- Jack Torry
- Jessica Wehrman Washington Bureau
Embattled Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota is expected to resign Thursday after Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and a wave of Democrats called for him to step down in the aftermath of allegations that Franken sexually harassed seven women before being elected to the Senate in 2008.
Franken has scheduled a news conference Thursday where multiple media sources say he will resign his seat.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., tweeted that “this morning I spoke with Senator Franken and, as you know, he will be making an announcement about his future tomorrow morning. I am confident he will make the right decision.”
Brown said he decided Wednesday morning that the Minnesota senator needs to “step aside.” In a conference call with reporters, Brown said he was “grateful to the victims (of sexual harassment) who have had the bravery to come forward.”
Brown said he spoke to Senate Democratic women and that he “listened to the women in my office” and “the women in my life” before making the statement about his colleague.
Brown’s announcement came as support for Franken among Democrats rapidly evaporated on Capitol Hill. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus, called on both Franken and Texas Republican Blake Farenthold — who settled a claim of harassment by a former staffer — to step down.
“To make meaningful change, it requires leading by example — that begins with Congress and the entire federal government,” Beatty said in a statement.
The flurry of activity took place as Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore of Alabama has been deluged with charges that he harassed a series of younger women, including one who was 14 at the time. President Donald Trump endorsed Moore Tuesday. Moore will face Democrat Doug Jones in a special election next Tuesday.
Senate Democrats began the call for Franken to step down after Politico published a story Wednesday that a former Democratic congressional aide said Franken tried to “forcibly” kiss her in 2006.
Perhaps coincidentally — and certainly reflecting the magnitude of a wave of sexual harassment allegations that have cost powerful men in show business and journalism their careers in recent weeks — Time Magazine Wednesday named its “Person of the Year” honor to those who had revealed that they had been sexually harassed or assaulted.
RELATED: Franken accused of groping news anchor without consent
In a statement to Politico, Franken said “this allegation is categorically not true” and said “I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.”
In addition, six other women have charged that during his years as a comedian, Franken tried to kiss or grope them against their will. Until the Politico story Wednesday, Franken had apologized about his behavior.
The move to force Franken to quit began Wednesday morning with a number of tweets from leading Senate Democratic women such as Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Patty Murray of Washington and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
“Enough is enough,” Gillibrand said at a news conference. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable. We as elected leaders should absolutely be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard, and we should fundamentally be valuing women. That is where this debate has to go.”
During his noon conference call, Brown opened by calling on Franken to resign. Brown was among the first Senate male Democrats urging Franken to resign.
Considered a rising presence in the Democratic Party, Franken had been mentioned as possible presidential candidate in 2020.
After the call, Brown issued a statement saying the Senate Ethics Committee “should continue to investigate. He is entitled to the investigation. And their findings will be important to informing changes that are needed in Congress.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said of Franken: “Harassment of any kind has no place in our society and should not be tolerated, and if he engaged in this type of conduct he should resign.”
Portman has also called for Moore in Alabama to step aside.
Longtime Democratic John Conyers of Detroit resigned his seat Tuesday following reports he made secret settlements with at least one female aide who charged him with sexual harassment.