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In A Private Meeting, Kirsten Gillibrand Signaled She Will Run For President

On Saturday, Gillibrand met with feminists and influential women in the days before she is expected to announce her candidacy — a preview of the kind of campaign she'll run.

Posted on January 12, 2019, at 8:34 p.m. ET

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Saturday signaled to a group of about 20 influential women that she will run for president, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

Gillibrand made her intentions clear, said the source, who asked not to be identified to speak about the event. Gillibrand said that she needed their help if they would offer it to her. The closed-door gathering was attended by feminist Gloria Steinem, the source said. A second source reached by BuzzFeed News confirmed the meeting took place but would not elaborate on what was said.

The multiracial and multigenerational group came from the worlds of art, academia, business, tech, and literature, according to the source.

Although Gillibrand is not the only woman likely to run for president, she is the candidate whose campaign will most focus on gender. The New York senator's signature issues have been women's issues, such as how military sexual assault is prosecuted and #MeToo in politics; her outside group focuses on funding women candidates for office, something on display as a record number of women ran in 2018, when Gillibrand, herself, was reelected in New York.

A top Gillibrand aide earlier this week told BuzzFeed News that the senator would likely announce the launch of an exploratory committee in the "coming weeks," possibly in January. On Saturday, the aide declined to comment.

News of the meeting comes on the heels of the announcement that Gillibrand has hired Meredith Kelly, a seasoned communications hand who formerly worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the report that Gillibrand's team has leased a 5,000-square-foot space in downtown Troy, New York, where she is from. Several plans for Gillibrand to visit early-voting states are also in place, according to multiple media reports.

Since her appointment to the Senate in 2009, Gillibrand has become one of the top figures in Democratic national politics. As one of the most high-profile figures in the Senate, Gillibrand has been a major proponent of the movement to eradicate sexual harassment. She has come under fire, however, from some who believe she too aggressively advocated for Al Franken to leave the Senate after allegations of sexual harassment against him came to light.

Symone D. Sanders, a Democratic strategist and frequent television commentator, said Gillibrand's ability to speak candidly to issues with conviction make her one of the top candidates in the growing 2020 field. “I think that people underestimate her."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.