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Al Franken resigning from US Senate amid sexual misconduct accusations

Last Updated Dec 7, 2017 at 10:39 am PST

Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on July 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken says he’ll resign in the coming weeks. He’s repeatedly apologized as several women accused him of sexually inappropriate behaviour, and as his support from fellow Democrats evaporated.

The Minnesota lawmaker took to the Senate floor to say, “I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice.”

He says he’ll address issues as an activist.

Franken says he can’t go through a Senate Ethics Committee investigation and effectively represent his state at the same time.

In remarks that lasted 11 minutes, he said that, thanks to his family, “I’m going to be just fine.”

He says some charges against him are untrue and that he remembers other differently than his accusers do. But he says women “deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously.”

Several women have stepped forward to accuse Franken of sexually inappropriate behaviour, from groping to forcibly trying to kiss them. But a fresh allegation on Wednesday unleashed a torrent of Democratic demands that Franken step aside. Female senators led the chorus.

Franken isn’t going quietly.

“I, of all people, 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,” said Franken today.

“And a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” he continued, in reference to Republican Roy Moore, who despite accusations against him, remains defiant and refuses to bow out of next week’s special election.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says he hasn’t decided on a replacement for Franken.

The Democratic governor says he expects to make and announce his decision in the next couple of days. Whomever he names will serve until a special the election in November to complete the remainder of Franken’s term through 2020.

Democratic senators, staff and family members were sombre yet emotional as they watched Franken say he would resign.

Franken’s family members sat in the Senate gallery, some of them crying. Staff lined up in the back of the chamber, stone faced. And around 18 Democratic senators quietly listened to his speech on the floor. No Republicans were present except the chamber’s presiding officer, Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan.

Democrats who sat and listened to Franken’s speech included Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the first to call Wednesday for Franken to resign.

After his 11 minute speech, Democrats lined up to hug him.

Franken is an actor who appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and an author who narrowly won his Senate seat in 2008 after a prolonged vote count. He has been a fierce opponent of the Trump administration.

His political fall has been swift by congressional standards. The first allegation surfaced on Nov. 16.