Democrats turn on Al Franken

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenTake Trump literally and seriously in Minnesota Ninth woman accuses Al Franken of inappropriate contact Al Franken to host SiriusXM radio show 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 GillibrandOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick Lobbying world 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 HarrisHillicon Valley: FCC approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Dems wrangle over breaking up Big Tech at debate | Critics pounce as Facebook's Libra stumbles | Zuckerberg to be interviewed by Fox News | Twitter details rules for political figures' tweets Democrats have reason to worry after the last presidential debate 2020 Democrats recognize Pronouns Day MORE (Calif.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillIranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest MORE (Mo.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Biz groups say Warren labor plan would be disaster Freedom of the press under fire in Colorado MORE (Wash.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group Overnight Energy: Top Interior lawyer accused of lying to Congress confirmed | Senate set to deny funding for BLM move | EPA threatens to cut California highway funds MORE (Hawaii), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinFederal funding for Chinese buses risks our national security Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall The Trump downturn: Trouble ahead for the US economy MORE (Wis.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanHillicon Valley: Senate passes bill to boost cyber help for agencies, businesses | Watchdog warns Energy Department failing to protect grid | FTC sues Match for allegedly conning users Senate approves bill to boost cyber assistance for federal agencies, private sector Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights 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 DurbinSchumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever Senators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds DEA allowed more opioids even as overdose deaths rose | Judge temporarily blocks Georgia abortion law | Three states report more vaping deaths | Dem proposes new fix for surprise medical bills 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 SchumerPelosi fires back after Trump 'meltdown': 'We have to pray for his health' 5 big wins in US-China trade pact Trump defends 'crime buster' Giuliani amid reported probe 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 ConyersEXCLUSIVE: Trump on reparations: 'I don't see it happening' McConnell: Reparations aren't 'a good idea' This week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive 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 Kaine2020 general election debates announced Senators call for Trump administration to testify on Syria Schumer: Transcript 'absolutely validates' Trump impeachment inquiry 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 EllisonJudge threatens to put prison officials in same uncooled cells as inmates Minnesota students file federal lawsuit against school district alleging 'deliberate indifference' to racist incidents Former Sanders aides launch consulting firm MORE and Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumDeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief Trump impeachment calls snowball, putting pressure on Pelosi Leave park operations — and fee revenues — to the parks 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.