Charges Of Sexual Impropriety Upends Congress

Dec 8, 2017
Originally published on December 8, 2017 4:57 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Following all this is NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis. And she's with us from Capitol Hill. Hey.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Kelly.

MCEVERS: So this has been a pretty remarkable week.

DAVIS: Yeah.

MCEVERS: I mean, three members of Congress announcing they'd resign in the wake of allegations over inappropriate sexual behavior. I mean, put this in perspective for us.

DAVIS: You know, I think Republicans and Democrats alike certainly at the top party leadership ranks recognize that what is happening in this moment is bigger than Congress. It's certainly bigger than any one lawmaker. And they're trying to find the right way to respond because they believe that if they don't respond to this moment in a way that is satisfying to the American people, there could be consequences.

MCEVERS: I mean, Democrats, as we mentioned, put pressure on Al Franken and John Conyers to resign, though that - those resignations did not happen overnight. At the same time, House Speaker Paul Ryan pretty much forced Arizona Congressman Trent Franks to resign last night. I mean, what do you make of how the two parties are handling these allegations?

DAVIS: They've both stumbled along the way. I think Democrats have found it increasingly easier to speak with one voice on this. I think Republicans have had a harder time because there's just a more striking divide between congressional leaders and President Trump. And I think that's been highlighted very well in the Alabama Senate race, in which the president is backing Roy Moore, as is the Republican National Committee. And congressional Republicans had hoped that the president would side with them on calling for him to get out. So that has muddied the message and made it harder for them in this battle of the parties to claim the moral high ground.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

I want to ask you more about the situation with Congressman Trent Franks. Today he changed the timing of his resignation, as we said, first saying it would be next month and then today saying it's effective immediately. He's a Republican from Arizona who talked to two of his female staffers about possibly being surrogates for he and his wife. He apologized for causing them distress. But do you know any more about exactly what happened?

DAVIS: Here's what we know for sure - that these were allegations that were brought to the speaker's general counsel, who spent two weeks investigating them and found them credible enough that he brought them to Speaker Ryan personally and that when the speaker was briefed on them, he felt that they were so credible and so severe that a week and a half ago or last Wednesday, he told Franks that he had to resign. It is clear that two female aides were felt pressured and uncomfortable. And it forced Franks' hand.

I think we should note that there are also two members of Congress facing additional allegations of sexual harassment. That's Texas Republican Blake Farenthold and Nevada Democrat Ruben Kihuen. Some of their colleagues have called on both of them to resign. So this resignation wave hitting Capitol Hill may not be over just yet.

MCEVERS: We'll see what happens. NPR's Susan Davis on Capitol Hill, thanks a lot.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.