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National Govt & Politics

    Former President Jimmy Carter carved an unlikely path to the White House in 1976 and endured humbling defeat after one term. Now, six administrations later, the longest-living chief executive in American history is re-emerging from political obscurity at age 94 to win over his fellow Democrats once again. A peanut farmer turned politician then worldwide humanitarian, Carter is carving out a unique role as several Democratic candidates look to his family-run campaign after the Watergate scandal as the roadmap for toppling President Donald Trump in 2020. 'Jimmy Carter is a decent, well-meaning person, someone who people are talking about again given the time that we are in,' Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in an interview. 'He won because he worked so hard, and he had a message of truth and honesty. I think about him all the time.' Klobuchar is one of at least three presidential hopefuls who've ventured to the tiny town of Plains, Georgia, to meet with Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, who is 91. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, also have visited with the Carters, including attending the former president's Sunday School lesson in Plains. Carter had planned to teach at Maranatha Baptist Church again Sunday, but he is still recuperating at home days after being discharged from a Georgia hospital where he had hip replacement surgery following a fall as he was preparing for a turkey hunt. 'An extraordinary person,' Buttigieg told reporters after meeting Carter. 'A guiding light and inspiration,' Booker said in a statement. Klobuchar has attended Carter's church lesson, as well, and says she emails with him occasionally. 'He signs them 'JC,'' she said with a laugh. It's quite a turnabout for a man who largely receded from party politics after his presidency, often without being missed by his party's leaders in Washington, where he was an outsider even as a White House resident. To be sure, more 2020 candidates have quietly sought counsel from Trump's predecessor, former President Barack Obama. Several have talked with former President Bill Clinton, who left office in 2001. But those huddles have been more hush-hush, disclosed through aides dishing anonymously. Sessions with Carter, on the other hand, are trumpeted on social media and discussed freely, suggesting an appeal that Obama and Clinton may not have. Unlike Clinton, impeached after an affair with a White House intern, Carter has no #MeToo demerits; he and Rosalynn, married since the end of World War II, didn't even like to dance with other people at state dinners. And unlike Obama, popular among Democrats but polarizing for conservatives and GOP-leaning independents, Carter is difficult to define by current political fault lines. He's an outspoken evangelical Christian who criticizes Trump's serial falsehoods, yet praises Trump for attempting a relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Carter touts his own personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, another Trump favorite. 'I have his email address,' Carter said last September. For years, Carter has irked the foreign policy establishment with forthright criticism of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians. He confirms that he voted for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, over Hillary Clinton in Georgia's 2016 presidential primary. In 2017, Carter welcomed Sanders, who's running again this year, to the Carter Center for a program in which the two men lambasted money in politics. Carter called the United States 'an oligarchy.' Yet Carter has since warned Democrats against 'too liberal a program,' lest they ensure Trump's re-election. Klobuchar credited Carter with being 'ahead of his time' on several issues, including the environment and climate change (he put solar panels on the White House), health care (a major step toward universal coverage failed mostly because party liberals though it didn't go far enough) and government streamlining (an effort that angered some Democrats at the time). But she also alluded to how his presidency ended: a landslide loss after gas lines, inflation-then-unemployment, and a 14-month-long hostage crisis in Iran. 'Their administration was not perfect,' she said. It's enough of an enigma that Carter is the only living president not to draw Trump's ire or mockery, even if Republicans have lambasted Carter for decades as a liberal incompetent. Trump and Carter chatted by phone earlier this spring after Carter sent Trump a letter on China and trade. Both men said they had an amiable conversation. Nonetheless, 2020 candidates cite Carter's juxtaposition with Trump. 'There was a feeling that people had been betrayed in our democracy by someone who wasn't telling the truth,' she said, referring to President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974. Buttigieg said he and Carter 'talked about being viewed as coming out of nowhere' and how Carter ran two general election campaign entirely on the public financing system that now sits unused as candidates collectively raise money into the billions. Klobuchar recalled Carter telling her that 'family members would disperse to different states and then they would all come back on Friday, go back through the questions they had gotten.' Then 'he would talk about how he would answer them' so they'd all be prepared on their next trips, she said. It was 'a different era,' Klobuchar added, recalling that Carter said he felt 'hi-tech because they had a fax machine on his plane.' Indeed, Klobuchar, born in 1960, wasn't old enough to vote for Carter until he sought a second term. Booker, 50, recalls voting for Carter, but in a grade-school mock election. Buttigieg, 37, wasn't even born when Carter left office. Nonetheless, Klobuchar said she regularly meets Iowans who remember Carter and his family members campaigning in 1975 before his rivals and national media recognized his strength, and she said she sometimes references on the campaign trail how her fellow Minnesotan and Carter's vice president, Walter Mondale, remembers their term: 'We obeyed the law. We told the truth. We kept the peace.' Whatever the reasons for the renewed attention, Carter allies say they hope the 2020 campaign is part of bolstering his reputation as a president. 'People are tired of hearing that he was a better ex-president than president,' said DuBose Porter, a former Georgia Democratic chairman who has known the Carters for decades. 'Of course he's done amazing things at the Carter Center, but he did great things for the country, and we're proud of it.' ___ Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP .
  • House Democrats will hear from former CIA director John Brennan about the situation in Iran, inviting him to speak next week amid heightened concerns over the Trump administration's sudden moves in the region. Brennan, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, is scheduled to talk to House Democrats at a private weekly caucus meeting Tuesday, according to a Democratic aide and another person familiar with the private meeting. Both were granted anonymity to discuss the meeting. The invitation to Brennan and Wendy Sherman, the former State Department official and top negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal, offers counterprogramming to the Trump administration's closed-door briefing for lawmakers also planned for Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Democratic lawmakers are likely to attend both sessions. The Trump administration recently sent an aircraft carrier and other military resources to the Persian Gulf region, and withdrew nonessential personnel from Iraq, raising alarm among Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill over the possibility of a confrontation with Iran. Trump in recent days downplayed any potential for conflict. But questions remain about what prompted the actions and many lawmakers have demanded more information. Trump and Brennan have clashed openly, particularly over the issues surrounding the special counsel's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Brennan stepped down from the CIA in 2017. The president last year said he was revoking the former spy chief's security credentials after Brennan was critical of Trump's interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki. Top national security officials often retain their clearance after they have left an agency as a way to provide counsel to their successors. It's unclear if Brennan actually lost his clearance. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been asking the administration for a briefing for all lawmakers on the situation in Iran, but she said the request was initially rebuffed. The administration provided a classified briefing for top leaders of both parties last week.
  • The political fallout from the Mueller Report received an unexpected jolt on Saturday from a Republican member of the U.S. House, as Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a more libertarian lawmaker who has often been a critic of the President, became the first GOP member of Congress to open the door for the President Trump's impeachment, saying it's clear Mr. 'Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.' In a series of posts on Twitter, Amash - a member of the House Freedom Caucus - accused Attorney General William Barr of having 'deliberately misrepresented' the findings and evidence of the Mueller Report. 'In comparing Barr’s principal conclusions, congressional testimony, and other statements to Mueller’s report, it is clear that Barr intended to mislead the public about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s analysis and findings,' Amash said, making the calls for impeachment now bipartisan. 'Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence,' Amash said, echoing an argument heard from many Democrats. Democrats welcomed Amash's declaration. 'This is a very consequential statement,' said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). 'Thank you Justin Amash for putting country ahead of party.' 'We can now have bipartisan impeachment proceedings. Thank you, @justinamash,' said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA). Amash chided members of both parties for reacting to the Mueller Report simply because of who was targeted, basically predicting that if a Democrat had been in the White House, the reactions would have been completely opposite 'We’ve witnessed members of Congress from both parties shift their views 180 degrees — on the importance of character, on the principles of obstruction of justice — depending on whether they’re discussing Bill Clinton or Donald Trump,' Amash added on Twitter. There was no evidence that Amash's statement was going to open the flood gates in Congress against the President - but it will give Democrats the ability to say there are bipartisan concerns about President Trump. “Call him the lone member of the Republican Integrity Caucus,” said Congressional scholar Norm Ornstein, who has been a frequent critic of the President. Fellow Republican Congressman, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) took a mild jab at Amash, writing on Twitter that his nickname for Amash was right, using the hashtag, 'Often Wrong Never In Doubt.
  • President Donald Trump's only major Republican primary challenger said Saturday that the recent spate of abortion laws being passed in states like Alabama has him feeling 'terrible,' and declared that abortion is a decision the government should not come anywhere near. At a campaign stop in Exeter, New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld told a crowd of voters he's 'the most pro-choice person you're ever going to meet.' 'The way I look at it, it's kind of a power issue,' Weld said. 'And who wants a lot of big, fat, white guys who live in Washington 700 miles away making the decision about what's going to happen about a family pregnancy where the family has basis for some views and maybe wants to terminate the pregnancy.' Weld's stance places him far to the left of the mainstream Republican Party and Trump, whose base is often dedicated to anti-abortion measures. The new law in Alabama largely restricts abortion, with no exception for cases of rape or incest. Several other states like Georgia and Missouri have also recently passed tougher restrictions in what are seen as being possible test cases in the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade. While several pro-abortion rights Democrats seeking the party's nomination have said they would support enshrining the right to an abortion through federal law, Weld wouldn't go that far. He said he thinks it's likely the Supreme Court would uphold Roe v. Wade, a 1973 high court ruling that established the right to abortion. If elected president, Weld said he wasn't sure he would have a 'litmus test' that a possible Supreme Court justice would have to vote to keep Roe v. Wade, but he noted his standard would be 'pretty close.
  • A Republican congressman from Michigan on Saturday became the first member of President Donald Trump's party on Capitol Hill to accuse him of engaging in 'impeachable conduct' stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller's lengthy investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But Rep. Justin Amash stopped short of calling on Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump, which many Democrats have been agitating for. Often a lone GOP voice in Congress, Amash sent a series of tweets Saturday faulting both Trump and Attorney General William Barr over Mueller's report. Mueller wrapped the investigation and submitted his report to Barr in late March. Barr then released a summary of Mueller's 'principal conclusions' and released a redacted version of the report in April. Mueller found no criminal conspiracy between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia, but left open the question of whether Trump acted in ways that were meant to obstruct the investigation. Barr later said there was insufficient evidence to bring obstruction charges against Trump. Trump, who has compared the investigation to a 'witch hunt,' claimed complete exoneration from Mueller's report. Amash said he reached four conclusions after carefully reading the redacted version of Mueller's report, including that 'President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.' 'Contrary to Barr's portrayal, Mueller's report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment,' the congressman tweeted. He said the report 'identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence.' The Justice Department, which Barr leads, operates under guidelines that discourage the indictment of a sitting president. A representative for Amash did not immediately respond to an email request to speak with the congressman. Trump and Republican lawmakers generally view the matter as 'case closed,' as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., recently declared on the floor of the Senate. On the other hand, Democrats who control the House are locked in a bitter standoff with the White House as it ignores lawmakers' requests for the more complete version of Mueller's report, the underlying evidence and witness testimony. Some Democrats wants the House to open impeachment hearings, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has resisted, saying impeachment must be bipartisan. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., a freshman who opened her term by profanely calling for Trump to be impeached, applauded Amash. 'You are putting country first, and that is to be commended,' Tlaib tweeted. Tlaib is seeking support for a resolution she's circulating calling on the House to start impeachment proceedings. ___ Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap
  • The Trump administration has told lawmakers that it probably will cost more to care for migrants crossing into the United States from Mexico than the $2.9 billion in emergency money requested just two weeks ago. In a White House letter released Saturday, acting budget chief Russell Vought said 'the situation has continued to deteriorate and is exceeding previous high end estimates.' Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a separate letter that needs for the unaccompanied children account 'could grow further and be closer to the worst-case scenario HHS had proposed be the basis for the supplemental request, which was $1.4 billion higher.' The notice comes as lawmakers are trying to put the final touches on legislation, at $19 billion and growing, for hurricane and flooding relief and other disaster needs. Democrats also have offered money to care for the influx of immigrants from Central America, though they say they will deny President Donald Trump's request for additional immigration agents. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants to get the long-overdue measure completed by the end of next week. Negotiations are going better of late but it's not clear when a deal may be reached. Talks are focusing on conditions that Democrats want to place on the border assistance.
  • Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders wants to suspend taxpayer funding of new charter schools and ban those that are for-profit as part of his plan to overhaul public education that he released on Saturday. Saying charter schools are 'exacerbating educational segregation,' Sanders proposes more transparency and accountability for them, as well as limits on the pay of their chief executives. According to the campaign, the 10-point plan focuses on 'reversing racial and economic segregation that is plaguing elementary and secondary schools.' The current education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is an advocate for charter schools, which receive public funding but operate independently. Sanders unveiled the plan Saturday ahead of a speech in South Carolina. The campaign said the release of Sanders' Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education was timed to the 65th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. As head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Marshall served as chief attorney for the plaintiffs, more than a decade before becoming the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice. To combat disparities in education funding, the senator from Vermont is proposing 'large new investments in programs that serve high-poverty communities, support special needs students, and augment local efforts to integrate school districts.' That also includes a minimum on per-pupil spending in all school districts across the country, as well as a universal school meal plan and a goal of closing 'the gap in school infrastructure funding to renovate, modernize, and green the nation's schools.' Sanders' plan also proposes investment to raise starting teacher salaries to at least $60,000, as well as grants and tax credits to help teachers defray the cost of school supplies. This is Sanders' first major plan of this campaign for K-12 education reforms. Dating back to his 2016 run for president, Sanders has repeatedly addressed reforms in higher education, including making four-year college free. Some of the other nearly two-dozen candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination have come out with their own plans for elementary and higher education. Earlier this year, Sen. Kamala Harris of California made her first campaign policy rollout a federal investment in teacher pay . Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has proposed alleviating almost all college debt for 42 million Americans, proposing an 'ultra-millionaire' tax to fund the $640 billion cost. Earlier this week, Warren said her secretary of education 'will be a former public school teacher who is committed to public education.' ___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
  • The Friday decision by President Donald Trump to lift special tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Canada and Mexico not only defused a year old trade battle with those two neighbors, but also strengthened the prospects in the U.S. Congress for a revised free trade agreement negotiated by the Trump Administration. 'The biggest hurdle to ratifying USMCA has been lifted,' said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who had helped lead opposition to the tariffs, saying it would prevent the U.S., Mexico, Canada trade deal from being approved by Congress.  Not only will the U.S. drop import duties on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico, but those countries will drop retaliatory tariffs against a variety of American exports, which had caused collateral economic damage to a variety of U.S. businesses. 'These tariffs, and the retaliation they caused, have hurt American farmers, manufacturers, businesses and consumers across the country,' said the group Tariffs Hurt the Heartland. 'These tariffs are damaging the U.S. manufacturing sector, and particularly downstream U.S. steel and aluminum consuming companies,' said the Coalition of American Metals Manufacturers and Users. Many voices in the U.S. and Canada praised Grassley for helping push the President to drop the 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports from Mexico and Canada, as Grassley and GOP Senators repeatedly made clear to President Trump that a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade deal would go nowhere in Congress until that happened. 'The agreement with Canada and Mexico to lift steel and aluminum tariffs and retaliation without quotas will allow the U.S. to better target China’s unfair trade practices and pave the way for the USMCA,' said Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN). 'This is great news we’ve reached a deal on Steel and Aluminum,' said Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS). 'Kansas exports to Canada and Mexico in 2017 totaled $4.4 billion.' 'It is good these tariffs will be lifted,' said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. 'I've always said we should be focusing efforts on China — not Mexico, Canada, Europe.' But Democrats have also raised a series of other questions about the trade agreement - which still has not been submitted to the Congress for a vote, even though it was finalized last year. In the wake of the tariffs announcement, Vice President Mike Pence announced on Friday that he would go to meet the Canadian Prime Minister on May 30. While this move to ease tariffs will certainly help U.S. farmers and other businesses, there is still great uncertainty involving retaliation by China - in a separate trade dispute sparked by President Trump's aggressive efforts to levy tariffs on American trading partners. “We actually had a deal and they broke it,” the President said of the Chinese on Friday, referring to last minute demands and changes that Beijing thought it could gain from Mr. Trump. It did not work. “I said, 'Can't do that. Sorry, you can't do that,'” the President said in a speech.
  • Turkey's leader spoke of cooperation with the United States during a White House visit two years ago with President Donald Trump, but by day's end, the warm rhetoric had been overshadowed by a violent brawl outside the Turkish Embassy that left anti-government protesters badly beaten. That altercation on May 16, 2017, led to criminal charges against some of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security officers and civilian supporters. It also spurred lawsuits, now winding their way through federal court, that turn on the question of whether a foreign country can be held responsible in American courts for violence done on its behalf. One suit goes further, saying the violence meets the legal definition of international terrorism because it was designed to coerce and intimidate a civilian population. 'Nobody expects that security forces from a foreign government will come over and beat them to a pulp, and that's the part that's really crazy,' Agnieszka Fryszman, a lawyer for the injured protesters, said in an interview. The suits have diplomatic implications and raise questions about how much legal protection should be extended to the people who protect international leaders from raucous demonstrations when they travel abroad. The legal cases are unfolding as the NATO allies are at odds over a number of issues, including what role Turkey will play in northern Syria as American forces withdraw. The U.S. also has warned Turkey against proceeding with its purchase of an advanced Russian air defense system; the deal, if completed, may incur U.S. sanctions Turkey has signaled it will argue that, as a sovereign nation, it is immune from being sued, a position that sets the stage for legal and geopolitical wrangling. The strength of Turkey's argument may depend in part on the severity of the assault and the extent of the violence, said Ingrid Wuerth, a professor of international law at Vanderbilt University. No one would think it legally acceptable if foreign security officers fatally shot protesters, Wuerth said, 'but on the other hand, they probably shouldn't be liable if maybe all they did was just push someone to the curb, and in that sense, the question is, where exactly do these allegations fall?' Lawyers for Turkey say in court papers that the melee began when security officers were confronted by an 'encroaching group of apparent terrorist supporters and/or sympathizers' who had already defied the commands of local police officers. The lawyers accuse the other side of 'overly broad sermonizing' and say they intend to rebut what they see as unfair criticism of Turkish governance and allegations of human rights atrocities. Even in an embassy-packed capital where protests are common, including outside the foreign residences that line Washington's Massachusetts Avenue, the altercation stood out for vivid scenes of violence captured on camera and repeatedly broadcast on TV. Many who say they were injured are American citizens, including some who were there with their young children. It all began as Erdogan was returning to the ambassador's residence after a White House visit, where he and Trump pledged cooperation in fighting the Islamic State group. Security officers for Erdogan, including some armed and dressed in military-style clothing, clashed with protesters denouncing Turkey's treatment of its Kurdish minorities and its policies in Syria and Iraq. Plaintiffs in two separate suits say they were brutally punched and kicked, cursed at, and greeted with slurs and throat-slashing gestures. One woman slipped in and out of consciousness and has suffered seizures, and others reported post-traumatic stress, depression, concussions and nightmares, according to the complaints. Erdogan remained in his car after it arrived at the ambassador's residence, and after conferring with the head of his security detail, ordered a second attack, the suits allege. U.S. lawmakers swiftly condemned the violence, writing letters to the departments of State and Justice, and urging the Trump administration to hold the attackers legally accountable. Prosecutors in Washington initially charged 19 people, including 15 security officers for Erdogan. Two civilians pleaded guilty, but many of the other cases have since been dismissed, with defendants leaving the U.S. after the brawl, according to court papers. Foreign governments are generally immune from being sued in American courts, but there are multiple exceptions, including for terrorism and other actions that cause injury for which financial damages are sought. Diplomats and other agents of foreign governments have in the past been held accountable for bad behavior in the U.S., though some of the more memorable cases have involved nonofficial duties such as fatal drunken driving crashes. A Georgian Embassy official, for instance, was sentenced to prison in 1997 for a drunken driving crash that killed a teenage girl. In perhaps the most recent analogous case, a judge entered a default judgment against the Congolese government after it failed to respond to a suit from a protester who said he was badly beaten in 2014 outside a Washington hotel by security officers for President Joseph Kabila. The individual security officers who were sued later sought to vacate that default judgment, and a judge dismissed claims against Kabila. Turkey, meanwhile, has said for months through its lawyers that it intends to aggressively contest the allegations, and both lawsuits name the country as a defendant. One separately includes as defendants five U.S. and Canadian citizens accused in the attacks. A judge has permitted most of the claims against the defendants, who are not Turkish government officials, to move forward. Lawyers for the protesters see an opportunity to hold the Turkish government accountable for the violence. 'It's important to protect people's First Amendment rights and the freedom of expression. It's important to show that the United States stands up for those rights,' Fryszman said.
  • For more than two decades, Nancy Mace did not speak publicly about her rape. In April, when she finally broke her silence, she chose the most public of forums — before her colleagues in South Carolina's legislature. A bill was being debated that would ban all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected; Mace, a Republican lawmaker, wanted to add an exception for rape and incest. When some of her colleagues in the House dismissed her amendment — some women invent rapes to justify seeking an abortion, they claimed — she could not restrain herself. 'For some of us who have been raped, it can take 25 years to get up the courage and talk about being a victim of rape,' Mace said, gripping the lectern so hard she thought she might pull it up from the floor. 'My mother and my best friend in high school were the only two people who knew.' As one Republican legislature after another has pressed ahead with restrictive abortion bills in recent months, they have been confronted with raw and emotional testimony about the consequences of such laws. Female lawmakers and other women have stepped forward to tell searing, personal stories — in some cases speaking about attacks for the first time to anyone but a loved one or their closest friend. Mace is against abortion in most cases and supported the fetal heartbeat bill as long as it contained the exception for rape and incest. She said her decision to reveal an attack that has haunted her for so long was intended to help male lawmakers understand the experience of those victims. 'It doesn't matter what side of the aisle you are on, there are so many of us who share this trauma and this experience,' Mace said in an interview. 'Rape and incest are not partisan issues.' Personal horror stories have done little to slow passage of bills in Georgia, where a lawmaker told about having an abortion after being raped, or Alabama, where the governor this week signed a law that bans all abortions unless they are necessary to save the life of the mother. In Ohio, a fetal heartbeat bill passed even after three lawmakers spoke out on the floor about their rapes — among them State Rep. Lisa Sobecki, who argued for a rape exemption by recounting her own assault and subsequent abortion. It was gut-wrenching, the Navy veteran said, but her decision to speak out was validated the next day when she was approached in the grocery store by a man in his 70s, whose wife of 41 years had read of her account that morning in the local newspaper. The story prompted his wife to tell him for the first time that she also had been raped. 'It's not just our stories,' Sobecki said. 'It's giving voice to the voiceless, those that haven't felt for a very long time that they could tell their stories and be heard.' Four years ago, when a previous fetal heartbeat bill was being debated, state Sen. Teresa Fedor, then a state representative, surprised colleagues with her story of being raped while in the military and having an abortion. She felt compelled to share the story again this year when the issue resurfaced. 'It's not something you like to focus on,' the Toledo Democrat said. 'And it didn't seem to have an impact in stopping the effort, so that's the sad part.' The governor signed the bill, without exceptions for rape or incest. Ohio state Rep. Erica Crawley, a Democrat representing Columbus, said she didn't intend to share the story of her sexual assault when floor debate on the heartbeat bill began. But she said she was motivated by a Republican colleague who alleged that witnesses at committee hearings on the bill had exaggerated or fabricated their stories. 'I wanted them to know that I'm someone you have respect for, and this has happened to me,' she said. Crawley felt she had no choice but to speak out: 'Because if I stay silent, I feel like I'm complicit.' Kelly Dittmar, an expert on women and politics at Rutgers University, said she would not be surprised if even more female lawmakers begin to speak out about their rapes and abortions. More women feel empowered by the #MeToo movement, she said, and the record number of women who won seats in state legislatures last year gives them a greater voice. 'For some women who have healed enough in their own personal battles with this type of abuse, they might be comfortable speaking about this publicly because they see a higher purpose for it,' she said. One such woman is Gretchen Whitmer. In 2013, she was minority leader in the Michigan state Senate when she spoke against a Republican-backed effort to require separate health insurance to cover abortion. Seven minutes into her floor speech, a visibly upset Whitmer put down her notes and told her colleagues that she had been raped more than 20 years earlier and that the memory of the attack continued to haunt her. She thanked God that she had not become pregnant by her attacker. In an interview this week, the Democrat said her decision to share her story was the right one. After her testimony, her office received thousands of emails from people thanking her. 'That was the thing that bolstered me the most and convinced me that I had to continue speaking out and running for office and taking action,' she said. 'There are a lot of victims and survivors out there who care, who need to be heard, who need to be represented and who need the law to reflect what we want and need to see in our country.' Earlier this week, Michigan's Republican-led Legislature passed two bills to restrict abortions and sent them to the governor. That governor is now Whitmer. She said she will veto both of them. ___ Cassidy reported from Atlanta. ___ Follow Julie Carr Smyth at http://www.twitter.com/jcarrsmyth and Christina Cassidy at http://twitter.com/AP_Christina