Democrats saw Franken as a liability 

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenCNN publishes first Al Franken op-ed since resignation Political world mourns loss of comedian Jerry Stiller Maher to Tara Reade on timing of sexual assault allegation: 'Why wait until Biden is our only hope?' 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 DurbinOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic 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 TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet 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 SchumerChuck SchumerPostal Service says it lost .2 billion over three-month period A three-trillion dollar stimulus, but Charles Schumer for renewable energy — leading businesses want to change that Democrats try to force Trump to boost medical supplies production 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 GillibrandExpanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously Sanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic 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 HironoSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Overnight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw MORE (D-Hawaii), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocratic-linked group runs ads in Kansas GOP Senate primary Trump mocked for low attendance at rally Missouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties MORE (D-Mo.), and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power Senate-passed defense spending bill includes clause giving DHS cyber agency subpoena power 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 FeinsteinSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Democrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks 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.