U.S. Rep Pat Meehan said Tuesday he had developed a deep "affection" for a younger aide and told her that he saw her as a "soul mate" as they talked over ice cream one night a year ago, but in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer he said he never pursued a romantic relationship with the woman, who later accused him of sexual harassment.
"I've been up front that while we worked together, that there was a growing affection, that I wanted to make sure.that I would never cross that line", Meehan said.
The New York Times first reported over the weekend that Meehan used an undisclosed amount of taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment case brought by his former staffer, who has not yet been named. He was also subsequently removed from the Ethics Committee by Speaker Paul Ryan. She later reached a confidential settlement paid from Meehan's congressional office fund. The exact payment was not disclosed but was reportedly in the thousands.
Meehan wrote to the committee, asking it to review the allegations against him.
Although Meehan admitted to acting selfishly, he told The Inquirer that he did not pursue a romantic relationship with the aide.
Meehan claimed that he remained loyal to his wife throughout and said that "in hindsight" he should have considered his position of power over the aide, but claimed "there is no hierarchy" in his office.
However, Strong said, "though Mr. Meehan has denied the allegations, they must be fully and immediately investigated by the House Ethics Committee".
The lawyer representing Meehan's accuser responded, "We will not allow our client to be victimized twice by this man", and sharply criticized Meehan for addressing any details of the settlement at all.More news: US' Mattis sees risk in Turkey's operation in Syria
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Patrick Meehan, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, apparently penned a letter to a female aide thanking God "for putting you into my life" and stating: "You are kind and sensitive and caring and infectious with your laugh".
"Sometimes I have the tendency to lash out to others on the staff", Meehan said. "Her privacy is important to her, so she is not willing to discuss the fact of this case in the media".
Republicans, however, have taken a more hands-off approach, citing Meehan's denials and saying they hope more facts will come out.
Meehan also sits on the Ways and Means committee, the House's main tax-writing panel.
Democrats, including Gov. Tom Wolf, have called for Meehan to resign and protesters have gathered outside his Pennsylvania offices demanding he step down.
A glimpse of Meehan and the aide's alleged interaction was gleaned from a letter the married 62-year-old Congressman allegedly wrote in May, in which he thanked the aide for her companionship.
To Meehan, all those things show that the woman was not uncomfortable with their relationship, and he is now speaking out so candidly so he can defend himself, being advised by his attorneys that the confidentiality agreement was breached when the woman's attorney spoke to the Times.