John Conyers steps aside from Judiciary post amid sex harassment inquiry

John Conyers steps aside from Judiciary post amid sex harassment inquiry

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Longtime Representative John Conyers Jr. will step aside as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee amid accusations of sexual misconduct.

Representative John Conyers Jr., the House’s longest-serving lawmaker, is stepping aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee amid an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed former aides.

“After careful consideration and in light of the attention drawn by recent allegations made against me,” Conyers said Sunday, he is stepping aside on the Judiciary panel “during the investigation of these matters.”

The announcement came five days after the revelation that the Michigan Democrat had settled a complaint in 2015 by a former employee who had said she was fired because she rejected his sexual advances. The House Ethics Committee has opened an investigation into the matter.

WASHINGTON — Representative John Conyers Jr., the House’s longest-serving lawmaker, is stepping aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee amid an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed former aides.

“After careful consideration and in light of the attention drawn by recent allegations made against me,” Conyers said Sunday, he is stepping aside on the Judiciary panel “during the investigation of these matters.”

The announcement came five days after the revelation that the Michigan Democrat had settled a complaint in 2015 by a former employee who had said she was fired because she rejected his sexual advances. The House Ethics Committee has opened an investigation into the matter.

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

The news of the settlement was first reported by BuzzFeed News, which said it received documents about the case from Mike Cernovich, a right-wing online commentator. BuzzFeed has reported that a second woman has also accused Conyers of sexual harassment.

Conyers said he would “like very much to remain as ranking member,” but had “come to believe that my presence as ranking member on the committee would not serve these efforts while the Ethics Committee investigation is pending.”

His lawyer, Arnold E. Reed, said Sunday that Conyers had taken several days to decide to step aside from his committee post because he did not want to make an “off the cuff” move.

Conyers spoke with several family members and deliberated during the Thanksgiving holiday before determining that the allegations had become too much of a distraction, the lawyer said.

“He wanted time to think about this and reach a conclusion that he was comfortable with. And it was the right thing to do in his mind,” Reed said.

“He is maintaining that he did not do anything wrong. He is maintaining his innocence,’’ Reed said. “This is a temporary stepping aside his position as ranking member so this can be a completely transparent and unfettered investigation.”

On Wednesday, Reed had said Conyers, 88, believed that some of those suggesting that he step down, including fellow Democrats, had been scheming for years to push him out of his Judiciary post.

Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, suggested in a statement that she supported Conyers’s decision. Earlier, in an interview on “Meet the Press,” Pelosi said she expected that Conyers would “do the right thing,” though she was not specific.

“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.”

The House is expected this week to pass a resolution mandating that all members and their staffs participate in anti-harassment and antidiscrimination training.

Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, who holds the recently created position of vice ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, praised Conyers for making a “wise decision.”

Raskin is a cosponsor of legislation put forth by Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, to overhaul the way sexual harassment is handled on Capitol Hill, and to put an end to the practice of paying secret settlements out of the federal Treasury.

In a separate development Sunday, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota said he feels ‘‘embarrassed and ashamed’’ amid allegations that he groped several women, but said he looks forward to returning to work on Monday and gradually regaining voters’ trust.

The Democrat spoke to a handful of Minnesota media outlets in the first interviews he has granted since four women accused him of sexual misconduct.

Three women allege Franken grabbed their buttocks while taking photos with them during campaign events. Franken told the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Sunday that he doesn’t remember the photos, but such groping is ‘‘not something I would intentionally do.’’

Asked whether he expected other women to step forward with similar allegations, Franken said: ‘‘If you had asked me two weeks ago, ‘Would any woman say I had treated her with disrespect?’ I would have said no. So this has just caught me by surprise.’’

The first woman to come forward was Los Angeles radio news anchor Leeann Tweeden. She released a photo this month showing the then-comedian grinning while reaching out as if to grope her as she slept on a military aircraft during a USO tour in 2006.

 Source:-.bostonglobe