Political News

What John Conyers' colleagues in Congress are saying

Posted November 21, 2017 12:06 p.m. EST

— An explosive report rocked Capitol Hill late Monday and early Tuesday, with the allegation that Rep. John Conyers -- the longest-serving active member of the House of Representatives -- settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 after he was accused of sexually harassing a staffer.

The allegations regarding the Michigan Democrat stem from a BuzzFeed News report posted Monday evening that includes four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former aides who allege that Conyers made sexual advances to female staff in his office. The repeated requests from Conyers, according to BuzzFeed, included sexual favors, inappropriate touching and transporting women who were believed to be having affairs with the congressman.

Conyers on Tuesday said he was "expressly and vehemently" denying any wrongdoing.

"In our country, we strive to honor this fundamental principle that all are entitled to due process," Conyers said in a statement. "In this case, I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so."

Tom Rust, the staff director and chief counsel to the House Ethics Committee, tells CNN the committee has no comment on the Conyers news and whether there might be a potential investigation into the new allegations against the congressman.

A number of Conyers' colleagues on Tuesday called for a formal ethics investigation into the allegations:

House Speaker Paul Ryan

In a statement Tuesday, Ryan did not name Conyers, but called the report "extremely troubling."

"Last month, I directed the Committee on House Administration to conduct a full review of all policies and procedures related to workplace harassment and discrimination," the Wisconsin Republican said. "A Committee hearing last week examining this issue led to a new policy of mandatory training for all members and staff. Additional reforms to the system are under consideration as the committee continues its review. People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi said that all members of Congress have a responsibility to "uphold the integrity of the House of Representatives and to ensure a climate of dignity and respect, with zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying or abuse."

"As I have said before, any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee," the California Democrat added in a statement. "In addition, we must pass the Me Too Congress Act sponsored by Congresswoman Jackie Speier and enact other reforms to advance equity in all workplaces in America."

New York Rep. Jerry Nadler:

Nadler, a senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, called the allegations "extremely seriously and deeply troubling."

"Obviously, these allegations must be investigated promptly by the Ethics Committee," Nadler said in a statement. "There can be no tolerance for behavior that subjects women to the kind of conduct alleged. We also must support efforts to reform the way the House of Representatives handles these matters to make the process easier and more supportive of victims, as well as more transparent."

California Rep. Zoe Lofgren:

Lofgren, a senior Democrat on the judiciary panel and a former chair of the House's Ethics Committee, called the allegations "as serious as they get."

"The Committee on Ethics should take up this matter immediately with a goal of promptly assessing the validity of the news account. This reported behavior cannot be tolerated in the House of Representatives or anywhere else," she said in a statement.

California Rep. Jackie Speier:

Speier, a California Democrat, has introduced legislation to overhaul the way instances of sexual harassment are treated on Capitol Hill.

"The allegations against Congressman Conyers are serious. The House Committee on Ethics should be called upon immediately to investigate," Speier said. "Beyond the sexual harassment allegations are allegations that call into question the amount of money that is used to settle sexual harassment cases, and whether some Members are using their tax payer-funded office budgets to make settlements under the guise of severance payments. If this is true, the amount of tax payer money used to settle these cases is even higher than the number that's been provided by the Office of Compliance."

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow:

"Sexual harassment is always unacceptable," said Stabenow, a Democrat from Conyers' state. "This news is deeply disturbing. I support a full review of Congressional sexual harassment policies and procedures and actions to address this serious problem."