The House ethics committee is now deliberating in executive session on whether to recommend that the full House punish Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) for his 11 ethics violations, and how.
Before they left, Rangel made an emotional plea, choking up as he asked the members to protect his name from those who would call him a “crook.”
“I don’t know how much longer I have to live, but it will always be to try to help people and thank God for what he’s given to me,” Rangel said.“I do hope, no matter what you decide in the sanction, that you might see your way clear to say that this member, who’s honored to serve with all, of you was not corrupt,” he said. “And there’s no excuse for my behavior, and [there] was no intent for me ever to go beyond what is given to me as a salary. I never attempted to enrich myself.”
He also apologized “for any awkwardness I have caused” the committee members.”
The committee’s chief counsel and prosecutor, Blake Chisam, told the committee today that Rangel should be censured for his actions. He said Rangel’s failure to report income on his financial disclosure statements and tax returns, especially since he was the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, had an “effect on the public’s trust.”
After deliberations, the committee will make a recommendation to the House as to whether Rangel should be disciplined. If they decide he should, they will recommend a punishment: expulsion, censure or reprimand. They could also recommend a fine.
A subcommittee convicted Rangel of 11 violations earlier this week, after a brief hearing in which Rangel accused the committee of violating his due process rights and preventing him from getting a lawyer. He then left, leaving himself without a defense as the committee deliberated.
In making his recommendation, Chisam noted that precedent didn’t offer a clear punishment in Rangel’s case and suggested his actions fell somewhere between a reprimand and the more severe censure.
The last House members to be censured were so disciplined in 1983, for having sex with 17-year-old House pages.
During the hearing, Ranking Member Jo Bonner (R-TX) excoriated Rangel, calling him “arrogant” and saying he has “so little regard for the institution he has claimed to love and the people of his district that he has claimed to represent.”
Other members, mostly Democrats, defended him and his record, while acknowledging that he had committed misconduct.
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who is not on the committee, spoke briefly on Rangel’s behalf.
“He’s always been a champion of those who have been left out and left behind,” Lewis said, mentioning that Rangel had marched with him in Selma during the civil rights struggle. “Charlie Rangel is a good and decent man. I know this man.”
Late update: Rangel continued his humble tone this evening, releasing a statement of apology.