No final act for Conyers

No final act for Conyers

The curtain has come down on the long career of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, and not a minute too soon for concerned Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Rep. John Conyers, the 88-year-old Detroit Democrat and longest-serving member of Congress, didn't announce his resignation under fire Tuesday. He said he was "retiring."

Conyers, dogged for several weeks by multiple sexual-harassment allegations by former female members of his staff, insisted his "retirement" had nothing to do with the harassment issue but rather was driven by health concerns.

A week ago, a Conyers lawyer said his client wouldn't be intimidated by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's demand that he resign and that Conyers planned to remain in the U.S. House until "the cows come home."

Well, whatever Conyers is doing and for whatever reason he's doing it, the veteran legislator is leaving. But he's not going without one more slight to the democratic process.

Conyers endorsed his son, a rapper with no political experience, as his successor. If voters don't fancy that, well, there's another Conyers who's interested in running — Michigan state Sen. Ian Conyers, a grandson of Conyers' brother.

While the sexual-harassment picture on Capitol Hill looks as confused as ever, it seems safe to say that the Conyers family, like many political families, will retain, through political inheritance, control of the House seat to which the senior Conyers was first elected in 1964.

There's a backstory to the Democratic Party's effort to force Conyers out of his congressional seat, a move that's considerably less forgiving than that afforded to Minnesota U.S. Sen. Al Franken, a target of similar sexual-harassment allegations.

Conyers was once chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and now serves as the committee's ranking Democratic member under a Republican chairman.

In others words, if the House Judicary Committee were to undertake hearings that would draw intense national media and public interest, it's Conyers' face that would be the face of the committee.

Leading House Democrats don't want Conyers mucking up the show, given his age and the serious mental decline attributed to him.

What kind of show? Well, a growing number of Democrats have been promoting articles of impeachment against Republican President Donald Trump to remove him from office. It's not clear on what grounds these Democrats would impeach President Trump, since the U.S. Constitution establishes a legal test of "high crimes and misdemeanors" as grounds for removal.

But impeachment is a political process, and grounds for impeachment are whatever a majority of the House decides they are. If articles of impeachment are approved, the Senate must hold a trial to resolve the matter.

At any rate, Conyers is in no shape to represent the Democrats on a national impeachment stage, if it should come to that.

Impeachment and all that goes with it seems to be a far-fetched notion at the moment. But, with each passing day, it seems clear that special counsel Robert Mueller, the former head of the FBI, has targeted Trump for removal from office. It's an apparent consequence of Trump's decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey, Mueller's close friend, in a suspected effort to stop the Russia probe.

Of course, the president has the inherent authority to fire any top executive-branch appointee he wants for any reason or no reason. But Mueller looks to be pursuing impeachment on the grounds of obstruction of justice — in other words, for trying to obstruct the investigation Mueller is leading.

That's a strained and strange argument. But in this time of hyper-partisanship driven by Trump's provocative behavior and the Democrats' provocative responses to his provocations, anything can happen.

Just in case it does, the Democrats weren't interested in Conyers playing a leading role in another epic historical drama. Now they don't have to worry about it.

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