Al Franken Resigns

Al Franken actually did it. After yesterday disputing reports that he had decided he would announce his resignation today, the senior Democratic senator from Minnesota announced today from the Senate floor that he would resign "in the coming weeks."

Franken said he was "excited" about the conversation about the way men mistreat women when it first started, saying it was "long overdue."

"Then it came back to me," he said, saying he was shocked and upset to hear how women perceived his actions. He went on to insist he denied some of the allegations and remembered others "very differently."

Franken claimed he used his power "to be a champion of women" and knew he was "someone who respects the women I work alongside every day," and insisted an Ethics Committee would've cleared him.

Franken also said he saw the "irony" in him leaving the Senate while President Trump, who he pointed out bragged on tape about sexual assault, remains in office, and Roy Moore, accused of preying on young girls, continues to run for Senate with the support of the Republican party.

"But it's not about me," Franken continued, but about constituents, who he said he could not serve effectively while dealing with an Ethics investigation.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton will now appoint a replacement to serve in the Senate until a special election can be called for next year. Dayton is expected to replace Franken with Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who is not expected to seek election to the remainder of the term next year.

The calls for Franken to resign snowballed and yesterday an eighth woman accused him of putting his hand on her waist, "grabbing a handful of flesh," after she asked to take a photo with him.

The trouble for Franken began on November 16, when KABC radio anchor Leann Tweeden publicly accused him of trying to forcibly kiss her and having this photo snapped during a USO Tour in 2006:

The story broke just a day after Franken, a former comedian and writer for Saturday Night Live, insisted obvious jokes made on Twitter by Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett of Texas undercut his possible appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

This morning, he voted no (by proxy) on sending the Willett nomination to the full Senate. The committee voted on party lines.

Tweeden said she was motivated in part to come forward by a radio interview she conducted with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who told her that when she was a young Congressional aide, a powerful man in her office tried to forcibly kiss her.

"At that moment, I thought to myself, Al Franken did that exact same thing to me," Tweeden wrote, saying she decided to share her story because "there may be others."

In the exactly three weeks since then, seven other women came forward with stories of harassment at the hands of Franken. Calls for his resignation came from 33 Democrats yesterday, followed by reports of an eighth accuser.

The timing of pressure from his own party to resign may have most been informed by the embrace by Republicans of Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate accused of inappropriate relations with underage girls in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Franken was first elected to the Senate in 2008 in a nail-biter against incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), but he didn't take office until July 7, 2009 because of months of recounts and legal battles. He was re-elected in 2014 with 53 percent of the vote.

As recently as August he was seen as a "reluctant 2020 candidate" for president.

In the Senate, Franken has been a reliable progressive vote but a lightweight lawmaker. He received a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group, an 82 percent rating from the American Civil Liberties Union, 14 percent from the Club for Growth, and a 0 percent from FreedomWorks.

In his eight years in the Senate, Franken has sponsored just three bills that became law. One involved permitting a Native American tribe in Minnesota to lease or transfer some of its land, another added the Zika virus to the Food and Drug Administration's priority review voucher program. Hardly the stuff of legislative legend.

The third bill, the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act, was a bipartisan effort to try to reduce the criminalization of mental illness.

Franken's voted with Trump about 25 percent of the time this year, mostly on various nominations and spending bills.