*Embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-New York, walked out of his House ethics subcommittee hearing this morning after complaining that he didn’t have enough time to hire a new legal team to respond to corruption allegations. [Watch 2nd clip below.]
The subcommittee rejected Rangel’s request to delay the hearing until a new defense team is assembled, reports CNN.
Rangel faces 13 allegations, 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.
“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.” [Watch 1st clip below.]
Rangel told the subcommittee members he has already spent $2 million defending himself from the charges, and had been advised the hearing — similar to a 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.
Ethics committee chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-California, 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.” We need to “make sure that this firm explains its conduct to the committee.”
The subcommittee must ultimately vote on each of the 13 charges made against Rangel. It will then forward its conclusions to the full ethics committee — formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — which in turn votes on possible penalties against the congressman and files a report with the full House.
In August, Rangel said nothing “will stop me from clearing my name from these vile and vicious charges.”
Rangel also offered explanations for the ethics charges against him, characterizing them as mistakes and acknowledging violations of House rules but denying they amounted to corruption.
Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California is also scheduled to have an adjudication hearing with the House ethics committee this month, on Nov. 29. Waters has denied the allegations against her, which include steering federal bailout money to Massachusetts-based OneUnited Bank — in which her husband had a financial stake.