Speed Reads

franken files

What happens if Al Franken faces a Senate ethics investigation?

In his second statement after being accused of forcing an unwanted kiss on a fellow USO performer, Leeann Tweeden, during a 2006 tour, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said he was "asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate." Tweeden also produced a photo of Franken posing with his hands over her breasts while she was asleep. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had already referred his case to the Senate Ethics Committee, with support from top Senate Democrats.

The chairman of the ethics committee, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), declined to comment on whether Franken would face investigation. Since the incidents happened before Franken was elected, a Senate Ethics Committee investigation would be unusual, but "there are no specific limitations on what the panel can probe," The Washington Post reports. "Senate Republicans have made that point repeatedly this week in trying to force Moore out of the Alabama contest, warning that he will face likely expulsion from the Senate if he wins the Dec. 12 race." Clearly, these are not usual times.

Past ethics committee investigations have led to the resignation of senators accused of sexual impropriety — Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) in 1995, and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) in 2011, for example. But along with giving senators time to see if other women come forward to accuse Franken of misconduct, an ethics investigation would help the Senate, at least, draw a line today.

"If the Franken case does go before the committee and makes it to a vote, it will reveal what each senator on the committee ... thinks the standard is, or should be, for sexual misconduct on Capitol Hill at a time when tensions over this issue are high," says Shannon Vavra at Axios. As for Tweeden, she suggested Thursday she's said her piece, accepted Franken's apology, and has no opinion on his future in the Senate. "That's not my place," she said. Peter Weber