Democrats pressure Franken to resign

Facing sexual misconduct allegations, Minn. senator to make statement Thursday

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WASHINGTON — His once-promising political career in shambles, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken appeared on the verge of resigning after fellow Democrats led by female senators, including Washington’s Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, abandoned him Wednesday over the mounting allegations of sexual misconduct that are roiling Capitol Hill.

A majority of the Senate’s Democrats called on the two-term lawmaker to get out after another woman emerged Wednesday saying he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006. That brought to at least seven the number of women accusing him of sexual impropriety.

Franken, the former comedian who made his name on “Saturday Night Live,” scheduled an announcement for Thursday. No topic was specified, but Democratic senators said they expected their liberal colleague to resign.

“Enough is enough,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable, and we, as elected leaders, should absolutely be held to a higher standard.”

Gillibrand was the first to call for Franken’s resignation on Wednesday, but a torrent of Democrats quickly followed.

“I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behavior,” said Murray. “It’s clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time. It’s time for him to step aside.”

Though the writing appeared to be on the wall, Franken’s departure was not certain. A tweet posted Wednesday evening on Franken’s Twitter account said: “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.”

Late in the day, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York added his voice.

“I consider Senator Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has a higher obligation to his constituents and the Senate, and he should step down immediately,” Schumer said.

Schumer called Franken immediately after the latest allegation — and before the torrent of demands for Franken’s resignation from Democrats — and told him he needed to resign, said a Democrat familiar with the events. Schumer met later in his apartment with Franken and Franken’s wife, Franni, and repeated that message, and he did the same in additional talks with the senator throughout the day, said the Democrat.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez weighed in, too, asking Franken to resign and saying, “Sexual misconduct, harassment and assault have no place in the Democratic Party, the United States Congress, the White House or anywhere.”

The resignation demands came in rapid succession even though Franken on Wednesday vehemently denied the new accusation that came from a former Democratic congressional aide, who said he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006.

The woman, who was not identified, told Politico that Franken pursued her after her boss had left and she was collecting her belongings. She said that she ducked to avoid his lips and that Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”

Franken, in a statement, said the idea he would claim such conduct as a right was “preposterous.”

But it was soon clear that his position had become untenable, and his office later issued a statement saying, “Senator Franken will be making an announcement tomorrow. More details to come.”

Fellow Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who spoke to Franken, wrote on Twitter, “I am confident he will make the right decision.”

Capitol Hill has long had a culture that has erred on the side of protecting lawmakers. Franken, who is generally liked and respected by his colleagues, was initially afforded deference as he battled the initial allegations against him. But as the number of accusations grew, women in the Senate, who faced pressure from the public and the media for protecting Franken, grew increasingly frustrated.

The pressure only mounted Tuesday, when Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., resigned after numerous allegations of sexual misconduct.