The ethics trial of Rep. Charles Rangel for allegedly violating 13 House rules got underway yesterday.
After an opening statement from House Ethics Adjudicatory Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren, Rangel rambled on for about 10 minutes.
Lofgren noted that Rangel “was sitting by himself at the table” and assumed he was representing himself. And indeed he was. After paying his former legal team $2 million, he had a fool for a client.
Acting on his own counsel, Rangel said he wanted to talk with a lawyer:
I object to the proceedings, and I, with all due respect, since I don’t have counsel to advise me, I’m going to have to excuse myself from these proceedings.
And with that, he walked out.
Rangel’s request for a delay was denied.
After a three-hour closed session, the panel announced a unanimous decision to deem the charges “uncontested” and ended the trial phase.
Meanwhile, Rangel is taking his case to the court of public opinion. In a statement, Rangel said:
I am very disappointed that the Ethics Subcommittee has chosen to proceed with the hearing knowing that I am without counsel. They have decided to continue the hearing on an 80-page document that I received just seven days ago by the Subcommittee staff -which neither I nor others have ever seen before in an ethics inquiry. When I asked what rule this motion was made under and how it was used. I was told nothing. How was I supposed to deal with this when I received it just days before the hearing without an attorney by my side?
I hope that my colleagues in Congress, friends, constituents and anyone paying attention will consider my statement and how the Committee has been unfair to me. They can do what they will with me because they have the power and I have no real chance of fighting back.
UPDATE: Rep. Charles Rangel found guilty on 11 counts.