Leading Senate Democrats call for ethics investigation into Al Franken


Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) attends a Senate subcommittee hearing on Oct. 31. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) faced swift and bipartisan condemnation Thursday and a call for an ethics investigation after a Los Angeles model and broadcaster accused him of “forcibly kissing” and groping her in 2006.

After originally issuing a brief apology and saying he didn’t recall the incident the way Leeann Tweeden did, Franken issued a longer apology — “There’s no excuse” — and welcomed the ethics investigation, saying he will “gladly cooperate.”

The top Democrat, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), said he hopes there will soon be one by the Senate Ethics Committee, which has the authority to recommend expelling a senator. “Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated,” Schumer said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is dealing with the political fallout from allegations of sexual misconduct by an Alabama GOP Senate candidate, immediately called on the ethics committee to investigate Franken. McConnell has also not ruled out investigations into Roy Moore if he wins his special election next month despite Republican leaders’ calls for him to drop out of the race.

Franken was a radio host at the time of the alleged incident, which Tweeden recounted in a blog post for the Los Angeles radio station KABC, for which she works as a morning news anchor.

The post included an image of Franken looking into a camera, his hands either over or on Tweeden’s chest as she slept.

The allegations came two days after a stunning hearing in Washington at which lawmakers acknowledged that sexual harassment is a pervasive problem on Capitol Hill. Over the past week, many Democrats have been critical of Senate Republicans for originally hesitating to call for Moore’s ouster by caveating their concerns with “if the allegations are true.” Franken is a prolific fundraiser for the Democratic Party and in the past year has emerged as one of their most effective messengers on health care and taxes.

But very few Democrats gave Franken a similar benefit of the doubt. Here’s how key members of Congress, especially Democrats, responded to the Franken allegations.

Sen. Schumer

“I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the highest-ranking female Democratic senator

“This is unacceptable behavior and extremely disappointing. I am glad that Al came out and apologized, but that doesn’t reverse what he’s done or end the matter. I support an ethics committee investigation into these accusations and I hope this latest example of the deep problems on this front spurs continued action to address it.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat

“There is never an excuse for this behavior—ever. What Senator Franken did was wrong, and it should be referred to the Ethics Committee for review.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

Franken’s Minnesota colleague in the Senate had this to say: “This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation. This is another example of why we need to change work environments and reporting practices across the nation, including in Congress.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)

“I’m shocked and concerned,” said the senator, who is up for reelection next year in a state that voted heavily for President Trump. “The behavior described is completely unacceptable. Comedy is no excuse for inappropriate conduct, and I believe there should be an ethics investigation.”

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)

“I agree with Senator McConnell that the Ethics Committee should review this matter,” he said. Donnelly is up for reelection next year in a state that voted for Trump. One of his Republican opponents has called on Donnelly to return money that Franken raised for his reelection campaign. “What Senator Franken did is wrong and regardless of political party, sexual harassment and sexual abuse are unacceptable.”

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)

“This type of conduct is completely unacceptable and must be taken extremely seriously. Actions like that weren’t funny then and they aren’t funny now, and I fully support an Ethics Committee investigation.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.)

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)

She called the Franken allegations “very troubling.” “Sexual harassment, misconduct, should not be allowed by anyone and it should not occur anywhere against anyone.”

Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.)

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)

Article source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/11/16/leading-senate-democrats-call-for-ethics-investigation-into-al-franken/

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