Rangel rebuffs Obama comments on ethics trial

Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) on Thursday dismissed comments made by President Obama that he should be able to retire with "dignity."

Speaking to reporters outside an event in New York, Rangel reaffirmed that he would fight the 13 charges made against him at trial and brushed aside any notion that he should retire instead.

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"I don't know why the president of these great United States would say something like that," Rangel said. "I guess he believes 80 is old."

In an interview with CBS News, Obama praised Rangel's career in Congress, but called the allegations against him "troubling."

"He's somebody who's at the end of his career. Eighty years old," Obama added. "I'm sure that — what he wants is to be able to — end his career with dignity. And my hope is that it happens."

Some interpreted Obama's statement as a subtle suggestion that Rangel leave Congress now, rather than face trial, which could potentially embarrass Democrats ahead of the fall midterm elections. The White House later emphasized it will let the ethics process play out.

Rangel has repeatedly said that he did not intentionally violate any House rules or federal laws. The ethics committee last week charged Rangel with improperly using his office to solicit donations for a public policy center named for him at the City College of New York; of using a rent-stabilized apartment in Harlem for his campaign office; of failing to report more than $600,000 on his financial disclosure report; and of failing to pay taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic.

The New York lawmaker also dodged on House Minority Whip James Clyburn's (D-S.C.) wish that Rangel work out a settlement with the ethics panel, saying he has not thought "very much" about it.

Rangel refused to comment on the pending trial of his colleague in the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

"I don't think about her much at this point in time," he said. "I have problems of my own."