Rep. John Conyers steps down amid sexual harassment investigation

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Conyers, 88, is now subject to a House Ethics Committee investigation after the Detroit Democrat was accused of sexually harassing former staffers, including spending more than $27,000 from his taxpayer-funded office budget to pay off a woman who said she was sacked for resisting his sexual advances.

Conyers said Sunday he was stepping down because he didn't want the accusations against him to undermine his "colleagues in the Democratic Caucus".

Melanie Sloan, a lawyer who worked with Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee, has also stepped forward to accuse Conyers of being "increasingly abusive" to her, behavior she says wasn't "sexual harassment" but "sexual discrimination".

Conyers, a longtime Michigan Democrat, is now embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal, amid reports that he secretly reached a settlement with a former female staffer.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement today following Conyers' announcement that "Zero tolerance means consequences".

"I believe he understands what is at stake here and he will do the right thing", she said.

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Pelosi called for an official House Ethics Committee inquiry into Conyers earlier this week, but stopped short of saying the 88-year-old lawmaker should step down.

On NBC's Meet the Press, Ms Pelosi was asked whether Mr Conyers should resign.

"We are at a watershed moment on this issue, and no matter how great an individual's legacy, it is not a license for harassment", she added.

Conyers has admitted to making the payment to avoid public litigation, but has denied any sexual harassment claims.

Pelosi's defense of Conyers came just minutes after she acknowledged there was a "generational change" in the way sexual harassment allegations are treated, and praised women for increasingly confronting harassers. And that's very important. "I will do everything in my power to continue to press on the important issues facing our committee, including criminal justice reform, workplace equality, and holding the Trump administration accountable". Last month, she shared her own story of being sexually assaulted by a high-level aide while she was a staffer.