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Rep. John Conyers announces retirement in wake of sexual harassment allegations

Update Dec. 5, 3:05 p.m. EST: U.S. Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress, submitted his resignation Tuesday afternoon after announcing earlier in the day his plan to retire amid concerns for his health and allegations that he sexually harassed several women who worked for him.

>> Read more trending news

The Democratic congressman said Tuesday in a letter addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that his retirement was “effective today.”

Original report: Longtime Rep. John Conyers announced Tuesday that he will retire in the wake of allegations that he sexually harassed several women who worked for him.

He endorsed his son, John Conyers III, to replace him during an interview Tuesday morning on WPZR’s “The Mildred Gaddis Show.”

“My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now,” Conyers said. “This too shall pass. My legacy will continue through my children.”

The announcement came amid growing calls for Conyers’s resignation.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, called for the congressman to step down last week just days after she called him an “icon” of the Democratic Party. Conyers, who was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964, was the longest-serving member of Congress, with 52 years of service.

"The allegations against Congressman Conyers ... are serious, disappointing and very credible," Pelosi said. "It's very sad. The brave women who have come forward are owed justice. I pray for Congressman Conyers and his family, and wish them well; however, Congressman Conyers should resign."

>> Related: Rep. John Conyers hospitalized amid sex harassment accusations, calls for resignation

On Monday, a woman who said she worked for Conyers for more than a decade said he slid his hand up her skirt and rubbed her thighs while she was sitting next to him in the front row of a church.

Elisa Grubbs made the allegation in an affidavit released late Monday by her attorney, Lisa Bloom. Grubbs is the cousin of another accuser, Marion Brown, who reached a confidential settlement with the congressman over sexual harassment allegations, but broke the confidentiality agreement to speak publicly last week.

Brown, who worked for Conyers in a variety of capacities from 2003 until 2014, told NBC’s the “Today” show last week that the lawmaker “violated my body, he's touched me in different ways.”

“It was very uncomfortable and very unprofessional," she said. “It was sexual harassment -- violating my body, propositioning me, inviting me to hotels with the guise of discussing business and propositioning for sex.”

At least four other former staff members have accused him of inappropriate behavior, the Detroit Free Press reported. He has denied any wrongdoing.

>> Related: Conyers steps aside from House Judiciary Committee post

Michigan state Sen. Ian Conyers, the 29-year-old grandson of John Conyers’s brother, earlier told The New York Times that the 88-year-old Democratic congressman planned to announce that he would not run for re-election. The elder Conyers’s attorney, Arnold Reed, declined to address the report Tuesday.

"I have not spoken to Ian Conyers and no one is aware of the congressman's plans except he and I and his wife," Reed wrote.

Reed said at a news conference last week that John Conyers alone would decide whether he would step down amid growing pressure from his Democratic and Republican colleagues.

"They're not going to determine whether Congressman Conyers resigns," Reed said. "He's not thinking about that. He's thinking about his health -- he's thinking about getting well."

John Conyers was hospitalized last week with what a family spokesman called a stress-related illness after complaining of feeling light-headed.

Reed has said John Conyers' health would be the paramount consideration in whether he decides to step down from his House seat.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Rep. Blake Farenthold says he'll repay taxpayers for sexual harassment settlement

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, Texas, told KRIS-TV Monday that he will reimburse taxpayers following a Politico report that he settled a 2014 sexual harassment lawsuit with $84,000 from the federal government.

>> Read more trending news

“Even though I was completely exonerated by [the Office of Congressional Ethics], and the settlement agreement has been paid, I’m doing my best and am going to hand a check over this week to probably Speaker Ryan or somebody and say ‘look, here’s the amount of my settlement, give it back to the taxpayers,’” Farenthold said in the interview.

>> On Statesman.com: U.S. Rep. Farenthold of Texas used taxpayer money to settle sex harassment claim, reports say

“I want to be clear that I didn’t do anything wrong, but I also don’t want the taxpayers to be on the hook for this, and I want to be able to talk about it and fix the system without people saying Blake, you benefited from the system, you don’t have a right to talk about it or fix it.”

Farenthold used a Congressional Office of Compliance account to pay former staffer Lauren Greene, according to the Friday Politico reportNBC News subsequently confirmed the report.

In the lawsuit, Greene presented “allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment,” according to Politico.

Greene had alleged that a male employee told her that their boss said he had sexual fantasies about her. She also claimed that Farenthold once told her he was “estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years,” according to the report.

Greene also claimed she was fired after complaining about those comments.

The revived conversation around Greene’s lawsuit comes after numerous accounts from men and women throughout the country and across industries of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of powerful and high-profile men.

>> On MyStatesman.com: Amid harassment complaints, Texas House panel adopts new policy

Farenthold’s colleague, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan and the longest serving member of the House, is facing allegations of sexual misconduct. In the Senate, embattled lawmaker Al Franken of Minnesota is having the fight of his political life after several women have claimed he touched them inappropriately.

In Texas, The Daily Beast and The Texas Tribune last month detailed claims of sexual harassment and assault by male lawmakers and others over the years at the statehouse. The reports mostly relied on anonymous sources.

Farenthold’s district includes parts of Bastrop and Caldwell counties.

Supreme Court rejects Texas case on gay-marriage benefits

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a Texas ruling that said the right to a marriage license did not entitle same-sex couples to spousal benefits under employee insurance plans.

>> Read more trending news

Houston city officials asked the high court to overturn last June’s Texas Supreme Court decision that determined all marriage-related matters were not decided when the U.S. Supreme Court found a right to same-sex marriage.

The federal court’s decision, issued without comment, allows the Texas court’s ruling to stand.

Lawyers for Houston argued that the Texas court’s ruling was wrong and short-sighted.

“Equal recognition of same-sex marriage requires more than a marriage license; it requires equal access to the constellation of benefits that the state has linked to marriage,” the city’s lawyers told the court.

Based on a lawsuit that was all but dead a year ago, the Texas case was a surprising addition to the fight over gay marriage.

The controversy began in 2013, when Houston began offering employee benefits to the same-sex spouses of employees who had been legally married in other states.

Opponents of gay marriage sued, prompting a district judge to block the benefits, ruling that they violated a state law and constitutional amendment barring government recognition of same-sex marriages. While Houston’s appeal was pending, however, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state bans on gay marriage in June 2015, ruling that they violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection by treating gay couples as second-class citizens.

Saying the ruling ended the controversy in the Houston case, the 14th Court of Appeals allowed the city to begin offering spousal benefits to same-sex couples.

The Texas Supreme Court apparently agreed, rejecting the case in September 2016.

But opponents of gay marriage launched a pressure campaign to get the all-Republican court to reconsider. A barrage of emails warned the nine judges of retribution in the GOP primaries, and Republican leaders — including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton — argued that the case offered an opportunity to limit the impact of the high court’s ruling on gay marriage.

In a rare reversal, the Supreme Court relented, accepting the case and eventually ruling that there is no established right to spousal benefits in same-sex marriages.

Billy Bush says Trump 'Access Hollywood' tape is real in scathing op-ed

Former "Access Hollywood" and "Today" host Billy Bush is back in the spotlight.

In a scathing New York Times op-ed published Sunday, Bush said the 2005 tape that captured now-President Donald Trump making explicit comments about groping women is real.

>> 'SNL': Trump meets ghosts of Flynn, Billy Bush, Putin, Hillary Clinton in 'Christmas Carol' parody

"Of course he said it," wrote Bush, who was heard laughing and egging on Trump in the hot-mic audio that surfaced during the 2016 election. "And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America's highest-rated bloviator."

Bush said he and the seven other witnesses on the bus during the recording assumed Trump was just performing.

>> Billy Bush hospitalized after being hit on the head with a golf ball

"We now know better," Bush wrote.

Bush, who was fired from his job as a "Today" host last year in wake of the controversy, said he believes the women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct after the tape surfaced.

"To these women: I will never know the fear you felt or the frustration of being summarily dismissed and called a liar, but I do know a lot about the anguish of being inexorably linked to Donald Trump," Bush wrote. "You have my respect and admiration. You are culture warriors at the forefront of necessary change."

>> Read more trending news

The editorial came amid reports that Trump is now privately questioning the tape's authenticity, even though he previously apologized for his comments.

"President Trump is currently indulging in some revisionist history, reportedly telling allies, including at least one United States senator, that the voice on the tape is not his," Bush wrote. "This has hit a raw nerve in me."

Read the full op-ed here.

Photos: Kennedy Center Honors 2017

Carmen de Lavallade, Norman Lear, Gloria Estefan, LL Cool J and Lionel Richie were recognized at the 40th annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump did not attend.

Trump says FBI ‘in tatters’ in series of tweets

President Donald Trump in a series of tweets Sunday morning attacked the FBI, asserting that its reputation was “in tatters.”

>> Read more trending news

The president also denied that he ordered former FBI Director James Comey to halt an investigation of Michael Flynn, who was fired by Trump, Newsweek reported.

“After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters -- worst in History!” Trump tweeted. “But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.”

Trump also took a shot at the media, tweeting that “I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!”

The president also mentioned a report by Fox News that an FBI agent reassigned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for texts critical of Trump was under investigation for his role in the emails probe of former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Newsweek reported.

“Now it all starts to make sense!" Trump tweeted.

The president’s latest series of tweets come after Flynn admitted Friday to having lied to the FBI about his contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump’s inauguration, Newsweek reported. Trump fired Flynn in February for deceiving Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with Kislyak, Newsweek reported.

Trump reacts to Flynn's guilty plea by slamming Hillary Clinton, 'rigged system'

President Donald Trump reacted on Twitter late Saturday to the guilty plea of his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn by asking why Flynn’s “life is destroyed” for lying to the FBI while "nothing happens" to Hillary Clinton.

>> On Rare.us: President Trump has officially reacted to Michael Flynn’s guilty plea — here’s what we know

“So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed, while Crooked Hillary Clinton, on that now famous FBI holiday ‘interrogation’ with no swearing in and no recording, lies many times…and nothing happens to her? Rigged system, or just a double standard?” Trump asked in his first tweet.

>> ABC News suspends Brian Ross after correcting report about Michael Flynn, Trump

The president then questioned the state of the “‘Justice’ Department” in the United States.

“Many people in our Country are asking what the “Justice” Department is going to do about the fact that totally Crooked Hillary, AFTER receiving a subpoena from the United States Congress, deleted and ‘acid washed’ 33,000 Emails? No justice!” he added.

Earlier in the day, Trump also tweeted about Flynn’s guilty plea, as well as an erroneous ABC News report about it.

>> Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to FBI in Russia probe: Live updates

“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!” Trump tweeted.

Flynn, on Friday, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and pledged to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Earlier Saturday, The Washington Post and others reported the president told reporters both that he is not worried about the plea and that he is pleased that “what has been shown is no collusion."

“There’s been absolutely no collusion, so we’re very happy,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

>> Michael Flynn indictment: Read the charges filed against Flynn

Flynn, a 58-year-old retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, accepted responsibility for his actions in a written statement: “My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country.”

Immediately after Flynn’s plea, White House lawyer Ty Cobb sought to put distance between Trump and the ex-aide, saying, “Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”

>> Flynn indicted: Read what Flynn agreed to tell the government about conversations with the Russians

Trump grew close to Flynn during the campaign. The general was a vocal and reliable Trump surrogate, known for leading crowds in “Lock her up” chants regarding Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. After his election victory, Trump elevated Flynn as his top national security adviser.

But Flynn’s White House tenure was short-lived. He was forced to resign in February following news reports revealing that Obama administration officials had informed the Trump White House that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a fact at odds with the public assertions of Vice President Mike Pence.

Another Trump tweet congratulated ABC News for suspending Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross.

ABC News, under fire since an erroneous Friday report claiming that Flynn would testify that the president ordered him to contact Russians while a candidate for president, has responded by suspending Ross for four weeks.

>> Read more trending news

ABC News called the mistake a “serious error,” although before it had attempted a “clarification” and then a “correction.”

Ross has been suspended without pay.

ABC News made headlines for how it handled the error. The Washington Post went so far as to call “cowardly” the initial “clarification” released by ABC, a statement that later turned into a “correction.”

The initial report said that Trump, while a presidential candidate, ordered Flynn to contact Russians. The correction said the order actually came during the transition when Trump was president-elect.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Guilty: Michael Flynn admits in court to lying about Russian communication

Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty Friday morning to lying to FBI investigators probing the Trump presidential campaign’s ties to Russia. 

Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to federal investigators. His plea was entered before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington, D.C.

Flynn entered and left the federal courthouse without speaking to reporters waiting outside.

In a statement he issued in conjunction with his plea agreement, Flynn said he is “working to set things right” by accepting responsibility for his actions. He admitted he is cooperating fully with special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.

“After over 33 years of military service to our country, including nearly five years in combat away from my family, and then my decision to continue to serve the United States, it has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts,” Flynn said in his statement. “Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for. 

“But I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right. My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

Flynn is the fourth person -- and the first White House aide -- charged in Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russian connections. Charges were filed last month against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his business associate Rick Gates and former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. 

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty Oct. 5 to making false statements to federal investigators.

Court documents released Friday accused Flynn of making false statements to FBI investigators in January, just days after Trump was sworn into office. Flynn resigned Feb. 13 amid the allegations that he lied about communications with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

Reports from the Associated Press and ABC News indicate that part of Flynn’s plea deal includes his promise to testify that Trump’s transition team directed him to make contact with Russian officials.

A White House lawyer said in a statement that Flynn’s guilty plea does not implicate anyone other than the retired general.

“The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year,” attorney Ty Cobb said. “Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”

Cobb described Flynn as a “former Obama administration official” who was “at the White House for 25 days” during Trump’s administration. 

The indictment made public Friday stated that Flynn lied about conversations he had with Kislyak in December, during the Trump administration’s transition and before he officially became Trump’s national security advisor. Investigators state that Flynn lied about asking Kislyak on Dec. 22 to “delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution.”

Read the indictment against Michael Flynn

Flynn also lied about his request to Kislyak on Dec. 29 that the ambassador “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day,” the indictment read. 

“Flynn did not recall the Russian ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request,” the court document said

Flynn is also under fire for a 2015 speaking engagement in Russia. He was paid $45,000 for the event, but it was not clear if he received the required permission from U.S. officials or whether he reported being paid for the speech, as mandated by law. 

Flynn resigned after reports surfaced indicating that he lied to then-Vice President Elect Mike Pence about his communications with Russian officials. His 24-day tenure as national security advisor was the shortest in the office’s history.

>> Read more trending news

Lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee said in April that Flynn failed to register as a lobbyist while working on Turkey’s behalf. Flynn's consulting firm accepted $530,000 for work with a firm that is associated with Turkey's government, according to the Associated Press.

The AP reported that Flynn’s lawyer filed paperwork with the Justice Department in February disclosing that he had done lobbying work that “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey” between August and November 2016. 

The New York Times reported in August that investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller asked the White House for documents related to Flynn. They also questioned witnesses about whether he was secretly paid by the Turkish government, according to the Times.

Former FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress over the summer that he felt the president tried to pressure him into dropping the investigation into Flynn.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump said, according to a memo written by Comey, the New York Times reported. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Trump denied that he asked Comey to drop the investigation.

Debbie Lord and Theresa Seiger contributed to this report.

Michael Flynn charged in Russia investigation: 5 things to know

President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has been charged by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III with making false statements to federal investigators. He pleaded guilty in a federal courthouse in Washington Friday.

Here's what we know about the Michael Flynn investigation:

1.) What has Flynn been charged with?Flynn has been charged with one count of lying to the FBI. The count encompasses two separate instances of lying to FBI investigators. Read the court charging document.

2.) What incidents prompted the charge?Two separate conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016, and Flynn's misrepresentation of those conversations to the FBI in January prompted the charge, according to the documents filed by the special counsel. The December conversations involved Russian sanctions and a vote on a United Nations Security Council resolution, according to the special counsel's court filing.

>> Read more trending news

3.) Is the Flynn charge a surprise?The charge is not a surprise to many legal experts. Flynn has been under investigation for months. Just this past week, Flynn's legal team told Trump's legal team they could no longer share information. This move seemed to indicate that charges, and/or a plea deal, was in the works.

4.) What happens next?Flynn has pleaded guilty Friday to one charge of lying to the FBI, the New York Times reported. It is not known at this time what punishment may be levied, or if there is a cooperation agreement in the works.

Flynn released a statement about the charge, acknowledging that his actions outlined in court documents were wrong, and that he accepts full responsibility for his actions.

It also is not known at this time if Flynn's son, Michael Flynn, Jr., will face any charges. Flynn and his son worked closely together. The Washington Post is reporting that Flynn Jr. is not expected to be charged, as part of the Flynn plea agreement.

5.) What is the White House's response? Trump's legal team issued a formal response to the Flynn charge and guilty plea.

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