Franken’s de­ci­sion im­mi­nent

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NATION - By Cathleen Decker

WASH­ING­TON >> emo­cratic pa­tience with Sen. Al Franken evap­o­rated Wed­nes­day in the wake of a new ac­cu­sa­tion of sex­ual mis­con­duct against him, and in an up­ris­ing led by women, more than half the party’s sen­a­tors de­manded he re­sign — a de­ci­sion that could ar­rive as soon as to­day.

The cas­cade of op­po­si­tion opened when Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand of New York said “it would be bet­ter for our coun­try” if Franken left of­fice. Within min­utes, Sens. Ka­mala Har­ris of Cal­i­for­nia, Patty Mur­ray of Wash­ing­ton, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Mag­gie Has­san of New Hamp­shire and Claire McCaskill of Mis­souri re­leased sim­i­lar state­ments.

“Sex­ual ha­rass­ment and mis­con­duct should not be al­lowed by any­one and should not oc­cur any­where. I be­lieve the best thing for Sen­a­tor Franken to do is step down,” Har­ris said.

The chore­ographed Demo­cratic ac­tions were in­tended to im­pose max­i­mum pres­sure on Franken, who had re­sisted re­sign­ing even as he vowed full co­op­er­a­tion with a Sen­ate Ethics Com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a se­ries of al­le­ga­tions against him by women that be­gan last month.

The co­or­di­nated ac­tion “was a re­sult of mount­ing frus­tra­tions over the in­creas­ing num­ber of ac­cu­sa­tions,” said a Demo­crat fa­mil­iar with the sen­a­tors’ con­ver­sa­tions who was not sanc­tioned to speak pub­licly and re­quested anonymity. “They felt that enough is enough, and now was the time to ask him to step aside.”

If Franken steps down, as is widely ex­pected, Min­nesota Gov. Mark Day­ton, a Demo­crat, would ap­point a re­place­ment who would serve un­til next Novem­ber’s midterm elec­tion. As Day­ton would al­most cer­tainly ap­point a fel­low Demo­crat to the seat, Franken’s res­ig­na­tion would not change the Sen­ate’s par­ti­san bal­ance.

For Democrats, the ef­fort to push Franken aside re­flected grow­ing calls from party ac­tivists

Dfor an un­com­pro­mis­ing, zero-tol­er­ance stance to­ward sex­ual mis­con­duct. Over the past sev­eral weeks, as they wres­tled with Franken’s sit­u­a­tion, party lead­ers wor­ried about seem­ing to equiv­o­cate on an is­sue of par­tic­u­lar im­por­tance to women, who make up the ma­jor­ity of Demo­cratic vot­ers. Democrats also have wanted to draw a clear con­trast with Repub­li­can will­ing­ness to stand by Roy Moore, the GOP Sen­ate can­di­date in Alabama who has been ac­cused of acts that in­cluded par­tially dis­rob­ing and mo­lest­ing a 14-year-old girl when he was a lo­cal prose­cu­tor in his 30s. Democrats also have long de­fended more than a dozen women who ac­cused Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of sex­ual im­pro­pri­eties dating back decades, only to have the pres­i­dent cast them as liars.

Even af­ter Franken re­vealed plans for his an­nounce­ment, more sen­a­tors added them­selves to the list. By midafter­noon, well over half the Sen­ate’s Democrats, as well as in­de­pen­dent Bernie San­ders of Ver­mont, had called for him to step down. So, too, had Repub­li­cans Su­san Collins of Maine and Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky, the ma­jor­ity leader. No party lead­ers rose to de­fend Franken.

Franken’s fel­low Min­nesota Demo­crat, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, is­sued a state­ment Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon that strongly im­plied she fa­vored — and ex­pected — a res­ig­na­tion.

“Sex­ual ha­rass­ment is un­ac­cept­able,” she said. “This morn­ing I spoke with Sen. Franken, and, as you know, he will be mak­ing an an­nounce­ment about his fu­ture to­mor­row morn­ing. I am con­fi­dent he will make the right de­ci­sion.”

The moves against Franken came the day af­ter the spread­ing scan­dal claimed the se­nior mem­ber of the House, Demo­cratic Rep. John Cony­ers Jr. of Michi­gan, who re­signed af­ter sev­eral for­mer aides ac­cused him of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and un­wanted ad­vances.

Rep. Ruben Ki­huen, D-Nev., was try­ing to fend off de­mands by the party’s House leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia, and oth­ers that he de­part af­ter a for­mer cam­paign aide re­counted re­peated acts of sex­ual ag­gres­sion against her dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign. Ki­huen apol­o­gized but said he would not re­sign.


Sen. Al Franken

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