Congressman Conyers retires after harassment accusations

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrat John Conyers, the longest serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced his retirement on Tuesday, amid accusations of sexual harassment, and endorsed his son to take his place in Congress.

"I am in the process of putting my retirement plans together and will have more on that very soon ... I am retiring today," Conyers said in an interview with a Detroit radio station.


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US Representative John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, speaks regarding a lawsuit members of Congress have filed against US President Donald Trump for violating the emoluments clause of the US Constitution which bans Presidents from accepting payments, benefits or gifts from foreign states without the consent of Congress, during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 26: Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) questions witnesses during a House Judiciary Committee hearing concerning the oversight of the U.S. refugee admissions program, on Capitol Hill, October 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Trump administration is expected to set the fiscal year 2018 refugee ceiling at 45,000, down from the previous ceiling at 50,000. It would be the lowest refugee ceiling since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and ranking member Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) participate in a markup hearing before the House Judiciary Committee March 29, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a markup hearing on H.Res.184, Resolution of inquiry requesting the President and directing the Attorney General to transmit, respectively, certain documents to the House of Representatives relating to communications with the government of Russia; and H.Res.203, Resolution of inquiry requesting the President, and directing the Attorney General, to transmit, respectively, certain documents to the House of Representatives relating to certain communications by the President of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 27: Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., walks down the House steps after a vote in the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 27: From left, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Reps. Sander Levin, D-Mich., Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and John Conyers, D-Mich., attend a news conference in the Capitol to call for aid for the Flint water crisis be included in the government funding bill, September 27, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 04: United States Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), left, stands next to United States Representative John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), right, as they announce a bill called, Employ Young Americans Now Act at HOPE (Helping Other People Excel) Project on Thursday June 04, 2015 in Washington, DC. The bill aims at an increase of job training for younger individuals. (Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13: Rep. John Conyers (C) (D-MI) and Rep. Donna Edwards (R) (D-MD) carry petitions to the White House supporting the expansion of Social Security benefits following a rally July 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Social Security Works, the AFL-CIO and additional organizations held the event to deliver 'more than 2 million petition signatures' in support of expanding Social Security benefits. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 04: Dennis Edwards and Congressman John Conyers, Jr. attends the 2015 R&B Music Hall Of Fame at The Wright Museum on October 4, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Monica Morgan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 16: (L-R) Representative John Conyers, Kirk Whalum and Eddie Money speak during Advocacy Day 2015 at Capitol Hill on April 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage for NARAS)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 25: Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., speak during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on 'The Unconstitutionality of Obama's Executive Actions on Immigration' on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 13: Rep. John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich., speaks as House Democrats hold a news conference to call for presidential action on immigration on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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"I have a great family here and especially in my oldest boy, John Conyers III, who incidentally I endorse to replace me in my seat in Congress," Conyers said.

The House Ethics Committee last week opened an investigation into Conyers, 88, after he said his office had resolved a harassment case of a former staffer with a payment but no admission of guilt.

Conyers, who was first elected to the House in 1964, is the first major U.S. politician to step down since the recent wave of sexual harassment allegations. He has denied the accusations and continued to do so in the interview on Tuesday.

"Whatever they are, they are not accurate or they are not true, and I think that they are something that I can't explain where they came from," he said.

Conyers called for all records in such cases to be made public.

Congress has been reviewing policies on how to handle sexual harassment complaints after a string of cases involving prominent figures in the U.S. media, Hollywood and politics, including Republican President Donald Trump, Democratic Senator Al Franken and Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Trump and Moore have denied the accusations against them. Franken has apologized for his actions.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top U.S. Democratic House lawmakers, along with Republican U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, had called on Conyers to resign immediately.

Conyers, a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, stepped down last month as the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee amid the allegations.

Several former employees have publicly accused him of a range of misdeeds, including inappropriate touching, sexual invitations and showing up for a meeting with one woman in his underwear.

Twelve other women who said they had worked for Conyers defended him in a statement last month, saying they did not see him behave inappropriately.

 

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Makini Brice; Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Steve Orlofsky)

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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