Rep. John Conyers retires amid sex harass claims, endorses son

Powerful Rep. John Conyers retires amid sex harass claims, endorses son

Democrat Representative John Conyers on Tuesday announced his immediate retirement and endorsed his son John Conyers III to take his seat in Congress.

“I am retiring today,” Conyers, D-Mich., said in a local radio interview. “I want everyone to know how much I appreciate people’s support.”

The 88-year-old Rep. Conyers made his decision two weeks after sexual harassment accusations first surfaced and after returning last week to his Detroit-area district to discuss his political future with family and advisers.

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The most recent allegations, which surfaced Monday, described how Conyers more than a decade ago supposedly slid his hand up a woman’s skirt and rubbed her thighs while they sat next to each other in church. The latest complaint comes amid mounting claims and after Conyers was hospitalized.

Conyers made his announcement Tuesday on Praise 102.7’s “The Mildred Gaddis Show.”

Rep. Conyers has vehemently denied the allegations against him.

A few days after the first allegations surfaced on Nov. 20, Conyers stepped down as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. But fellow party members had increasingly called for him to step aside.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said unequivocally last week that Conyers should resign, amid increasing accusations and backlash for her calling him an “icon” on women’s issues and suggesting an ethics investigation must come before any decisions are made.

“Congressman Conyers should resign,” she said Thursday. “He has served our Congress and shaped consequential legislation (but) zero tolerance means consequences for everyone — no matter the great legacy.”

Still, he has some Capitol Hill support, including from the Congressional Black Caucus, which Conyers helped found.

The group says the accusations are serious but had not called for his resignation.

The news website BuzzFeed on Nov. 20 reported the first allegation: 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 Washington staff because she rejected his sexual advances.

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The House Ethics Committee announced the following day 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 congressman’s office to discuss an issue and found him “walking around in his underwear.”

Sloan worked on the committee in the 1990s, but it was not clear when the alleged incident occurred. She also claims Conyers often screamed at her, fired and re-hired her, criticized her for not wearing stockings and once even ordered her to baby-sit one of his children.

The allegation made public Monday was from Elise Grubbs, a cousin of another accuser, Marion Brown.

Brown reached a confidential settlement with Conyers over sexual harassment allegations, but broke the confidentiality agreement to speak publicly last week.

Grubbs says, in an affidavit made public, that she worked for Conyers in various roles from about 2001 to about 2013.

She also said that she saw Conyers touching and stroking the legs and buttocks of Brown and other female staffers on “multiple occasions.”

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Conyers is among several D.C. lawmakers — including Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken and Texas GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold — facing problems amid the recent wave of sexual-misconduct allegations hitting Capitol Hill.

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