WASHINGTON – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., declined to say Monday whether she opposes a comeback by former Sen. Al Franken, suggesting that the Minnesota Democrat should make that decision himself.
Gillibrand, who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, also defended her call for Franken to resign in 2017 amid allegations of sexual misconduct, saying she would make the same decision today.
She was the first of the nearly three dozen senators to demand his resignation. She was asked about Franken in a Washington Post interview that comes several weeks after the New Yorker magazine published a piece in which Franken said he "absolutely" regrets stepping down before he was able to take part in a Senate Ethics Committee hearing.
"We're a country that believes in second chances," Gillibrand said Monday. "We believe in someone who has humility, who comes forward to say they're sorry and they have paid consequences and want to re-emerge — that's always there for everyone. And that's a decision for someone to make themselves. It's not my decision. It's certainly not my responsibility. It's for someone else to make their own judgments and decisions. But there's always a path for redemption for anybody."
Gillibrand noted that Franken faced eight credible allegations, including two instances of alleged misconduct that took place after his election to the Senate in 2008. One of those allegations was made by a congressional staffer. Gillibrand said she recently spoke with the staffer and that she would "stand by her today" if she had to do it all over again.
"What you're not entitled to is the silence of your colleagues," Gillibrand said of Franken. She said it would be "absurd" to ask for members of Congress to stay silent on the alleged misconduct of one of their colleagues and noted that 34 other senators joined her in calling for Franken to resign, although "it may not seem like that today, because I seem to stand alone."