From the announcement:
The committee is aware of public allegations that Representative John Conyers Jr. may have engaged in sexual harassment of members of his staff, discriminated against certain staff on the basis of age, and used official resources for impermissible personal purposes. The committee, pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a), has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding these allegations.
On Monday (November 20), BuzzFeed News reported that Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives and the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on the Judiciary, sexually harassed staffers and used more than $27,000 in official funds to settle a claim with a woman who said she was fired for rejecting his advances.
From BuzzFeed News:
Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sex acts, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.
Conyers confirmed he made the settlement in a statement Tuesday afternoon, hours after this story was published, but said that he “vehemently denied” the claims of sexual harassment at the time and continues to do so.
The cited documents were provided by Mike Cernovich, who has been called a “mastermind of the ‘alt-right’” White nationalist movement, and is credited with creating the Pizzagate conspiracy, which unsuccessfully attempted to link Hillary Clinton with a fake group of pedophiles.
The editorial board of the Detroit Free Press called for Conyers’ resignation yesterday, writing:
John Conyers Jr. has a long and complicated legacy in southeast Michigan and the U.S. Congress.
He has been an undisputed hero of the civil rights movement, a legislator of uncommon influence and power, and an aging icon whose felonious wife and sometimes-wandering pace have confounded his place in history.
But the revelations of Conyers’ alleged sexual harassment scandal and his documented use of taxpayer dollars to bury that scandal, in violation of congressional ethics rules, is less ambiguous.
It is the kind of behavior that can never be tolerated in a public official, much less an elected representative of the people.
And it means that whatever Conyers’ legacy will eventually be, his tenure as a member of Congress must end — now.
He should resign his position and allow the investigation into his behavior to unfold without the threat that it would render him, and the people he now represents, effectively voiceless.
Conyers, who has been a member of Congress since 1965, released a statement addressing the harassment and misuse of funds allegations yesterday. From that statement:
In our country, we strive to honor this fundamental principle that all are entitled to due process. In this case, I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so. My office resolved the allegations—with an express denial of liability—in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation. That should not be lost in the narrative. The resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment. There are statutory requirements of confidentiality that apply to both the employee and me regarding this matter. To the extent the House determines to look further at these issues, I will fully cooperate with an investigation.