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Sen. Al Franken quits amid sexual misconduct allegations, points to GOP tolerance of Trump

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published December 7, 2017 at 11:08 a.m. Updated December 7, 2017 at 5:36 p.m.

in-this-nov-29-2017-photo-senate-health-education-labor-and-pensions-committee-member-sen-al-franken-d-minn-arrives-at-a-senate-health-education-labor-and-pensions-committee-hearing-on-capitol-hill-in-washington-an-army-veteran-has-accused-franken-of-inappropriately-touching-her-more-than-a-decade-ago-while-she-was-on-a-military-deployment-to-kuwait-ap-photocarolyn-kaster

In this Nov. 29, 2017 photo, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee member Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., arrives at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. An Army veteran has accused Franken of inappropriately touching her more than a decade ago while she was on a military deployment to Kuwait. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)



WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken, a rising political star only weeks ago, said Thursday he's resigning from Congress, succumbing to a torrent of sexual harassment allegations and evaporating support from fellow Democrats. But he fired a 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 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.

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.

On a 2005 audio tape released shortly before last year's presidential election, Trump is heard talking about grabbing women, and several women accused him of sexual assaults. Women in Alabama have accused GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore of unwanted sexual contact and pursuing romantic relationships when they were teenagers and he was in his thirties during the 1970s.

Asked about Franken's comment about him Thursday, Trump merely replied, "I didn't hear it, sorry."

At least eight women had 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.

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 photo of him with his hands at her breasts as she napped aboard a military plane.

On Thursday, Franken walked to the Senate chamber shortly before noon, hand-in-hand with his wife of 35 years, Franni. As he spoke, members of his family watched from the visitors' gallery, some sobbing. Franken said that thanks to them, "I'm going to be just fine."

Almost two-dozen colleagues listened silently at their desks, some dabbing their eyes. Those watching were nearly all Democrats and many were women, including New Yorker Kirsten Gillibrand, who released the first of what became a flood of public statements Wednesday calling for Franken's resignation. Also present was Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who one Democrat said had spent much of Wednesday persuading his friend to leave.

After Franken spoke, many of his colleagues lined up to hug him.

He said he was leaving because he couldn't handle an ethics panel investigation while representing his state effectively. He said he'd remain an activist: "I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice."

A star on Saturday Night Live, the Harvard-educated Franken was elected to the Senate in 2008 by 312 votes. In Washington, he distanced himself from his comedic background, largely avoided national reporters and burrowed into consumer issues. He found his voice as a sharp critic of Trump administration officials and has been listed as a potential 2020 presidential contender.

His announcement prompted immediate maneuvering for his seat.

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.

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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Comments on: Sen. Al Franken quits amid sexual misconduct allegations, points to GOP tolerance of Trump

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ARMNAR says... December 7, 2017 at 11:57 a.m.

Yet the GOP continues to support a pedophile.

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Packman says... December 7, 2017 at 12:01 p.m.

If the allegations are false the guy should not have resigned. Pretty low class for him to take a departing shot at POTUS.
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Will be interesting to see the payoff he receives for resigning for the good of the "party". The obvious strategy is that the D's see this as removing an albatross from their necks so they can attack President Trump and soon to be elected Roy Moore with unbridled enthusiasm. One year from now Franken will be receiving big bucks from some useless "think tank" funded by George Soros. That or something similar will be Franken's payoff.

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hah406 says... December 7, 2017 at 12:08 p.m.

Or maybe he is a man of much more integrity than Trump. He knew what he did was wrong, admitted it, apologized, and resigned. But the GOP thinks it is OK to deny, deny, deny, never accept responsibility, and try to hold on to power. Better to elect a confessed sexual predator than a Democrat. Well, the old white men that make up the majority of the GOP are dying off. Within a few years they will be a permanent minority in both government and the general population.

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JakeTidmore says... December 7, 2017 at 12:29 p.m.

AS of now....Franken has resigned. Conyers has resigned. Trump has not; and Moore continues to run for office with more serious problems and accusers from his past than Franken or Conyers.
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From ARTimes:
No Republican member of Congress has called on President Donald Trump to resign despite accusations of sexual misconduct from at least 16 women. Trump bragged about getting away with sexual assault on a tape recording that was released shortly before the election.
Only one Republican member of Congress (Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia) has called on U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) to step down. Farenthold used $84,000 in taxpayer money in 2014 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former aide.
Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee this week moved funds into the Alabama Senate race, backing Roy Moore, who has been accused of molesting teenage girls.
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A couple days back, Mike Huckabee said it was OK for Moore to run because Democrats Franken and Conyers had not resigned. Now that they have resigned, will Huckabee continue his logic and ask Moore (and maybe even Trump!!) to take their shame and leave the political arena??
But, who ever thought we'd hear such crazy and perverted logic saying that choosing a pedophile was better than choosing a Democrat? Or a female press secretary telling us that 16+ women are lying while her pathological liar of a boss gets a free pass??
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When they say Red State, that now means that the Republicans there support candidates with a giant scarlet H (for hypocrite) branded on their forehead.

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GeneralMac says... December 7, 2017 at 12:46 p.m.

I don't think anyone should resign for any behavior PRIOR to taking office.

If what he did prior was a crime, take legal action to arrest him.

If it wasn't a crime, move on !

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Packman says... December 7, 2017 at 1:52 p.m.

Hey hah - Did you even hear Franken's remarks? I did. He never apologized. Essentially he said the women were either lying or he had a different recollection of events. He admitted to no wrongdoing whatsoever. Facts are important, hah, please try to stick with them.
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Hey amgoo - It's ALLEGED pedophile. BTW, you still calling Sarah Sanders a "whore"?

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TravisBickle says... December 7, 2017 at 1:55 p.m.

I missed the "Price is Right" showcase showdown to listen to Franken drone on and on with his dull and inarticulate prepared speech. How did that doofus ever get elected??!! He couldn't even speak without notes!!! And nothing like a parting shot at the POTUS. He should have kept his day job as a comedian. He sucked at that too!

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PopulistMom says... December 7, 2017 at 2:02 p.m.

Franken did the right thing. He was guilty of some indiscretions, but a couple of the stories had holes. If you watched his questioning of Gorsuch, you would realize that he was quite brilliant. However, the women's movement is on a roll, and it is not going to stop. Next stops, Moore and Trump though I am not quite sure whether Trump will fall due to Russiagate. Don Jr. pretty much admits that Trump Sr. was in the loop when he invokes the attorney-client privilege (which really does not apply).

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Jfish says... December 7, 2017 at 2:06 p.m.

I will have to stop you there Travis, I thought that Franken was an excellent writer and even did some hilarious skits (Stuart Smalley comes to mind). Of course his best work was back in the day when SNL was unbiased and did not have a political agenda. After Obama was elected, it was not politically correct to make fun of a black president. Oh they took a shot here and there, but it was nothing compared to the shots they took at Carter, Bush, Reagan, Gore, WBush, etc. Can you imagine SNL if Obama had been elected when Eddie Murphy was the star?

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Jmholstine says... December 7, 2017 at 2:45 p.m.

I suppose Al can continue and not 'give up his voice' when he returns to the cast of SNL and the comedy club circuit!

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