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TEXT VERSION OF ARTICLE:Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., the former “Saturday Night Live” comic who made an improbable journey to become a leading liberal voice in the Senate, announced on Thursday that he will leave office in the coming weeks, after a string of allegations of sexual misconduct and mounting pressure from Democratic lawmakers to step down.
“Today I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate,” Franken said during an emotional speech from the Senate floor.
“I of all people am aware that there is some irony 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 preyed on underage girls is running for the Senate with the full support of his party,” Franken said, referring to President Donald Trump, who has also been accused of sexual misconduct, and Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama.
“But this decision is not about me, it’s about the people of Minnesota,” Franken said.His announcement comes a day after Democratic women led the charge of 35 Democratic senators who called on their embattled colleague to step down, and three days after Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat who was also accused of sexual misconduct, announced he was resigning following calls from leaders in his own party to quit.
As Franken spoke, many of the Democratic women senators who said it was time for the lawmaker to go — including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin — looked on, appearing visibly upset.
Just a day earlier, it was Gillibrand’s Facebook post that set off a cascade of other calls for his resignation, first by her female colleagues, and later, by senators of all genders across both parties.
“Enough is enough,” Gillibrand wrote of the allegations against Franken in her Facebook post. “The women who have come forward are brave and I believe them.”
In November, Franken, a two-term senator was swept up in the fast-moving avalanche of sexual misconduct and harassment allegations that have led to high-profile firings and resignations of a number of powerful men in Hollywood and the media. Minnesota’s Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, has the power to appoint Franken’s replacement, who would serve until the next statewide general election in November 2018.
Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles radio news anchor, was the first woman to come forward in mid-November. She claimed that during a 2006 USO tour Franken — who was not yet elected to the Senate — forcibly kissed her while they rehearsed a skit together and later groped her on a plane. An alarming photograph backed up her accusation.After Tweeden told her story, several more women come forward to allege that Franken had groped them in public settings, prompting Franken to issue an apology as well as support a Senate Ethics Committee inquiry into his behavior.
“I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many. Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that,” he said.
But a Politico report published Wednesday morning marked the beginning of the end for Franken’s colleagues. In it, a former congressional aide to the senator said he tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006, saying, “It’s my right as an entertainer.” Franken forcefully denied the account, which has not been verified by NBC News, but by the end of the day, 35 senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, had issued statements calling for his ouster.
Democratic strategists told NBC News that by pushing Franken to resign, Democrats believed they could regain the moral high ground and go after Moore with a clean slate — drawing a sharper contrast with Republicans. Moore has been accused of sexual assault and pursuing girls as young as 14, allegations that he has denied. Trump, who endorsed Moore and said the former Alabama state judge would “do very well” in the Senate, has also denied the number of allegations against him, with the White House maintaining in October that the women who have accused the president of sexual misconduct are liars.