WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. congressman John Conyers faced increasing pressure on Wednesday to resign, with the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives saying he should step down if sexual harassment accusations against him were true.
With Congress in session, Conyers returned to his home district in Detroit on Tuesday. He has been accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward women who worked for him.
The latest accusation was reported by the Detroit News, which cited a former staffer as saying Conyers sexually harassed her three times between 1997 and 1999.
Conyers, 88, has denied the accusations and has said he would cooperate with a House Ethics Committee investigation.
The Detroit News quoted Conyers’ attorney Arnold Reed as saying, “He’s not going to be forced out of office, and no one has told him he has to leave.”
“He has not indicated he’s going to resign at this point.”
Neither Reed nor Conyers’ office replied to Reuters requests for comment.
“Notwithstanding the credibility of the witnesses, we have a process to determine were these allegations founded? And if they’re founded, yes, he should resign,” Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said in an interview with MSNBC.
The Michigan lawmaker has stepped down as the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee pending the outcome of the ethics investigation.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, said it was up to Conyers to decide if he should resign from the chamber.
“I know what I would do if this happened to me. I will leave it up to him to decide what he wants to do. I think he made the right decision in stepping down from his leadership position,” Ryan said.
Conyers and his wife Monica left their house in Detroit in separate vehicles on Wednesday. He did not talk to reporters who had gathered outside.
Some of Conyers’ colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus have been privately pressing him to resign, according to Democratic aides.
Representative Joe Crowley, chairman of the House Democratic caucus, said he believed that in Michigan, Conyers was “taking counsel from his family as well as his constituents.”
“And I believe at the end of the day the right thing will be done. I think accountability will be had,” Crowley told a news briefing.
Democratic Representative Linda Sanchez said lawmakers were trying to pursue a fair process for both sides.
“It appears that there’s more than one complainant, which does heighten my sense of ‘There may be something there,'” Sanchez said, adding that she could not call for Conyers’ resignation unless she has heard all the evidence.
Sexual harassment accusations have been made against a number of public figures in recent weeks, including former Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama and Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.
(Reporting by Makini Brice, David Alexander and Richard Cowan in Washington and Rebecca Cook in Detroit; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Caren Bohan, Toni Reinhold)