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Rep. John Conyers resigns from Congress

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) testifies at a hearing in 2009.
Rep. John Conyers office

Representative John Conyers is leaving Congress.

Conyers, who has been battling sexual harassment allegations by former female staffers, said he is retiring. However, NPR’s Don Gonyea has confirmed with Conyers' attorney that he is leaving office effective today, making it a resignation.

Conyers told "The Mildred Gaddis Show" on WPZR-FM Tuesday that this will be his final two-year term.

"I am retiring today," Conyers said, "I want everyone to know how much I appreciate the support, undiminished support, I've received across the years from my supporters, not only in my district, but across the country as well."

The 88-year-old Democrat says he is endorsing his son to take his seat in Congress.

Conyers, who was first elected in 1964, easily won re-election last year in the heavily Democratic 13th District.

The House Ethics Committee has been reviewing multiple harassment allegations against Conyers, and says it will continue to do so despite today's announcement by the congressman.

Among Conyers' accusers, Marion Brown says he repeatedly propositioned her for sex during more than a decade working for him. Elisa Grubbs, another former staffer, says he slid his hand up her skirt in church.

What State Representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo has to say about Conyers’ resignation

Sherry Gay-Dagnogo is the state representative for District 8. She organized a rally in Detroit on Monday in support of Congressman Conyers.

Stateside spoke with Gay-Dagnogo earlier today.

Read a transcript of Stateside host Cynthia Canty’s conversation with Gay-Dagnogo below, or listen to the conversation above.

CYNTHIA CANTY: Representative, what are your thoughts on Congressman Conyers' decision to resign today?

SHERRY GAY-DAGNOGO: You know, first of all, I’m happy to hear that the congressman sounds strong. He sounds like he is getting better daily. But more than that, I’m happy to know that he is happy about the love and outpouring of love that he received, and that’s what was important with the rally that we worked on yesterday – was insuring that he knows that the people of the 13th Congressional District respect and appreciate his commitment, not only to the 13th Congressional District, but to our nation.

CANTY: What do you make, representative, of the allegations from now three women – that the congressman touched them inappropriately and asked for sexual favors?

GAY-DAGNOGO: This is something as a woman that I take seriously anytime that someone is put into a situation where they are harassed. I mean these are serious allegations, and I think it’s important that they be vetted properly. And that’s why I was calling for due process for the congressman to have an opportunity to speak to those allegations and for the people of his district to allow him to leave office with a clean legacy.

I had an opportunity, though, to work alongside the congressman during a period of time with two of these claimants… I know them personally. I’m perplexed with the allegations – not to say that it couldn’t have happened, but I’m perplexed by some of the things that I witnessed firsthand. Two of them are cousins. You know, one of the claimants bringing the cousin onboard, bringing her daughter onboard. I don’t want this to be a situation where… I’m not sensitive to claims made, but I still question. I have a lot of questions and I was hopeful that we could have had an opportunity to hear testimony and dig a little bit deeper into these claims.

CANTY: You have been critical of his Democratic colleagues calling for him to resign. What should his fellow Democrats have done, in your view?

GAY-DAGNOGO: Leaders do what leaders do. They reach out and talk to constituencies and have a dialogue about what this means. And how for them to have considered what the impacts would have been to the delegation, or the constituents I should say, of the 13th District. And I think that it was disrespectful and I think it’s a double standard.

These are the same people that come to our churches, come to our communities – primarily, during election time, to get the support of the African American community, but when something like this happened, they didn’t even consider the impact that it could have and they just circumvented due process – or pushed for an action that would circumvent due process. And that’s concerning for me.

It’s not just about me having adoration and respect for the congressman, but it’s about our country, our nation. It’s founded upon principles of our justice and the judicial system. Democracy. A person is innocent until proven guilty. What they showed me absent of vetting these things out, absent the protocols that have been put in place by the Ethics Committee in Washington, that they were willing to ride with political pressure and really abandon the African American community. They did not ask for Al Franken’s resignation.

CANTY: Representative, if you could pick two or three adjectives to describe John Conyers, what would they be?

GAY-DAGNOGO: Brilliant, humble, committed.

Political analyst Jack Lessenberry’s analysis of Conyers’ resignation

Stateside's conversation with Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio’s senior political analyst.

Stateside spoke with Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio’s senior political analyst, earlier today.

Listen to his full conversation with host Cynthia Canty above, or read a partial transcript below.

CYNTHIA CANTY: You have come out with some pretty strongly worded opinion pieces saying it is time for [Conyers’] career to end.

JACK LESSENBERRY: Well yes… I’ve had personal knowledge of these allegations. Plus, on top of that, he’s 88. He’s not the man he used to be. And this is another factor. This is sort of a backdrop that people are concerned about his competence quite apart from, you know, the… serious sexual harassment matters. And so, if the Democrats, for example, were to take control of Congress in 2018, he would not be in shape to be chair of the House Judiciary Committee again. So for all these reasons, people think it’s time for him to retire…

CANTY: …What about due process? There are a lot of people, especially supporters of the congressman, calling for all the allegations to be taken seriously and investigated before any decision should be made. Why should we not have waited for due process to run its course?

LESSENBERRY: That’s a very good question and I think in a lot of these cases, we have been rushing to judgement.

But, there’s a number of other factors. For one thing, we know that Conyers, after initially denying it – we know he settled out of court. He had a legal settlement with one of these women for sexual harassment, although he initially denied it.

And, there’s also politics involved in this, and these are the politics of it: If they wanted to expel him from Congress, that would take a long time. The House Ethics Committee would have to name a sub-committee. You would have hearings, and then you would have to have a two-thirds vote in the Congress.

This would drag on, and Democrats, who want to spend next year running against Trump and running against the Trump tax effects on the middle class, they would be forced to be dealing with this. They would risk alienating the African American community, a lot of whom still revere Conyers, who, you know, is a, sort of a Civil Rights icon. And also, it would just distract them from what they want to talk about. So, there’s a lot of people who have a vested interest, in this case especially, of getting it behind them.

*This story was last updated at 4:30 p.m.

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Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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