Fahim, Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan report. "The Turkey-Russia agreement came as the deadline expired on a separate deal Turkey made last week with the United States to “pause” its advance into Syria in preparation for a full cease-fire."
- The details: "The agreement, reached after an hours-long meeting between Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, will leave Turkey and Russia in control of territory formerly held by Kurdish forces once allied with the United States," our colleagues write.
- Putin keeps winning: "... The deal bolstered Russia’s preferred endgame in Syria’s civil war by allowing its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to regain control over more of his country’s territory," our colleagues write. "Russia is also prodding states in the region to recognize, either explicitly or tacitly, the Syrian government’s authority, analysts said."
Meanwhile, back at home: "A Christian aid group that planned a gathering to honor and pray for the Kurdish people at [Trump’s hotel in Washington were told by hotel staff this week that the event was canceled, according to two members of the aid group," our colleague Joshua Partlow reports.
- It's unclear why: Dalton Thomas, the found of Frontier Alliance International, a religious nonprofit that provides medical help in the Middle East, told our colleague the reasons behind the cancellation were “hazy.”
In the Media
IN OTHER NEWS:
- The quotes in here are stunning: The White House is not to be trusted right now. By Politico's Bryan Bender.
- Brexit drags on: Boris Johnson Loses a Critical Brexit Vote, Throwing the Process Into Disarray. By the Times's Mark Landler and Stephen Castle.
- One down, three to go: Juan Soto, a generational talent well-known to D.C., takes a shine to national stage. By our colleague Barry Svrluga.
- Need to know: How Do the New Plant-Based Burgers Stack Up? We Taste-Tested Them. By the New York Times's Julia Moskin.
Willpower:Can Brain Science Help Us Break Bad Habits? By The New Yorker's Jerome Groopman.
- Putting Facebook on the spot: Katie Couric Steamrolls Sheryl Sandberg in Roving Vanity Fair Summit Interview. By Variety's Matt Donnelly.
- At the Vanity Fair New Establishment summit in Beverly Hills on Tuesday, Couric skipped the softball questions and drilled Sandberg on “Mark Zuckerberg’s just-unveiled plan to protect Facebook users from fake news and state-sponsored attacks ahead of the 2020 election, asking Sandberg if she really believed that a team of 35,000 new monitors could manage content posting from 2.2 billion active users.”
- “We’re taking down millions of fake accounts per day,” Sandberg reassured …
- …“But then why did Facebook announce not to fact check political ads last month? The Rand Corporation actually has a term for this, ‘truth decay.’ Mark [Zuckerberg] himself has defended this decision even as the press have expressed concerns about the erosion of truth online. What is the rationale for that?” Couric followed up. “And I know you’re going to say, ‘We’re not a news organization. We’re a platform,” she added.
- Sandberg's reply: “It’s not for the money, it’s a very small part of our revenue. It is very small, and very controversial, we’re not doing this for the money. We take political ads because we really believe they are part of political discourse,” Sandberg said. “Looking at it over time, the people that benefit from political ads are those not covered by the media, so they can get their message out.”
EVERYONE IS AN ... AUTHOR?: The already stacked Trump-era book shelf is gonna have to make room for two more tomes. The anonymous senior administration official behind the infamous New York Times op-ed will publish a tell-all book titled "A Warning," our colleague Philip Rucker scooped, noting that the author will remain, well, anonymous.
And former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration Neal Katyal announced his first book: Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump, written with Sam Koppelman.