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How Democratic women have led the calls for Franken’s resignation

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken came under growing pressure on Wednesday to step down. After a seventh woman accused Franken of sexual misconduct, more than 20 Democratic colleagues demanded he resign, including at least a dozen female senators. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to take a closer look.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And the other major story at the Capitol today, the mounting calls for Senator Al Franken to step down amidst more allegations of sexual misconduct.

    For that, we are joined by Lisa Desjardins.

    Lisa, welcome back.

    So, this story moved so fast today. We woke up this morning, heard there was another allegation, and through the day, one Democratic senator after another saying he should step down.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That’s right. It was remarkable.

    And this was led not just by any group of Democratic senators, but female Democratic senators. First, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York posted on her Facebook page a post that simply said, “I believe Senator Franken should step down.”

    After that, we saw other female senators, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and then a slew of them, well over a dozen of the 16 members, say this.

    And, Judy, this is a record number of women in the Senate right now, and we’re showing that they actually seem to be influencing those around them today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And ending — or, I should say, at some point in the afternoon the leadership of the party in the Senate…

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That’s right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … also called for him…

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That’s right. Senator Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democratic Party in the Senate, said it was time for Franken to go, and also the head of the DNC, Tom Perez.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Remind us again, Lisa, what exactly are these allegations against Senator Franken?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We let’s start with the newest one.

    The one that seemed to tip the balance today was one from a former congressional aide. She told a newspaper that she was at a radio show of Al Franken’s. She was leaving and that Al Franken kind of came up behind her and forcibly kissed her. She said she ducked out of the way.

    But that story was corroborated, the report said, by two people who knew her. And this is in keeping with other stories we have seen from women. We have now more than half-a-dozen, seven women who said that Al Franken either tried to or successfully forcibly kissed them or groped them, touching their behind or their breasts, sometimes in photo shoots, but in places as different on a USO tour or at the Minnesota State Fair.

    He has said, some of these, he acted inappropriately on. Others, like the allegation today, he said was patently untrue.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, and, as we know, there have been other allegations, but never — because we have now gotten to, what did you say, seven, it seems the dam has broken.

    You have been talking, Lisa, today with folks around the Capitol. Democrats have to be in a whole lot of anguish over this.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This is a moment of reckoning, and it’s a very difficult moment, I think for both parties, but especially Democrats right now.

    They are the ones that also saw, of course, Representative John Conyers in the House resign yesterday over similar allegations, which he has said are not true, but he’s now leaving office.

    So, today, talking to Democrats, Judy, I saw a real divide. There is one group, led by women, like Kirsten Gillibrand and others, some men as well, who say, this is time to draw a hard line and to say none of this behavior is remotely acceptable in public office.

    There are others who say there is a spectrum of behavior here, that there are different kinds of behaviors that are inappropriate, but they shouldn’t all get the same kind of punishment, which is being forced out of office.

    I think an example of that might be Republican Blake Farenthold. We learned last week that he is someone who actually did pay, used taxpayer money to pay a sexual harassment claim while he was in office, but yet there’s no pressure on him that we know of to resign. In fact, he spoke on the House floor today. He’s a Republican.

    And there’s questions about, are there different standards here? I think what to watch, Judy, is the question of Roy Moore will be interesting. Here is a man who said that he has done nothing wrong and voters will decide whether he should join the Senate.

    There’s a question of then whether senators who say they don’t believe him think he should keep that job or not, if he’s elected.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Two more quick things I want to ask you, but just quickly on this question, the political calculation for Democrats with Franken.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The Trump wave last year made Minnesota a purple state. Hillary Clinton won Minnesota, but barely, just by a point-and-a-half.

    Talking to Republican strategists today, they think a special election, should Franken resign, which would happen in 2018, could be a seat they could pick up. Who knows.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Entirely different story, but very important, the government runs out of money this Friday.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Oh, just that. Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

     Just two days from now. Just that.

    You have been doing a lot of reporting on that as well.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    OK, so, today, the House Republicans made a big decision.

    They said they are going to try and push a bill that would extend funding through December 22. And there are reports that the president says he would sign it. So, we will see. Hopefully, that passes tomorrow, and we get two more weeks of funding.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Two more weeks, and then we have no idea what happens after that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Then it gets even more complicated, yes.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, you have most fun job anywhere.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I think so.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you.

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