Yesterday, Rep. Charles Rangel walked out of his House Ethics hearing, after begging his colleagues for a postponement so he could find a lawyer. As the Washington Post reports, "No, they said, and quickly began deliberations, saying the facts were so clear they didn't need to call witnesses." The panel, made up of four Democrats and four Republicans, deliberated for hours yesterday and will continue deliberations today. Update: Rangel was found guilty of ethics violations; more details below.
Rangel, 80, had said, "I am being denied a right to have a lawyer right now because I don’t have the opportunity to have a legal defense fund set up and because I can’t afford another $1 million. I truly believe I am not being treated fairly." But the panel's Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-California) pointed out he was advised back in 2008 to set up a legal defense fund. The NY Times reports:
With Mr. Rangel absent, the panel listened to its chief counsel as he methodically presented the evidence against Mr. Rangel, which was based on 549 exhibits, dozens of witness interviews and thousands of pages of financial documents. Members then met in executive session and later announced they had found the facts in the charges against Mr. Rangel to be “uncontested.”...
Mr. Rangel’s decision not to mount a public defense startled some members of the committee; he has been publicly expressing his eagerness to tell his side of the story for more than a year, and promising his constituents that he could disprove the accusations.
But the walkout spared Mr. Rangel the embarrassment of being publicly confronted with the unsavory details of the case.
Rangel's transgressions are many: Among them, a love of junkets, not paying taxes, using House letterhead to solicit donations to a graduate school named in his honor and renting too many rent-stabilized apartments.
The House ethics committee's chief counsel Blake Chisam said, "I see no evidence of corruption" by Rangel but suggested the 40-year House veteran was "overzealous" and "sloppy in his personal finances."
UPDATE: The House Ethics panel found Rangel guilty of 11 counts, "including failing to report rental income and improper use of a rent-stabilized apartment and soliciting charitable donations from people with business before Congress." Chairwoman Lofgren said there was "clear and convincing evidence" against him.