By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
In a day of high drama and a staged walkout, a jury of Rep. Charles B. Rangel’s peers ended the public phase of his House ethics trial Monday after just a few hours, finding that the facts alleged against him were not in dispute.
With the New York Democrat absent for much of the process, the panel agreed unanimously that Rangel had inappropriately housed his political committees in a rent-controlled building, had used his congressional office to raise millions of dollars from corporations with business before his committee, and did not pay some taxes and fully disclose his assets.
But the subcommittee determining Rangel’s fate did not reach a verdict on whether those actions broke congressional rules. After three hours of deliberation behind closed doors, the eight-member panel, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, announced that it would resume talks Tuesday morning.
“No material fact is in dispute,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee, said of the charges against Rangel. The public phase of the trial concluded with the panel agreeing to take as fact the expansive volume of evidence gathered by staff investigators, declining to hear any witnesses.
Rangel, the once-powerful committee chairman who oversaw tax and trade policy, walked out of the proceedings in protest less than an hour into the process. With his political campaign account drained and a dispute going on with his most recent legal advisers, Rangel, 80, entered the hearing room as his own counsel. He pleaded for a delay so he could find time and financing for a new legal team.
“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,” Rangel said, speaking without notes and interrupting Lofgren as he stood before the lawmakers.
Fresh off winning a 21st term, Rangel said he has spent more than $2 million from his campaign account on two legal teams, forensic accountants and media advisers. For the past month he has been unable to afford legal representation, and he is barred by the new strict ban on gifts from receiving pro bono legal help.
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