Michigan rep steps aside amid sexual harassment investigation

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. John Conyers steps aside as top Democrat on House Judiciary Committee amid probe of sexual harassment allegations.

The Michigan representative is under congressional investigation for allegations of sexually harassing female staff members.

In a statement Sunday, the 88-year-old Conyers says he denies the allegations and would like to keep his leadership role on the panel. But he is stepping aside because he says he "cannot in good conscience" allow the charges to be an undue distraction to his House colleagues while the investigation is continuing.

The House Ethics Committee is investigating Conyers after receiving allegations of sexual harassment and age discrimination involving staff members as well as using "official resources for impermissible personal purposes."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is defending Democratic Rep. John Conyers as an "icon" for women's rights and declining to say whether the longtime lawmaker should resign over allegations that he sexually harassed female staff members.

Pelosi insists that Conyers deserves "due process" and will "do the right thing" after Congress returns from Thanksgiving break on Monday.

Still, she called the accusations against Conyers a "big distraction."