A large group of Democratic U.S. senators called Thursday for Sen. Al Franken to resign, throwing the Minnesota senator's political future into jeopardy over a growing list of sexual harassment allegations against him.
In response, Franken's office said the senator would make an announcement Thursday. They did not elaborate; a spokesperson said Franken was with his family in Washington, and that Thursday's announcement would be issued in Washington, not Minnesota.
The initial wave of senators to call for Franken's resignation was comprised of all women, in a series of social media posts that appeared nearly simultaneously on Wednesday morning. They were soon joined by numerous male colleagues from the Senate's Democratic caucus. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez also added his voice to the chorus.
"I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn't acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York wrote on Facebook.
On Twitter, Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire said that Franken "has engaged in a pattern of egregious and unacceptable behavior toward women. He should resign." Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota explained in a tweet that "for decades as a country, we have been far too tolerant and dismissive of past allegations."
The social media postings appeared to be timed to come out at the same time. The call by most of the chamber's 16 Democratic female senators also puts pressure on Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Franken's fellow Minnesota Democrat, who so far has publicly supported him.
Shortly before noon Wednesday, Klobuchar's office issued this statement without further details: "Sen. Klobuchar personally spoke with Sen. Franken this morning. As has been reported, he will be making an announcement tomorrow morning."
Early Wednesday afternoon, according to the Boston Globe, an aide to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she told Franken that he should resign. Warren has yet to express her sentiments publicly.
Democrats abandoned Franken just as President Donald Trump and other prominent Republicans have embraced the Alabama U.S. Senate candidacy of Roy Moore despite allegations by multiple women that he sexually abused them.
In addition to Heitkamp, Gillibrand and Hassan, other women senators who said Franken should resign were Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris of California, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington state, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
Several men among the Senate's Democrats joined in urging Franken to step aside: Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. Durbin is the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate.
Another Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, said on Wednesday that he expects Franken to resign on Thursday.
If Franken does resign on Thursday, it would fall to DFL Gov. Mark Dayton to appoint a temporary replacement. The seat would then be on the ballot in next November's election -- joining an open governor's race and Klobuchar's re-election bid, which would make for the highest-stakes Minnesota election in a generation.
The latest accusation against Franken came from a former Democratic congressional aide who told a national politics news website that he tried to force a kiss on her after a recording of his radio show in 2006, three years before he took office.
Politico said Wednesday that it is choosing to not reveal the identity of the woman, who was in her mid-20s at the time and is now alleging that Franken pursued her after her boss had left the studio.
She said she was gathering her belongings to follow her boss out of the room, the Politico report continued, and she turned around to find Franken in her face. The former staffer ducked to avoid Franken's lips, according to Politico.
As she hastily left the room, she said the onetime "Saturday Night Live" cast member and writer told her: "It's my right as an entertainer."
In a statement sent Wednesday to the Star Tribune, Franken called this allegation "categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation."
The Democratic senator is among a growing list of politicians, entertainers and news media figures facing a wide range of allegations involving sexual misdeeds.
Numerous women have leveled accusations against Franken -- some anonymously. The first was Los Angeles radio host Leann Tweeden, who said Franken forced a kiss on her during a USO tour several years ago before he joined the Senate. A photo from that tour shows Franken with his hands hovering over her clothed breasts as he mugs for the camera.
Among his other accusers: Stephanie Kemplin told CNN that Franken had cupped her breast when she stood next to him for a photo in December 2003 during her military deployment in Kuwait.
Three other women allege Franken grabbed their buttocks while posing with them for photos during events in 2007, 2008 and 2010. In the encounter in 2010, after Franken was in the Senate, Lindsay Menz told CNN that Franken grabbed her buttocks at the Minnesota State Fair.
In this latest accusation, Politico says that two former colleagues corroborated the woman's version of events, including Franken telling her he had the right to try to kiss her because he was "an entertainer." The first said she was told of the incident soon afterward. The second said she was made aware of the encounter sometime in 2009 or 2010.
As the accusations against Franken have accumulated, the number of women on a list publicly supporting him has grown. Among the more than 100 women are former staffers in his Senate office, former colleagues from "Saturday Night Live," elected officials, nonprofit board members, community leaders and members of the DFL Party.
Star Tribune staff writers Jennifer Brooks and Maya Rao and The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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