Dem leaders break with Pelosi over Conyers

The sexual harassment charges dogging Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersPortland activist stages ‘reparations happy hour’ Conyers III won't appear on primary ballot in race to replace his father Conyers's son in danger of missing ballot in Michigan MORE Jr. (D-Mich.) are splitting House Democratic leaders scrambling to contain the fallout. 

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiConservative leader on Huckabee tweet: Where did my friend go? Democrats cannot afford to play hardball on immigration reform GOP scrambles to regain fiscal credibility with House budget MORE (D-Calif.) is said to be working with other Democrats to nudge Conyers into retirement.

But that effort is too abrupt in the eyes of other Democratic leaders, who say they want to await the outcome of a House Ethics Committee investigation into the series of sexual harassment allegations lodged by four former Conyers staffers.

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“I don’t know all the facts, I don’t know the specific allegations,” Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters in the Capitol Wednesday. 

“It appears there is more than one complainant, which does heighten my sense there may be something there. But again, I can’t sit and judge a member and call for their resignation unless I’ve been party to hearing all of the evidence and hearing the defense of the evidence.”

That position is shared by other top Democrats, including Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerRaces to watch in Tuesday’s primaries House panel approves belated 2019 budget Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges —Dems, health groups demand immigrant children be quickly reunited with families MORE (D-Md.) and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), who stressed the party’s push for an expedited Ethics Committee investigation. 

“Calling for the resignation of someone doesn’t actually create the resignation,” Crowley said. “The reality is we have a process in place and we’re calling for expedited process of the Ethics Committee to bring this to the forefront, so there can be as much transparency as possible, recognizing the rights of … those who are bringing these very, very serious allegations before Mr. Conyers.” 

Pelosi, while leading the calls for an expedited Ethics investigation, is also said to be taking the issue a step further by working with unnamed members of the Congressional Black Caucus “to apply pressure to get Conyers to step down,” according to a senior Democratic aide.

A number of Democrats privately want Conyers to go, though only two — Reps. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceDem rep: ‘No reason’ to lose track of immigrant children Pelosi needs big cushion to return as Speaker Four lawmakers offer bill to permanently ban earmarks MORE (D-N.Y.) and Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDem lawmaker announces protests against Trump's 'zero tolerance' policy The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Defiant Trump meets with House GOP amid border blowback Dem congresswoman: Imprisoned asylum-seeking women have no idea where their children are MORE (D-Wash.) — have called publicly for Conyers to resign immediately.

Sánchez, a lawyer who said she prosecuted sexual harassment cases before coming to Congress, warned that acting too quickly could lead to the “character assassination” of those falsely accused.

“I have seen cases where there were [charges] without merit,” she said. “We want it to be a fair process for both [sides].”

The harassment issue was raised Wednesday morning during the Democrats’ weekly caucus meeting in the Capitol, with eight lawmakers speaking up on the topic, according to a Democratic aide. Sánchez characterized the discussion as “very fruitful.” Some other Democrats, though, saw things differently.  

Rice left the meeting early to protest what she said was insufficient attention to the issue. And Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellGOP lawmaker calls on US Olympic Committee chief to resign Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers Dems urge Trump to reinstate top cyber post MORE (D-Mich.), who is supporting Conyers’s right to due process, was also critical. 

“There was not enough discussion in there,” she said, leaving the meeting.