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Longest-serving US congressman announces retirement amidst sexual assault allegations

John Conyers has also endorsed his son, John Conyers III, to replace him in office.

John Conyers
John Conyers
Image: Andrew Harnik via AP

VETERAN US CONGRESSMAN John Conyers – beset with allegations of sexual harassment by former staff members – has announced that he is retiring after more than five decades in office.

88-year-old Conyers made the announcement while speaking on Detroit radio talk show host Mildred Gaddis. Conyers also endorsed his son, John Conyers III, to replace him in office.

“I’m in the process of putting my retirement plans together. I am retiring today,” he said from a hospital.

“My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now,” Conyers added.

“This too shall pass. My legacy will continue through my children.”

Michigan state Senator Ian Conyers, a grandson of John Conyers’ brother, told The New York Times today that he plans to run for the 13th District congressional seat.

John Conyers, who was first elected in 1964, easily won re-election last year in the heavily Democratic district.

However, following the mounting allegations of sexual harassment, he has faced growing calls to resign from colleagues in the House, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

John Conyers’ attorney, Arnold Reed, has said Conyers’ health would be the paramount consideration in whether he decides to step down from his House seat. He has already stepped aside from his position as ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

John Conyers returned to Detroit from Washington last week and was hospitalised on Wednesday after complaining that he felt light-headed.

The House Ethics Committee has been reviewing allegations of harassment against John Conyers.

Allegations

Yesterday, a woman who said she worked for him for more than a decade said he slid his hand up her skirt and rubbed her thighs while she was sitting next to him in the front row of a church.

Elisa Grubbs made the allegation in an affidavit released last night by her attorney, Lisa Bloom.

Grubbs is the cousin of another accuser, Marion Brown, who reached a confidential settlement with Conyers over sexual harassment allegations but broke the confidentiality agreement to speak publicly last week.

Bloom posted Grubbs’ affidavit on Twitter and confirmed to The Associated Press that it was genuine.

Grubbs’ affidavit says that she worked for Conyers in various roles from approximately 2001 to about 2013.

“Rep. Conyers slid his hand up my skirt and rubbed my thighs while I was sitting next to him in the front row of a church,” Grubbs said.

“I was startled and sprang to my feet and exclaimed, ‘He just ran his hand up my thigh!’ Other staffers witnessed the event.”

She also said that she saw Conyers touching and stroking the legs and buttocks of Brown and other female staffers on “multiple occasions.”

Grubbs said witnessing such harassment “was a regular part of life while working in the office of Rep. Conyers”.

One time when Grubbs was at Conyers home, she said he came out of the bathroom naked when he knew she was in the room.

Reed told the Detroit Free Press that the allegations by Grubbs are “another instance of tomfoolery from the mouth of Harvey Weinstein’s attorney”.

Bloom previously represented Hollywood executive Weinstein, who is accused of sexual misconduct by a number of women. She quit Weinstein’s team after the allegations became public and now represents sexual harassment victims.

Deanna Maher, who ran a Michigan office for Conyers from 1997 to 2005, also accused Conyers of sexual misconduct.

A former scheduler also alleged sexual harassment, retaliation and a hostile work environment in a February 2017 proposed complaint, but took no further action after a judge refused to file it under seal.

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