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October 14th, 2019

Insight

Why Sen. Al Franken could be in a lot more trouble now

Amber Phillips

By Amber Phillips The Washington Post

Published Nov. 21, 2017

Why Sen. Al Franken could be in a lot more trouble now

Is Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., a serial groper?

That's the question inevitably raised now that a second woman is saying Franken grabbed her inappropriately, this time when he was taking a photo with her in 2010 at the Minnesota State Fair.

He "pulled me in really close, like awkward close, and as my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear," Lindsay Menz told CNN's MJ Lee, who broke the story Monday. "It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek."

Menz is the second woman in less than a week to go on the record that Franken touched her inappropriately. On Thursday, Los Angeles radio host Leann Tweeden accused Franken of forcibly kissing her while overseas in 2006, then grabbing her breasts while she slept on the flight home. She offered photographic proof of the latter accusation.

In this post-Harvey Weinstein era, one allegation (and photo) of sexual misconduct was enough for most Senate Democrats to say the Senate Ethics Committee should investigate Franken, which could result in him being censured or even kicked out of the Senate. Franken himself eventually said he welcomed the ethics investigation.

But they didn't ask for him to resign. That could change with Menz's allegation. Here are a few reasons it is even more damning for Franken right now:

1. This second allegation raises questions of whether this is a pattern of behavior for Franken: It's possible that Franken could have successfully navigated the Tweeden allegations with his political career intact. He said he didn't remember the kiss backstage on a USO tour the way she did, and he said he was joking when he grabbed her breasts for a photo. At the time, he was a comedian. A tasteless joke, but a joke. He eventually apologized, and Tweeden accepted it.

These Menz allegations get a lot harder for Franken to navigate that way. He wasn't on a USO tour acting up to cheer up the troops. He was meeting his constituents at a Minnesota State Fair. And if he did indeed grab a woman's buttocks whom he didn't know on one of the most routine events for a politician to attend, how many times did it happen?

2. Menz alleges this happened while Franken was a sitting U.S. senator: Franken got elected two years after Tweeden says he forcibly kissed and groped her.

Franken had been elected a senator for two years when Menz said he grabbed her butt for a photo.

That's a huge difference, both in terms of perception and punishment. Up until now, most of the allegations of sexual misconduct levied against politicians in this post-Weinstein era have been brought up from their past, not when they were sitting members of Congress.

The Senate has the right to kick out one of its own for any reason it wants, but that hasn't happened since the Civil War. The Senate Ethics Committee has hesitated to punish senators for misconduct that allegedly happened before they were elected to the Senate. It may be more inclined to get tough on Franken given this allegedly happened while he was in the Senate.

3. Franken didn't deny it: He issued a non-denial denial to CNN's Lee:

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

In addition, Menz's husband, who was the one who took the picture, confirms his wife told him immediately after the picture that Franken grabbed her inappropriately. According to CNN's Lee, Menz also accused Franken on social media right after the incident of "TOTALLY molested me!"

4. Franken himself has said that accusers should get the benefit of the doubt.

"Sexual harassment and violence are unacceptable. We all must do our part to listen, stand with, and support survivors," he tweeted in October.

If we are to take Franken at his word then, Menz's allegations become a lot more credible.

Previously:
11/06/17 Russia tried to corrupt the 2016 election - could it do the same Tuesday?
09/18/17 With their party's future on the line in the states, Dems can't agree on a playbook
09/13/17 Are Dems going to regret celebrating their debt limit deal with Trump?
08/16/17 Why is the FBI so interested in Paul Manafort that they were literally at his door before dawn?
06/05/17 James Comey is jumping into the fire by testifying to Congress about Trump. What's in it for him?
05/18/17 About to quit Congress, Chaffetz suddenly becomes face of its Trump investigation
05/17/17 President Trump's defenders on Capitol Hill are wavering
05/10/17 Senate Republicans hold the key to what happens next with Trump and Russia. Here's an early rundown of where GOP senators stand
03/27/17 Trump's First 100 Days: What's next for Trump and Congress
03/27/17 Congressman resigns from Freedom Caucus after health-care drama
03/22/17 4 takeaways from Neil Gorsuch's highly politicized confirmation hearing
03/08/17 The three GOP factions that could doom Republicans' Obamacare replacement bill
02/01/17 DEM-olition: How party's antics may leave them losers, again
01/16/17 10 times Donald Trump's Cabinet picks directly disputed him
01/05/17 Senate Dems want to block Trump's Supreme Court pick. That may be riskier than they think
12/23/16 7 hugely important races for governor that GOPers must guard to cement their almost complete control of America
11/28/16 Why down-ballot Dems could be in the minority for years to come
11/21/16 10 things to know about Sen. Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump's pick for attorney general
11/09/16 Democrats are now basically extinct in the South
11/07/16 GOP appears poised to hang on to a near-record-high
09/29/16 In the 9th inning, Congress ends Obama's perfect veto game
09/27/16 Dems are still not favored to take back the House
09/09/16 A shortlist of economic issues in which a lib wouldn't feel guilty voting for Trump
07/28/16 Terry McAuliffe's TPP gaffe reinforces several narratives Hillary's been trying to dismiss
06/15/16 3 things Congress could do in response to the massacre in Orlando (And none involve guns)
06/14/16 Marco Rubio sure sounds like he might be prepared to run for reelection, after all
06/10/16 History suggests Donald Trump's big, beautiful border wall may not be so outlandish
05/26/16 What Bernie Sanders' new endorsements say about his future plans
05/11/16 Ted Cruz built a brand on being the most hated man in Washington. Now what?
04/20/16 Has Trump finally realized he can't just bulldoze his way to the White House?
03/28/16 Do House Dems have a shot at the majority this year?
03/14/16 Undersold: Trump would honor Obama's foreign deals (but make them better, of course)
02/22/16 The GOP's Supreme Court strategy is dicey. But its potential payoff is massive
02/11/16 Who is John Kasich? Five things you should know --- including how to pronounce 'Kasich'
12/21/15 Words of caution to temper Ryan's optimism

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