02:10 - Source: CNN
Rep. Meeks on Conyers: No one is exempt

Story highlights

The House Ethics Committee has opened an investigation into Conyers

Conyers has denied wrongdoing after reports of a 2015 sexual harassment settlement

Washington CNN  — 

Rep. Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Wednesday that his colleague Rep. John Conyers of Michigan should leave his post as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee as he is the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation.

“No one is exempt from bad behavior, and I think that he’s agreed and I clearly see where Leader (Nancy) Pelosi has said there will be an immediate ethics committee, a review,” Meeks told CNN’s John Berman and Poppy Harlow. “I really think that probably the appropriate thing right now is that he should step down as the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and be subject to this ethics investigation.”

The House Ethics Committee announced on Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into allegations that Conyers, the longest-serving active member of the House, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 after allegedly sexually harassing a staffer, according to an explosive report published by BuzzFeed News.

Conyers said he is “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.”

Pressed later in the interview, Meeks said that it would “not be appropriate” for Conyers to remain the top Democrat on the committee given the multiple allegations against him.

“If he defends himself and says and shows there is nothing there, then he could come back,” he said. “But you can’t, in my estimation, just in the scenario that we’re in to be the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee at this time. I think that he should step down.”

Reports of another allegation that Conyers had sexually harassed a former staffer emerged Tuesday, based on court documents filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in March 2017. The lawsuit, which the woman later dropped after an unsuccessful attempt to seal it, was first reported by BuzzFeed News.

Meeks’ call for Conyers to step down from his committee post goes farther than members of House Democratic Leadership, who have not, so far, called for Meeks to abandon that role.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that “any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee.” Similarly, Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, called the report “very disturbing” and said that an ethics investigation is an “appropriate next step.”

Both Pelosi and Hoyer have also called for more sweeping reforms to overhaul the way in which sexual harassment is handled on the Hill, and support legislation sponsored by California Rep. Jackie Speier targeting the issue.

Neither Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York nor Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, two senior Democrats who also serve on the Judiciary Committee, have called on Conyers to leave his leadership position.

Asked Tuesday, Nadler said it was important to have a “proper investigation” into the allegations surrounding Conyers. In an interview on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,” he stopped short of calling on Conyers to resign and said to wait for more facts as the ethics probe unfolds.

“I think it’s a little too early to say that,” Nadler said of resignation. “Wait a little while before you make that conclusion.”

CNN’s David Wright and Eli Watkins contributed reporting.