Michigan Rep. John Conyers Jr. announced Sunday he was stepping aside as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee while he’s being investigated by the Ethics panel.
“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,” the Michigan Democrat said in a nine-tweet thread on Twitter.
Conyers, the longest-serving current member of Congress, admitted last week to settling a sexual harassment claim with a former employee after initially denying it. Court documents revealed earlier this week showed a second former staffer also accused the congressman of persistent sexual harassment.
Conyers once again on Sunday denied allegations of sexual misconduct, saying many of them “were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger.”
“To be clear, I would like very much to remain as Ranking Member. There is still much work to be done on core concerns like securing civil rights, enacting meaningful criminal justice reform, and protecting access to the ballot box,” Conyers said.
“But I have come to believe that my presence as Ranking Member on the Committee would not serve these efforts while the Ethics Committee investigation is pending,” he said.
“I cannot in good conscience allow these charges to undermine my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus, and my friends on both sides of the aisle in the Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives,” Conyers added.
The congressman’s announcement came after an appearance by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday in which she defended Conyers and called him an “icon.”
“He has done a great deal to protect women,” the California Democrat said, citing the Violence Against Women Act.
“But the fact is, as John reviews his case, which he knows, which I don’t, I believe he will do the right thing,” Pelosi said.
Asked whether she believed Conyers’ accusers, Pelosi told NBC’s Chuck Todd: “I don’t know who they are. Do you? They have not really come forward. That’s for the Ethics Committee to review.”
Pelosi followed that appearance with a statement later on Sunday. “Zero tolerance means consequences,” she said. “I have asked for an ethics investigation, and as that investigation continues, Congressman Conyers has agreed to step aside as ranking member.”