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- Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy told Business Insider that he regrets calling on Sen. Al Franken to resign earlier this month amid sexual misconduct allegations.
- Leahy said the Senate Ethics Committee should investigate Franken and make a recommendation about whether he should remain in office.
- “I have stood for due process throughout my years as a prosecutor and in chairing the Judiciary Committee. I regret not doing that this time,” he said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, told Business Insider on Monday that he regrets his decision to pressure Sen. Al Franken, a close Democratic colleague, to resign earlier this month amid sexual misconduct allegations.
Leahy said the decision to join nearly the entire Democratic caucus in pressuring Franken to resign violated his belief in due process for those accused of wrongdoing.
“I have stood for due process throughout my years as a prosecutor and in chairing the Judiciary Committee,” Leahy said in a statement to Business Insider. “I regret not doing that this time. The Ethics Committee should have been allowed to investigate and make its recommendation.”
On December 6, hours after the seventh woman came forward to accuse Franken of sexual misconduct, Leahy called Franken’s situation “untenable” and urged him to “step aside.”
“While the facts from case to case can differ, and while there are sound reasons for weighing evidence in such cases in a deliberate and carefully considered process, Senator Franken’s situation has become untenable,” Leahy said. “I am concerned that even a prompt Ethics Committee investigation and recommendations will not come soon enough. He has to step aside. I hope as a nation that we are beginning to come to terms with the systemic problem of sexual harassment and assault, but we still have a long way to go.”
Franken announced on December 7 that he would resign “in the coming weeks.” There are no indications that Franken will reverse his decision to leave office. People familiar with his thinking told Politico that he is planning to resign in early January and has begun working with his appointed successor, Minnesota’s Democratic lieutenant governor, Tina Smith.
Politico reported on Monday morning that Leahy privately told Franken that he regrets the move, but the Vermont lawmaker declined to comment on the record. His statement later on Monday was the first he’s made publicly about his change of heart.
This comes just hours after Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat, spoke out forcefully against calls for Franken to resign, calling his Democratic colleagues “hypocritical” and accusing them of playing politics.
“What they did to Al was atrocious, the Democrats,” Manchin told Politico of the majority of his caucus, calling their decision “the most hypocritical thing” he has “ever seen done to a human being.”
He went on, “And then have enough guts to sit on the floor, watch him give his speech and go over and hug him? That’s hypocrisy at the highest level I’ve ever seen in my life. Made me sick.”