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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand kicks off official campaign for White House in 2020

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand kicks off her 2020 presidential

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand kicks off her 2020 presidential run with a rally Sunday on Central Park West next to Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan. Credit: Charles Eckert

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Sunday labeled President Donald Trump a "coward" in kicking off her campaign to replace him in the White House, with the rally venue – the foot of Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan – underscoring his role as the foil of her 2020 bid.

Gillibrand also renewed her call for the immediate release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Mueller sent his report to the Department of Justice on Friday. On Sunday, Attorney General William Barr released only a letter about the "principal conclusions" of the report. 

Former GOP President Richard Nixon "was right to say that the American people have a right to know whether or not their president is a crook," Gillibrand said.

“President Trump is tearing apart the moral fabric of this country," the Democratic junior senator from New York said, a giant American flag serving as the backdrop to the stage. "He demonizes the vulnerable, and he punches down."

Gillibrand asked the crowd of a few hundred supporters to look up at the Trump property, a “shrine to greed, division and vanity.” Trump puts his name on buildings "because he wants us to believe he is strong," Gillibrand said. "He is not. Our president is a coward."

“We deserve a president who is brave,” she said.

Gillibrand, 52, of upstate Brunswick, officially launched her 2020 bid one week ago with a video titled “Brave Wins.” She traveled this past week to the crucial swing states of Michigan, Iowa and Nevada.

Trump has attacked Gillibrand, perhaps most notably when he tweeted in December 2017 that she was a “lightweight” and “total flunky for Chuck Schumer,” New York’s senior senator. The president posted that Gillibrand used to come “begging” to him for campaign contributions.

Gillibrand was introduced at the rally by speakers who included DREAMers, young people brought to the United States illegally as children; sexual assault survivors; a trans-rights activist and armed forces veteran; the mother of a gun violence victim; and actor Connie Britton, Gillibrand’s college roommate during their time in China.

“My fight is your fight, your fight is my fight and our fight is her fight,” DREAMer Lisdy Contreras-Giron said.

Gillibrand said their bravery has inspired hers.

She is competing with a vast Democratic field of 2020 candidates, some of whom have better national name recognition, much higher poll numbers and the ability to bring in larger fundraising hauls.

A Fox News poll released Sunday put Gillibrand at 2 percent support compared to other Democratic hopefuls. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who hasn’t announced whether he will run, had 31 percent support in that poll.

On Sunday, Gillibrand touted a platform that includes Medicare for All, universal prekindergarten, refinanced student loans, national paid leave, marijuana legalization and the Green New Deal to combat climate change. She eschewed corporate interests.

“As your president, I will be answerable to you alone,” Gillibrand said.

The Republican National Committee during the rally sent out an email that denounced Gillibrand as "Chameleon Kirsten," referencing the more conservative positions she held as an upstate congresswoman from 2007 to 2009 in contrast to the more liberal ones she has taken in the years since.

Supporters, including Britton, said Gillibrand is consistent in her conviction.

"I've watched her change and evolve. I believe it's in her heart and soul," said rally-goer Ellen Landsberger, 67, of the Upper West Side, a retired doctor, citing Gillibrand's work against gun violence. But Landsberger said she supports all the women running in the Democratic primary, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and views their platforms as similarly progressive.

Gillibrand on Sunday did not address some of the more controversial incidents that have put her in the headlines, such as her spearheading in 2017 of a push to oust then-Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), accused of sexual misconduct.

Gillibrand has said she found the eight allegations against Franken to be credible, saying they led to her choice to stand against him.

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