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WASHINGTON (AP) – Michigan Rep. John Conyers says he is stepping aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee amid a congressional investigation into allegations he sexually harassed 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 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.”

Pelosi said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that there may be a close look at the 88-year-old Michigan lawmaker’s status as the top member on the House Judiciary Committee.

The House Ethics Committee is investigating Conyers after receiving allegations of sexual harassment and age discrimination as well as using “official resources for impermissible personal purposes.” Conyers has said he would fully cooperate.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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