Kirsten Gillibrand, Outside a Trump Hotel, Calls the President a ‘Coward’

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, speaking outside a Trump-branded high-rise in Manhattan on Sunday, launched a frontal attack on President Trump, calling him a “coward” and the building bearing his name “a shrine to greed, division and vanity.”

The speech by Ms. Gillibrand, part of what her campaign billed as the official kickoff of a 2020 bid that has unofficially been underway since January, appeared to be a calculated effort to elevate a candidate who has so far struggled for traction and attention in a crowded Democratic field.

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In a 30-minute speech, Ms. Gillibrand called for the full report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to be made public, saying, “Not even the president is above the law.”

“It is not often that I agree with Richard Nixon, but he was right to say that the American people have a right to know whether their president is a crook,” Ms. Gillibrand declared to cheers.

Standing not far from the Trump International Hotel & Tower, Ms. Gillibrand mocked the president and former real estate developer’s penchant for slapping his name on buildings. “He does this because he wants you to believe he’s strong,” she said. “He is not. Our president is a coward.”

The entire event seemed intended, at least in part, to provoke an impetuous president who is quick to attack anyone who attacks him.

The crowd on a closed-off Central Park West was small compared with those drawn by her rivals over the weekend far from their home turf. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont attracted upward of 10,000 people in Los Angeles, in the home state of Senator Kamala Harris. Ms. Harris, for her part, was campaigning in Houston, the home state of former Representative Beto O’Rourke, at a rally that drew several thousand.

Daniel Cueto, a 22-year-old student at New York University, attended Ms. Gillibrand’s event after going to Mr. Sanders’s kickoff speech in Brooklyn earlier this month. “Bernie was more than 15,000,” he said. (Official estimates were a bit lower than that.) “This isn’t.”

A former intern in Ms. Gillibrand’s office, Mr. Cueto called her a more moderate Democrat and said he was “generally more supportive of candidates further to the left.”

Ms. Gillibrand, who touted her record of opposing Mr. Trump’s nominees more consistently than any other senator, outlined a progressive agenda that included “Medicare for all,” universal prekindergarten, a national paid-leave program, cutting the interest rates on student debt and addressing “institutional racism.”

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She has sought to position herself as a potential leader of an uprising of women who helped Democrats take back the House in 2018. On Sunday, she drew a mixture of devoted fans and people just interested to see a presidential candidate.

“This is the first time in history we’re seeing a woman run on a feminist platform,” said Chloe Dervin, a student at nearby John Jay College of Criminal Justice, studying political science and gender studies. She said she was all-in for Ms. Gillibrand — and had even submitted a résumé in hopes of landing a job on the campaign.

Katherine Scheirman, a 69-year-old retired Air Force colonel, said she was there because of Ms. Gillibrand’s leading role fighting the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. “That took courage,” she said. “And she was right.”

Most polls nationally, and in early states, have shown Ms. Gillibrand drawing around 1 percent support. Still, that is enough to meet the low threshold the Democratic National Committee has set to make the first debates this summer.

“I have never backed down from a fight,” Ms. Gillibrand said on Sunday. “And I’m not about to start now.”

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