The House ethics committee has found that “no material fact is in dispute” in Rep. Charlie Rangel’s ethics case, and the committee has gone back into executive session to decide whether Rangel did indeed break ethics law.
The finding means that the committee accepts the facts of the case — that Rangel (D-NY) raised money for an educational center using Congressional letterhead, that he filed inaccurate tax returns and financial disclosures, that he used a rent-controlled apartment as a campaign office — as true. Chairman Zoe Lofgren announced the decision in a brief statement before the committee returned to executive session.
Now that the committee members have agreed that there are no questions of fact in the case, the committee must now decide on the questions of law. In other words, they must decide if Rangel is guilty of any of the 13 ethics violations he is accused of. They are deliberating that in a private session now.
If the subcommittee finds Rangel guilty, the next step is for the full ethics committee to hold another hearing to determine which punishment, if any, it will recommend for the congressman. The punishments range from admonishment to expulsion. The full House will then vote on whether to accept the committee’s recommendation.
An angry Rangel declared this morning that the committee had violated his due process rights and prevented him from getting a lawyer. After the committee denied his request to delay the hearing so he can hire counsel, Rangel left, leaving himself defenseless.
He then released a statement further excoriating the committee.
“The process that the Committee has decided to take against me violates the most basic rights of due process that is guaranteed to every person under the Constitution,” he said. “The Committee has deprived me of the fundamental right to counsel and has chosen to proceed as if it is fair and impartial and operating according to rules, when in reality they are depriving me of my rights.”
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Not A Care In The World? Charlie Rangel’s Birthday Celebration]
If the committee finds Rangel guilty on any of the charges, it will recommend a punishment that can range from admonishment to expulsion. That recommendation will then be voted on by the full House.
In his statement, Rangel implored his colleagues to be on his 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,” he said.
Rangel was re-elected two weeks ago with 80 percent of the vote.