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Liberals turn on Franken

The left is starting to turn against Sen. Al Franken after a second woman accused him of sexual misconduct, with some liberal groups calling on the Democrat to resign.

Franken was already facing calls from both parties for a Senate ethics investigation after he was accused of forcibly kissing radio anchor Leeann Tweeden in 2006. But a fresh accusation Monday that Franken groped a woman named Lindsay Manz while they posed for a picture at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010 — the first involving his alleged conduct as a senator — triggered demands from some liberals for the second-term senator to step down.

“We believe Lindsay Menz. We believe Leeann Tweeden,” tweeted Indivisible, the progressive advocacy group that’s gained prominence challenging President Donald Trump this year. “Senator @alfranken should be held accountable and he should resign.”

Democratic senators, who quickly coalesced around calls for an ethics probe, stayed mostly silent on Monday. Aides to numerous Senate Democrats in leadership, as well as female Democratic senators, did not respond to requests for comment on CNN’s story about Franken’s latest accuser.

One exception was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who said through a spokeswoman Monday that an Ethics Committee investigation is the “appropriate step and needs to happen immediately.”

Several progressive organizations that had condemned Franken’s misconduct last week did not return requests for comment on Monday about whether he should resign. Yet the reaction from other corners of the left indicated that the cloud over Franken’s political career would not lift anytime soon.

“Time for Al Franken to go,” tweeted liberal commentator Sally Kohn. “Wrong is wrong. And the Democrats need to show they strongly AND CONSISTENTLY stand for women’s rights.”

Dan Muroff, who is running for the Democratic nomination for a House seat in Pennsylvania, said Monday that Franken’s “pattern of behavior toward women has rendered his voice for progressive values meaningless.” And CREDO Mobile, a cellphone company that maintains a liberal activism arm, on Monday similarly called for Franken’s resignation.

“CREDO is committed to standing with women who speak out, holding perpetrators accountable and working to change the systemic and institutionalized misogyny that lets these behaviors continue without consequence,” the company said in a statement. “We believe that Sen. Franken should immediately resign from the U.S. Senate and that Gov. Mark Dayton should appoint a progressive woman to replace him.”

However, some liberal groups declined to abandon Franken over the allegations. A spokeswoman for the Women’s March, which drew millions of demonstrators into the streets in January, cited the group’s statement Thursday that Franken “should be held accountable for his actions.”

Franken apologized Tweeden last week after her accusations went public, and subsequently said he supported an ethics committee investigation of his actions. Tweeden’s story prompted Menz, 33, to contact CNN and allege that Franken grabbed her buttocks while the two posed for a picture taken by her husband seven years ago.

Franken did not directly dispute the new allegation in a statement to CNN. Franken’s aides did not return repeated requests for comment from POLITICO on Monday, including for a response to calls for his resignation.

“I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don’t remember taking this picture,” Franken told CNN. “I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected.”

He has not made other comments on the issue, and a spokesperson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that the senator would not resign.

“He is spending time with his family in Washington, D.C. and will be through the Thanksgiving holiday, and he’s doing a lot of reflecting,” the spokesperson said.

But questions are growing about whether Franken — a prolific fundraiser and occasional presence on 2020 presidential lists — can hang on. The accusations against him have handed Republicans ammunition in the midst of the Alabama Senate race, which has been dominated by sexual assault allegations against GOP candidate Roy Moore.

“Are US senators going to call for a vote to remove Al Franken from the US Senate?” tweeted Corey Lewandowski, the former campaign manager to President Donald Trump who last year faced charges of misdemeanor battery against journalist Michelle Fields.

But others rose to Franken’s defense, including a group of former female staffers for the Minnesota senator.

“Many of us spent years working for Senator Franken in Minnesota and Washington. In our time working for the Senator, he treated us with the utmost respect,” the women said. “He valued our work and our opinions and was a champion for women both in the legislation he supported and in promoting women to leadership roles in our offices.”

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