April 21st, 2010
07:35 PM ET

House panel launches formal Massa investigation

The House ethics committee launched a formal investigation Wednesday into sexual harassment allegations involving former Democratic Rep. Eric Massa, D-New York, elevating the preliminary investigation the committee began in March.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was interviewed on Wednesday by the committee, according to his spokeswoman, Katie Grant, who told CNN that Hoyer's testimony was voluntary.

Brendan Daly, spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, told CNN Pelosi aides also have met with the ethics committee and Pelosi is volunteering to appear before the panel. "The speaker has made herself available to meet with the ethics committee at their earliest convenience. Members of our staff have met with and fully cooperated with the ethics committee," Daly said.

The committee announced it established a subcommittee "to conduct a full and complete inquiry into whether the conduct of any member, officer, or employee of the House violated any law, rule, regulation or other standard of conduct applicable to the performance of their duties with respect to the allegations of misconduct involving former Rep. Massa."

Republicans have raised questions, publicly and on the House floor through resolutions, about whether the Democratic leadership knew of and responded to reports of Massa's behavior.

After the committee's announcement, House Republican Leader John Boehner said, in a written statement, "We need answers to serious questions: What did Democratic leaders know about former Rep. Massa's conduct? When did they know? What did they do to protect the staff and interns who were being subjected to harassment by their boss?"

Massa stepped down in March after allegations became public that he had inappropriate physical contact with male members of his staff. Initially Massa insisted he was departing for health reasons. The first-term congressman then alleged Democratic leaders forced him out because of his opposition to their health care bill. He later recanted his claim that he was pushed out.

Read the full story at CNN's Political Ticker
- From CNN's Brianna Keilar and Deirdre Walsh

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