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Kirsten Gillibrand officially launches presidential campaign

Gillibrand officially enters 2020 race

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand formally launched her presidential campaign Sunday morning, two months after she announced the creation of an exploratory committee, making it official with a tweeted campaign video.

The video, titled "Brave" and narrated by Gillibrand, focuses on President Trump, though he is never mentioned by name. It shows a succession of TV news images — Mr. Trump waving on a stage, footage of the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, the opioid crisis, a National Rifle Association sign, the president criticizing a caravan of migrants, denying the existence of climate change and more.

"Brave doesn't pit people against each other. Brave doesn't put money over lives. Brave doesn't spread hate. Cloud truth. Build a wall. That's what fear does," Gillibrand said in the video, denouncing Mr. Trump's proposed border wall and the Muslim ban in accompanying images.

Gillibrand mentions her policy priorities, which are similar to those enumerated by other Democrats in the field — including health care for all and passing a "Green New Deal," the aspirational legislation to combat climate change introduced by her fellow New Yorker, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

But she also tries to distinguish herself from the rest of the field by noting her opposition to the Wall Street bailout during the financial crisis, her efforts to curtail military sexual assault and her public release of her personal financial information.

"When I voted against the Wall Street bailout while both parties threw billions at the banks, when I took on the Pentagon to end to sexual assault in the military," she said in the video. "When I turned a red district blue against all odds, when I challenged Congress by making my meetings, finances and taxes public." 

Gillibrand has faced criticism for conservative positions she has taken during her early tenure in the House, particularly her hardline stances on guns and illegal immigration. She was appointed to the Senate in 2009 to fill Hillary Clinton's seat when she became secretary of state.

The senator from New York plans to make the first speech of her presidential campaign in her home state next Sunday in front of Trump International in Columbus Circle in New York City, the video said.

The official launch of Gillibrand's campaign comes just days after Beto O'Rourke, the former congressman and failed Senate candidate from Texas, announced his presidential bid, attracting more attention, some complained, than any of the more experienced women pursuing the Democratic nomination. 

Gillibrand, a prominent advocate for the #MeToo movement, was the first senator to call on Sen. Al Franken to resign in 2017 based on allegations of sexual harassment. But she is now under scrutiny for her handling of a sexual harassment claim against a staffer in her Senate office last year. Gillibrand has defended her handling of the situation in her office, contending last week that the allegation was taken seriously "every step" of the way.

"These are challenges that affect all of our nation's workplaces, including mine, and the question is whether or not they are taken seriously. As I have long said, when allegations are made in the workplace, we must believe women so that serious investigations can actually take place, we can learn the facts, and there can be appropriate accountability. That's exactly what happened at every step of this case last year. I told her that we loved her at the time, and the same is true today," Gillibrand said in a statement Monday.  

Unlike several of her Senate colleagues running for president, Gillibrand has yet to receive a home-state endorsement. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the senior senator from New York, is remaining neutral because of the number of Democratic senators running for president. However, neither Gov. Andrew Cuomo or New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have offered their support. Two members of the New York congressional delegation, Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Kathleen Rice, have endorsed O'Rourke.

Gillibrand has made a name in the Senate for her fierce advocacy for victims of sexual assault in the military, and for her sharp criticism of Mr. Trump. The animosity between the New York senator and the president is mutual: Mr. Trump mentioned Gillibrand in a widely criticized tweet in 2017 claiming that used to come to his office "begging" for campaign donations and claimed she "would do anything for them." Gillibrand called the tweet a "sexist smear."

Gillibrand announced her exploratory committee on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" in January.

"I'm going to run for president of the United States, because as a young mom, I'm going to fight for other people's kids as hard as I would fight for my own," Gillibrand said on "The Late Show," adding that she had the "compassion, courage, and fearless determination" to tackle issues such as institutional racism and corruption in Washington.

Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report.

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