Sen. Al Franken ceded to pressure from his own party and announced his resignation Thursday amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
Franken said he will be stepping down “in the coming weeks,” a shameful exit for a rising star of the Democratic party who was floated as a 2020 presidential contender.
“Let me be clear, I may be resigning my seat but I am not giving up my voice,” the 66-year-old lawmaker added as he delivered a defiant address from the floor of the Senate.
Franken said that serving in the Senate “has been the great honor of my life” and that “I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a Senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution.”
Franken defended himself, saying some of the allegations made against him are “simply not true” and that he remembers others differently.
He also looked across the aisle as he addressed the current climate that led to his resignation — taking a parting shot at President Trump and Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore.
“I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” Franken said.
The stunning departure comes after a whirlwind of Democrats called on Franken to give his notice as at least eight women claim to have been assaulted or harassed by the one-time “Saturday Night Live” cast member.
On Wednesday, about two-thirds of the Democrats in the Senate — including almost all of the women in the Senate Democratic Caucus — called for Franken to step down.
About 18 of his colleagues and a handful of staff remained in the chamber, sitting stonefaced and somber throughout the address.
His family sat in the Senate gallery as he gave his speech, some wiping tears from their eyes.
Though the writing appeared to be on the wall in the days leading up to his announcement, Franken’s departure was not certain.
A tweet posted Wednesday evening on Franken’s Twitter account said: “Senator Franken is talking with his family at this time and plans to make an announcement in D.C. tomorrow. Any reports of a final decision are inaccurate.”
“This decision is not about me,” he said Thursday. “It is about the people of Minnesota.”
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is likely to tap Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to replace the two-term lawmaker, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Franken’s fall began last month when radio and sports broadcaster Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of sticking his tongue down her throat and later pretended to grope her in a picture while she was sleeping on a 20206 USO tour.
In the three weeks since Tweeden came forward, at least seven other women went public with claims that Franken either groped them or tried to kiss them without their consent in incidents dating to 2003.
Franken has repeatedly apologized for his behavior and welcomed an ethics committee investigation into his past.
The two-term senator said he was “shocked” and “upset” by the allegations and added that he believes he may have erred in responding to the claims, giving people the “false impression” that he was admitting fault.
His resignation comes two days after civil rights icon Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) became the first Capitol Hill casualty of the recent cascade of sexual misconduct allegations.
Franken, a writer and actor on “SNL” for two stretches over the course of two decades, was elected to the Senate in 2008.
He lost the backing of his party on Wednesday as an eighth woman cames forward to tell Politico that Franken groped her while posing for a photo at a party to celebrate Barack Obama’s first inauguration as President.
Political experts believe the push for his ouster was motivated in part by the Senate campaign of Moore, who also faces sexual misconduct allegations dating back decades.
Multiple women have accused the 70-year-old of sexual misconduct with them when they were teens and he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s.
If Moore is elected, it could create a political nightmare for Republicans, who have promised an ethics probe.
By calling on Franken to step down, Democrats appear to be attempting to paint themselves as the party of moral high ground amid the growing wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations against powerful men in politics, media and other industries.
Prior to the scandal, the 66-year-old Franken was seen as a potential presidential contender for 2020 and served as a star fund-raiser for his party, raking in millions for candidates.
The married father of two thanked his family in his resignation speech, saying that it has been “a tough few weeks for me but I am a very lucky man. I have a beautiful family that loves me very much. I’m going to be just fine.”