Democratic senators call for Franken's resignation

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In this July 12, 2017 file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

More than a quarter of Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday called for fellow party member Al Franken, the Senator from Minnesota, to resign after new allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

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Franken, who had said he planned to remain in office, said on Twitter he would make an announcement on Thursday. He offered no further details.

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The calls from the 14 senators marked the first time that Franken's Democratic colleagues had publicly pressed for him to step down since the allegations began surfacing nearly three weeks ago. They were joined by the party's chairman, Tom Perez.

"I've struggled with this decision because he’s been a good senator and I consider him a friend," Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, one of nine female Democratic senators calling for Franken's resignation, wrote on Twitter. "But that cannot excuse his behavior and his mistreatment of women."

Franken is one of several prominent American men in politics, media and entertainment to be accused in recent months of sexual harassment and misconduct.

News website Politico reported on Wednesday that a congressional aide said Franken had tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006, before he was first elected as a senator. Franken denied the latest allegations, Politico said.

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Franken earlier apologized for his behavior and said he would cooperate with a U.S. Senate Ethics Committee investigation.

Reuters has not independently verified the claims against Franken.

Democrats are seeking the moral high ground in the wake of numerous sexual misconduct allegations against public figures, including Republican Senate candidate for Alabama Roy Moore and Democratic Representative John Conyers, who resigned on Tuesday. Both of those men have denied the allegations against them.

Several Republican lawmakers initially called on Moore to step out of the race, but have since said the decision is ultimately up to Alabama voters. President Donald Trump has endorsed the candidate. The election is next Tuesday, Dec. 12.

In addition to Senator Hirono, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Maggie Hassan, Claire McCaskill, Kamala Harris, Tammy Baldwin, Heidi Heitkamp, Debbie Stabenow and third-ranking Senate Democrat Patty Murray all called for Franken's resignation. That represents more than half of the 16 Democratic party women in the Senate.

They were joined by five male Democratic senators, Bob Casey, Joe Donnelly, Sherrod Brown, Ed Markey and Michael Bennet.

Gillibrand told reporters she decided to call for Franken's resignation after new allegations surfaced against him.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Additional reporting by David Alexander, Susan Cornwell and Maria Caspani; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Clive McKeef)

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