Ethics committee releases hundreds of pages of documents from Rangel case

The House ethics committee on Tuesday released hundreds of pages of documents pertaining to the charges and subsequent trial of Rep. Charles Rangel, who was convicted on 11 counts of House ethics violations.

Included in the papers are an official report on the trial, the text of the committee's censure resolution against Rangel (D-N.Y.), transcripts of open hearings and many letters between Rangel, his attorneys and the committee.

The release comes as the House is expected to vote on whether or not to censure the 80-year-old lawmaker this week. Censure is the highest sanction with which the House can punish one of its members, short of expulsion. 

Rangel was on his way into a leadership meeting with Pelosi at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. He threw up his hands when asked whether he would give a statement on the floor and also said he didn’t know whether the vote on censure would be held this afternoon.

The punishment requires a majority vote of House members to enact and would require that Rangel be in the "well" of the House chamber while the resolution is read aloud. The former Ways and Means Committee chairman has requested that he be formally reprimanded, a lesser punishment.

In the report, the ethics committee said its reasons for recommending censure are based on the "cumulative nature of the violations and not any direct personal gain.”

Rangel has repeatedly said he didn’t personally benefit from any of the activities in question, and that is one of Rangel’s key arguments for lessening the penalty to reprimand.

"The committee concluded that the eleven violations committed by Representative Rangel on a continuous and prolonged basis were more serious in character, meriting a strong Congressional response rebuking his behavior," the panel wrote in its report.

The documents detail the back-and-forth between the Harlem lawmaker and the ethics panel over the course of the five months between the time Rangel was charged and when he was convicted, which contained several contentious moments. 

Over the past several months, Rangel had accused the committee of denying him due process by conducting a drawn-out investigation and, in the later stages of the process, denying him the right to have an attorney.

The documents include a letter dated Oct. 14 from Leslie B. Kiernan, a partner at the firm Zuckerman Spaeder that once represented Rangel, explaining that he was no longer a client. The one-paragraph letter contains no explanation for the decision.

Correspondence between the committee and Rangel was also released outlining his options to obtain legal representation after the fact.

The at-times partisan nature of the trial was also detailed in the documents.

In August, Rangel's lawyers at Zuckerman Spaeder wrote a letter to Republican Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas), in which they asked that he recuse himself from the case due to critical statements he made about Rangel's involvement in obtaining funding for an eponymous public policy center at the City College of New York that was a focus of the investigation.

—Susan Crabtree and Russell Berman contributed to this post.

This post was updated at 2:53 p.m.

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