Sen. Gillibrand, eyeing 2020 bid, rankles some Democrats

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick MORE (D-N.Y.) and other Senate Democrats are jockeying for potential White House runs, but her unabashed style is drawing friendly fire that could hamper a 2020 bid.

She scored an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday, which billed her as one of the “most prominent political faces of the #MeToo movement.”

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The high-profile media appearance, coupled with her public rebukes of former President Clinton and ex-Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenTake Trump literally and seriously in Minnesota Ninth woman accuses Al Franken of inappropriate contact Al Franken to host SiriusXM radio show MORE (D-Minn.), has stirred some ill will among Senate Democrats — who sense a whiff of political opportunism.

Her willingness to call out fellow Democrats has made her controversial within the Washington power establishment, which could be an asset on the campaign trail.

Sunday’s “60 Minutes” piece described Gillibrand as a “lightning rod” for criticizing Clinton over his White House sex scandal and for leading the charge to push Franken out of Congress following multiple sexual harassment allegations.

Some Democratic strategists predict Gillibrand’s statement last fall that Clinton should have resigned over the Monica Lewinsky affair will come back to haunt her.

The comment caused so much agitation in Democratic circles that Allida Black, the co-founder of the Clinton super PAC Ready for Hillary who was married by Gillibrand, canceled a fundraiser for the senator.

“She was disappointed with Gillibrand and going back and talking about all this stuff with Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonDemocrats dig in ahead of Supreme Court ruling on 'Dreamers' Even with likely Trump impeachment, Democrats face uphill climb to win presidency House Democrats risk overriding fairness factor on impeachment MORE after all this had been litigated,” one person familiar with the situation told The Hill. “But she also noticed people were upset and the money was drying up.”

Even though the comments clearly miffed those in her party, Gillibrand hasn’t reached out to Clinton, according to a source familiar with the matter.

When asked by “60 Minutes” whether she had contacted the Clintons, Gillibrand declined to comment.

“I can tell you one thing: I can tell you that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJill Stein: 'I am not a Russian spy' Trump criticizes Clinton for suggesting Jill Stein was Russian asset Graham: I'm seeking to make Trump successful 'but not at all costs' MORE is still my greatest role model in politics,” she demurred.

Gillibrand’s allies argue that she has a long history of speaking out against sexual assault.

They point out she took on a senior chairman from her own party, former Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinRemembering leaders who put country above party Strange bedfellows oppose the filibuster Listen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home MORE (D-Mich.), and former President Obama over the thorny issue of prosecuting sexual assaults in the military. 

Gillibrand wanted to remove prosecution decisions from the military chain of command, while Levin argued those decisions should be kept in the chain of command but reviewed by outside officers. The New York senator went so far as to draw Obama into the debate, calling on him to “show greater leadership” on the issue, arguing it fell directly within his authority.

Glen Caplin, a spokesman for Gillibrand, said his boss will continue to speak out on sexual harassment despite the criticism.

“As Kirsten wrote in a Facebook post, we must not lose sight that this watershed moment is bigger than any one industry, any one party, or any one person. We have to rise to the occasion, and not shrink away from it, even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard. That is what this larger moment is about,” said Caplin.

Still, Gillibrand is taking heat from Democratic donors.

Susie Tompkins Buell, a major donor, told The New York Times last month that Gillibrand had “miscalculated” and “shot herself in the foot” in ripping Franken.

Buell said she would have to think before providing future financial support for Gillibrand.

“I have supported her for many years. Will I going forward? To be determined,” she said.

One top Democratic donor said that while some Democrats may have been supportive of Gillibrand’s recent involvement in the “Me Too” movement, some donors — particularly those who supported Hillary Clinton — were put off.

“She stepped in it. And not once but a couple of times. And I think a lot of us saw it as opportunistic,” the donor said.

The blowback doesn’t appear to have impacted Gillibrand’s fundraising, however.

If anything, her higher profile because of the “Me Too” movement has translated into more campaign contributions from the grass roots.

Gillibrand circulated a fundraising email after getting into a Twitter fight with President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview MORE and raised close to $12 million for her Senate campaign account in 2017.

This put her in the same realm as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash Ocasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders MORE (D), another likely White House hopeful, who raised $14.4 million during the same period, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Gillibrand raked in substantially more last year than freshman Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisKamala Harris reacts to supporter who got tattoo of her handwriting Even with likely Trump impeachment, Democrats face uphill climb to win presidency Harris campaign releases web video highlighting opposition to death penalty MORE (D-Calif.), another woman in the Senate viewed as a possible presidential candidate in 2020. Harris raised about $2.6 million for her campaign fund in 2017, according to FEC records.

Gillibrand’s Senate Democratic colleagues expect she will run for president, though some of them wonder whether she can win enough support from the political center or distinguish herself enough from a crowded field of liberals to win.

“That part of the caucus is all competing for Bernie SandersBernie SandersOcasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders Ocasio-Cortez throws support to Sanders at Queens rally MORE voters and he lost,” noted a Democratic senator who spoke on the condition of anonymity, referring to Gillibrand and her potential competitors for the 2020 Democratic nomination: Warren and Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerGabbard hits back at 'queen of warmongers' Clinton The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges Former public school teacher: Strikes 'wake-up call' for Democratic Party MORE (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who came up short in his bid for the party’s nomination in 2016.

If Gillibrand runs for the Democratic nomination, she will have to answer questions on two issues important to the Democratic base: gun control and immigration.

When Gillibrand represented a rural Republican-leaning district in the House, she had an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association and was a critic of “sanctuary cities” and “amnesty,” the latter a term conservatives apply to plans granting citizenship and legal residence to immigrants living the country illegally.

She now says she was “wrong” on guns and has learned more about immigrant communities since expanding her representation to all of New York.

Gillibrand, 51, said she changed her views on guns after visiting families in New York City who lost relatives to street violence. She said gun issues are now about “money” and the “greed of [the gun] industry” and not about hunters’ rights.

“I came from a district that was 98 percent white. We have immigrants but not a lot of immigrants and I hadn’t really spent the time to hear those stories, to hear what it’s like to worry that your dad could be taken away at any moment,” she told “60 Minutes.”

Gillibrand says she’s focused on her own reelection in 2018 and helping Democrats win back the Senate and House, a standard response from Democrats who are viewed as top White House prospects.

The recent media exposure won’t hurt Gillibrand’s name ID and could boost her poll numbers, which are lagging significantly behind those of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview Yang cautions Democrats: Impeachment might not be 'successful' Ocasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment MORE, Sanders and Warren.

This story was updated at 8:54 a.m. to reflect that Sen. Warren raised $14.4 million in 2017.