Democrats turn on Al Franken

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's Morning Report — GOP seeks to hold Trump’s gains in Midwest states Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries Tina Smith defeats former Bush ethics lawyer in Minnesota Dem primary MORE (D-Minn.) is expected to resign from office Thursday, one day after his Democratic colleagues turned decisively against him over allegations of groping and other sexual misconduct.

In a dizzying turn of events, more than 30 Democratic senators called for Franken to step down after a new woman came forward to allege that he had forcibly tried to kiss her.

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGillibrand urges opposition to Kavanaugh: Fight for abortion rights 'is now or never' Lewandowski says Bloomberg would be 'very competitive' against Trump in 2020 Democrats embracing socialism is dangerous for America MORE (D-N.Y.) opened the floodgates around noon, becoming the first senator to call for him to quit; others followed in rapid succession, effectively ending Franken’s political career in the span of a few hours.

Franken kept a low profile, skipping Senate votes, but his office said he would make a statement on Thursday. A Democratic official told Minnesota Public Radio he will be resigning from office, though his office insisted a decision had not been made.

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It’s a stunning fall for Franken, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer and author who, just a few weeks ago, was considered by many to be a dark horse for his party’s presidential nomination in 2020.

The first allegations against Franken emerged in mid-November, when Leeann Tweeden, a radio host, said he had kissed and groped her without her consent during a USO tour in 2006. She published a photo of Franken appearing to grab her breasts while she was asleep.

Several women came forward in the weeks after that to allege that Franken had groped or kissed them against their will, but Senate Democrats refused to call for Franken’s ouster, repeatedly stating that an Ethics Committee investigation should be allowed to run its course.

That changed Wednesday, when seven female Democratic senators called for Franken to step aside.

“While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve,” Gillibrand said in a message posted on Facebook.

Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisOvernight Health Care: Arkansas Medicaid work rules could cost thousands coverage | Record number of overdose deaths in 2017 | Dems demand immediate reunification of separated children Senate Dems demand immediate reunification of remaining separated children Lewandowski says Bloomberg would be 'very competitive' against Trump in 2020 MORE (Calif.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillElection Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' FBI investigated cyberattacks targeting Dem opponent to Rohrabacher: report Progressives fume as Dems meet with Brett Kavanaugh MORE (Mo.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate Dems press Sessions for records on racial discrimination complaints Dem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press Overnight Health Care: Drug price fight heats up | Skepticism over drug companies' pledges | Ads target HHS secretary over child separations | Senate confirms VA pick MORE (Wash.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump heads to New York to shore-up GOP districts They knew it would cause lasting harm, and still took children from parents Dem strategist: It's 'far-left thinking' to call for Nielsen's resignation MORE (Hawaii), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinTrump touts GOP election wins: ‘We have the team we want’ The Hill's Morning Report — GOP seeks to hold Trump’s gains in Midwest states Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries MORE (Wis.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanDem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press Senators blast Michigan State president's handling of sex abuse scandal New Hampshire governor signs controversial voting bill MORE (N.H.) each quickly followed Gillibrand in saying Franken should resign.

By the end of the day more than half of the Democratic caucus — ranging from members of leadership to red-state senators to progressives and 2020 hopefuls — had said it was time for Franken to go.

“[We’ve] just seen that the charges, credible charges, continued to keep coming, and I thought it might have been an isolated incident or two, but it seems to be that there was a pattern of conduct,” Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDems seize on Kavanaugh emails to question role in terrorism response Trump gives thumbs up to prison sentencing reform bill at pivotal meeting Overnight Defense: Officials make show of force on election security | Dems want probe into Air Force One tours | Pentagon believes Korean War remains 'consistent' with Americans MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told reporters.

Murray added that the latest allegations showed that “this is a persistent pattern and needs to be addressed.”

The breaking point for Senate Democrats came when Politico published a story where a former congressional aide said Franken tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006. He called the alleged incident “categorically not true.”

Though Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerElection Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' Senate Democrats should stop playing politics on Kavanaugh Montana GOP Senate hopeful touts Trump's support in new ad MORE (D-N.Y.) didn’t publicly call for Franken’s resignation until Wednesday evening, a person familiar with their discussions said he called Franken immediately after the Politico story published, before the resignation calls started, to tell him he needed to step down. 

Schumer also urged Franken to resign during a “series of phone calls” throughout Wednesday, the source said, and had a meeting with Franken and his wife at Schumer’s apartment. 

A Democratic aide told The Hill that senators had been privately discussing what to do about Franken “for a while” before the latest allegations surfaced on Wednesday.

“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.

And even as Democratic senators raced to distance themselves from Franken on Wednesday, new allegations continued to surface against him.

A former Democratic staffer wrote in The Atlantic that Franken groped her in 2009 while they posed to take a photo at a Media Matters inauguration celebration.

“He immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh. I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice,” she wrote.

The push by Senate Democrats came after House members were increasingly vocal in stating that Franken should resign.

Former Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersConservative activist disrupts campaign event for Muslim candidates Michigan Dems elect state's first all-female statewide ticket for midterms Record numbers of women nominated for governor, Congress MORE Jr. (D-Mich.), who faced his own string of sexual harassment allegations, stepped down on Tuesday after coming under heavy pressure from his colleagues. Some of his allies in the Congressional Black Caucus appeared to question why Franken was still serving, calling it a double standard.

Senate Democrats were also facing charges of hypocrisy for not abandoning Franken, given their denunciations of Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Moore 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.

The former judge was endorsed by President Trump ahead of a special election on Tuesday and appears to have a good chance of winning the seat and coming to Washington.

Democrats downplayed suggestions that their criticism of Moore put pressure on them to demand Franken’s resignation.  

“It’s not a partisan issue. Sexual harassment is wrong. Groping people, propositioning them, is unacceptable behavior,” said Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineElection Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket Kaine: Trump has made 'concerted effort' to divide people based on race MORE (D-Va.), who didn’t call for Franken to resign but said that he would give his advice to him privately.

Asked if Democrats are trying to seek the “moral high ground,” Durbin added: “I hope members of both parties will be guided by sound principles, even when it’s painful. And this is painful. Al Franken’s my friend.”

The Ethics Committee has already launched a “preliminary inquiry” into the allegations against Franken. If he doesn’t resign on Thursday, the panel could recommend a range of potential punishments, including a public reprimand or even expulsion.

The Senate last expelled a member — a move that requires the support of two-thirds of the chamber — in 1862 for supporting the Confederacy.

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.

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 EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonElection Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' The Hill's 12:30 Report Election expert: Dems making active effort to elect women in primaries MORE and Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumHouse completes first half of 2019 spending bills House lawmakers vote to give modest budget cuts to EPA, Interior How the embassy move widens the partisan divide over Israel MORE 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.

“Never say never,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Niv Elis and Alexander Bolton contributed.