Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) resigned Thursday after eight women in recent weeks accused him of sexual misconduct. His resignation comes just two days after Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) also announced he was retiring amid mounting sexual harassment and abuse accusations. Now, as Democrats begin to clean house, they’ve set their sights on the Oval Office.
“Serving in the United States senate has been the great honor of my life. I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution, and I am confident that the ethics committee would agree,” Franken said in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday. “Nevertheless, today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.”
Hardly 24 hours prior, on Wednesday morning, Politico reported the story of yet another woman accusing Franken of sexual harassment. The unnamed woman said Franken had tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006, and when she rejected his advances, Franken allegedly told her, “It’s my right as an entertainer.” Franken has denied the accusation.
The story, some outlets reported, is what tipped many of Franken’s colleagues over the edge. On Wednesday afternoon, in what appeared to be a coordinated effort, several Democratic woman senators called for Franken to resign. By Wednesday evening, more than two dozen other Democrats had echoed their calls. And by Thursday afternoon, Franken was gone.
Conyers and Franken were not the only Democrats facing harassment allegations. Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) has been accused of harassing his former campaign finance director, and top Democrats have called for him to resign.
Now, amid what appears to be an earnest effort within the party to uproot sexual abusers, Democrats are shifting focus to President Trump.
Not long before Franken’s speech, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said in an interview with CBS News that he hoped Trump was “paying attention.”
“We have a President of the United States who acknowledged on a tape, widely seen all over this country, that he assaulted women,” Sanders said, referring to the notorious leaked Access Hollywood video in which Trump can be overheard talking about grabbing women’s genitals. “So I would hope that maybe the President of the United States would pay attention to what’s going on and think about resigning.”
Following Franken’s speech, Sanders repeated the sentiment on Twitter.
Franken also lashed out at Trump, as well as Senate candidate Roy Moore, in his speech on Thursday.
“I 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,” he said. “But this decision is not about me. It’s about the people of Minnesota.”
More than a dozen women have accused Trump of sexual harassment or assault. Trump also recently fully endorsed Moore, who himself has been accused of sexual misconduct by nine women. Several of the women say they were teenagers — one was just 14 years old — when Moore, then in his 30s, approached them.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) echoed his colleagues on Thursday, following Franken’s speech, saying in a statement, “The American people should take notice of national Republicans’ support for a morally degraded Senate candidate in Alabama and a President in the Oval Office facing equally credible charges.”
In the wake of Trump’s full endorsement of Moore, the Republican National Committee began funding Moore’s race in Alabama again, after initially withdrawing its support following the first allegations of sexual abuse against him. As the race has tightened again, the RNC and many top Republicans have softened their stances on Moore, with several deferring to Trump’s official stance when confronted on the issue.