Franken re­sign­ing amid al­le­ga­tions

Vancouver Sun - - WORLD - AN­DREW TAY­LOR

WASHINGTON • Min­nesota Sen. Al Franken an­nounced Thurs­day he will re­sign from Congress in the com­ing weeks fol­low­ing a wave of sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions and the col­lapse of sup­port from his Demo­cratic col­leagues, a swift po­lit­i­cal fall for a once-ris­ing Demo­cratic star.

“I may be re­sign­ing my seat, but I am not giv­ing up my voice,” Franken said in the oth­er­wise-hushed Se­nate cham­ber.

Franken quit just a day af­ter new al­le­ga­tions brought the num­ber of women al­leg­ing mis­con­duct by him to at least eight. On Wed­nes­day, one woman said he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006, an ac­cu­sa­tion he ve­he­mently de­nied. Hours later, an­other woman said Franken in­ap­pro­pri­ately squeezed “a hand­ful of flesh” on her waist while pos­ing for a photo with her in 2009.

“I know in my heart that noth­ing I have done as a se­na­tor — noth­ing — has brought dis­hon­our on this in­sti­tu­tion,” Franken de­clared Thurs­day.

Franken is the lat­est to fall in the na­tional wave of sex­ual harassment al­le­ga­tions that have brought down pow­er­ful men in Hol­ly­wood, the me­dia and state cap­i­tals across the U.S. His an­nounce­ment fol­lowed Tues­day’s res­ig­na­tion of Michi­gan Demo­cratic Rep. John Cony­ers, the long­est-serv­ing mem­ber of the House.

Franken, the former co­me­dian who made his name on Satur­day Night Live, orig­i­nally sought to weather the al­le­ga­tions, dis­put­ing many of the specifics but apol­o­giz­ing to his ac­cusers pub­licly. He promised he would co­op­er­ate with an ethics in­ves­ti­ga­tion and work to re­gain the trust of Min­nesotans.

“Some of the al­le­ga­tions against me are sim­ply not true,” Franken said Thurs­day. “Oth­ers I re­mem­ber quite dif­fer­ently.”

Still, he said he could not both co-op­er­ate with an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and fully carry out his du­ties.

Franken, 66, gained re­spect as a se­ri­ous law­maker and had even been men­tioned in talk about the 2020 pres­i­den­tial race.

Franken point­edly noted he was be­ing forced out while Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump — who has been ac­cused of worse of­fences and bragged on a leaked Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood video­tape of grab­bing women by their gen­i­talia — emerged un­scathed. Trump has also en­dorsed Alabama Repub­li­can Se­nate can­di­date Roy Moore, who has been ac­cused by mul­ti­ple women of sex­ual mis­con­duct with them when they were teens and he was a deputy dis­trict at­tor­ney in his 30s.

His res­ig­na­tion means Min­nesota Gov. Mark Day­ton, a fel­low Demo­crat, will name a tem­po­rary re­place­ment. The win­ner of a spe­cial elec­tion in Novem­ber 2018 would serve through the end of Franken’s term in Jan­uary 2021.

Day­ton said af­ter Franken’s re­marks he has not yet de­cided on an ap­point­ment to fill the seat but ex­pects to an­nounce his de­ci­sion in the next few days.

In the Se­nate cham­ber, sev­eral Demo­cratic women, in­clud­ing some who called for Franken’s res­ig­na­tion, sat som­brely for Franken’s 11-minute speech and em­braced him af­ter. But they had lost pa­tience with the grow­ing tally of al­le­ga­tions and paved the path for Franken’s exit.

“Enough is enough,” Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand of New York de­clared Wed­nes­day. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is ac­cept­able, and we, as elected lead­ers, should ab­so­lutely be held to a higher stan­dard.”

Franken has ac­knowl­edged and apol­o­gized for some in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour, but he strongly de­nied the new ac­cu­sa­tion that came from a former Demo­cratic con­gres­sional aide, who said he tried to forcibly kiss her af­ter a tap­ing of his ra­dio show in 2006.

The woman, who was not iden­ti­fied, told Politico she ducked to avoid his lips but Franken told her: “It’s my right as an en­ter­tainer.”

Franken said the idea he would claim such con­duct as a right was “pre­pos­ter­ous.”

JACQUELYN MARTIN / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. Al Franken of Min­nesota left the Capi­tol af­ter speak­ing on the Se­nate floor Thurs­day, an­nounc­ing he will re­sign in com­ing weeks fol­low­ing sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions and a col­lapse of sup­port from his Demo­cratic col­leagues.

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