AP

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You wouldn’t have heard the woman’s story about Michigan Representative John Conyers—a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House, who she told BuzzFeed News sexually harassed her—under the terms of a 2015 private settlement she felt she had no option but to take.

The story published Monday night is a window into the shadowy world of how members of Congress take out their dirty laundry. The woman, who the site didn’t name because she fears retribution, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 after claiming she was fired because she would not “succumb to [Conyer’s] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by the site—which include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized—allege that Conyers, who’s the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, made repeated sexual advances toward female staff, including asking for sexual favors, caressing their hands and rubbing their backs and legs in public, and asking them to contact and transport women with whom they suspect Conyers was having extramarital affairs. (A notable aside: The documents were originally leaked to BuzzFeed by Mike Cernovich, the men’s rights activist-turned-pedophilia-conspiracy theorist, who said congressional leaders would “try to discredit the story by attacking the messenger” if he published them himself.)

Congress has no human resources department, and the recourse for staffers to bring forward complaints can drag on behind closed doors for months on end, so the woman told BuzzFeed she felt she had to accept the $27,000 settlement in exchange for her silence.

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“I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go,” she told the site, which also documented the sinister mechanism for how that settlement was paid out so as not to arouse suspicion: through Conyers’ taxpayer-funded office budget. A draft agreement reviewed by the site outlined plans to “rehire” the woman as a “temporary employee,” paying her a sum of $27,111.75 over three months out of payroll, but without her actually coming to work.

A law clerk who represented the complainant called the process “disgusting.”

“It is a designed cover-up,” Matthew Peterson told the site. “You feel like they were betrayed by their government just for coming forward. It’s like being abused twice.”

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UPDATE, 10:28 AM: Conyers, answering the door at his Michigan home on Tuesday morning, denied to the Associated Press that he had settled any sexual harassment complaints with former staffers.

The congressman also said he knows nothing about any claims of misconduct and had only recently learned about the story hours earlier.

WHAT ELSE?

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WHAT’S NEXT?

  • The Federal Communications Commission is preparing a full repeal of net neutrality rules, a battle we’ve fought before but one we’re apparently going to face down again.
  • Also: The chances of a government shutdown over the fate of DACA recipients is looking more and more real with no compromise in sight between the parties.

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WHAT FRESH HELL?

  • Trump will pardon two turkeys at the White House today at 1 p.m., a thing we still do. Here they are enjoying a luxury hotel room.

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