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Al Franken just formally resigned from the Senate, effective 1 pm EST

U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) looks over his notes prior to hearing Alex M. Azar II testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on his nomination to be Secretary of Health and Human Services on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. A series of Senate Democratic women issued calls for Franken to resign Wednesday morning. (Ron Sachs/CNP/Zuma Press/TNS)
January 02, 2018

This is a breaking news story.

Al Franken has formally resigned from his Senate seat, effective 1 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday.

Franken had served as the Democratic senator from Minnesota since 2008.

“I write to resign my seat as a United States Senator for the State of Minnesota effective at 1 pm Eastern Standard Time on January 2, 2018,” Franken wrote in his resignation letter to Gov. Mark Dayton. “Serving the state of Minnesota in U.S. Senate has been a privilege and an honor. I am grateful to Minnesotans for giving me the chance to serve our state and our nation, and I am proud to have worked on their behalf.

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will replace Franken on Wednesday.

Last month, Franken had announced that he would be resigning in the coming weeks, this after he was met with a string of sexual assault allegations. Most recently, a U.S. Army veteran accused Franken of sexual misconduct, saying he groped her during a USO tour in 2003 while she was deployed in Kuwait.

Army veteran Stephanie Kemplin, now 41, had said Franken cupped her breast during a photo op. She was 27 at the time and a military police officer in the Army.

“When he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast. He kept his hand all the way over my breast,” Kemplin said during an interview. “I’ve never had a man put their arm around me and then cup my breast. So he was holding my breast on the side.”

“I remember clenching up and how you just feel yourself flushed,” she said. “And I remember thinking– is he going to move his hand? Was it an accident? Was he going to move his hand? He never moved his hand.”

Kemplin said she remembered being “embarrassed” when the incident occurred.

“It was long enough that he should have known if it was an accident. I’m very confident saying that,” she added, saying he kept his hand there for five to ten seconds before she moved so that his hand was off of her breast during the picture.

A spokesman for Franken had told CNN: “As Sen. Franken made clear this week, he takes thousands of photos and has met tens of thousands of people and he has never intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct. He remains fully committed to cooperating with the ethics investigation.”

Kemplin was the fifth woman in the past several weeks to accuse Franken of sexual misconduct.

Earlier this month, radio host and model Leeann Tweeden claimed that Franken kissed her and groped her while on a USO tour. Franken at that time claimed he didn’t remember the incident but “sincerely apologized” to Tweeden.

Tweeden said Franken forcibly kissed her and also groped her without her consent while she was on a USO tour to entertain troops in late 2006.

Tweeden said Franken “had written some skits for the show and brought props and costumes to go along with them. Like many USO shows before and since, the skits were full of sexual innuendo geared toward a young, male audience.”

Tweeden described how Franken insisted the two “rehearse” backstage on the day of the show, and Tweeden agreed because she wanted him to stop pressuring her.

“We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth,” Tweeden wrote. “I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.”

After the tour, Tweeden said she received a CD with photos from the trip – including one photo of her sleeping on a C-17 cargo plane while still wearing a flak vest and helmet. In the photo, Franken appears to be grabbing Tweeden’s breasts or placing his hands directly over her breasts while she sleeps.