After meeting privately to discuss the possibility of delaying Rep. Charlie Rangel’s (D-NY) ethics hearing, the House ethics committee has decided to hold the hearing today, as planned.
Rangel will not be there.
The hearing today began with Rangel, who is charged with 13 ethics violations, accusing the ethics committee of denying his right to a lawyer and, therefore, due process. Rangel claimed that his lawyers quit last month because they didn’t think he could pay his bills, which he said totaled $2 million before the hearing even began. He also claimed that the committee only told him he could create a legal defense fund two weeks ago, and that he only saw the committee’s evidence a week ago.
He asked that he be given more time to establish that fund and hire lawyers.
After an executive session, Chairman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) announced that the committee will not delay the hearing. She noted that the process has been going on for two years, and that Rangel received the committee’s evidence in June, giving him ample time to prepare a defense. She also said the committee has repeatedly advised Rangel on his rights regarding legal counsel.
Rangel has made good on his threat not to attend the rest of the hearing, leaving him effectively defenseless. Lofgren noted that he has a right not to participate.
After the hearing resumed, several Democratic members, as well as Ranking Member Michael McCaul, expressed concern that Rangel’s former law firm withdrew, as Rep. Peter Welch put it, “literally on the eve of the hearing, where his fate is in peril.” They suggested contacting the firm and getting an explanation.