Democrats saw Franken as a liability 

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Tariff battle looms as Trump jabs 'foolish' Senate GOP MORE (D-Minn.) had been resisting behind-the-scenes pressure from fellow Senate Democrats to step down for some time before his resignation on Thursday.

Sources familiar with deliberations within the caucus said women Democratic senators pressed their leadership to resolve the Franken situation and the leaders relayed their concerns to him.   

“There were conversations by a number of senators who were concerned about the allegations and believed the women,” said one Democratic senator.

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Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle MORE (D-Ill.) said he had “several” conversations with Franken leading up to the day of his announced resignation, although he declined to reveal what exactly he said.

The drive to oust Franken was led by the women of the Senate, who felt it was a defining moment in national politics. They worried that if Franken were allowed to stay in the Senate despite a steady stream of harassment allegations, they would look weak or even hypocritical.

At first, Franken’s Democratic colleagues were OK with letting him stay in the chamber while the Senate Ethics Committee investigated the charges against him.

But as more accusers came forward and the allegations piled up, women senators grew concerned that the Ethics Committee would not move quickly or decisively enough to spare the Senate and the Democratic Party lasting political damage.

A second Democratic senator said there was strong “concern that we were losing the moral high ground with Roy Moore and the president,” referring to the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama and President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE.  

Even though Franken’s colleagues didn’t think the allegations about his past behavior were equivalent to allegations facing Moore, who is accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers, they feared that voters might not see much difference.

When Franken finally announced his plans to leave Congress in an emotional speech Thursday morning, it came as a relief to many of his Democratic colleagues.

Afterward, more than 20 colleagues lined up on the Senate floor to hug him or shake his hand. Not one, however, delivered any remarks in praise or recognition of his Senate accomplishments.

Franken refused to admit any misconduct in a defiant floor speech announcing his decision to leave.

A spokesman for Franken did not respond to a request for comment.

The defiance reflected Franken’s desire to hang on to his position in the Senate.

Even after Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push MORE (N.Y.) stepped up the pressure on him to resign Wednesday morning after a seventh accuser came forward in a Politico report, Franken resisted stepping aside.

He claimed the allegation was “categorically not true” and waved off elements of the woman’s story as “preposterous,” according to a statement to Politico. 

Schumer held a second meeting with Franken and his wife, Franni, at Schumer's apartment in Washington, D.C., early Wednesday afternoon and again argued that he should step down.

By this time, a fast-growing number Democratic senators had issued public statements calling on Franken to leave the Senate.

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth Gillibrand2020 Democrats mark 7th anniversary of DACA 2020 Democrats mark 7th anniversary of DACA Julián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' MORE (D-N.Y.), a leading advocate for the victims of sexual harassment, was the first out of the gate with a statement.  

While acknowledging that Franken had a right to wait for the results of the ethics investigation, she said “it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message” that harassment isn’t acceptable by stepping aside.

Sens. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoFemale senators hatch plan to 'shame' Senate into voting faster Female senators hatch plan to 'shame' Senate into voting faster Trump defense pick expected to face tense confirmation MORE (D-Hawaii), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillConservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Lobbying world MORE (D-Mo.), and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanHouse panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices House panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices House passes bill to establish DHS cyber 'first responder' teams MORE (D-N.H.) quickly followed with statements of their own.

By the end of the day Wednesday, a total of 33 Democratic senators had called for Franken’s ouster, more than half the caucus.

Schumer, who had been close to Franken, delivered the final blow. 

Although the leader acknowledged Franken was “a dear friend,” Schumer said his colleague had “a higher obligation to his constituents and the Senate.”

The desire to send a signal different than the one sent by Republicans backing President Trump played a part in the opposition to Franken.

The election of Trump after a recording of him making lewd comments about grabbing women became public has since galvanized the Democratic base — especially women — and Democratic senators say they have to pay attention to this powerful political force.

“We’re in the middle of a big cultural shift and I think particularly young women are not going to stand for this kind of behavior and, most importantly, the intimidation that comes with it,” said Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push MORE (D-Calif.), who called on Franken to resign Wednesday.

Feinstein said Trump’s comments about women on the Access Hollywood tape “really brought it to the fore.”

“To hear a man say those things and become president of the United States and all of his accusers are kind of banished to nowhere almost subconsciously in women has had a big effect,” she added.