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Conyers steps down from key committee amid sexual harassment investigation

Posted at 2:34 PM, Nov 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-26 14:34:12-05

Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, has stepped down as ranking member of House Judiciary Committee amid a congressional investigation into sexual harassment and workplace abuse allegations by his former staffers.

“After careful consideration and 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 Sunday afternoon.

“I deny these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger,” the statement continued. “I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics.”

Conyers’ decision to step down comes after former staffers accused Conyers of a variety of workplace abuses, including sexual harassment. As a result of the allegations, Conyers faces a House Ethics Committee probe. He has “expressly and vehemently” denied any wrongdoing.

BuzzFeed News revealed earlier this month that one unidentified staffer received a $27,000 settlement from Congress for wrongful dismissal in 2015. According to the documents obtained by BuzzFeed through right-wing blogger Mike Cernovich, former aides allege that Conyers requested sexual favors, touched them inappropriately and asked them to transport other women with whom they believed the Michigan Democrat was having affairs.

The Washington Postnamed Maria Reddick, the congressman’s former scheduler, as the person who filed and later dropped a legal claim last February accusing Conyers of inappropriate sexual advances, which was included in BuzzFeed’s report. Conyers is also accused of verbally harassing Melanie Sloan, a former Capitol Hill staffer for his office, in the 1990s.

Following Conyers’ decision to step down from the committee, civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom announced that she is representing the woman who filed the complaint against him in 2014. In a statement, Bloom called on the congressman and the Office of Compliance to release her client from her confidentiality agreement.

“(R)egardless of confidentiality agreements victims may speak if they are lawfully subpoenaed,” the statement said. “I would be happy to accept service of a subpoena for my client’s testimony from the House Ethics Committee or any other appropriate body. She and I will fully cooperate with any investigation into this matter.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reacted to Conyers’s stepping down Sunday afternoon.

“Zero tolerance means consequences,” Pelosi said. “I have asked for an ethics investigation, and as that investigation continues, Congressman Conyers has agreed to step aside as Ranking Member.”

Conyers’ decision to step aside as ranking member of the committee came after Pelosi worked behind the scenes with Conyers and other Congressional Black Caucus members for days to lay the groundwork for him to step aside gracefully, a senior democratic aide familiar with the conversations told CNN.

New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the second most senior Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that the committee “must move forward.”

“I will do everything in my power to continue to press on the important issues facing our committee, including criminal justice reform, workplace equality, and holding the Trump Administration accountable. Ranking Member Conyers has a 50 year legacy of advancing the cause of justice, and my job moving forward is to continue that critical work,” the statement said.