Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel admitted he made “mistakes,” then claimed he was “smeared,” and finally pleaded for “a drop of fairness and mercy” in a rambling statement Thursday.
“I have been smeared with allegations of corruption and personal gain,” Rangel said.
Rangel spoke out just before he was to learn his punishment – two days after he was found guilty by a House panel of 11 ethics violations.
“I was and am disappointed that the Committee reached its decision without affording me the right to adequately defend myself with the aid of counsel,” Rangel wrote.
The 80-year-old lawmaker neglected to mention that it was his decision to show up for his ethics trial without a lawyer – and then boycott the proceedings after the panel refused his request for a delay.
Rangel said he made “numerous mistakes” but quickly added that “corruption and personal enrichment are certainly not part of my mistakes and the Committee’s chief counsel made that abundantly clear.”
The still-popular pol was referring to panel prober Blake Chisam, who argued there was no corruption or personal benefit in Rangel’s actions.
Rangel then recounted his Korean War heroics, how he fought for Civil Rights with Martin Luther King, how he rose to become chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means committee.
“And then the sky fell down,” he wrote. “The nightmare began. Soon after I took the gavel at Ways and Means I have been smeared with allegations of corruption and personal gain.”
Writing in the third person, Rangel argued that the Committee has not presented “clear and convincing evidence that Charlie Rangel has deviated from his sense of duty to this body and this great country.”
In closing, Rangel wrote that he hoped his “four decades of service merit a sanction that is in keeping with and no greater than House precedents and also contains a drop of fairness and mercy.”
Rangel let loose with the verbal barrage after the bipartisan panel found “clear and convincing evidence” that he violated House ethics rules, ending a two-year investigation into his tangled personal finances.
Among other things, Rangel was found guilty of using his official letterhead to solicit money for a center in his name at City College, failing to pay $10,000 in taxes on his Dominican Republic villa and misusing rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan.
He was acquitted on the charge of violating the House of Representatives’ rule on accepting gifts.
Rangel’s allies said earlier they expect the congressman will receive the least severe punishment – a reprimand, as opposed to censure or expulsion.