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What's Next For Democrats After Franken And Conyers


Minnesota Senator Al Franken is set to make an announcement today. Our colleagues at Minnesota Public Radio cite a single anonymous Democrat who says that Franken is planning to resign. Now, the senator's own office says that's wrong. He's been talking to his family, hasn't made a final decision. That was what they were saying last night. What is undeniable, though, is that Democratic Party leaders are saying in ever-larger numbers that Franken must go after multiple women said that he touched them in inappropriate ways. Those who want Franken out include New York state's Kirsten Gillibrand.


KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: I think it would be better for the country for him to offer that clear message that he values women, that we value women and that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.

INSKEEP: NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro joins us now.

Domenico, good morning.


INSKEEP: What were the latest allegations that prompted this flood of extra calls to resign?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, Franken's been accused of forcibly kissing or trying to do so to at least a couple women. And then there've been this slew of others who've come forward to say that he was inappropriate with them during photographs, touching their bottoms or their breasts. And Franken denies some of these allegations, but not all. The latest person to come forward was a former Democratic aide.

She was unnamed in a Politico report but said that Franken, after her boss was on his radio program some years before he had become a senator, that he tried to kiss her and came up to her, and she didn't - you know, was - it was unwanted. And she tried to get out of there and did. And this wound up being too much for the rest of the Democratic senators. You have more than two dozen Democratic senators now who've come forward to say that they believe Franken should resign.

INSKEEP: So as you describe that, obviously, part of what happened to Franken is just an ever-lengthening number of accusers - more and more stories. It became harder and harder to defend. But has there also been a kind of evolution of the discussion among Democrats about how they want to approach this as an issue?

MONTANARO: Well, look, I mean, clearly, it was the sheer number of people that came forward. And yes, Democrats are trying to figure this out, as are a lot of people in the workplace is trying to figure this out. This also comes in the context of Tuesday's election in Alabama, where you have Roy Moore, the Republican, who's running for the Senate, who, you know, was accused of sexual assault with women when they were teenagers - and Democrats, in some ways, trying to take the moral high road here, trying to figure out how to do so, anyway.

And you had John Conyers, the Democrat from Michigan, who, under pressure, was forced to resign. He says it was because of health. But clearly, this was partially because of his - the allegations of sexual harassment and the settlement that was against him, as well.

You do have a lot of Democrats who are irritated though because they see a double standard because you have Republicans like Roy Moore who are still there, and you have a lot of Republicans rallying around him for Tuesday. And frankly, President Trump is still in the White House when more than a dozen women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct during the 2016 campaign.

INSKEEP: OK, I'm glad you brought up President Trump because I'm thinking about the Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez. He put out a statement saying that Franken should go, as other Democrats have said. And he went on to contrast that position with Republicans who, according to Perez, quote, "continue to champion a president who has a long and disturbing history of misconduct with women." Do Democrats want to revisit President Trump's record here?

MONTANARO: Well, certainly, Democrats would like there to be far more attention paid to President Trump and not feel like this excuse of the election litigated everything that President Trump did suddenly means that everything he did was OK and that there's a clean slate. Democrats would like, in this moment of lots of powerful men in lots of different places, to have President Trump be re-examined. And that's, frankly, not happening and mostly because you have Democrats and Republicans as dug in as they are.

INSKEEP: Domenico, thanks very much.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro.

(SOUNDBITE OF KIASMOS' "PAUSED) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.