John Conyers steps down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee after harassment allegations.

John Conyers Steps Down as Top Democrat on Judiciary Committee After Harassment Allegations

John Conyers Steps Down as Top Democrat on Judiciary Committee After Harassment Allegations

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Nov. 26 2017 1:06 PM

Conyers Resigns as Top Democrat on Judiciary Panel After Harassment Claims

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Representative John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 20, 2017.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Rep. John Conyers has decided to resign from his post as the leading Democrat on the Judiciary Committee after accusations that he sexually harassed aides. The 27-term congressman denied the claims but said that “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.”

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Conyers said that he looks forward “to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics.” The move marks a change for Conyers after his attorney said a few days ago that he would not resign while the investigation was ongoing. Now Conyers said he has come to recognize that the charges against him would “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’ resignation came shortly after House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi had the chance Sunday to set the Democrats apart, and show that unlike their colleagues from the other side of the aisle, they won’t stand for sexual harassers in their own ranks. Instead, she hemmed and hawed, and ultimately punted on the question of whether Rep. John Conyers should resign after multiple former members of his staff accused him of sexual harassment. It was all part of a very awkward interview on NBC’s Meet the Press in which Chuck Todd bluntly asked Pelosi: “In or out?” The Democratic leader’s response? “We are strengthened by due process.”

Pelosi made clear she doesn’t know what to think about the accusations against Conyers and suggested her benefit of the doubt had something to do with how the congressman is “an icon” who has done a lot for women throughout his career. “Just because someone is accused — and was it one accusation? Is it two?” Pelosi asked. She also expressed confidence that “as John Reviews his case … I believe he will do the right thing.” When asked whether she believes the allegations against him, Pelosi also refused to give a yes-or-no answer. “That’s for the ethics committee to review,” she said.

Pelosi refused to clearly condemn Conyers shortly after his office confirmed it issued a settlement of $27,000 to a former staffer who claims she was fired for not giving in to the congressman’s sexual advances. Conyers has said the payout was really a severance package and he denies the allegations. But other women have come forward to allege the congressman mistreated them.  

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.