A House ethics subcommittee found longtime Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel guilty Tuesday on multiple violations of House rules.
The subcommittee, according to California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the ethics committee chairwoman, found “clear and convincing” evidence of guilt on 11 of 12 counts, including failing to pay taxes on a home in the Dominican Republic, misuse of a rent-controlled apartment for political purposes and improper use of government mail service and letterhead.
He was cleared of a charge relating to an alleged violation of the House gift ban.
Rangel had been facing 13 charges; the committee combined two of them.
The ethics committee will now recommend a punishment for Rangel — which can range from a fine to expulsion — to the full House of Representatives. Most observers believe Rangel is likely to be reprimanded but not expelled.
On Monday, Rangel walked out of the House ethics subcommittee trial, complaining he has not had sufficient time to hire a new legal team to respond to the ethics violation charges.
The subcommittee rejected the congressman’s request to delay the hearing until a new defense team is assembled.
“Fifty years of public service is on the line. And I truly believe that I am not being treated fairly,” he declared. “I deserve a lawyer.”
Rangel told the subcommittee members he has already spent $2 million defending himself from the charges and has been advised the trial could cost him another $1 million.
He complained that he was not being given enough time to raise funds to hire new lawyers because the committee was rushing to complete its work before the conclusion of the current lame-duck Congress.
Rangel’s original defense team left him in September.
“What theory of fairness would dictate that I be denied due process … because it is going to be the end of this session?” he asked.
He later released a statement calling the committee’s decision to proceed without delay a violation of “the most basic rights … guaranteed to every person under the Constitution.”
“The [ethics committee] has deprived me of the fundamental right to counsel and has chosen to proceed as if it is fair and impartial and operating according to rules, when in reality they are depriving me of my rights,” he said.
Lofgren replied that it was Rangel’s responsibility to assemble his legal team. She also noted that Rangel had received advice numerous times from the committee on how to raise funds for his defense.
“Retention of counsel is up to the respondent,” she said.
Several subcommittee members, however, also blasted Zuckerman Spaeder, the law firm originally representing Rangel.
It is “fundamentally unfair” for lawyers to abandon a client on the eve of a trial, said North Carolina Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a former trial judge. “That would not have happened in my courtroom.”
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, expressed his “astonishment at Zuckerman Spaeder for taking the money … and then kicking their client to the side of the road when it came time for the actual hearing.”
In a statement issued in response to the criticism, a spokeswoman for the firm said it “did not seek to terminate the relationship [with Rangel] and explored every alternative to remain as his counsel consistent with House ethics rules prohibiting members from accepting pro bono legal services.”
Numerous House Republicans — as well as some House Democrats — have called for Rangel to resign because of the alleged ethics violations. Rangel has said he has made mistakes.
Rangel, who was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1970, was forced to step down as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee because of the allegations against him
Poor Thang. His defense team quit on him and the subcommittee was on some cutthroat ‘Let’s get this isht handled so we can close session.” Cold blooded!
Rangel is 80-years-old and after 40 years of doing who knows what, now folks want to get some morals?