Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee intends to resign as chair of the nonprofit arm of the Congressional Black Caucus, according to four sources familiar with the matter.
Jackson Lee told members on Saturday of her plans to resign after initially resisting pressure from the board to do so, a source close to the organization said.
Interim president and CEO of the CBC Foundation Elsie L. Scott declined to comment. Email messages to Jackson Lee’s office went unreturned. A spokesperson for the CBCF said that "Congresswoman Jackson Lee is still the chair of CBCF’s board of directors," in response to questions about her resignation on Wednesday morning. The spokesperson did not address the question of whether or not she plans to soon step down.
Congressman Jerry Nadler, who chairs the powerful Judiciary committee, said in a statement Wednesday that Jackson Lee had also voluntarily stepped down as chairwoman of a subcommittee on a temporary basis.
"I fully support her decision to voluntarily and temporarily step back from the Crime Subcommittee Chair position to ensure the Subcommittee’s important work continues," Nadler said. "This decision does not suggest any culpability by Representative Jackson Lee."
Jackson Lee deflected questions in person on Tuesday about her resignation plans, telling BuzzFeed News she would put a statement out on the matter later in the week.
"I think a lot of people are trying to figure out what she’s waiting on," said one CBC member familiar with Jackson Lee's resignation of her decision to not announce it publicly.
A 13-term Democratic congresswoman from Houston, Jackson Lee was elected chair of the CBCF in April of 2017 and is one of the most recognizable lawmakers on Capitol Hill. She was named in a lawsuit alleging that she unlawfully fired a young woman who planned to pursue legal action over an alleged sexual assault by a former employee of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. The woman, identified by the pseudonym Jane Doe in court papers, alleged that as an intern for the organization in October 2015, she was raped by the CBCF’s intern coordinator. According to her lawsuit, she reported the rape to police but did not pursue legal action at the time.
A CBCF spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the foundation investigated the woman’s allegations and fired the intern coordinator, Damien Jones. The CBCF has declined to comment on what it found in that investigation. Jones has not returned requests for comment.
The CBCF board had pushed Jackson Lee to resign over the allegations late last week, Politico reported. At the time, Jackson Lee refused.
Several years later, the woman — then an employee in Jackson Lee’s congressional office — decided she wanted to pursue legal action against the CBCF and told Jackson Lee’s chief of staff in March 2016. The woman asked to speak with Jackson Lee but a meeting was never scheduled and she was fired several weeks later. The woman claimed Jackson Lee and the CBCF conspired to retaliate against her and try to stop any legal action against the foundation.
After BuzzFeed News reported on the original allegations, Jackson Lee’s office put out a statement denying that any retaliation against the employee took place.
"Although the Congresswoman is eager to respond substantively, she will do so only at the appropriate time, as the court docket dictates. The Congresswoman is confident that, once all of the facts come to light, her Office will be exonerated of any retaliatory or otherwise improper conduct and this matter will be put to rest," Jackson Lee's office said. "While we still deny the allegations, we are especially concerned about Ms. Doe and only want the best for her and the many, many young people that the Congressional office has supported, encouraged, and provided opportunities for over 20 years."
Lissandra Villa and Zoe Tillman contributed to this report.
This post has been updated with a statement from Rep. Jerry Nadler.