Franken re­signs, dings GOP

Com­bat­ive speech ref­er­ences Trump, Moore scan­dals

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page -

WASH­ING­TON — Sen. Al Franken, a ris­ing po­lit­i­cal star only weeks ago, re­luc­tantly an­nounced Thurs­day 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 in a sub­dued Sen­ate cham­ber 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. His re­marks 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. “Even on the worst day of my po­lit­i­cal life, I feel like it’s all been worth it,” he said.

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.

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.

Just two days ear­lier, Rep. John Cony­ers, D-mich., a civil rights hero who’d been the House’s long­est-serv­ing cur­rent mem­ber, re­signed af­ter fac­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions of his own. The two de­par­tures un­der­scored the party’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to show no tol­er­ance for such be­hav­ior, a strat­egy that can bring stun­ningly fast con­clu­sions to po­lit­i­cal ca­reers but that party lead­ers be­lieve could give them high moral ground on a sub­ject that’s shown no sign of fad­ing.

Later Thurs­day, Rep. Trent Franks, R-ariz., re­signed as well, ef­fec­tive Jan. 3, af­ter ad­mit­ting he had asked two fe­male staff aides about be­com­ing a sur­ro­gate mother. The House Ethics Com­mit­tee late Thurs­day also opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rep. Blake Far­en­thold, R-texas, for al­le­ga­tions he sex­u­ally ha­rassed a for­mer staff aide and re­tal­i­ated against her for com­plain­ing of dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Dozens of Franken’s Demo­cratic col­leagues, in­clud­ing many who just a day be­fore made his po­lit­i­cal fu­ture in the Sen­ate all but im­pos­si­ble, gath­ered on the Sen­ate floor to watch his re­marks, along with mem­bers of Franken’s staff and fam­ily. One by one, they rose to em­brace him.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Ari­zona, the only Repub­li­can on the floor of the cham­ber, said, “He is my friend and he did the right thing.”

Mo­ments af­ter Franken’s re­marks, Sen. Tammy Duck­worth, DIll., said she wanted to thank him “for do­ing the right thing.”

Leav­ing the Capi­tol shortly af­ter, Franken said he would not be tak­ing ques­tions. “I’ll be com­ing home,” he said when asked if he had a mes­sage for his home state.

Jacquelyn Martin/the As­so­ci­ated Press

Sen. Al Franken, D-minn., leaves the Capi­tol af­ter an­nounc­ing his res­ig­na­tion Thurs­day in Wash­ing­ton, fol­low­ing a wave of sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions.


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