Political News

Al Franken continues working while departure date unclear

Posted December 14, 2017 11:24 a.m. EST

— Even though he announced he would resign within "the coming weeks" amid accusations he groped women, Sen. Al Franken is still reporting for duty to Capitol Hill with no departure date set.

Gov. Mark Dayton, a Minnesota Democrat, said Wednesday that Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith was appointed to a one-year term in the Senate, which will conclude in January 2019. Smith, thought to be a leading contender to replace Franken, accepted the appointment.

But since his resignation last Thursday, the Minnesota senator has cast five Senate votes, attended at least one committee hearing as of Thursday and gave a floor speech on net neutrality Wednesday afternoon.

And while his replacement has been set, the senator's office has said he does not yet have a departure date -- and is still finalizing his plans.

His office told CNN his resignation date was still being "finalized" on Wednesday. And when pressed by CNN four times about his resignation on Thursday, Franken declined to answer questions on why he hadn't set his date.

An aide to Franken said that the senator is tying up loose ends and working on a smooth and speedy transition, and while no date is certain for his official resignation, they expect his replacement to be in place in early January.

He acknowledged he's unlikely to run for president in 2020. And he also said he is still attending Democratic lunches and doing so has not been awkward.

A former senior Senate Democratic leadership aide told CNN Thursday Franken staying put is "unusual" and "odd" -- likely driven by Franken himself.

"I am chalking this up to him being stubborn enough to want to go out under his own set of rules," the aide said.

A Democratic leadership aide told CNN Franken is just winding down his office and helping his staff arrange for new jobs.

Franken announced last week he'd decided to resign from office over allegations that he touched women inappropriately. In his speech, he did not apologize and called out President Donald Trump, who was repeatedly accused of sexual assault during his presidential campaign, and then-Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who faced accusations that he pursued relationships with teenagers and an accusation that he committed sexual assault while he was in his 30s.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Franken called Smith an excellent choice for the seat, saying that he looks forward to working with her on ensuring "a speedy and seamless transition."

"She is a dedicated public servant who's worked tirelessly on behalf of Minnesotans, and Governor Dayton couldn't have made a better choice for this job," Franken said. "Her record of accomplishment as lieutenant governor demonstrates that she'll be an effective senator who knows how to work across party lines to get things done for Minnesota."

According to Senate rules, Smith could start voting as soon as Friday -- if she were to come to Washington, present her credentials to the secretary of the Senate and take the oath of office. The vice president usually does the swearing-in of a senator, but a surrogate could be designated should Mike Pence not be available. She's then able to start voting right away.

After his replacement was named Wednesday, Franken told CNN's Manu Raju he doesn't know when he'd resign.

"We don't know what the timing is yet. We don't have an exact (date)," he said.