Report: Congressional Black Caucus members leaning on Conyers to resign

Not a surprise that the effort to push him out would be done this way, and not a surprise that Pelosi would be keenly interested in making sure the public knows that it’s being done this way. An unspoken but important wrinkle to the Conyers mess is that, in addition to being an “icon” and the dean of the House, he’s one of the most prominent black congressmen in American history, a man who won election to his first term the year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. Pushing him out given his stature was always going to be delicate, notwithstanding the harassment allegations against him that are piling up and whispers about his diminished mental capacity. Making him the first congressman to be pushed out as “Pervnado” coverage is sweeping up powerful men, nearly all white so far, in other professions would open her up to accusations of racism, as stupid as that may be. She badly needs cover from other black Democrats. And she badly needs black Democratic voters to know that she has that cover.

And so, lo and behold, a leak.

Several Congressional Black Caucus members are in talks to get veteran Rep. John Conyers to resign amid allegations of sexual misconduct, several Democratic sources told CNN on Tuesday…

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is not leading the effort but is tacitly supporting it, according to Democratic sources.

A staffer to a member of the Congressional Black Caucus told CNN that “there is a feeling among some of our members that we need to protect his legacy,” noting that Conyers is a founding member of the group and was a leading figure in the civil rights movement.

“Protecting his legacy” in this case means easing him out the door to reduce the media’s incentive to air the mountains of dirty laundry he’s been hiding for decades. It’s a euphemism for “maintaining the cover-up.” But whatever spin works to get Democrats to tolerate his banishment will be fine by Pelosi, the sooner the better. Spotted today in the Capitol:

Another House Democrat has come forward to call on Conyers to resign, too. Until today it was only Kathleen Rice who had dared to speak up. Pramila Jayapal has now joined her:

“No one ever wants to believe that someone they respect and have regarded as a champion for civil rights issues would abuse their power to harm and harass women. On top of that, sexism colors everything. Women just aren’t generally believed. Period. Even more complicated is that sexual harassment is extremely difficult to prove in any court of law. That means that efforts to stop harassment must recognize that there will be gray areas. Women will come forward and men will deny. The question is: What is society’s response? To truly change norms and cultures, we need to start believing women from the get-go…

“The actions and subsequent deflections from the growing tide of sexual harassment cases in Congress not only hurt individual women, but they undermine our institution of democracy. For justice to be done in cases with substantial evidence, a simple denial is not sufficient; the relinquishment of power becomes essential. It is not easy for me to reach this conclusion because, as a civil rights activist, I have looked up to Rep. Conyers for decades. I believe these women, I see the pattern and there is only one conclusion – Mr. Conyers must resign.”

“Democrats cannot lambaste Trump and Moore, and then turn a blind eye to our own who face credible charges against them,” she says elsewhere, which is both true and a canny bit of salesmanship to any Dems who are reluctant to part with Conyers without getting something useful in return, namely, a bit of ground from which to hoot at their least favorite Republicans. As pressure mounts on Conyers, though, pressure mounts on Pelosi too. What if she can’t push him out and he insists on hanging around through next year, with new horror stories every few weeks from ex-staffers popping up in the press? That would undermine Dems’ plans to use Moore’s scandal as a cudgel against Republicans nationally in the midterms. And it would make Pelosi look like a weak leader who’s lost control of her caucus, the last thing she needs when younger Democrats are constantly grumbling that it’s time for her to retire too.

Here’s Democrat Jackie Speier being quizzed by Tapper on the two members of Congress whom she’s heard have harassed women but whom she still refuses to name. She makes a fair point in her defense: If she accuses anyone, that man’s alleged victims will suddenly be on the spot to come forward, into the media storm, or to keep quiet and leave Speier hanging. That’s a tough position to be in. There’s also the risk of defamation — although members of Congress like Speier are in a unique position legally in that regard. She *could* name the two men in a speech on the House floor without fear of legal repercussion. But that precedent would send a chill through the chamber and no doubt mean intense discomfort between Speier and some of her colleagues going forward.