Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) is stepping down as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation amid pressure from the group, sources tell BuzzFeed News. The decision comes as Jackson Lee faces a lawsuit from a former staffer, who says the congresswoman retaliated against her plan to sue the CBCF over an alleged rape by one of its ex-employees.
In the lawsuit filed last week, the anonymous plaintiff says she was raped by then-CBCF intern coordinator Damien Jones in October 2015. The woman says she was a 19-year-old CBCF intern at the time, and says she told police and her former boss Rep. Terry Sewell (D-Ala.) about the assault. She did not decide to pursue legal action until years later, when she was working for Jackson Lee, the documents say. When the plaintiff told Jackson Lee's chief of staff about her plans to sue the organization, she was soon fired, per the court filing.
After the lawsuit emerged, the board of the CBC's nonprofit wing — which includes several lawmakers — pushed Jackson Lee to step down, Politico reported last week. Jackson Lee refused, and at least one board member then left the foundation. More were "expected to follow" if Jackson Lee stayed on, Politico writes. The lawsuit also dredged up stories of Jackson Lee's bad reputation among staffers, with reporter Yashar Ali tweeting that it "comes as little surprise to people who have worked with her and around her."
Jackson Lee "deflected questions in person on Tuesday about her resignation plans," BuzzFeed News writes, saying she would address the situation in a statement later this week.