WASHINGTON — 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 crude 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 had not responded to earlier resignation calls from three male senators, Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
Hours later, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono also called for the president to step down, declaring that Trump's "tweet against Kirsten was just another example of his misogyny."
"He is a liar. He is an admitted sexual predator and the only thing that will stop him is his resignation," Hirono said. "He not only owes Kirsten an apology, he owes an apology to our entire country, particularly the women in this country."
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., called it "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."
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island declared that Trump was "rather incontinent when it comes to tweets."
And the Democratic Women's Working Group held a news conference to demand that the House Oversight Committee investigate sexual misconduct allegations against Trump. Republican lawmakers, who control both houses of Congress, have suggested that such a probe was unlikely.
The criticism of Trump largely came from one side of the aisle. Republicans largely remained silent about the tweet, with Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a frequent Trump critic, being an exception, saying he "didn't think it was appropriate at all."
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.
Sanders also promised that the White House would provide a list of eyewitnesses and corroborating evidence to exonerate Trump. Nearly 24 hours later, the White House sent along an email that, citing news reports that quote witnesses, only offered rebuttals to two of the accusations.
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."
Gillibrand has been leading the charge to shine light on sexual harassment pressuring politicians facing allegations even from her own party to step down.
"I will not be silenced on this issue neither will the women who stood up to the president yesterday and neither will the millions of women who have been marching since the women's march against policies they do not agree with," she said.
Ann Scholhamer helped organized the Women's March in Chicago last January.
They expected about 20,000 people but more than a quarter of million showed up to stand up for women.
"[The tweet is] just another way trump has used sexual innuendo to discredit women's professional and integrity and it needs to stop and the women in the country are going to do that," Scholhamer said.
To continue the fight sh,e and others are in the planning next years march, this one called Women's March to Polls and tweets like the president's this morning, while seen by many as demeaning, can also spur a movement.
"Everything is empowering in its way but we also need to make the change to put our power to better use than just fighting," Scholhamer said.
For more information on next year's march, visit womens121marchonchicago.org.