WASHINGTON — During her daily briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended President Trump against criticism that a tweet he wrote suggesting that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., would “do anything” for donations was inappropriate sexual innuendo.
Sanders argued that the president’s meaning was “very obvious” and not “sexist at all.”
“This is the same sentiment that the president has expressed many times before when he has exposed the corruption of the entire political system,” Sanders said.
Trump sent the tweet in question on Tuesday morning, a day after Gillibrand said he should resign over multiple allegations of sexual assault that have been made against him.
“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,” the president wrote.
The comment about Gillibrand being willing to “do anything” was widely attacked as sexual innuendo by critics. Gillibrand also denounced the comment during a press briefing on Capitol Hill.
“It was a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice, and I will not be silenced on this issue,” she said.
As she was repeatedly asked about the tweet, Sanders framed it as an extension of Trump’s past claim that the system is “rigged” in favor of political donors. When ABC News’ Cecilia Vega asked what the president was “alleging would happen behind closed doors” with Gillibrand, Sanders said Trump was “not alleging anything.”
“He’s talking about the way that our system functions as it is that politicians repeatedly beg for money. That’s not something new and that comment frankly isn’t something new if you look back at past comments that this president has made,” said Sanders.
During last year’s presidential race, Trump regularly railed against what he described as a “rigged” system and vowed to “drain the swamp” if he was elected. Critics have argued that his appointment of Wall Street executives and Washington veterans in his administration was a violation of that pledge.
Sanders claimed that Gillibrand was a particularly egregious example of this “rigged system.”
“I don’t think that there’s probably many people that are more controlled by political contributions than the senator that the president referenced,” Sanders said.
Trump, a former Democrat who frequently gave cash to New York politicians, donated $7,950 to Gillibrand’s House and Senate campaigns between 2007 and 2010. On the campaign trail, Trump boasted that his contributions took advantage of the political system during his business career.
Yahoo News asked Sanders what, specifically, he received for these contributions to Gillibrand. Sanders did not cite any specific examples but said generally that politicians offer “access” in exchange for donations.
“A member of Congress will take your phone call. They’ll take your meeting and, if you’re driving something as a businessman that the president may or may not have been driving at any particular point, you can talk to that individual about it and sometimes they carry your water,” Sanders said. “That’s the reason that we have a broken system. That’s the reason that often special interests control our government more than the people do.”
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