Reporting Marla Diamond
WASHINGTON (CBS 2 / 1010 WINS / WCBS 880) — A House panel is deliberating the fate of New York’s most powerful congressman.
Charles Rangel walked out of his own ethics trial Monday, but not before giving a fiery speech.
“Mr. McCall said you spoke with 40 witnesses or more, that there’s 30,000 pages of testimony. Am I entitled to know what they testified to?” Rangel said.
When he walked out some people thought he was crazy. But it may turn out that he was crazy like a fox because without Rangel’s participation the committee didn’t call any of their 50 witnesses, which could have been far more damaging to the Harlem Democrat’s reputation, reports CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer.
“Fifty years of public service are on the line. My family has caught hell. I am entitled to a lawyer during this proceeding,” Rangel said.
And with those words, the tough as nails Harlem congressman challenged his ethics committee accusers to either give him an extension to raise money to hire another lawyer — his first lawyers quit after cleaning him out of $2 million — or go on without him.
They decided that after 21 months of investigation, 50 witnesses, 28,000 pages of testimony and over 500 exhibits the show must go on. Rangel didn’t like that one bit.
“I object to the proceeding and I with all due respect, since I don’t have counsel to advise me I’m going to have to excuse myself from these proceedings. I respectfully remove myself,” Rangel said.
And then Rangel walked out, leaving the counsel to the ethics commission, Blake Chisam, to list all 13 counts of financial and fund raising misconduct, including failure to pay taxes on his Dominican Republic vacation home, and the use of a rent-regulated Harlem apartment as a campaign office.
“The case is ripe for a decision,” Chisam said.
But before the commission recessed to consider the charges against Rangel, Democrat G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina asked Chisam the key question:
“In all of your investigation of this matter do you see any evidence of personal financial benefit or corruption?” Butterfield said.
“I see no evidence of corruption,” Chisam said. “I believe that the congressman, quite frankly, was overzealous in many of the things that he did, and at least sloppy in his personal finances.”
Rangel issued a statement, saying “In the end, I hope that I would be judged on my entire record that determines that I have been a credit to the House and to my family, friends and supporters who have entrusted me with this honorable duty.”
The subcommittee is still deliberating its recommendations. Once it’s done the entire House must decide what sanction to impose. It can range from no action, reprimand, censure and expulsion.
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