Dec 7, 2017, 8:42 PM ET

ANALYSIS: In Franken's withdrawal, a challenge to Republicans

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Sen. Al Franken is leaving Congress. But he’s not going quietly.

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Franken, D-Minn., was all but forced by his own party to make the announcement he did today. This moment in society and in politics made it untenable for his Democratic friends and colleagues to line up behind someone accused of multiple instances of inappropriate contact with women.

Franken had already acknowledged mistakes in the past. But he did not repeat his contrition or offer apologies in promising to resign in the coming weeks.

Instead, he took to the Senate floor offering a defiant reminder of the particular vulnerabilities of some other prominent individuals in public life.

“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,” Franken said, “and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.”

Franken joins Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. – the dean of the House of Representatives, and longest-serving member of Congress in either chamber – in stepping away from office when confronted with allegations this week.

Neither wanted to go. Both held on until a large swath of their fellow party members called for them to go. Both are Democrats.

Last year, then-candidate Donald Trump faced calls to step aside – some public, other private - after the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged. He dismissed the tape as “locker-room talk,” and labeled the more than dozen women who accused him of sexual misconduct as liars. Trump kept his campaign going and wound up winning.

In Alabama, the wave of allegations leveled against Senate candidate Roy Moore prompted his party leadership to essentially abandon him, in an effort to force him from the race. Moore stayed in, and the president and the Republican National Committee wound up coming back on his side this week, in advance of next Tuesday’s special election.

That marks a contrast that Democrats will eagerly point out. Their hope is that it provides clarity between the parties, in addition to a recognition that the conversations now going on throughout the country are being heard in the corridors of power.

“It’s long past time for this era of silence to end,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said Wednesday, after calling on Franken to resign. “There are big differences between Democrats and Republicans and this is just one of them.”

This is an awkward conversation for the current occupant of the Oval Office. At the White House today, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders declined to engage on the issues raised by Franken regarding the president’s infamous “Access Hollywood” recording.

“The president addressed the comments back during the campaign,” Sanders said. “We feel strongly that the people of this country also addressed that when they elected Donald Trump to be president.”

Likewise, the people of Alabama next week have an opportunity to address the allegations against Moore. Should he win, Moore will likely take and retain office.

The allegations, though, will remain, even as a party that embraced Moore is forced to own him as a senator.

This week demonstrated a peculiar brand of reckoning when it comes to public officials and sexual misconduct. It is accountability nonetheless.

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  • sjc_1

    Is Trump willing to go under oath about all the women who accuse him?

  • jkh62

    A challenge ?
    He was / is caught with proof.

    Similar to an impeached president that libbies circled the wagons for.

  • Ignatius P. Freely

    Franken didn't resign immediately because he needs to use as much taxpayer money as possible for settlements before he goes.

  • Ivan Ivanovitch

    There's no reason for Franken to resign. These events happened before his service and are largely inconsequential. He is allowing himself to be used and is also using himself as a pawn. A non-apologetic, non-admitting one at that. It's a game the Democrats are playing that will not work.

  • Edup McD

    C'mon shameful Republicans resign!

  • John_Cabal

    Republicans used to be the best at "foot shooting" - but Dem's proved themselves equally (or even more) adept this week.

  • PER

    Franken is no more going to resign than is Kamala Harris. He isn't going anywhere.

  • Drakarus

    Laughable, the party of Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy supposedly laying the gauntlet down. You people know no shame.

  • Rodney Bayburn

    The differences between the parties are clear: Franken’s seat will almost certainly be replaced by a republican, yet democrats pushed him out. Repubs will take sexual assault and child molesters and anyone as long as they get a vote. Disgusting.

  • Gail

    I don't think there is a clean Politician in Washington yet they keep getting reelected, that says something about we as a People .

  • RedSoxPatriotsCelticsBruinsFan

    just replace him with a woman, far less problems.

  • Skippy3504

    What n the 90s, the accusing party lost two Speakers while the accused POTUS stayed in office.

  • Erwin Schrodinger

    ... a challenge the Republicans will fail miserably to accept.

  • THEFred

    It doesn't matter. Unless you're one of the richest .1% AND handing them a large bribe, corrupt GOP politicians don't care what you want, think, or say.

  • Dr. Gurnicus Blanstonius

    Fact remains that we have a president who tacitly admitted he did exactly what Franken resigned for. And about a dozen witnesses who say he did it.

    Yet today Trump will campaign for, and support yet another Republican accused of the same thing and worse.

    America, you've totally lost your minds.

  • 20 Yr Retired Military

    At least when Moore gets in. We can go back to the Bible and begin the dept. of smiting for those blastfamous few who need to be smited

  • empirewacksback

    Republicans met challenge with Franks resigning. Pushing Franken out is foolish.

  • AR15Fan

    Dems who stayed in their jobs and got reelected after sex scandals.
    10. Sen. Daniel Inouye. The 82-year-old Hawaii Democrat was accused in the 1990s by numerous women of sexual harassment. Democrats cast doubt on the allegations and the Senate Ethics Committee dropped its investigation.

    9. Former Rep. Gus Savage. The Illinois Democrat was accused of fondling a Peace Corps volunteer in 1989 while on a trip to Africa. The House Ethics Committee decided against disciplinary action in 1990.

    8. Rep. Barney Frank. The outspoken Massachusetts Democrat hired a male prostitute who ran a prostitution service from Frank’s residence in the 1980s. Only two Democrats in the House of Representatives voted to censure him in 1990.
    7. Former Sen. Brock Adams. The late Washington Democrat was forced to stop campaigning after numerous accusations of drugging, assault and rape, the first surfacing in 1988.
    6. Former Rep. Fred Richmond. This New York Democrat was arrested in 1978 for soliciting sex from a 16-year-old. He remained in Congress and won re-election—before eventually resigning in 1982 after pleading guilty to tax evasion and drug possession.
    5. Former Rep. John Young. The late Texas Democrat increased the salary of a staffer after she gave in to his sexual advances. The congressman won re-election in 1976 but lost two years later.
    4. Former Rep. Wayne Hays. The late Ohio Democrat hired an unqualified secretary reportedly for sexual acts. Although he resigned from Congress, the Democratic House leadership stalled in removing him from the Administration Committee in 1976.
    3. Former Rep. Gerry Studds. He was censured for sexual relationship with underage male page in 1983. Massachusetts voters returned him to office for six more terms.
    2. Former Rep. Mel Reynolds. The Illinois Democrat was convicted of 12 counts of sexual assault with a 16-year-old. President Bill Clinton pardoned him before leaving office.
    1. Sen. Teddy Kennedy. The liberal Massachusetts senator testified in defense of nephew accused of rape, invoking his family history to win over the jury in 1991.

  • John LaVoy

    Oh God, the naivete. This is no challenge to Trump! THis is no challenge to the Roy Moores and Denny Hasterts of the right. Given the opportunity to advance the cause of women, push Franken to resign, and put the pressure on Republicans, the Democrats instead opted for a suicide pact. I read all the statements from the first group of women and Bob Casey who called for Franken to leave: all but one completely left out Trump and Moore. A classic, oft repeated case of Democrats being incapable of constructing a narrative to advance their interests. I write htem all explaining why I was leaving the PArty, not becuase of Franken, but because they are simply too stupid to elect a majority.

  • Skippy3504

    I remember during the Clinton presidency when the GOP went after Clinton for sexual indiscretions. The GOP lost two Speakers of the House and Clinton stayed in office.

  • kissatek

    "That marks a contrast that Democrats will eagerly point out. Their hope is that it provides clarity between the parties, in addition to a recognition that the conversations now going on throughout the country are being heard in the corridors of power. "
    After years of burying and paying off accusers with taxpayer monies? Contrast or eating their own? Let's face it, neither party can claim their members are above the other's and we the people obviously need to keep a closer watch.

  • Hawkman100

    Good on Al Franken for doing the right thing.

    Now it's time for Roy Moore to man up and admit that he likes little girls and that he's unfit to serve as a Senator.

    And for the GOP to ignore old Roy's indiscretions just to get another seat in the Senate is nothing short of doing the Devil's work.

  • Roger

    Franken resigns

    Small hands trump brags.

    Middle School Moore lies.

    The GOP lost its soul. They've been overtaken by internal cancer of right wing propaganda fueled by greed and fear.

    The trump Moore pair of perverts is the result

  • SpringForward

    Humans will likely destroy themselves before they destroy the world. T or F?

  • yesitsme

    Next this little creep will probably blame the women he molested .

  • adamrussell

    I snuck a kiss in one time. I hope I dont get in trouble for it.
    Should I have asked permission first?

  • stagerightinthemiddle

    "Withdrawal" ???

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    Just In - Trump approval ratings drop to 32%. It appears that some supporters have come to their senses. It took them long enough.