WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., was just too boxed in to save his Senate career in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct from seven women who accused him of unwanted groping or kissing.
Between the newly emergent #MeToo movement, the potential Senate election next week of Republican Roy Moore – accused of sexual abuse of an underage girl and other women – and with enough females in the Senate for them to be a force on their own – Franken had little choice but to step down.
Franken said he would quit “in the coming weeks” the day after a majority of the Senate Democrats, including Illinois Democrats Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, called for him to resign.
He’s expected to depart by the end of the year.
In an emotional speech from the Senate floor, Franken denied some – not all – of the accusations, as he declined to go into detail except to say, “Some of the allegations against me simply are not true. Others I remember very differently.”
Franken was pressured by fellow Democrats to resign while President Donald Trump and Moore are still standing despite the credible accusations of sexual misconduct against them.
Franken jabbed Trump and Moore, not using their names as he made an important point.
“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.
Here’s what’s going on:
*Democrats had the space to force Franken out because Minnesota has a Democratic governor – Gov. Mark Dayton – who will appoint another Democrat to replace Franken. If there was a Republican governor in Minnesota, Franken’s saga may have had a different ending.
*Democrats want to have the political high moral ground in this post Harvey Weinstein era, where women finally feel protected enough to come forward with their reports of sexual harassment.
*The #MeToo movement spawned after the Weinstein revelations dug up by the New York Times is just weeks old. It’s not clear how it will evolve, but there is power in numbers.
In the entire history of the U.S., only 50 women have served in the Senate. At present, there are 21 female Senators, the most ever. Of the Senate women, 16 are Democratic and five are Republican.
Franken was doomed when a group of female senators on Wednesday morning came out with calls for his resignation.
Democrats took the lead in forcing out Franken and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. They want the contrast with Trump and Moore to be stark, especially with the 2018 mid-term elections looming – and the Tuesday vote in Alabama.
*Moore may well be elected in Tuesday’s special Senate election, with stories about his sexual contact with underage girls not a disqualifier in this heavily Republican state. Trump and the Republican National Committee endorsed him after the Washington Post stories were published.
Trump was elected because enough people were willing to look past the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, where Trump bragged about his unwanted sexual advances.
*If Franken had not quit, it is quite possible the Democrats would have taken steps to expel him from the Senate and not be content to let the Senate Ethics probe – which Franken welcomed – run its course.
If Moore wins, Senate Democrats will try to expel him from the chamber as soon as he is seated. They could not do this if Franken remained.
Expulsion takes 67 Senate votes. There are 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats, counting the two independents who side with Democrats. Would there be 19 GOP senators who would expel Moore?
Or would they say the Moore voters knew about his misconduct and elected him anyway – just like they did with Trump.