Franken resigns over sexual misconduct allegations
BY JORDAIN CARNEY - 12/07/17 11:53 AM EST
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said on Thursday that he is resigning his Senate seat over allegations of groping and sexual misconduct.
Franken said some of the allegations against him are “simply not true” and that others he remembers differently.
“I am proud that in my time in the Senate I have used my power to be a champion for women,” Franken said.
Nevertheless, he said he would be resigning in the coming weeks as a member of the Senate.
The decision caps off a chaotic 24 hours on Capitol Hill as new accusations surfaced and Democrats turned on Franken saying it was time for him to step down.
It’s a dramatic fall for Franken, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer and author who was considered by many to be a dark horse for his party’s presidential nomination in 2020.
Franken was widely expected to resign on Thursday, though his staff remained tightlipped stressing that no decision had been made.
After Minnesota Public Radio reported that he would step down, his staff, through Franken's Twitter account, said the report was not accurate.
"Senator Franken is talking with his family at this time and plans to make an announcement in D.C. tomorrow. Any reports of a final decision are inaccurate," they said in a subsequent tweet.
But it appeared unlikely that Franken could survive the political fallout sparked when a former congressional staffer said on Wednesday that he tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006.
The former aide was the seventh woman to step forward since mid-November when Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of groping her and kissing her without her consent during a 2006 USO tour.
Within hours, seven female Democrat senators had called on Franken to resign, with most of the caucus— ranging from members of leadership to red-state senators to progressives and 2020 hopefuls — eventually joining them in saying it was time for Franken to go.
Wednesday marked a turn for Democratic senators who have dodged growing calls for Franken’s resignation, saying as recently as last week that they wanted to let the Ethics Committee’s investigation play out.
A Democratic aide told The Hill that senators had been privately discussing how to handle Franken “for a while.”
“This latest story certainly prompted continued conversations, and this morning members talked to each other about not waiting any longer to come out and call for him to resign,” the aide added.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also reached out to Franken Wednesday morning, before the calls for his resignation began, and urged him to step down, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The source added that the two had a “series of phone calls” throughout Wednesday and a meeting at Schumer’s apartment with Franken and his wife where the New York Democrat similarly urged him to resign.
Even as Democratic senators were calling on Franken to resign, an eighth woman wrote in the Atlantic that Franken groped her while they took a photo together during a 2009 inauguration celebration.
“He immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh. I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice,” Tina Dupuy, a former Democratic staffer, wrote.
Franken is the latest high-profile figure to face harassment allegations, with current and former female staffers increasingly emboldened to go public with the treatment they’ve received on Capitol Hill.
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) stepped down on Tuesday following a string of sexual harassment allegations.
And Roy Moore, the GOP Senate candidate in Alabama, is facing several allegations of sexual misconduct involving teenage girls when he was in his 30s; he has denied those allegations and refused to drop out of the race.
Franken’s resignation wouldn’t have an immediate impact on the Senate’s party breakdown.
Under state law Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) would appoint a candidate to serve until the 2018 elections, meaning the seat would likely stay in Democratic hands for at least the next 11 months.
It was reported on Thursday that Dayton would likely appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to replace Franken.
Whoever wins the 2018 election would serve out the remainder of Franken’s term, which runs through 2020. A second election would be held in 2020 for a full six-year term.
Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum are both being floated as potential successors to Franken.
Meanwhile, former Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican who Franken defeated in 2008 by a few hundred votes, declined to rule out a potential bid on Wednesday.
TAGS CHARLES SCHUMER BETTY MCCOLLUM KEITH ELLISON JOHN CONYERS AL FRANKEN SENATE RESIGNATION SEXUAL HARASSMENT SEXUAL MISCONDUCT
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