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Formerly Of The Ethics Committee, Rep. Patrick Meehan Now Subject Of Investigation


He calls them soul mates. She calls it inappropriate. We're talking about Republican Patrick Meehan, who represents suburban Philadelphia in Congress and, until recently, sat on the ethics committee and was leading the investigation into sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. Now Meehan is the subject of an ethics committee investigation. Let's turn to Dave Davies of member station WHYY for more. Hi, Dave.

DAVE DAVIES, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Lay out the basics here for us. Congressman Meehan had a staffer who worked for him in his Hill office. She then left amid complaints that he had harassed her. Is that correct?

DAVIES: Correct. This young woman was decades younger than the congressman, who is married. She filed a complaint saying that the congressman expressed romantic interest in her in a conversation and a handwritten letter after she'd developed a relationship with a man. And she says the congressman turned hostile when she didn't return his affections. There was a settlement in the thousands of dollars with a confidentiality clause. Meehan was removed from the ethics committee, and it's now conducting its own investigation.

KELLY: And the timing here was what? When did this unfold?

DAVIES: Last year.

KELLY: So last year that she left the office, OK. Now, this has come to light because The New York Times revealed the existence of that payment you mentioned. Meehan's office has confirmed that payment. You had the chance to interview him. What did the congressman tell you?

DAVIES: Well, I got to say it was a really awkward conversation. He insisted he never sought a romantic relationship with this young woman, but he told me, yes, he did tell her he had a deep affection for her.

PATRICK MEEHAN: It was in the context of where I admitted that it was something that from time to time I struggled with.

DAVIES: So you can hear the awkwardness. What has struggled with mean exactly - well, often not so clear. But he did admit he found it emotionally difficult when she entered into a serious relationship with the man. He also provided copies of text messages and that handwritten letter he wrote her. And they seem to suggest a close, friendly relationship but not a romantic one.

KELLY: And I will mention here that the congressman is married. He has three kids. The name of this staffer who filed the complaint has not been made public. Has she commented?

DAVIES: No. Her attorney says she wants to maintain her privacy. But she says she will cooperate with the ethics committee investigation into this.

KELLY: And how is all of this playing in the congressman's district?

DAVIES: Hard to tell about voters. We're hearing some Democrats call for his resignation. Republicans aren't saying much publicly. But privately, they're telling me it's hard to see how he gets around the fact that there was a formal complaint resolved with a confidentiality clause negotiated by lawyers. I mean, that's just a problem. So people are talking about who might replace Meehan on the ballot if they can convince him to drop his re-election bid.

There is one other scenario here. You know, on Monday, the state Supreme Court declared the state's congressional districts to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans, and they ordered the legislature to draw new maps immediately.

KELLY: So they might be drawing his district out of existence even as we speak.

DAVIES: It is possible. And I will note that he represents a bizarrely shaped district regarded as one of the most gerrymandered in the country. And if they draw new lines, the Republicans in the legislature could make his friendlier to Democrats and protect other Republicans, in effect kind of trimming the wounded member of the herd. That would end his congressional career also - but a lot yet to unfold.

KELLY: That is WHYY's Dave Davies reporting. Thanks so much.

DAVIES: Thank you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dave Davies is a guest host for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
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