How confronting Democrats now could position Gillibrand to take on Trump in 2020

When Democrats have faced uncomfortable questions about their own bad actors, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has now twice a...

Posted: Dec 8, 2017 1:47 PM
Updated: Dec 8, 2017 1:47 PM

When Democrats have faced uncomfortable questions about their own bad actors, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has now twice answered first.

The New York senator's Facebook post Wednesday calling on Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota to resign in the wake of sexual assault allegations led to dozens more party leaders issuing the same call within hours.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is widely seen as a prospect for the 2020 race

Gillibrand's aides say there was no political calculation behind her moves

It came weeks after she'd made headlines when asked about Bill Clinton's sexual misconduct. Gillibrand said that -- if that misconduct happened today -- she'd want Clinton to resign the presidency.

Widely seen as a prospect for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Gillibrand's moves against leading figures in her own party have positioned her to turn her focus to Republicans and make an aggressive case against Trump.

The short version: At the same time Gillibrand led the charge against sexual misconduct in her own party, Trump -- accused of sexual assault himself -- endorsed Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate facing allegations that he pursued sexual relationships with teenage girls while in his 30s.

Gillibrand's aides insist there was no political calculation behind her moves. Instead they see the continuation of her years-long efforts to combat sexual assault in the military and on college campuses.

Still, they believe that Gillibrand's moves allowed Democrats to move past questions about party members' own behavior -- shifting the focus back to Trump.

"This really isn't about 2020," said one Democratic strategist who has worked for Gillibrand, who asked for anonymity to speak frankly. "It's about, we have a sexual assaulter in the White House. And how do we do something about that? How is that OK? How did that become acceptable? It cannot become acceptable."

In her Facebook post, Gillibrand cast Trump's election as the catalyst for the societal change in how Americans view sexual assault allegations.

"In the wake of the election of President Trump, in just the last few months, our society is changing, and I encourage women and men to keep speaking up to continue this progress. At this moment, we need to speak hard truths or lose our chance to make lasting change," she wrote.

But her posture -- particularly toward Clinton -- has led to a round of questions about why she didn't criticize the former president before Hillary Clinton (who Gillibrand replaced in the Senate in 2009) had lost and the family had faded from the Democratic political scene.

Longtime Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines tweeted, in response to Gillibrand's comments, that she "took the Clintons' endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite."

"Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries," he tweeted. "Best of luck."

Gillibrand called that criticism "ridiculous" and "wrong" in an interview with MSNBC last month.

"Bill Clinton did very important things for this country, but my point is about this conversation that we're having today. We need to have highest standards for elected leaders, and we have to change what's happening throughout society and we have to allow people to tell their stories, that's what this is all about," she said.

It was far from the first time Gillibrand angered members of her own party over her approach to sexual assault and other issues important to women.

Gillibrand feuded in 2013 with Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, then the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, over military sexual assault. Levin wanted the Defense Department to keep its existing system for prosecuting sexual assault cases; Gillibrand pushed for major reforms.

She later sought legislation focused on campus sexual assault and is now pursuing legislative changes to how sexual assault and harassment is handled by members of Congress and their staffs.

Those efforts have gotten attention outside the political sphere. Gillibrand, more than most politicians, speaks frequently to magazines and websites that cover issues important to women and this year, in particular, regularly sits for podcast interviews.

Gillibrand launched her "Off the Sidelines" political action committee to back women candidates for office, and made waves when she endorsed an abortion-rights-supporting female primary challenger to Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois, who opposes abortion rights.

"You all have no idea how many chits that earned Gillibrand in Illinois. We're not only a big donor state for 2020, but we have lots of delegates and we send more volunteers to Iowa than any other state," tweeted veteran Illinois Democratic strategist Tom Bowen. "Smart, smart move."

Now that Franken is sidelined, the Democratic strategist who worked for Gillibrand said Trump "should be very, very concerned here."

"It should be quite the contrast for the media to take note of and for the American people, for voters, to know that Al Franken resigned and Roy Moore could be sitting in the chamber," the strategist said. "And that's what Donald Trump seems to want."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 60553

Reported Deaths: 1703
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5209106
DeSoto328027
Madison228154
Rankin212428
Harrison209832
Jackson192934
Jones176557
Forrest163153
Washington148032
Lauderdale132388
Lee123230
Neshoba119487
Lamar111512
Oktibbeha105235
Lowndes97332
Warren96426
Scott95317
Bolivar93932
Copiah90924
Panola90711
Sunflower90622
Lafayette8699
Holmes84347
Leflore83259
Pike82632
Grenada81220
Yazoo77311
Leake76725
Lincoln74339
Wayne73221
Pontotoc7247
Simpson71126
Monroe69750
Coahoma65910
Tate64523
Marion59918
Adams58025
Covington57811
Winston57115
Marshall5668
George5415
Union51913
Newton51611
Attala49524
Tallahatchie49310
Pearl River48236
Walthall44218
Chickasaw43519
Noxubee41710
Claiborne40013
Smith37713
Jasper3758
Calhoun3748
Clay36814
Alcorn3544
Prentiss3376
Hancock32614
Tishomingo3163
Yalobusha31610
Lawrence3135
Itawamba30710
Tippah30412
Clarke29825
Montgomery2913
Humphreys26911
Tunica2656
Carroll24511
Greene22611
Kemper22315
Perry2217
Quitman2211
Amite2105
Jefferson Davis1986
Webster19712
Jefferson1916
Wilkinson18712
Sharkey1801
Stone1483
Choctaw1264
Benton1240
Franklin1142
Issaquena211
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 88811

Reported Deaths: 1576
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson11650225
Mobile8998191
Montgomery6198143
Madison493225
Tuscaloosa391263
Baldwin317522
Shelby300232
Marshall294730
Unassigned263351
Lee249140
Morgan220615
Etowah191425
DeKalb167713
Elmore158437
Calhoun15359
Walker145763
Houston130912
Dallas128023
Russell12201
Franklin118420
Limestone118313
St. Clair118212
Cullman111311
Colbert107612
Lauderdale105312
Autauga101020
Escambia96515
Talladega89013
Jackson8163
Chambers81438
Tallapoosa80478
Dale77619
Butler75135
Blount7223
Covington70420
Coffee7035
Chilton6976
Pike6547
Barbour5625
Lowndes54624
Marion53524
Marengo51514
Clarke4849
Hale44925
Bullock43711
Perry4284
Winston42811
Wilcox4029
Monroe3884
Randolph38810
Conecuh37110
Bibb3643
Pickens3639
Sumter36118
Washington31011
Macon30813
Lawrence3060
Crenshaw2843
Choctaw27312
Henry2433
Greene24011
Cherokee2337
Geneva2260
Clay2165
Lamar1942
Fayette1695
Cleburne1141
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