Democrats turn on Al Franken

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenAP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Franken offers Dems a line of questioning for Kavanaugh's 'weirdly specific bit of bulls---' The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — GOP lawmakers race to find an immigration fix 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 GillibrandElection Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE House backs resolution expressing support for ICE 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 HarrisElection Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE Dems look for candidate who will punch Trump ‘square in the face’ MORE (Calif.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Senate Dems lock in million in TV airtime MORE (Mo.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families MORE (Wash.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoUnions aren’t a thing of the past. Unions are our future. Administration to brief Senate panel on family reunifications Lawmakers press Trump admin for list of migrant kids separated from families MORE (Hawaii), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinElection Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Overnight Health Care: Over 7,000 fail to meet Medicaid work rules in Arkansas | Judge temporarily halts deportations of reunited families | GOP chair in talks over restarting ObamaCare payments MORE (Wis.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanNew Hampshire governor signs controversial voting bill Conway takes aim at congressional intern who yelled 'f--- you' at Trump Fox's Regan defends CNN's Acosta, calls for civility: 'What has happened to us?' 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 DurbinDeal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE Senate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting 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 SchumerDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Judge Kavanaugh confounds the left This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation 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 ConyersAP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Portland activist stages ‘reparations happy hour’ Conyers III won't appear on primary ballot in race to replace his father 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 KaineDem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Election Countdown: Latest on the 2018 Senate money race | Red-state Dems feeling the heat over Kavanaugh | Dem doubts about Warren | Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill | Why Puerto Ricans in Florida could swing Senate race Green Day's 'American Idiot' climbs UK charts ahead of Trump visit 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 EllisonOvernight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements House Dems launching Medicare for All Caucus Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback MORE and Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumHouse lawmakers vote to give modest budget cuts to EPA, Interior How the embassy move widens the partisan divide over Israel Five takeaways from Pruitt's big testimony 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.