FRANKEN AGREES TO RESIGN
Senator takes parting shot at GOP tolerance of Trump and Moore
Senator defiant as he calls out Trump, Moore in parting words.
WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken, a rising political star only weeks ago, reluctantly announced Thursday that he’s resigning from Congress, succumbing to a torrent of sexual harassment allegations and evaporating support from fellow Democrats. But he fired a defiant parting shot at President Donald Trump and other Republicans he said have survived much worse accusations.
“I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” Franken said.
The 66-year-old Minnesotan, a former “Saturday Night Live” comedian who made a successful leap to liberal U.S. senator, announced his decision three weeks after the first accusations of sexual misconduct emerged, but just a day after most of his Democratic colleagues proclaimed he had to go.
The accusations started last month when Leeann Tweeden, now a Los Angeles radio anchor, accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour in Afghanistan. She also released a photograph of him with his hands at her breasts as she napped aboard a military plane.
Eventually, at least eight women accused Franken of inappropriate sexual behavior.
Until this week, he’d said he’d remain in the Senate and cooperate with an investigation into his behavior.
The breaking point came Wednesday when a former Democratic congressional aide said he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006, an accusation he denied. Hours later, another woman said he’d inappropriately squeezed “a handful of flesh” on her waist while posing for a photo with her in 2009.
Franken’s remarks Thursday underscored the bitterness many in the party feel toward a GOP that they say has made a political calculation to tolerate Trump and Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who’ve both been accused of sexual assaults that they’ve denied.
In largely unapologetic remarks that lasted 11 minutes, Franken said “all women deserve to be heard,” but asserted that some accusations against him were untrue. He called himself “a champion of women” during his Senate career who fought to improve people’s lives.
Franken’s departure, which he said would occur in “coming weeks,” made him the latest figure from politics, journalism and the arts to be toppled since October. That’s when the first articles appeared revealing sexual abuse allegations against Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein and energizing the #MeToo movement in which women have named men they say abused or harassed them.
Democratic Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will name a temporary successor, who will serve until a special election next November.
Among the possibilities for Minnesota Gov. Dayton’s temporary appointment is Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a trusted Dayton ally. The winner of a special election in November 2018 would serve through the end of Franken’s term in January 2021.
Franken’s comments appended a melancholy coda to the political career of the one-time TV funnyman who became one of his party’s most popular and bellicose liberals.
Asked about Franken’s comment about him on Thursday, Trump merely replied, “I didn’t hear it, sorry.”
Al Franken, D-Minn., holds hands with his wife, Franni Bryson, as he leaves the Capitol after speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday.
This is the November 16 tweet by Leean Tweeden that accused Sen. Al Franken of sexual assault. The fallout from this and other accusations led the senator to quit Thursday.