Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, moved swiftly on Tuesday against the House’s longest-serving lawmaker, calling for the House Ethics Committee to investigate sexual harassment charges against Representative John Conyers Jr., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
Mr. Conyers, 88, who has represented parts of the Detroit area in the House since 1965, confirmed the settlement of a wrongful termination complaint in 2015 from a staff member who had accused him of sexual harassment. But he denied that the staff member was fired for refusing to have sex with him. The settlement was first reported by BuzzFeed News on Monday….
The calls for an investigation came as Democrats privately raised the prospect that Mr. Conyers would at least be asked to step aside from the coveted top Judiciary post. Mr. Conyers, a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, also holds the venerated title of Dean of the House. But he has been a target of Democrats who are eager to bring fresh blood into the Judiciary Committee leadership for some time, three congressional officials said.
He has already handed over much of the day-to-day committee work to staff aides and other Democratic members in recent years, and has often appeared disoriented. In at least two separate occasions — once at a United Automobile Workers event in Michigan and once at a meeting of top Democrats on Capitol Hill — Mr. Conyers showed up wearing pajamas, according to two people familiar with the incidents….
However, on Tuesday morning at his home in Detroit, Mr. Conyers told The Associated Press that he knew nothing about any claims of inappropriate touching and learned of the accusations from television just hours earlier. “I have been looking at these things in amazement,” he said to a reporter.
Hours later, a spokeswoman for Mr. Conyers hinted that the reporter’s questions confused him. “Congressman Conyers was under the impression the reporter was speaking of recent allegations of which he was unaware of and denied,” the spokeswoman said.