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Former Maryland lawmaker talks about what's wrong with Ethics Committee process

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Former Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Maryland, is calling for major changes to the way the House handles sexual abuse allegations, particularly in light of the events that led to the resignation of Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, in December.

Conyers was forced to resign as an increasing number of women accused him of unwanted sexual advances. He represented the Detroit area for nearly 53 years, and to the end, denied wrongdoing.

"I've been in favor…of a process of investigation that involves specialized court systems," Edwards told chief White House correspondent Major Garrett on the latest episode of "The Takeout" podcast. "It could be a subset of the Ethics Committee...a really sort of specialized process where you have people on the legal side – lawyers – who actually know how to get to the bottom of these issues."

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Edwards, who holds a law degree from the University of New Hampshire, and currently serves as a senior fellow there, talked about why she thinks the current system isn't working for either victims or those accused of misconduct.

"When I was on the Ethics Committee, there could be cases that would be held over for a couple of years at a time doing the investigation, doing the depositions, and you don't want somebody who's facing sexual assault or harassment allegations -- either from the victim's perspective or the member or staff member -- to face a couple years' process of investigating these allegations," she said. "And we want to have something that I think is much more discrete and then enables the investigations to proceed without some of the burdens that are in the current process."

This was an opinion she expressed to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who grappled in late November with whether she should call on Conyers to resign.

"[I suggested] to her that there were elements of this story that would come out over time that I was aware of that would be even more damning than the first set of allegations and that it was important…for the minority leader to speak out on behalf of victims who were coming forward. And I understand her point about due process."

For more from Major's conversation with former Rep. Edwards, download "The Takeout" podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, or Spotify. New episodes are available every Friday morning.

Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday and Saturday nights at 9pm ET/PT. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).

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Producers: Arden Farhi, Katiana Krawchenko

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