Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., announced his plans to resign following a series of allegations from women accusing him of sexual harassment and misconduct.
Franken said that while he believes an ethics committee investigation would find him innocent, he didn’t feel he could continue to serve and would be stepping down in the coming weeks. He contended that some of the allegations were not true and others he remembered differently.
“This decision is not about me,” Franken said Thursday. “It is about the people of Minnesota.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. — one of the first lawmakers to ask Franken to resign — took her glasses off and wiped tears from her eyes several times during his speech. More than a dozen Democratic lawmakers, including McCaskill, hugged Franken at the conclusion of his address. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., was the only Republican senator on the floor during the announcement, which included a shot at the GOP.
“There is some irony that I am leaving while a man who bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who preyed on young girls runs for Senate with the full support of his party,” said Franken, referencing President Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
Franken’s replacement will be selected by Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Dayton is expected to choose Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who will hold the seat until a special election is held in November 2018. Dayton said he expects to make his decision in the next couple of days.
On Wednesday morning, after Politico published the story of a woman who said Franken tried to kiss her after a 2006 radio show, Democratic senators began to call for his resignation. (Franken denied the allegation.) Over the course of a few hours, more than half the caucus called for the second-term senator to step down.
The first allegation against Franken came on November 16 , when radio anchor Leeann Tweeden said that she had been forcibly kissed while rehearsing on a USO tour in 2006. She also included a photo of Franken mimicking groping her breasts while she slept on a flight during the same tour. Franken apologized, but said he did not remember the kiss in the same way. In all, eight women have accused Franken of harassment or misconduct.
After a career in comedy, writing, activism and talk radio, Franken first won election to the Senate in 2008, winning by just over 300 votes in a tight three-way race. He won reelection in 2014 by ten points, and was being put forth by some as a potential candidate for president in 2020.
Liz Goodwin contributed to the reporting of this story.
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