The House ethics subcommittee charged with deciding whether Rep. Charlie Rangel violated House rules may opt to circumvent the public trial and instead proceed immediately to voting on the New York Democrat’s guilt or innocence.
Blake Chisam, the staff director and chief counsel for Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, requested Monday that the adjudicatory subcommittee consider 13 identical motions for summary judgment in the case, which would circumvent the House ethics trial — including live witnesses and hundreds of pieces of evidence — that had been expected to last for several days.
“The record before you is the record, the facts are the facts and the counts are ripe for a vote,” Chisam said. He also stated that Rangel had not contested any of the evidence or witness testimony that the ethics subcommittee informed him it would introduce.
The subcommittee, led by ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and ranking member Michael McCaul (R-Texas), adjourned to an executive session shortly before noon Monday to consider the motions. Lofgren said the panel would not reconvene before 1 p.m.
Should the subcommittee approve the motions, however, the panel would still need to meet in a separate executive session to determine whether Rangel has violated House rules.
Lofgren noted that approving the motions would mean only that the subcommittee accepts that the facts in the case are not in dispute.
“How we apply the law to those facts is not before us,” she said.
An ethics investigative subcommittee charged Rangel in July with 13 counts of wrongdoing, including allegations that he misused federal resources to solicit donations for a City College of New York center named in his honor, used a rent-stabilized apartment for his campaign office, failed to pay taxes on a Dominican Republic villa and filed inaccurate financial disclosure forms.
The adjudicatory subcommittee, comprised of four Democrats and four Republicans, must now determine whether Rangel is guilty of any of those allegations.
Rangel has denied he intentionally violated House rules, although in an August speech on the House floor, he acknowledged he may have broken the chamber’s franking rules: “But it’s not corrupt. It may be stupid. It may be negligent. But it’s not corrupt.” He has also repaid the overdue taxes.
During his presentation Monday, Chisam repeatedly highlighted Rangel’s August floor speech to emphasize the lawmaker’s guilt. He said Rangel had not officially replied to the motion for summary judgment, though the committee has provided him a copy.
But in responding to questions from the adjudicatory subcommittee, Chisam also said: “I see no evidence of corruption.”
“I believe the Congressman, quite frankly, was overzealous in many of the things that he did and sloppy in his personal finances,” Chisam added.
Rangel appeared briefly before the subcommittee Monday morning but stated he would boycott the proceedings because he did not have an attorney.
Although Rangel has spent more than $2 million on legal bills during a two-year ethics investigation of his personal finances and other issues, he split from his defense attorney in October.
Rangel accused the subcommittee Monday of refusing his requests for a delay in the hearing to allow him to hire a new attorney because of its desire to finish the proceedings before the end of the 111th Congress.
The subcommittee also rejected a motion Monday to postpone the hearing.
“We are prepared to proceed today. We recognize that Mr. Rangel does not intend to participate,” Lofgren said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.