“In light of the attention drawn by recent allegations made against me, I have notified the Democratic leader of my request to step aside as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee during the investigation of these matters,” Conyers said in a statement.
The 88-year-old Conyers, starting last week, was hit with several allegations of misconduct while in Congress that are now being investigated by the House Ethics Committee.
BuzzFeed, a trending news website, reported that Conyers’ office paid a woman more than $27,000 under a confidentiality agreement to settle a complaint in 2015 that she was fired from his staff because she rejected his sexual advances.
The ethics committee announced on Tuesday that it had begun an investigation into Conyers, after receiving allegations of sexual harassment and age discrimination involving staff members, and about the congressman using “official resources for impermissible personal purposes.”
Later in the week, Melanie Sloan, a lawyer who worked with Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee, said she was called into the long-serving congressman’s office to discuss an issue and found him “walking around in his underwear.”
“It is important to recognize that the mere making of an allegation does not mean it is true. I deny [all of] these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger” — Conyers, in his statement on Sunday.
The blogger to whom Conyers seems to be referring is President Trump supporter Mike Cernovich. He (Cernovich) is said to have solicited settlement details via a set of recent but now-deleted tweets, stating that he would pay $10,000 for details of the settlements. BuzzFeed received the settlement documents, which the news outlet says it independently verified.
Conyers says he wanted to remain the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee “but I have come to believe that my presence as ranking member… would not serve these efforts while the Ethics Committee investigation is pending. I cannot in good conscience allow these charges to undermine my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus.”
Following the allegations against Conyers, Nancy Pelosi would not say whether she would suspend Conyers or ask him to step down from the position, saying she believed Conyers would “do the right thing.”
She (Pelosi) said of the recent wave of sexual assault allegations emerging across the country, “Something very transformative is happening. Women are saying ‘zero tolerance. No more. And we’re going to speak out on it.’ And this is so wholesome, so refreshing, so different.”
When asked what she meant by “Zero Tolerance,” if she wouldn’t take direct action to suspend Conyers, she replied: “We are strengthened by due process. Just because someone is accused — was it one accusation, was it two?” she said, in response. “John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women. The Violence Against Women Act.”
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