The Ethics Committee has denied Rangel's request for a delay and is continuing with the presentation of evidence even without Rangel in the hearing room. "No conclusions as to the facts of this matter can be drawn by the fact that Mr. Rangel has decided not to part in this hearing," said chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Ca). More than 500 pieces of evidence against Congressman Rangel are expected to be presented this morning.
A defiant Rep. Rangel defended himself in front of a committee of his peers and announced his intention to walk out before they agreed to consider delaying the proceedings in a closed door session.
At issue is Rangel's request that the hearing be postponed until he could raise money to hire a lawyer. He said lawyers offered to
represent him for free, but they feared such work would be considered a gift, something banned under current House rules.
"How far does this go" asked Rangel, "because we don't have time?"
Rep. Charlie Rangel faces charges he violated Congressional ethics rules. It sets off a public showdown between one of Washington's most enduring figures and his colleagues who have vowed to "drain the swamp" of corruption.
The 20-term Democratic Congressman from Harlem is accused of not properly accounting for his financial assets, failing to pay taxes on rental income he owned in the Dominican Republic and using Congressional stationary to solicit money for a school to be named in his honor.Rangel has already admitted some wrongdoing but insists they were mistakes and not done intentionally.
Since the accusations against Rangel were made public in a series of news stories more than a year ago, Rangel, the dean of the New York Congressional delegation, "temporarily" stepped down as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. At the time, Rangel said the move was voluntarily, and that he hoped he would not become a national campaign issue in the mid-term elections.
Amid the controversy, Rangel faced his most serious campaign challenge, with four opponents trying to unseat him. None were well-known or well-funded, and Rangel easily won re-election with nearly half the votes in the primary. He cruised to victory over his Republican opponent in the general election.
But the accusations against Rangel have also had a hefty financial cost. Bills for Rangel's legal team, plus a forensic accountant, have drained his campaign account. He has reportedly let go of his legal team and it is unclear who will represent Rangel at the start of the ethics hearing Monday morning.
Speculation has been swirling that he would step down from the Congress rather than face formal proceedings by a Congressional panel. The eight-member panel looking into the matter is equally split between Democrats and Republicans. But following the mid-term elections, Republicans will take over control of the House come January, raising speculation that they could use the Rangel probe as a demonstration of their willingness to do what Democrats had promised: "drain the swamp" of corruption in the capital.
Aides to Rangel, a decorated Korean War veteran wounded on the battlefield, say he does not want to retire before settling the matter, fearing it would blemish an otherwise celebrated career.