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By Dan Clark February 16, 2018

Did Gillibrand 'defend and harbor' Bill Clinton during impeachment, as Kellyanne Conway said?

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has emerged as one of the most outspoken members of Congress against sexual assault.

But White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway assailed Gillibrand after the senator criticized President Donald Trump on Twitter for hiring Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary who resigned amid allegations of domestic abuse.

"I don’t need a lecture from Kirsten Gillibrand or anybody else who protected and defended and harbored a sitting president who had sexual relations in the Oval Office and was impeached for lying," Conway said on ABC’s This Week.

Gillibrand has spent years trying to pass legislation to curb sexual assault in the military and on college campuses. Her work coined her the title of the ‘#MeToo Senator’ on CBS’ 60 Minutes recently. Gillibrand also made headlines last year when she said former President Bill Clinton should have resigned after his affair with a former White House intern became public in 1998.

Conway accuses the senator of defending Clinton when he was a sitting president. Is there any truth to her claim?

Clinton’s impeachment

Monica Lewinsky had an affair with Clinton as a White House intern. When the affair was first made public through media reports in January 1998, Clinton denied the affair for several months until he admitted to it on national television in August that year.

The House approved two articles of impeachment against Clinton in December 1998. The Senate acquitted Clinton of those charges in 1999. All 45 Democrats in the Senate voted against the impeachment charges at the time. Only seven of the Democrats remain in the Senate today.

Gillibrand’s career

Gillibrand worked as a lawyer at a Manhattan law firm during Clinton’s impeachment, then accepted a position as special counsel at the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development in 2000. She worked there for the rest of Clinton’s term for Andrew M. Cuomo, who was secretary of the agency at the time. She also volunteered for Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign that year.

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Gillibrand announced a run for Congress in 2005 and she was elected in 2006, nearly nine years after Clinton's affair became public. Gillibrand succeeded Hillary Clinton as a U.S. senator representing New York in 2009.

We could find no evidence suggesting Gillibrand publicly defended President Clinton while he was in office.

Gillibrand and the Clintons

But she has been a political ally to the Clintons for almost two decades. Bill Clinton campaigned for Gillibrand during her first run for an upstate Congressional seat in 2006. Three years later, he headlined a fundraiser for Gillibrand after she was appointed to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. Gillibrand accepted his endorsement for her re-election the following year.

Gillibrand donated to Hillary Clinton's campaigns for Senate and helped campaign for her in 2016.  Gillibrand appeared publicly with Bill Clinton several times since her first election.

She did not publicly condemn the former president’s actions until last year.

The White House did not respond to our inquiry about Conway’s claim.

Our ruling

We could find no evidence that Gillibrand "protected and defended and harbored a sitting president who had sexual relations in the Oval Office and was impeached for lying."

Gillibrand was not elected to Congress until 2006. She worked for the Clinton administration briefly in 2000 after the president was impeached. She has been close with the Clintons since her election in 2006, and she did not publicly condemn the former president until last year.

We rate Conway’s claim Mostly False.

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"I don’t need a lecture from Kirsten Gillibrand or anybody else who protected and defended and harbored a sitting president who had sexual relations in the Oval Office and was impeached for lying."
Sunday, February 11, 2018

Our Sources

This Week, ABC, Feb. 11, 2018

Clinton impeachment timeline, The Guardian, Nov. 1998

Kirsten Gillibrand: The #MeToo Senator, CBS 60 Minutes, Feb. 11, 2018

"Impeachment: The Overview - Clinton impeached; He faces a Senate trial, 2d in History’ vows to do job till term’s ‘last hour’ ", New York Times, Dec. 20, 1998

How the Senators voted on impeachment, CNN, Feb. 12, 1999

"18 Sitting Senators Were in Office During Bill Clinton's Impeachment. Here's How They Voted" TIME, May 17, 2017

"House votes to impeach Clinton , Oct. 8, 1998", POLITICO, Oct. 8, 2017

"Kirsten Gillibrand's Improbable Path to Liberal Stardom", The Atlantic, Oct. 26, 2013

"A decade in politics: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand built political career from ground up," Glens Falls Post-Star, Oct. 4, 2015

"UCLA law alumna appointed U.S. senator from New York", Jan. 6, 2009, UCLA website

"The Reintroduction of Kirsten Gillibrand", New York Magazine, June 7, 2009

"Who is Kirsten Gillibrand? New York's junior senator takes on Trump", LA Times, Dec. 27, 2017

"Bill Clinton Should Have Resigned Over Lewinsky Affair, Kirsten Gillibrand Says", New York Times, Nov. 16, 2017

"Senate Choice: Folksy Centrist Born to Politics", New York Times, Jan. 23, 2009

"Former President Bill Clinton makes upstate swing ahead of primary", WRVO, April 18, 2016

"Former President Bill Clinton endorses Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in her likely fight vs. Harold Ford", NY Daily News, Jan. 28, 2010

"Why I’m Supporting Hillary Clinton For President", Kirsten Gillibrand on Medium

Gillibrand contributions obtained from the Federal Elections Commission

"Old Clinton Hands Line Up Behind Gillibrand", New York Times, March 10, 2009

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Did Gillibrand 'defend and harbor' Bill Clinton during impeachment, as Kellyanne Conway said?

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