Democrats saw Franken as a liability 

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenBill Press: Don't forget about Amy Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far Al Franken mocks McConnell: 'Like listening to Jeffrey Dahmer complain about the decline of dinner party etiquette' 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 DurbinDemocrats see Mulvaney as smoking gun witness at Trump trial Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment 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 TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg 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 SchumerTrump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president Impeachment has been a dud for Democrats Trump insults Democrats, calls on followers to watch Fox News ahead of impeachment trial 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 GillibrandGOP-Biden feud looms over impeachment trial Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial 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 HironoDemocrats worry Trump team will cherry-pick withheld documents during defense Democrats urge Supreme Court to save consumer agency from chopping block Restlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on MORE (D-Hawaii), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillHow Citizens United altered America's political landscape #MidnightMoscowMitch trends amid criticism of McConnell's proposed impeachment trial rules The most expensive congressional races of the last decade MORE (D-Mo.), and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanCyberattacks against North Dakota state government skyrocket to 15M per month Hillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Bipartisan group of senators introduces legislation to boost state cybersecurity leadership 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 FeinsteinCalifornia Democrat Christy Smith launches first TV ad in bid for Katie Hill's former House seat Biden wins endorsement of Sacramento mayor Roberts under pressure from both sides in witness fight 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.