Doubts remain about Franken resignation pledge

Transition plans for one of Minnesota's U.S. Senate seats are moving ahead despite talk in Washington that Democrat Al Franken could yet change his mind about resigning, in part because he has yet to give a date or a letter providing for his formal exit.

A story in Politico says four senators contend Franken was pressured to leave too hastily and he should consider rescinding his planned resignation. Franken has announced he would resign in the face of multiple allegations of sexual impropriety, some of which he denied.

Franken's office didn't immediately provide a comment about the report, but aides have said in the past week that the senator expects to depart in early January.

A top Franken aide told MPR News Monday afternoon the senator has not changed his plans to resign.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who didn't join the stampede of calls for Franken's resignation, told Politico that his colleague got a raw deal.

“What they did to Al was atrocious, the Democrats,” Manchin said. Politico said there were a couple of senators who urged Franken's resignation who now regret doing so, but none were quoted by name. Later in the day Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy told the Burlington Free Press he was too hasty in telling Franken to resign and should have waited for the results of an Ethics Committee investigation.

It mirrors an intense campaign on social media to get Franken to reconsider, fed by celebrities like Tom Arnold, Bette Midler and Rosie O’Donnell. Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson drew national attention for a blog post in which he advocated for Franken to hang on until the Senate Ethics Committee could review the allegations, many of which were about behavior prior to Franken entering office in 2009.

Some Franken foes have worried that the open-ended timetable for Franken would provide him an out later.

Franken's office has said he will make way early next month for Tina Smith, the lieutenant governor whom DFL Gov. Mark Dayton picked as an interim replacement.

Dayton said last week he had no reason to believe Franken will change course despite not having anything in writing from his fellow Democrat.

“I know Senator Franken is a man of his word. I know he gave this some very intense thought," Dayton said. "I fully expect that he will follow through and resign in early January and this will be a smooth transition."

Smith is in Washington this week for meetings and to search for housing.

She intends to run for the seat in a 2018 special election. The winner of that November race will serve the remaining two years of Franken's term.

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