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Senator Al Franken quits amid sexual misconduct allegations

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Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced Thursday he will resign from Congress in the coming weeks following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations and the collapse of support from his Democratic colleagues, a swift political fall for a once-rising Democratic star.

“I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice,” Franken said in the otherwise-hushed Senate chamber.

Franken quit just a day after new allegations brought the number of women alleging misconduct by him to at least eight. On Wednesday, one woman said he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006, an accusation he vehemently denied. Hours later, another woman said Franken inappropriately squeezed “a handful of flesh” on her waist while posing for a photo with her in 2009.

“I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution,” Franken declared Thursday.

Franken is the latest to fall in the national wave of sexual harassment allegations that have brought down powerful men in Hollywood, the media and state capitals across the nation. His announcement followed Tuesday’s resignation of Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House.

Franken, the former comedian who made his name on “Saturday Night Live,” had originally sought to weather the allegations, disputing many of the specifics but apologizing to his accusers publicly. He had promised he would cooperate with an ethics investigation and work to regain the trust of Minnesotans.

“Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” Franken said Thursday. “Others I remember quite differently.” Still, he said he could not both cooperate with an investigation and fully carry out his duties to his constituents.

Franken, 66, had gained respect as a serious lawmaker in recent years and had even been mentioned in talk about the 2020 presidential race.

Franken pointedly noted that he was being forced out while President Donald Trump — who has been accused of worse offenses and bragged on a leaked “Access Hollywood” videotape of grabbing women by their genitalia — emerged unscathed. Trump has also endorsed Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct with them when they were teens and he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s.

“I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” Franken said.

His resignation means Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a fellow Democrat, will name a temporary replacement. The winner of a special election in November 2018 would serve through the end of Franken’s term in January 2021. Among the possibilities is Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a trusted Dayton ally.

Dayton said after Franken’s remarks that he hasn’t yet decided on an appointment to fill the seat but expects to announce his decision in the next couple of days.

In a Senate chamber with a heavy atmosphere, several Democratic women, including some who had called for Franken’s resignation, sat somberly for Franken’s 11-minute speech and embraced him afterward. But they had lost patience with the growing tally of allegations and paved the path for Franken’s exit.

“Enough is enough,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York declared on Wednesday. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable, and we, as elected leaders, should absolutely be held to a higher standard.” A torrent of Democrats quickly followed Gillibrand.

“I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behavior,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington State. “It’s clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time. It’s time for him to step aside.”

Franken has acknowledged and apologized for some inappropriate behavior, but he strongly denied the new accusation that came from a former Democratic congressional aide, who said he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006.

The woman, who was not identified, told Politico that she ducked to avoid his lips but Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”

Franken said the idea he would claim such conduct as a right was “preposterous.”

The allegations against Franken began Nov. 16 when Leeann Tweeden, now a Los Angeles radio anchor, accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour in Afghanistan.

Other allegations followed, including a woman who says Franken put his hand on her buttocks as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Two women told the Huffington Post that Franken squeezed their buttocks at political events during his first campaign for the Senate in 2008. A fourth woman, an Army veteran, alleged Franken cupped her breast during a photo on a USO tour in 2003.

A special election for Franken’s seat in 2018 would seem to favor Democrats. The party nationally is banking on favorable winds since midterm elections are often difficult for the party that holds the White House, and Minnesota Republicans have struggled in recent years to recruit top-tier candidates for statewide office.

Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by just 1.5 points in Democratic-leaning Minnesota, preserving a four-decade run for the party in presidential elections.

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LAPD opens internal affairs inquiry in Nipsey Hussle murder

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Los Angeles police have opened an internal affairs investigation into why the woman who drove the getaway car in the aftermath of rapper Nipsey Hussle’s killing was sent home when she tried to turn herself in during the manhunt for the shooter.

The LAPD’s Office of the Inspector General confirmed Monday that the Internal Affairs Group is investigating a desk officer’s response at the 77th Street station. Capt. Gisselle Espinoza, an LAPD spokeswoman, said the matter is under administrative investigation and she couldn’t release more details.

FILE - This April 4, 2019 file photo shows Eric Holder, the suspect in the killing of rapper Nipsey Hussle in Los Angeles County Superior Court with his attorney Christopher Darden. Holder is charged with murder and two counts of attempted murder in connection with the attack outside Hussle's The Marathon clothing store. Court documents show that Hussle and Holder had a conversation about “snitching” shortly before Hussle was shot. (Patrick T. Fallon/Pool via AP)© Provided by The Associated Press FILE – This April 4, 2019 file photo shows Eric Holder, the suspect in the killing of rapper Nipsey Hussle in Los Angeles County Superior Court with his attorney Christopher Darden. Holder is charged with murder and two counts of attempted murder in connection with the attack outside Hussle’s The Marathon clothing store. Court documents show that Hussle and Holder had a conversation about “snitching” shortly before Hussle was shot. (Patrick T. Fallon/Pool via AP)

Grand jury testimony shows the woman who drove the suspect, Eric R. Holder, away from the March 31 shooting had gone to the station because her car and license plate were on the news.

“Oh my God,” the woman, whose name has not been released, testified that she told her mother. “My car is on here and everything, and I didn’t do anything. I didn’t know this boy was gonna do this.”

Her mother called police but was told detectives wouldn’t be available until 6 a.m. the next day, grand jury transcripts show.

When they arrived at the station the next morning, the front desk officer said “don’t worry about it” and “don’t listen to the news,” the transcript shows. The woman left the station, returning later to speak to detectives after her mother called police again.

LAPD Detective Cedric Washington testified that the woman had been turned away.

“That is true according to the desk officer that I spoke to about it,” Washington said.

“OK. He apparently missed a briefing in the chief’s press conference that day, I guess,” Deputy District Attorney John McKinney said.

Josh Rubenstein, an LAPD spokesman, said Monday in an email that the internal investigation began a few days ago.

“While the initial indications pointed to a miscommunication, we have initiated an administrative investigation to ensure all policies and procedures were followed,” Rubenstein wrote. “We will review all statements that have already been given, interview all of the individuals involved, and look for any potential body cam video that may have captured the interchange.”

Rubenstein told the Los Angeles Times last week there didn’t appear to be any misconduct.

“She was not making herself clear of what she was doing,” Rubenstein said, noting that the officer believed the woman was reporting that someone was just recording video of her car on television.

A grand jury on May 9 returned an indictment charging Holder, 29, with murder, attempted murder and other felonies. He has pleaded not guilty.

The woman testified that Holder was a friend she had known for about a month and that she believed the two were just stopping at a shopping center for food.

She saw Hussle standing outside his South Los Angeles clothing store, The Marathon, expressed her excitement and took a picture with him after overhearing Holder and Hussle’s conversation about “snitching.”

The woman and Holder had pulled out of the shopping center and into a nearby gas station when Holder loaded a gun, told her he would be back and walked back to the shopping center, the woman testified.

She said she heard two gunshots, and Holder returned moments later telling her to drive. She said she didn’t learn Hussle had been shot until later that night.

Witnesses heard Holder and Hussle, both of whom have ties to the Rollin’ 60s street gang, discussing “snitching” minutes before Hussle was shot, according to the transcripts.

Holder was arrested two days later about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the crime scene.

Hussle, 33, whose real name is Ermias Ashgedom, was a long-respected rapper who had just broken through with a Grammy-nominated album before he was shot and killed.

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Beth Chapman not expected to recover

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Beth Chapman is not expected to recover and leave the hospital, and the family is preparing for the worst … family sources say.

We’ve learned Beth’s mother has flown from the mainland to Hawaii to be by her daughter’s side. Her children and grandchildren — many of whom live in Hawaii — are also gathering at Beth’s bedside.

As we reported, Beth has been waging a difficult war against stage 4 lung cancer. She was hospitalized Saturday after experiencing difficulty breathing as well as choking. She was placed in a medically-induced coma.

 

Family sources say there’s not a lot that can be done for Beth and at this point, and the family is making medical decisions with the help of her doctors.

Dog posted a pic of Beth’s hand as she lay in her hospital bed with freshly painted nails, with the caption, “You all know how she is about HER NAILS!!” 

 

She had been diagnosed with cancer back in 2017 and suffered a recurrence last November. Beth said last month on Mother’s Day, “Chemotherapy is not my bag, people. Sorry, that’s not for me. So for me, this is the ultimate test of faith. This is my ultimate lesson.”

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Former State Senator Reportedly Found Shot to Death at Her Home

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A former Arkansas state senator was reportedly found dead at her home this week, and authorities are investigating her death as a homicide.

The body of a woman was discovered Tuesday night at Linda Collins-Smith’s residence in the city of Pocahontas, some 145 miles northeast of the state capital, Little Rock. The Randolph County Sheriff’s Office said its deputies responded to the scene and then asked the Arkansas State Police to be the lead investigative agency in what is currently being treated as a homicide investigation.

“The condition of the body prevented any immediate positive identification,” Randolph County Sheriff Kevin Bell said at a press conference Wednesday. “The body has been sent for an autopsy to determine the positive identification and cause of death.

Authorities wouldn’t say if Collins-Smith is the victim, and a judge has issued a gag order sealing the documents and statements obtained by police.

“Arkansas State Police has not, as of this hour, issued a statement that positively identifies a homicide victim in this case,” Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler told ABC News in an email early Thursday morning.

However, Collins-Smith’s former press secretary, Ken Yang, told Little Rock ABC affiliate KATV that she was found shot to death inside her home and her body was wrapped in some sort of blanket. Neighbors apparently reported hearing gunshots a day or two before her body was discovered.

Collins-Smith, who ran for reelection last year but was defeated in the Republican Party primary, was “someone who truly cared about Arkansas, truly cared about her district,” according to Yang. She was 57.

“It was shocking,” he said during an interview Tuesday night. “This was not just a political relationship. This was a close personal friendship that I had with Linda.”

Politicians on both sides of the aisle expressed shock and sadness at the news of the death of their Republican colleague.

“I’m both stunned and saddened by the death of former State Senator Linda Collins-Smith,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. “She was a good person who served in the public arena with passion and conviction. The First Lady and I extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends during this difficult time.”

“Today, we learned of the untimely death of former Senator Linda Collins Smith. She was a passionate voice for her people and a close member of our Republican family,” the Republican Party of Arkansas said in a statement on Tuesday evening. “We are praying for her loved ones during this difficult time.”

“To so many of us, Senator Linda Collins-Smith was more than just a colleague,” the Democratic Party of Arkansas said in a statement via Twitter on Tuesday night. “She was a friend and warm person. We are stunned and saddened to hear of her death. Please join us in prayer as we remember her family and her loved ones.”

Collins-Smith lost to James Sturch in the Republican Party primary for the 19th district in Arkansas in May 2018 by fewer than 600 votes. She previously served one term in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013, switching parties after being elected as a Democrat.

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