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Conyers attorney: Congressman won't pay settlement back because it was 'cleared'

Arnold Reed, the attorney who has been representing former Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersFormer campaign aide to New Jersey governor says she was sexually assaulted by his ex-staffer Kavanaugh controversy has led to politicization of 'Me Too,' says analyst Sexual assault is not a game — stop using women to score political points MORE Jr. (D-Mich.) amid his sexual misconduct scandal, said Tuesday that Conyers does not plan to pay back Congress for a past settlement because it was “cleared” by lawyers.

“No, at this juncture there’s been no discussion of that,” Reed told HLN’s Carol Costello in a contentious interview that came hours after the Michigan lawmaker announced he would retire immediately.

“Because the ethics committee is conducting an investigation and has not been determined that A, that was taxpayer money and B, they cleared any settlement that the congressman entered into, as I told you, several days ago,” he said.

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Reed argued that because the money was “cleared by ethics attorneys,” it is not as “simple” as paying the money back to taxpayers.

He also argued that it has yet to be determined that the funds came from taxpayer dollars, despite the original BuzzFeed News investigation that reported Conyers paid $27,000 in a taxpayer funded settlement to a former staffer who accused him of sexual harassment.

The decision comes after Rep. Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdFormer aides alleging sexual harassment on Capitol Hill urge congressional action AP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Ex-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups MORE’s (R-Texas) vow to pay back his own $84,000 taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlement. 

“I’m going to hand a check over this week to probably Speaker Ryan, or somebody, and say ‘look, here’s the amount of my settlement, give it back to the taxpayers,’ ” Farenthold told a local news outlet on Monday, referencing the settlement he reached with his former communications director over sexual harassment allegations. Farenthold has denied the allegations in the lawsuit, which was filed in 2014.

Reed said he is not concerned with the Texas lawmaker.

Conyers, who until Tuesday was the longest-serving current member of the lower chamber, announced his immediate retirement earlier in the day during a phone call to a local radio station.

His decision to leave Congress comes after multiple women came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against him following the original BuzzFeed News report about the 2015 settlement. Multiple women have alleged that Conyers touched them inappropriately, while one woman in an affidavit released Monday by attorney Lisa Bloom said the former Michigan lawmaker exposed himself to her in his home.

“This too shall pass,” Conyers told host Mildred Gaddis during the Tuesday morning radio interview. “And I want you to know that my legacy will continue through my children.” 

Conyers said he would like his son, John Conyers III, to replace him in the House, which could set up a potential family battle for Michigan’s 13th congressional district, as the former congressman’s great-nephew, Ian Conyers, told The New York Times in an interview that he plans to run for the seat.