WASHINGTON -- Al Franken announced Thursday he will resign his Senate seat, falling to a whirlwind of sexual misconduct allegations like those that have enmeshed other politicians, business leaders and media figures across the country in recent months.
The Minnesota Democrat, a second-term senator once seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2020 or beyond, earlier had said he would not leave office but would submit to a Senate ethics investigation into his behavior. He had acknowledged some misconduct, but denied other allegations.
His fate appeared sealed, however, on Wednesday, when more than half of Senate Democrats issued calls for his resignation in an uprising led by female senators. The choreographed move came as yet another woman came forward to accuse Franken of unwanted advances before he was elected to the Senate, and Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer of New York privately met with Franken to tell him the time had come to quit.
Franken's announcement marked the second departure this week of a once-heralded Democrat caught in unsavory accusations. On Tuesday, the senior member of the House, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, quit after multiple complaints by aides that he had sexually harassed them.
The departure marks the end of the legislative career that began when Franken squeaked into office on an exceptionally narrow win, was reelected more easily and had emerged as a well-regarded member of the party's growing liberal wing.
Franken's resignation will not change the balance of power in the Senate, where Republicans hold the majority with 52 seats. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a fellow Democrat, will appoint a replacement to serve until a special election can be held in November 2018. The winner of that election will hold the seat until what would have been the end of Franken's second term, in January 2021.
Franken had recent star turns on Capitol Hill: It was his questioning of then-Sen. Jeff Sessions at Sessions' nomination hearing in early 2017 to become attorney general that spurred the Alabamian to assert that neither he nor others on the Trump campaign had any conversations with Russian officials during the campaign. That has been shown to be false. Sessions and Franken had another televised go-around at a hearing last month that centered on Russia's involvement in the election.
A politician with an unusual entree into politics -- an occasionally raunchy comedy career that included his years on "Saturday Night Live" -- Franken's fall was as swift as his rise.
The first claim against him came from Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden, who on Nov. 16 accused him of aggressively kissing and groping her during a 2006 USO tour of the Mideast in which the two worked as performers. She also made public a picture taken of Franken with his hands outstretched near her breasts while she slept on a military plane as the performers returned from overseas, as if mocking the act of groping her.
Franken issued two statements apologizing to Tweeden and expressing disappointment with his own actions.