- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Sen. Al Franken is expected to resign Thursday after a stampede of fellow Senate Democrats demanded he quit amid mounting accusations that he groped women or sexually forced himself upon them, making him the second casualty on Capitol Hill since the Harvey Weinstein scandal sparked a national movement against sexual harassment.

Clinging to his Senate seat as long as he could while a series of women accused him of lewd behavior, the Minnesota Democrat hoped his repeated apologies and a dragged-out ethics probe would allow the fracas to blow over.

But the emergence Wednesday of a seventh accuser proved too much for Mr. Franken’s colleagues to abide in today’s zero-tolerance climate. By the end of the day, and with an eighth accuser chiming in later Wednesday, at least 32 of the 49 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus had called on Mr. Franken to resign, as did Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.

However, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, waited until Minnesota news outlets reported that Mr. Franken would resign Thursday before joining the chorus of resignation calls.

The two latest accusations against Mr. Franken sounded eerily similar to the complaints voiced by the six other women.

A former Democratic congressional aide told Politico that Mr. Franken attempted to forcibly kiss her and chased her around a recording booth after taping his radio show in 2006, two years before he was elected to the Senate.

“It’s my right as an entertainer,” he told the young woman, according to her account.

Mr. Franken called that accusation “categorically not true.” But he has admitted varying degrees of culpability for his lascivious conduct in other cases.

The eighth accuser attached her name to the charges, as Atlantic writer Tina Dupuy posted on the magazine’s website an article titled “I Believe Franken’s Accusers Because He Groped Me, Too.”

Still, Mr. Franken wasn’t confirming anything Wednesday evening.

Senator Franken is talking with his family at this time and plans to make an announcement in D.C. tomorrow. Any reports of a final decision are inaccurate,” said a message on posted on his official Twitter account.

The rapid descent of Mr. Franken, a famous and sometimes risque comedian and “Saturday Night Live” cast member decades before his political career, is part of a national backlash against sexual harassment by wealthy, famous and otherwise powerful men. Earlier on Wednesday, Time magazine recognized the power of the movement by naming the #MeToo “Silence Breakers” on sexual harassment as its “Person of the Year.”

The reckoning began with the “casting couch” accusations that brought down Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and then spread to the upper echelons of journalism and to Capitol Hill.

In recent weeks, accusations of sexual misconduct toppled “House of Cards” actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K., NBC’s “Today” star Matt Lauer, and talk show host Charlie Rose of CBS and PBS fame.

Accusations of sexual misconduct also entangled Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Senate race in Alabama. He has been accused of sexually pursuing teenage girls, including one underage girl, when he was in his 30s in the 1970s. He denies the charges and has managed to hang on in the race.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, was the first casualty on Capitol Hill, resigning Tuesday after a series of women accused him sexual misconduct that spanned decades.

Mr. Conyers, 88, announced his decision to step down in a call to a Detroit radio show. “My legacy will continue through my children,” he said, endorsing his son, John Conyers III, to succeed him in the House.

However, NBC News reported Wednesday that the younger Mr. Conyers, 27, was arrested on domestic violence charges against his girlfriend this year in Los Angeles. Police declined to press charges because of a “lack of independent witnesses” and the reasonable possibility that the woman’s injury was “accidentally sustained,” according to the report.

Some black Congress members said Mr. Conyers’ resignation exposed a double standard because white lawmakers such as Mr. Franken were not forced out.

The accusations against Mr. Franken began Nov. 16 with Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden saying he attempted to forcibly kiss her during a USO tour overseas.

She also produced a photograph of Mr. Franken hovering his hands over her breasts while she slept.

Several women then came forward with tales of Mr. Franken grabbing their rear ends, groping their breasts or aggressively kissing them on the mouth.

After three weeks of accusations popping up and Mr. Conyers’ resignation, Senate Democrats broke their silence.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York made the first call.

“While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve,” Ms. Gillibrand posted on Facebook.

Within 15 minutes, most of the Senate’s other Democratic women — Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii, Margaret Wood Hassan of New Hampshire, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Kamala D. Harris of California — followed Ms. Gillibrand in demanding Mr. Franken’s resignation.

Soon afterward, they were joined by Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. The men, including Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, also piled on.

Senator Franken’s behavior was wrong. He has admitted to what he did. He should resign from the Senate,” Mr. Durbin tweeted.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat and a close ally of Mr. Franken, told him in a phone call that it was time to go.

Mr. Franken’s office put out word that the senator would make an announcement Thursday, neither confirming nor denying the Minnesota news reports of resignation.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the chamber’s other Minnesota Democrat, did not call on him to resign. She said in a tweet that she spoke with Mr. Franken and was “confident he will make the right decision.”

Despite the growing pressure from fellow Democrats, some outside groups have rallied to Mr. Franken’s defense. A petition on Change.org has over 50,000 signatures in support of Mr. Franken.

Al Franken is not a predator,” Andrea Serna of California wrote on the petition. “He is not Harvey Weinstein, he’s not even Louis C.K. He is a productive member of the Senate and we need more like him.”

Other groups, such as Voices of Conservative Women in Minnesota, have been calling on the senator to resign for weeks. Their petition has received over 16,000 signatures.

Alex Swoyer contributed to this report.

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