While Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is on track to resign in the coming days over allegations of sexual misconduct, four of his colleagues are reportedly urging him to stay. Franken has yet to put a date his departure, a move that stoked suspicions he would stay if Republican Roy Moore won the special election in Alabama last week. When Moore lost, Franken's replacement was named the next day.
The Minnesota Democrat announced his plans to step down in a defiant speech earlier this month, referring to himself as a "champion of women" even while implicitly disputing the accounts of his accusers. The senator had previously planned to make his decision based on the conclusion of an Ethics Committee investigation, but caved amid mounting pressures from his female colleagues.
Now, however, Politico is reporting that at least four members of the upper chamber are urging Franken to reconsider his resignation. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., came out strongly in support of his colleague, telling Politico, "What they did to Al was atrocious, the Democrats."
"I hope they have enough guts ... and enough conscience and enough heart to say, 'Al, we made a mistake asking prematurely for you to leave,'" Manchin added.
Another senator who asked not be named echoed Manchin, saying, "I think we acted prematurely, before we had all the facts." According to Politico, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has privately told Franken he regrets issuing a statement calling for his resignation. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., hasn't said Franken shouldn't resign, but reportedly believes the Ethics Committee investigation should have been allowed to play out.
Franken's case has always been odd, and the Democratic calls for his resignation seemed to be part of a strategy to claim higher ground in 2018 and beyond, arguing they cleaned house while the GOP stood by President Trump. The accusations against Franken suggest he had a habit of groping women's behinds while posing for pictures, though his first accuser also claims the senator forcibly kissed her more than a decade ago and provided photographic evidence of Franken posing for a picture while groping her breasts as she slept.
Manchin for his part, asserted "the human and decent thing to do" would be for Democrats to reverse course and allow Franken to stay while he's under investigation. "If they have any decency in them, they’d do that ... Every one of them that signed for him to go out — including Chuck Schumer — should do that," he said.
Based on the tone of his resignation speech, Franken is clearly being dragged out of the Senate and does not believe he's morally obligated to leave. Democrats are likely aware the political fallout from flip-flopping on Franken would be severe, but given the senator's obvious resistance to resign, it may not take much for him to waver. The possibility of Franken actually staying is small, but it's at least notable that some of colleagues believe they rushed to judgment and want him to stay.
In his resignation speech, Franken pledged to remain active in the fight for progressive causes. This report also serves as an early sign his contributions to the movement will ultimately be welcomed.