- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Pressure mounted on Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, as two more women came forward Tuesday to accuse him of sexual misconduct and a female lawmaker from Washington state became the second Democrat to publicly call for his resignation.

Deanna Maher, a former deputy chief of staff for the congressman who worked in his office between 1997 and 2005, told multiple news outlets that Mr. Conyers, Michigan Democrat, approached her three times.

She first told the Detroit News that the first instance was soon after she was hired when Mr. Conyers forced her to share his hotel room after a 1997 Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) event she attended with him.

The other incidents, she said, came in the subsequent two years and included unwanted touching in a car and an attempt to put his hand up her skirt, the paper reported.

Ms. Maher, now 77, gave a similar account to The Associated Press.

Arnold Reed, Mr. Conyers’ attorney, questioned why Ms. Maher would continue to work for the congressman for six years after the three purported assaults — a line of questioning that prompted scorn from Ms. Maher, like several other women in the various harassment complaints across other industries.

“I needed to earn a living, and I was 57. How many people are going to hire you at that age?” she explained.

The Washington Post reported later Tuesday, without naming the woman, that “a well-known lawyer specializing in congressional ethics” had told the Post that Mr. Conyers harassed and verbally abused her in the 1990s when she was on his staff.

Earlier this month, another report surfaced that Mr. Conyers had paid a settlement to a former staffer who claimed she was sexually harassed. The report also alleged that he used taxpayer dollars to fund the settlement.

Mr. Reed told reporters earlier Tuesday that the 88-year-old Detroit lawmaker, who was first elected to Congress in 1964, denies harassing any woman and will cooperate with any investigation into the accusations.

Mr. Conyers announced Sunday that he planned to step aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee while the ethics probe is ongoing.

But stepping aside as a panel chairman isn’t enough for Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Democrat. She said Tuesday evening that the party’s credibility is on the line when it speaks out on sexual-misconduct charges against such Republicans as President Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

“We cannot pick and choose,” she said in a statement.

“It is not easy for me to reach this conclusion because, as a civil rights activist, I have looked up to Representative Conyers for decades. I believe these women, I see the pattern and there is only one conclusion — Rep. Conyers must resign,” she concluded.

Ms. Jayapal is the second Capitol Hill Democrat to call publicly for Mr. Conyers to resign. Rep. Kathleen Rice did the same last week when the first reports of the lawsuit settlements surfaced.

Mr. Conyers met Tuesday evening with several CBC members urging him privately to resign.

After the meeting, Rep. Cedric Richmond, Louisiana Democrat, ducked a reporter’s question on whether he had urged Mr. Conyers to leave, saying only that the Michigander would do the right thing because “he always does.”

House members are scheduled to vote Wednesday on legislation that would require that they and their staffs be trained on sexual and workplace harassment. The bill matches a similar move made by the Senate earlier this month and is being sponsored by Reps. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, and Barbara Comstock, Virginia Republican.

• Victor Morton can be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes.com.

• Sally Persons can be reached at spersons@washingtontimes.com.

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