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Rangel Apologizes for Embarrassing Colleagues, Chief Counsel Recommends Censure

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Updated 3:15pm

Nearly in tears, Rep. Charlie Rangel asked members of the ethics panel to treat him fairly.

“What the press has done to me, my family and my community is unfair,” said Rangel, saying news outlets will continue to call him a “crook.”

Rangel, never one to hold back his thoughts, said, “I thank you for this awkward opportunity to express myself.”

Rangel was found to have violated 11 Congressional ethics rules, but not to have enriched himself financially. Republicans objected to that description.

At one point in the latest meeting, a Republican Congressman asked the committee’s chief counsel, R. Blake Chisam, if there was any precedent to Rangel’s current situation. Rangel’s 11 violations are the most of any representative, and only four times has the ethics panel recommended a member be censured.

Chisam was asked if any of the four previously censured congress members were similar to Rangel is the sense that they were not found to have benefited financially from their wrong dong.

Chisam said no, but cautioned against seeking precedent, saying, no case “lines up” like Rangel’s.

The hearing ended as the panel members left to deliberate behind closed doors. Rangel silently watched them file out of the hearing room, his hand folded in front of his face and his knee bouncing nervously.

 

The chief counsel of the House Ethics committee recommended Rep. Charlie Rangel be censured for violating 11 congressional ethics rule. Republicans on the committee seemed eager to press further, at one point, comparing Rangel to former Rep. James Trafficant, who was expelled from Congress in 2002.

Censure is the most serious punishment short of expulsion. The chief counsel, R. Blake Chisam, said it would be fitting for Rangel’s punishment to “fall between” a censure and the less serious “reprimand.”

Chisam said lawmakers would not be out of line if they added a fine on top of Rangel’s punishment.

The committee went into recess so members take votes on the House floor, and deliberate Rangel’s fate in private. They could return as soon as this afternoon.

Rangel was defiant, at time leaping to his feet to respond to critical comments lobbed at him by the Republican committee members.

“It is not true I had the option to have witnesses called,” Rangel said at one point. “That was denied to me.”

He also defended his abrupt departure from the start of the proceedings on Monday, saying it was his right not to participate.

On the substance of the charges, Rangel admitted to sloppy financial bookkeeping and being “overzealous” in raising money for a school to be named in his honro.

In his defense, Rangel cited Chisam’s earlier comments, saying the mistakes did not amount to corruption, and that he did not gain any personally or financially.

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