Sexual misconduct claims force two in Congress to resign, another into ethics probe

In a head shaking series of events, a tide of sexual misconduct allegations continued to sweep across Capitol Hill on Thursday, as one Senate Democrat and one House Republican announced their resignations, while another House GOP lawmaker became the subject of an ethics review over a sexual harassment case that has already resulted in a taxpayer funded settlment.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) began the highly unusual day on Capitol Hill, taking the Senate floor just before lunch to announce his resignation ‘in coming weeks,’ but denying any wrongdoing.

Hours later, the House floor suddenly was in the spotlight, as Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) surprised colleagues by announcing he would resign effective at the end of January. (On Friday afternoon, Franks announced he would resign immediately, after his wife had been hospitalized on Thursday night.)

About the same time, the House Ethics Committee announced it had formed an investigative panel to review allegations of sexual harassment against Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who has already acknowledged having the taxpayers pay $84,000 to a former employee to settle a sexual harassment case.

All those developments came amid talk in the halls of the Capitol of possibly more stories emerging about lawmakers, mirroring the public rush of sexual misconduct allegations nationally.

“Every one of these claims, whether it’s in business, industry, or in Congress, has to be taken very seriously,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, hours before Ryan said he had asked Rep. Franks to resign.

The Speaker’s office put out this background on the Franks case:

“Last Wednesday, the speaker was briefed on credible claims of misconduct by Rep. Trent Franks. He found the allegations to be serious and requiring action,” read a statement put out by the Speaker’s office.

The Speaker’s statement was much different than the explanation put out by Franks, who said he had discussed the issue of having a child by a surrogate with two former female staffers.

“Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018,” Franks said in a statement.

Meanwhile, pressure increased on Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who admitted this week that he had used taxpayer dollars to pay an $84,000 sexual harassment settlement with a former employee on Capitol Hill.

On CNN Thursday evening, Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) said she thought Farenthold needed to move on.

“I think that he should voluntarily resign,” Love said, becoming the second GOP lawmaker to call for Farenthold to quit, along with Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA).

Farenthold is now facing a full investigation by the House Ethics Committee, which was announced at about the time that Rep. Franks announced his resignation.



Meanwhile, Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV), was resisting calls for his resignation, over claims of sexual misconduct during his 2016 run for Congress.

“We have a responsibility to uphold the dignity of the House of Representatives,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has publicly urged Kihuen to leave the Congress.

The resignation announcements by Franks and Franken came two days after Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) resigned from the House, also for sexual misconduct issues.

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