Former Sen. Al Franken recently sat down with The New Yorker for one of his first major interviews since resigning from office in late 2017.
The piece, written by Jane Mayer, reviews the sexual misconduct allegations against Franken and offers a window into Franken’s post-office life.
“It was a sunny day, but the shades were mostly drawn,” Mayer writes of her trip to Franken’s Minneapolis home. “His wife, Franni Bryson, was stuck in their apartment in Washington, D.C., with a cold, and he had evidently done the best he could to be hospitable. But the place felt like the kind of man cave where someone hides out from the world, which is more or less what Franken has been doing since he resigned, in December 2017, amid accusations of sexual impropriety.”
Mayer interviewed a number of prominent Democratic senators for her article, all of whom said they regret their role in helping orchestrate Franken’s downfall.
“Seven current and former U.S. senators who demanded Franken’s resignation in 2017 told me that they’d been wrong to do so,” Mayer reports.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said his decision to pressure Franken into resigning was “one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made.”
“If there’s one decision I’ve made that I would take back, it’s the decision to call for his resignation. It was made in the heat of the moment, without concern for exactly what this was,” added former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) said the Senate Ethics Committee “should have been allowed to move forward” before Franken resigned.
“We needed more facts. That due process didn’t happen is not good for our democracy,” she continued.
“This was a rush to judgment that didn’t allow any of us to fully explore what this was about,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said in reflecting on the case. “I took the judgment of my peers rather than independently examining the circumstances. In my heart, I’ve not felt right about it.”
Former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said he’d “realized almost right way I’d made a mistake.”
“I felt terrible. I should have stood up for due process to render what it’s supposed to—the truth,” Nelson said.
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) agreed that it was a “mistake” to call for Franken’s resignation.
“I started having second thoughts shortly after he stepped down. He had the right to be heard by an independent investigative body. I’ve heard from people around my state, and around the country, saying that they think he got railroaded. It doesn’t seem fair. I’m a lawyer. I really believe in due process,” Udall told The New Yorker.
Even former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said “it’s terrible what happened” to Franken.
“It was unfair. It took the legs out from under him. He was a very fine senator,” said Reid.
Franken shares their regrets, telling Mayer that he “absolutely” regrets his decision to step down before the Senate Ethics Committee could proceed with a hearing.
His former Minnesota colleague, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) didn’t provide comment for The New Yorker article, but she said in March that there should’ve been more “due process” for Franken.
“We had long talks during that time period, including that day. And I always believed—maybe naively, given what happened—that it would go through the ethics committee. I still believe that was the right thing. For some of these things, there should be due process, and I felt like this was one of them,” Klobuchar told Rolling Stone.
Franken has said he’d like to return to public office, but hasn’t offered any specifics. Rumors have circulated that he could attempt to challenge Rep. Ilhan Omar in the Democratic primary for Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District.
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