Franken urged to reverse his resignation
At least four senators are urging Al Franken to reconsider resigning, including two who issued statements calling for the resignation two weeks ago and said they now feel remorse over what they feel was a rush to judgment.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who urged Franken not to step down to begin with — at least not before he went through an Ethics Committee investigation — said the Minnesota senator was railroaded by fellow Democrats.
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“What they did to Al was atrocious, the Democrats,” said West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast to post on Tuesday. Subscribe here.
Franken’s unusual timeline — in his departure announcement he said he’d go “in the coming weeks,” without setting a date — has fed the fleeting hopes that there’s still time to reverse course. However, Tina Smith, Minnesota’s Democratic lieutenant governor, was named last week as his appointed successor.
People familiar with Franken’s plans said he has not changed his mind and intends to formally resign in early January. He praised the selection of Smith and has begun working with her on the transition.
Manchin was among the few Democrats who did not call for Franken’s resignation. The West Virginia senator stressed that he believes it would be appropriate for Franken to step down if the allegations are proved true.
Manchin ripped into the members who issued statements insisting that Franken resign — only to gather on the Senate floor the next day to watch him announce he was doing just that.
“The most hypocritical thing I’ve ever seen done to a human being — and then have enough guts to sit on the floor, watch him give his speech and go over and hug him? That’s hypocrisy at the highest level I’ve ever seen in my life. Made me sick,” Manchin said.
He added, “Here’s a man, that all he said [was], ‘Take me through the Ethics Committee. I will live by whatever decision and I will walk away thinking about this opportunity I’ve had while I was here. But you find out if I’m a predator.’”
Manchin said he hopes Franken reverses his decision, but even more that the senators who led the charge against him reconsider and call for the two-term senator to stay until the ethics process is complete.
“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.’”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who issued a statement calling for Franken’s resignation, has since told him privately that he regrets doing so, according to two people familiar with the conversation. Leahy declined to comment.
“I think we acted prematurely, before we had all the facts,” said a third senator who has also called for the resignation, and has since expressed regret directly to Franken. “In retrospect, I think we acted too fast.” The senator asked not to be named because of the political sensitivity of the issue among Democrats.
Two of the senators who issued resignation calls told POLITICO they felt rushed to weigh in, as they were focused on hearings and other meetings and pressure on Franken mounted. In retrospect they said they signed off on statements without the appropriate care and thought.