Meet the faces of the Trump 'resistance': Candidates spurred to action by president's divisiveness

DigitalVision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Democrats are seizing on big wins this November as a sign of hope for the future of their party. While it is true the big winners were overwhelmingly Democrats, the elections may have also introduced the country to a new brand of politician.

They’re fueled by their rejection of Trumpism and inspired by their own ideas of what makes America great. Many have never run for office, or even ever considered themselves “political,” but they say they felt called to serve at this moment in history.

They come from diverse backgrounds and have overcome adversity. One is a refugee who fled the civil war in Liberia in the 1990s. He didn’t meet his daughter in America until her second birthday while he waited out the lengthy refugee vetting process. Another candidate, a turban-wearing member of the Sikh community, says his daughter experienced racism for the first time as campaign flyers accused him of “terrorism.” A New Jersey woman, a political novice, decided to stand up and run against a Republican incumbent after he mocked women participating in the Women’s March.

All three emerged from election night with new authority and a perceived mandate for change. They spoke with ABC’s Rick Klein and Mary Alice Parks for ABC’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast.

The refugee that won over Montana voters

On election night this November, Wilmot Collins became the mayor-elect of a majority-white community in Helena, Montana.

“I looked at my wife -- both of us are refugees -- and we hugged,” Collins told “Powerhouse Politics.” “It was an emotional moment.”

The people of Helena chose Collins in spite of attacks on his immigrant status.

“I was reading the papers almost every day and people were talking about, ‘We can’t have an illegal immigrant running for mayor.’ They didn’t understand,” he said.

Collins went through a lengthy refugee vetting process that took him two years and seven months in order to join his wife and daughter in the United States. He says “the only thing they didn’t do is [cut] me open and look inside of me. ... We’re already doing extreme vetting. The process works.”

Collins has a message for President Donald Trump on immigration: “If I have the chance, I will tell him, ‘I think you got it wrong.’ I would try to explain to him why I think the process he’s using is not in the best interest of the country, rather to a few who don’t want to see this country move forward.”

Collins, who will be the first black mayor of Helena, also advocated earlier this year for a Confederate fountain to be removed after the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I don’t want this community to be the breeding ground for white nationalists and white supremacists,” said Collins.

However, he says easing racial tension is not at the top of his political agenda. Working in human services, he’d observed increases in homelessness among teenagers and veterans, as well as short-staffed fire departments.

“Those are the issues that resonated with my community,” said Collins.

Standing up for the Women's March

Ashley Bennett ran and won against a New Jersey county official who mocked women participating in the Women’s March, sharing a sexist meme that read: “Will the women’s protest end in time for them to cook dinner?”

Bennett, a first-time candidate who works full-time as a crisis evaluator for a hospital, says she was first inspired to get active in politics after Hillary Clinton lost the race for the White House in the 2016 election.

“I just knew that Hillary was going to win -- so much so that I went to sleep,” she said.

Bennett said she woke up at 2:30 a.m. to a red map and a new reality.

“I was so shocked, so confused, and that was the catalyst to really get engaged, to understand that all politics is local,” Bennett told “Powerhouse Politics.”

The sexist meme about the Women’s March shared by Atlantic County Freeholder John Carman further ignited that fire.

“The fact that women have worked so hard to be respected ... to just be mocked and belittled like that was just so disheartening,” Bennett said.

“So I wrote him a letter asking with all of the things that were happening in Atlantic County -- high rates of foreclosure, four casinos that are closed, people that are out of work, high rates of poverty, the opioid epidemic,” Bennett continued, “how do you have time to be on social media?”

After getting no response, Bennett attended the next meeting of the county governing board, called the freeholders board. Freeholders serve on a nine-person board and are responsible for legislation in the county. Bennett says Carman responded to her complaint, saying the women he surrounds himself with are strong and were not offended by the meme. That response, combined with presidential election results that left her feeling “isolated and disconnected,” cemented her decision to run.

Now, Bennett says she has a message for women and young people: “If you feel passionate about something and you see that something is not right, stand up and speak out. ... I was the youngest person running for a county seat, in my county, at 32. No political experience, never even had thought about running for political office or being in politics at all.”

She’s heartened by the stories of similar candidates across New Jersey and Virginia.

“What we are seeing is a push back towards divisive rhetoric,” says Bennett. “We are based on respect, inclusion and a sense of community and diversity. ... I am just one small piece of the puzzle.”

The first Sikh mayor in the Garden State

Ravi Bhalla faced ugly opposition during his campaign for Hoboken, New Jersey mayor. Leaflets featuring his photograph alongside a warning about terrorism were passed out in the community. He said it was his 10-year-old daughter’s first experience with racism.

But Bhalla says the incident is not a reflection of the Hoboken community, and the fact that he won there is evidence.

“When I grew up in the public schools, I was the victim of bullying. Kids would tease me because of the color of my skin and the way I looked as a Sikh American,” Bhalla told “Powerhouse Politics.” “Now my son is the coolest kid in the class all of a sudden. That’s kind of neat for me ... [and] hopefully for my son and my daughter and children and minorities across the country.”

Bhalla says he is “honored and humbled” to represent this community, as well as to participate in a larger movement rejecting the current political climate.

“It might not be a statement against Trump as much as it is a statement for America and for our values,” he said.

But Bhalla does have a different idea than the president about what the country represents.

“My father came to this country as an immigrant. We’re a nation of immigrants. He came here with nothing, but he believed in this country if you work hard, believe in your dreams, there is no conflict between being a Sikh and being an American.”

He says he’s prepared to stop Trump if his actions compromise the rights of the people of Hoboken.

“It’s becoming more incumbent on states, as well as cities, to really be that last line of defense to stand up for what our values are and protect our citizens.”

Civility in the resistance wave?

The three politicians featured on “Powerhouse Politics” all expressed a civility that many pundits bemoan as absent in today’s politics, whether talking about their opponents or about Trump.

Despite his strong feelings about Trump’s rhetoric and plans to slash the number of refugees admitted to the U.S., Helena’s mayor-elect says he would welcome the president if he ever wanted to visit.

“He is also my commander-in-chief. I have seven months to retire from the U.S. military, so I would welcome the commander-in-chief and the president of this country into my city and ask, ‘What can I do?’” said Collins.

Hoboken Mayor-elect Bhalla also stresses finding common ground over divisiveness.

“I would extend a hand of friendship. President Trump is an American just like I am,” he says. “We’re part of the same country. We’re part of the same world. I would want to work with him on issues of common concern and common interests.”

As for that candidate sharing jokes about a woman’s role in the kitchen, Bennett says she would sit down for coffee or dinner with the county official she ran against.

“I don’t hate him in any way, because I don’t know him well enough to do so. What I have found is an incredible sense of tone-deafness. Certainly it’s a shame that that exists, and I hope there is some change,” Bennett told the “Powerhouse Politics” podcast. “At the end of the day, he served our country as a veteran and he served our community for 20 years. And that has to have some place of value, and it has a place of value to me.”

To hear their stories, listen to the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or on ABC Radio.

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Celebrities lash out at Trump administration over reversing ban on elephant trophies

moodboard/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration's move to reverse a ban on elephant trophies has elicited strong reactions all over social media, including a number of celebrities invested in preservation.
The government is likely to overturn a ban on hunters bringing trophies of elephants they killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia back to the U.S., reversing an Obama administration rule put in place in 2014, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official confirmed to ABC News.

Elephants are officially an endangered species, but the governments of those countries can allow hunting if there is evidence it benefits conservation of the species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official said the Trump administration has new evidence that has emerged to support reversing the ban.

Elephant populations have declined 6 percent in Zimbabwe since 2001, according to the Great Elephant Census study published last year.

Similar questions about using game hunting to generate money for conservation efforts arose after the controversial killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe in 2015.

Ellen DeGeneres dedicated a portion of her show to speaking out against the move by the administration, starting a #BeKindtoElephants hashtag.

"Basically by lifting this ban, he is encouraging Americans to kill elephants," Degeneres said. "Elephants show compassion, sympathy, social intelligence, self-awareness, they're excellent at learning abilities -- all the things I have yet to see in this president."

Chelsea Clinton commented on a link to a Humane Society condemnation of the move, calling the lifting of the ban "infuriating."

British comedian Ricky Gervais, who has previously tackled animal rights issues such as the Yulin Dog Festival, also condemned the Trump administration move. Oscar winner Russell Crowe echoed Gervais, saying "Dear people with no soul, stop shooting elephants."

Actress Olivia Munn, actor Henry Winkler, actress Kristin Davis, actress and singer Daniella Monet, actor Carl Reiner and actor John Cusack were just a handful of the many celebrities weighing in on Twitter over the past two days.

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Senators say Kushner didn't turn over emails about Wikileaks, Russia overture

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, failed to disclose campaign emails regarding Russian overtures to the Trump campaign and Wikileaks to congressional investigators, top senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee said Thursday.

In a letter circulated to media outlets, chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Kushner failed to provide the committee with all the documents requested as part of their investigation into Russian election interference.

"We appreciate your voluntary cooperation with the committee’s investigation, but the production appears to have been incomplete," they wrote in a letter to Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell.

On Thursday, Grassley and Feinstein referenced “several documents that are known to exist” that Kushner did not previously turn over to the committee.

Those documents, they said, include an email to Kushner about Wikileaks that he forwarded to another campaign official, another regarding a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” Kushner also forwarded, and “communications” with Belorussian-American businessman Sergei Millian.

Millian, a naturalized American citizen who led a Russian-American business group, is reported to be the source of some of the allegations in an uncorroborated intelligence dossier about Trump and Russians. He was in Moscow in 2013 at the time the dossier claimed Trump was involved with Russian prostitutes. Millian has said he was not the source.

Keith Schiller, Trump’s former head of security who accompanied him to Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant, recently told House investigators he turned down an offer to provide Trump with women in Moscow, and that he thought the offer was a joke.

Grassley and Feinstein also asked Kushner to turn over phone records and documents related to Kushner’s security clearance and President Trump.

“You also raised concerns that certain documents might implicate the President’s Executive Privilege and declined to produce those documents,” they wrote. “We ask that you work with White House counsel to resolve any questions of privilege so that you can produce the documents that have been requested.”

Lowell, Kushner's attorney, tells ABC News, "Mr. Kushner and we have been responsive to all requests. We provided the Judiciary Committee with all relevant documents that had to do with Mr. Kushner's calls, contacts or meetings with Russians during the campaign and transition, which was the request.”

“We also informed the committee we will be open to responding to any additional requests and that we will continue to work with White House Counsel for any responsive documents from after the inauguration. We have been in a dialogue with the committee and will continue to do so as part of Mr. Kushner's voluntary cooperation with relevant bi-partisan inquiries.

The warning to Kushner’s team comes amid new developments regarding the Trump campaign and Russia.

Earlier this week, Donald Trump Jr. admitted to communicating with Wikileaks over Twitter’s direct messaging system. During the election the group released emails from Democrats that U.S. intelligence officials believe were hacked in an effort orchestrated by the Russian government.

And on Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned once again about his knowledge of campaign contacts with Russia. He initially said he was not aware of such contacts, a claim that was scrutinized after unsealed court documents and congressional testimony indicated that he was aware of campaign aides’ contacts with Russians.

Kushner, who is of interest to investigators because of his proximity to Trump and his role in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with campaign officials and a Russian lawyer, was questioned by House and Senate Intelligence Committee investigators last summer.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which also seeks an interview with Kushner, asked him to turn over documents by Nov. 27.

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Interior secretary has not been keeping proper travel records: Watchdog

US Department of Interior(WASHINGTON) -- The office of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke was warned Wednesday that an investigation into Zinke's official travel was delayed by "absent, or incomplete documentation," the latest snag in the months-long controversy over Trump administration officials' travel.

The Interior Department's inspector general issued the management advisory to Zinke's office, explaining that paperwork for the secretary's travel was insufficient and that the department's ethics office had not included sufficient documentation in its trip reviewing process. Such warnings are given when the department needs to be made aware of a deficiency immediately, so it may begin working to correct it, according to a spokesperson.

The advisory further notes that the inspector general has been unable to determine the number of trips by which Zinke was accompanied by his wife, Lolita Zinke, due to the incomplete records. It does state that, aside from the documentation issue, the department has cooperated with the probe.

Scrutiny of Cabinet members' travel reached its apex earlier in the fall after a number of officials found themselves in the midst of inquiries over their use of private and military aircraft in lieu of commercial flights. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price resigned in late September, expressing regret that the issue of his more than 25 chartered and military flights "created a distraction."

The investigation into Ryan Zinke's travel began after he chartered three flights since March totaling $12,375. A spokesperson for the secretary has said that commercial options weren't viable in each instance. Other officials whose travel is under audit include Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The Interior Department's inspector general's office is asking Ryan Zinke's office to provide complete documentation by Dec. 11 as well as develop better procedures to process travel documents in the future.

Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt blamed his and Ryan Zinke's predecessors at the department in his response to the inspector general's letter, writing: "When I arrived at the department … it was clear to me that the secretary and I inherited an organizational and operational mess from the previous administration."

Bernhardt added that they are following the same procedures used under former Secretary Sally Jewell and that they "remain dysfunctional." He pledged that the department will work to provide documents for travel in 2017 and will start documenting travel for Lolita Zinke.

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Bipartisan group in Senate aims to strengthen background check system for guns

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of the recent mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Thursday meant to strengthen the existing background check system for firearms.

The Fix NICS Act, which refers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, would set up incentives and penalties for state and federal agencies to boost their compliance with existing requirements that they report criminal history records to the system, helping ensure it stays up to date.

“Just one record that’s not properly reported can lead to tragedy, as the country saw last week in Sutherland Springs, Texas," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a statement on Thursday. "This bill aims to help fix what’s become a nationwide, systemic problem so we can better prevent criminals and domestic abusers from obtaining firearms.”

Devin P. Kelley, the man who has been identified by federal and state law enforcement officials as the shooter who killed 26 people, including an unborn child, in Texas on Nov. 5, was court-martialed while in the Air Force on charges of assault on his wife and child in 2012. But his convictions were not reported to the background check service used for gun buyers, and he was able to purchase the weapon that was used in the Nov. 5 shooting.

Outspoken gun control advocate Sen. Chris Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats from Connecticut, helped Cornyn craft the bill in a rare instance of bipartisanship on the issue. It is also being backed by Republican Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Dean Heller of Nevada, as well as Democrats Dianne Feinstein of California and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

“Mass murderers in Sutherland Springs, Charleston, and Blacksburg were legally prohibited from accessing firearms, but gaps in NICS allowed each of them to walk out of a gun store with the weapons used to commit their crimes," Blumenthal said.

The announcement of the bill comes one day after another bipartisan group of senators — made up of Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Shaheen — sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to ask how the Department of Defense classifies and reports cases of domestic violence, specifically referring to Kelley and the Texas church shooting.

"The recent tragedy in Texas has raised serious questions about cooperation between the military justice system and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in preventing statutorily barred persons from purchasing firearms," the letter read. "As you know, the military failed to send pertinent information relating to Devin P. Kelley’s domestic violence related convictions to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) at the FBI."

The Fix NICS Act would punish federal agencies that fail to upload relevant records to the background check system by prohibiting bonuses for political appointees, and would incentivize state agencies to comply by offering federal grants.

It would also allot funding for a Domestic Abuse and Violence Prevention Initiative "to ensure that states have adequate resources and incentives to share all relevant information with NICS showing that a felon or domestic abuser is excluded from purchasing firearms under current law," according to a statement announcing the bill.

Murphy, who advocates more sweeping gun control legislation than the Fix NICS bill, said that it is a step in the right direction.

“It’s no secret that I believe much more needs to be done. But this bill will make sure that thousands of dangerous people are prevented from buying guns," Murphy said, adding that the bill "provides the foundation for more compromise in the future.”

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Roy Moore: 'I'll quit standing when they lay me in that box and put me in the ground'

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- Embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore denied allegations of sexual misconduct again Thursday at a press conference in Birmingham alongside faith leaders and his wife, Kayla.

Moore said that the accusations against him are "an effort by Mitch McConnell and his cronies to steal this election from the people of Alabama."

McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, and a score of top Republicans have called on Moore to leave the race.

Moore called the allegations, first reported by the Washington Post, false.

"They're not only untrue, but they have no evidence to support them," he said.

During the press conference, Moore was surrounded by more than a dozen faith and political leaders — including former Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes — who all offered impassioned defenses.

Moore left no doubt about whether he will drop out of the race for the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"I'll quit standing when they lay me in that box and put me in the ground," Moore said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during Thursday's press briefing that the decision on whether or not Moore should be a U.S. senator should be left to the people of Alabama.

"The president said in his statement earlier this week that if the allegations are true, then Roy Moore should step aside. He still believes that," Sanders said.

The Alabama Republican Party also released a statement of support for Moore.

"The ALGOP Steering Committee supports Judge Roy Moore as our nominee and trusts the voters as they make the ultimate decision in this crucial race," the party said in a statement.

The special election between Moore and his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, is scheduled to be held on December 12.

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Capitol Hill reacts to the Al Franken allegations

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Reaction from both parties continues to pour in after a female radio host claimed that Al Franken, now Minnesota’s junior Democratic senator, groped her while she was sleeping aboard a military plane on her way home from a USO tour several years ago.

The host, Leeann Tweeden also claimed he forcibly kissed her when they were performing together for troops overseas.

Franken has since apologized for the incident, writing in a statement Thursday, “While I don't remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for an ethics investigation into the allegations against Franken, a move that also garnered support from his Democratic counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

"As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter. I hope the Democratic Leader will join me on this. Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable-in the workplace or anywhere else,” McConnell said in a statement on Thursday.

“Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated,” Schumer said, “I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.”

Franken also called for an ethics investigation, adding "I will gladly cooperate."

Other Democratic senators have since weighed in on the allegations, supporting an ethics investigation into Franken’s alleged actions.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) have both called on either sitting Democratic senators or various Democratic candidates for the U.S. House to return campaign contributions they have received from Franken.

“These allegations are disgusting and Democrats who took Senator Franken’s campaign money need to take action,” said NRCC Communications Director Matt Gorman.

The NRSC sent out emails targeting various Democratic senators that are up for re-election in 2018, including Senators Joe Manchin, D-W.V. and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.

“After today’s shocking revelations regarding Senator Al Franken’s behavior towards women, Tammy Baldwin must denounce her Democrat colleague and return campaign donations she has received from him,” NRSC communications director Katie Martin wrote in an e-mail.

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House Republicans pass long-awaited tax reform bill

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --  House Republicans successfully passed their wide-ranging tax plan Thursday, moving the party one step closer to reshaping the tax code by year’s end.

The proposal, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, would add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years, while decreasing the number of tax brackets and deductions, and slashing the corporate tax rate to 20 percent -- if it eventually becomes law.

House GOP leaders expected roughly a dozen Republicans to vote against the bill. At least nine Republicans from high-tax states such as New York and New Jersey came out against the measure ahead of the vote over concerns about the elimination of state and local tax deductions.

The final tally included 13 Republicans voting in opposition. The bill passed 227-205.

Complicating the bill's ultimate success are attempts to align it with the Senate's version of the plan. Though not yet set for a vote, the Senate bill faces its own concerns from a few GOP senators, and on Wednesday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., became the first Republican in that chamber to express his outright opposition.

Two additional party members would sink that bill, given unanimous Democratic and independent opposition.

President Donald Trump visited the Capitol Thursday morning to speak with the House Republican Conference ahead of the vote.

Ina statement, the White House praised the vote, calling it "a big step toward fulfilling our promise to deliver historic tax cuts for the American people by the end of the year."

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Federal judge declares mistrial in Menendez's corruption case

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images(NEWARK, N.J.) -- A federal judge in New Jersey on Thursday declared a mistrial in the corruption case of Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., after the jury indicated it was deadlocked on all counts.

"We have each tried to look at this case from different viewpoints, but still feel strongly in our positions, nor are we willing to move away from our strong convictions," jurors told U.S. District Judge William Walls when he polled them in his chambers.

The judge had earlier indicated he would not seek a partial verdict.

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse in Newark, Menendez held back tears as he thanked his family, his defense teams and his congressional colleagues for their support.

"The way this case started was wrong. The way it was investigated was wrong. The way it was prosecuted was wrong. And the way it was tried was wrong as well," the senator said. "Certain elements of the FBI and of our state cannot understand or even worse, accept that the Latino kid from union city and Hudson County can grow up to be a United States senator and be honest."

When asked for comment on the mistrial decision this afternoon, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice told ABC News, "The Department of Justice appreciates the jury’s service in this lengthy trial. The Department will carefully consider next steps in this important matter and report to the Court at the appropriate time.

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Franken asks for ethics investigation after sexual misconduct accusation

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Al Franken gave a lengthy apology and asked for an ethics investigation after a female radio host claimed he forcibly kissed her when they were performing together for troops overseas and that he made a lewd gesture while she was sleeping.

Radio news anchor Leeann Tweeden wrote on ABC station KABC's website Thursday morning that in 2006 -- when Franken was a comedian and not yet Minnesota's junior Democratic senator -- he insisted on kissing her as part of a rehearsal for an act. He later groped her while she was asleep on a military plane on her way home from a USO tour, she also claimed.

Franken said in a statement on Thursday, "I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn't matter. There's no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn't funny."

As for Tweeden's claims that he insisted on kissing her, he said, "While I don't remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences."

Franken said, “I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate."

Here is Franken's full statement released on Thursday:

“The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There's more I want to say, but the first and most important thing -- and if it's the only thing you care to hear, that's fine -- is: I'm sorry.

“I respect women. I don't respect men who don't. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.

“But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us -- including and especially men who respect women -- have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.

“For instance, that picture. I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn't matter. There's no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn't funny. It's completely inappropriate. It's obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what's more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it -- women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.

“Coming from the world of comedy, I've told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren't the point at all. It's the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I'm sorry it's taken me so long to come to terms with that.

“While I don't remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.

“I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.

“And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”

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