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Three questions with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in Cheektowaga

In one of her rare Western New York appearances, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand on Friday didn't focus on her recent Twitter war with President Trump or her call for his resignation.

Instead, she came to Cheektowaga to plug vocational education.

The Democrat took only a handful of questions from reporters, breaking no real new ground at the Harkness Career and Technical Center after announcing her sponsorship of a bill to direct federal funding to high-tech training programs in high schools and colleges.

The state’s junior senator has been in the forefront of the recent sexual harassment firestorm, calling for Trump’s resignation after he was accused of sexual assault and harassment by female acquaintances. But Gillibrand has been confronting the issue for years, beginning with her concerns about sexual assault in the military.

Here's her answers to a handful of questions she fielded Friday morning at the Harkness Center:

On previous contributions she has received from Trump, which have been donated to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization:

"We have returned donations to a not-for-profit that deals with sexual violence."

"It’s not about me. It’s about all women and children standing up and trying to be heard, because it’s a moment of reckoning right now in this country. Women who have suffered sexual harassment and sexual violence — they need to be heard, and they need to be able to tell their stories. And what my job is then is to be able to provide accountability."

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"We have to create a structure around this pervasiveness and be able to show accountability, transparency and also justice. So whether it occurs on a college campus — we’re trying to fix what we’re doing on campuses nationwide — or in the military, where we have an extraordinarily high rate of sexual assault and retaliation and a very low conviction rate — or whether it’s members of Congress. And it’s one of the reasons I was able to pull together strong bipartisan support. We introduced a bill yesterday with over 20 senators, eight of whom were Republicans, about how to change the rules of Congress about how to deal with this issue of sexual harassment and make this system work better."

On Republican efforts to overhaul the tax code:

"I’m concerned, obviously, about this tax bill, because it’s going to raise taxes on the middle class. It’s going to really harm New Yorkers across the board. The truth is this tax raises middle-class taxes. For all New Yorkers who pay local and state taxes, it’s going to be very difficult, because they’re going to have to pay a lot more money. And when it takes away the health care mandate, that means that a lot of our health care costs are going to go up. And for some people they may go up so much that they can’t afford it. So I’m very, very worried about this tax bill. It’s very harmful for New Yorkers and middle-class families."

On recent Democratic election victories in Virginia and Alabama:

"It says our voices are being heard and people are really fighting for what they believe in."

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