Franken announces he will resign from the Senate

WASHINGTON — In a stunning close to his congressional career, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, a Democrat, on Thursday said he will resign, amid multiple allegations that he touched women inappropriately, becoming the second lawmaker to step aside over such accusations in three days.

Yielding to pressure from other Democrats, Franken said he’ll leave Capitol Hill in ‘‘coming weeks,’’ but he continued to deny allegations of groping and unwanted advances from more than a half-dozen women.

The former rising Democratic star used his resignation speech to take aim at President Trump and Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama, who have not been forced aside despite facing arguably more serious allegations of sexual misconduct.


‘‘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 in a Senate speech.

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The resignation of not one but two prominent Democratic lawmakers over allegations of inappropriate behavior points to the wider reckoning taking place as women come forward to accuse powerful men of misconduct. Members of Congress have spent the past month grappling with how best to respond to allegations of harassment against colleagues and criticism of the way workplace complaints are handled in the legislative branch.

Franken called the reckoning an ‘‘important moment’’ that is ‘‘long overdue,’’ but denied engaging in behavior that disrespected or took advantage of women. ‘‘I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am,’’ he said. ‘‘I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution.’’

He is expected to make his resignation effective at the end of the month, said a person familiar with his decision.

This timetable could allow him to cast several consequential votes on the Republican tax bill, funding the government and possibly the fate of ‘‘dreamers,’’ immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.


In a statement, Senator Amy Klobuchar, also a Minnesota Democrat, said Franken made ‘‘the right decision’’ and praised him as a friend who worked ‘‘for years on behalf of the people of Minnesota.’’

She added: ‘‘In every workplace in America, including the US Senate, we must confront the challenges of harassment and misconduct. Nothing is easy or pleasant about this, but we all must recognize that our workplace cultures — and the way we treat each other as human beings — must change.’’

Franken faced a cascade of opposition the day after Representative John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, ended his 52-year career in Congress over accusations he harassed female aides, including propositioning them for sex. It was unclear whether the resignations will increase pressure on alleged offenders in the House, including Blake Farenthold, Republican of Texas, and Ruben Kihuen, Democrat of Nevada.

Once Franken makes his resignation official, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, will pick a replacement to serve until a November 2018 special election. Whoever wins the special election would have to run again in 2020 to begin a new term.

The drive to purge Franken was a dramatic indication of the political toxicity that has grown around the issue of sexual harassment. It also stood as a stark and deliberate contrast with how Republicans are handling Moore’s candidacy in Alabama, where voters will cast ballots next week in a special election. Multiple women have accused Moore of pursuing them romantically when they were teens and he was in his 30s. One, Leigh Corfman, alleged Moore touched her sexually when she was 14.


Although most of Franken’s alleged actions took place before he was a senator, he was becoming a growing liability to his party, and Republicans had seized upon the allegations. Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent in Alabama, also called for him to step aside.

‘There is some irony in the fact that I am leaving . . . ’

At Moore’s Tuesday rally, conservative pundit Gina Loudon said Republicans did not need lectures on morality from Democrats who had struggled with their own sex scandals, citing both Conyers and Franken.

Trump, himself the target of multiple allegations of sexual assault, has enthusiastically endorsed Moore, and the Republican Party is again pouring money into the race after initially pulling back. Senate Republicans have also toned down negative comments about Moore, saying his fate should be up to the voters and, if he is elected, the Senate Ethics Committee.

Democrats agreed with Franken’s decision and called on Republicans to reject members of their party similarly accused. ‘‘Now, Republicans must join Democrats in holding their own accountable,’’ said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat.

It was a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of the onetime ‘‘Saturday Night Live’’ star. Franken, one of the Trump administration’s sharpest foils, had been a potential 2020 presidential contender.