DAVID GREENE, HOST:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is now calling for Congressman John Conyers to resign. She spoke about this just a few moments ago. Let's listen.
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NANCY PELOSI: The allegations against Congressman Conyers, as we have learned more since Sunday, are serious, disappointing and very credible. It's very sad. The brave women who came forward are owed justice. I pray for Congressman Conyers and his family and wish them well. However, Congressman Conyers should resign.
GREENE: Let's talk about this now with NPR's Mara Liasson, who's in our studios in Washington.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: Take us back to the beginning a bit, if you can, with the Conyers story. And what is he accused of, and what has been his situation up until this point?
LIASSON: Well, he's accused of sexual harassment with several of his aides. They've been coming forward. One of them is still anonymous. She was the subject of a settlement that was made with - through the - a congressional process. But what's - what happened when Nancy - you just heard Nancy Pelosi say, since Sunday. On Sunday, she did a fairly disastrous - according to many Democrats - television interview where she seemed to support him, or at least she said, we should have a process, we should have due process, we should find out what these accusations are. Now what you're hearing her saying is, I've looked into this, the women are credible, and Congressman Conyers should resign. Conyers, by the way, is at home in Detroit, and he is in the hospital for a stress-related illness. He is 88 years old.
GREENE: OK. Well, we did get that news of him being hospitalized just a short while ago. What are the stakes here, I mean, for Conyers, for the Democratic Party if he continues to resist what Nancy Pelosi's asking him to do?
LIASSON: Well, Congressman Conyers has not indicated that he's going to resist. He already stepped down from his ranking position on the Judiciary Committee. He was expected to announce in January that he would not run for re-election. There's no indication that he's going to resist. But the political stakes are many-layered.
On the one hand, Nancy Pelosi wanted to show incredible deference to Congressman Conyers, the longest-serving member in Congress. He is an icon in the black community. She wanted to show respect to the Congressional Black Caucus, many of whom felt he was being railroaded. But she also wants the Democratic Party to be the party of zero tolerance of sexual harassment, the party that believes women, as opposed to the Republican Party and the person of Donald Trump and Roy Moore who calls the women accusers liars.
GREENE: OK, that's one story we're following closely in Washington. I want to turn, if we can, Mara, to another. There have been all these rumors that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson might be on the way out at some point. But now we have The New York Times reporting that the White House is actually laying the groundwork for this to happen. Can you tell us what we know right now?
LIASSON: What we know is that it has been reported in several news organization that there is a plan that the president has not signed off on yet, but that Tillerson would leave at the end of the year. He would be replaced by the current head of the CIA, Pompeo. And then, possibly, the new head of the CIA would be Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican senator who's been one of the president's biggest supporters.
But the backstory, of course, is that Rex Tillerson famously has never denied calling the president a moron. That's just one of his many problems with the president. He also has been undercut routinely by President Trump when he's been making a diplomatic overture, for instance, to North Korea. Then Trump tweets, their time for diplomacy is over. So he's - it's been a very fraught relationship.
GREENE: And this would this would be significant for secretary of state to leave this early if it's not part of a...
LIASSON: Very early - I think it might be the earliest ever for a president that was still in office, in other words.
GREENE: All right, lots to cover with NPR's political correspondent, Mara Liasson - Mara, thanks, as always, really appreciate it.
LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.