Pelosi calls for investigation into sexual allegations against Conyers

Pelosi calls for investigation into sexual allegations against Conyers
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House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Trump denies 'tantrum' in meeting with Pelosi: 'It is all such a lie!' MORE (D-Calif.) is calling for an ethics investigation into her Democratic colleague, Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersReparations: The 'lost cause' of black politics? Members spar over sexual harassment training deadline Reparations bill wins new momentum in Congress MORE Jr. (Mich.), amid allegations of sexual misconduct with female staffers.

"As I have said before, any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee," Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday.

She stressed that all lawmakers must make Congress a place of "zero tolerance for harassment."

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“As Members of Congress, we each 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," the California lawmaker continued.

House Democratic Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Pelosi faces tipping point on Trump impeachment Trump urges Dem leaders to pass new NAFTA before infrastructure deal MORE (Md.) also endorsed an ethics investigation into the sexual misconduct claims, calling reports about the Conyers allegations “very disturbing.”

“It is clear the process for reporting this type of behavior and holding those responsible accountable must be reformed,” Hoyer added in a statement.

Shortly before Pelosi's statement, Conyers said he will "fully cooperate" with an investigation "to the extent the House determines to look further at these issues."

BuzzFeed News first reported on the misconduct after it obtained documents that showed former staff members alleging that Conyers repeatedly made sexual advances to female aides that included requests for sexual favors, touching them inappropriately, and contacting and transporting women with whom he was suspected of having affairs.

According to BuzzFeed News, Conyers settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged he fired her because she would not "succumb to [his] sexual advances." 

Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House, said he "vehemently" denies the sexual harassment allegations made against but acknowledged the existence of a settlement with a former employee in 2015. He also said he would cooperate with an investigation. 

Pelosi in her statement also pushed for her colleagues to support the ME TOO Congress Act, a new bill introduced in the House last week by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) that aims to crack down on sexual misconduct by overhauling the current policies to combat and report complaints of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill.

Monetary settlements for harassment and discrimination cases on Capitol Hill are typically paid from a special fund operated by the Treasury Department. The Speier-Gillibrand bill would require lawmakers accused of harassment to pay back the taxpayers.

Senior Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee also called for an ethics probe on Tuesday, ahead of Pelosi's statement.

Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) and Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenPelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' Hillicon Valley: Instagram cracks down on anti-vaccine tags | Facebook co-founder on fallout from call to break up company | House Dems reintroduce election security bill | Lawmakers offer bill requiring cyber, IT training for House House Dems reintroduce bill to protect elections from cyberattacks MORE (Calif.), the second and third most senior Democrats on the powerful committee, respectively, said early Tuesday that the House Ethics Committee should investigate the validity of the BuzzFeed News report published late Monday night.

"The reports about Congressman Conyers are 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," Lofgren said in a statement Tuesday morning.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Debate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 MORE (R-Wis.) also issued a statement calling the allegations against Conyers "extremely troubling" and reiterated his support for reforming the House's sexual harassment prevention policies. But he also did not say whether Conyers should stay or go.

Conyers previously served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee from 2007 to 2011. Before that, he chaired the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 1989 to 1995.

Updated 2:59 p.m.