WASHINGTON (AP) – Plowing into the sexual harassment debate in a big way, President Donald Trump laced into Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday, tweeting that the New York Democrat would come to his office “begging” for campaign contributions and “do anything” to get them. Democrats accused the president of making unsavory insinuations.
Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who had called for Trump’s resignation a day earlier because of allegations of sexual misconduct, called Trump’s attack a “sexist smear attempting to silence my voice.”
“I will not be silenced on this issue,” Gillibrand insisted. “Neither will the women who stood up to the president yesterday,” referring to women who have accused the president of sexual misconduct.
Standing up for Gillibrand, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted to the president: “Are you really trying to bully, intimidate and slut-shame @SenGillibrand? Do you know who you’re picking a fight with? Good luck with that, @realDonaldTrump. Nevertheless, #shepersisted.”
The phrase “she persisted” went viral earlier this year after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell silenced Warren as she tried to read a letter from Coretta Scott King about then-attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions.
Trump’s tweet Tuesday did not directly address sexual harassment, but said of Gillibrand: “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”
A day earlier, Gillibrand said Trump should resign because there were credible accusations against him. And barring that, she said, “Congress should investigate the multiple sexual harassment and assault allegations against him.”
Trump’s tweet Tuesday morning inflamed Democrats who said the president was again debasing a woman. Trump did not respond to similar resignation calls from Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, and Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., told CNN “That was an ugly and suggestive tweet, and we all know what he was trying to say there, and it is beneath the office of the presidency.”
Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said Trump had “proven to be a poison for the presidency, a cancer on the country, and a truly disgraceful human being.”
Patti Solis Doyle, a onetime Hillary Clinton campaign official, wrote that Trump’s tweet made a “vile, disgusting implication” about Gillibrand.
Solis Doyle tweeted: “‘And would do anything for them’. What does that mean, @realDonaldTrump?! You, a man, accused by more than a dozen credible women of assault and harassment, has the audacity make this vile, disgusting implication. SHAME!”
Likewise, Brian Fallon, Clinton’s former campaign spokesman, tweeted: “This is a disgusting tweet. Also, it will make the Gillibrand folks ecstatic.” Fallon appeared to be referring to the fact sexual harassment is an issue that Gillibrand has taken on politically.
More than a dozen women came forward during last year’s campaign, many in the wake of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump is heard bragging about committing sexual assault, to say that the celebrity businessman had harassed them.
With each day seeming to bring new headlines that force men from positions of power, four of Trump’s accusers re-upped their claims Monday, believing the national movement on sexual harassment should force change at the White House too.
Trump has denied the claims. In a heated exchange with reporters in the White House briefing room on Monday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders steadfastly dismissed accusations against the Republican president and suggested the issue had been litigated in Trump’s favor on Election Day.
Trump donated $4,800 to Gillibrand’s Senate campaign in 2010, according to federal campaign finance records. Before launching his presidential campaign, Trump frequently bestowed donations on politicians of both parties.
To his accusers, the rising #MeToo movement is an occasion to ensure he is at last held accountable.
“It was heartbreaking last year. We’re private citizens and for us to put ourselves out there to try and show America who this man is and how he views women, and for them to say, ‘Eh, we don’t care,’ it hurt,” Samantha Holvey said Monday. The former beauty queen claimed that Trump ogled her and other Miss USA pageant contestants in their dressing room in 2006.
“Let’s try round two,” she said. “The environment’s different. Let’s try again.”